“Will be good friends”- words written for one of the UK volunteers by a Nicaraguan counterpart at the end of our training week. Whilst certainly cheesy (and possibly presumptuous) this note embodies the warmth and friendliness with which we have thus far been received in Nicaragua. It is an incredible country; tropical climate (despite the fact that we're still apparently in winter), beautiful people and stunning scenery.
Cycle 10 of Progressio volunteers has arrived in Masaya; excited, determined and raring to go. Our first week was highly productive. Based in Managua, our training was primarily aimed at encouraging the integration of UK and Nicaraguan volunteers. With the aid of embarrassing games, songs and a particularly dangerous game of pato-pato-ganso (duck-duck-goose), the two groups have quickly become one; some individuals already conversing like old friends and others attempting communication with flailing arms!
Cultural presentations were a particular highlight. We learnt about Masaya's rich history of handicraft, obsession with corn and prowess in the Marimba and in exchange introduced our counterparts to the British way of life. The shared laughter over a silent Mr. Bean sketch was confirmation that despite a difference in tongue, our sense of humour is most certainly shared.
Planning our project was also a central aim of training. The previous three cycles in Masaya have left a legacy of sixty eco latrines and a wealth of established workshops and classes. It is now our job to finish these latrines, to promote their usage and to continue working within the community. Not all our time however has been spent planning. On Sunday we helped an NGO, OrgaNica, to clean up the Volcan Masaya Laguna. Inspired and motivated by magnificent views of the steaming volcano, we contributed towards the effort to tackle the growing problem of waste tipping in the area.
We are now all settled into our host families. Our 'parents' and their children have welcomed us with open arms and have quickly introduced us to the real Nicaraguan lifestyle. We are all accustomed to the art of the bucket shower and are thoroughly enjoying our daily (or twice daily) bowls of Gallo Pinto.
It cannot be denied that the locals eat a lot of rice! There is on offer, however, an incredible range of tropical fruit. Mangos and coconuts can be plucked straight off a tree, papaya and passion fruit mocktails are served in abundance and plantain is expertly cooked in a different manner with every meal. None of us are going hungry!
Nicaragua is by no means short of interesting wildlife. Unfortunately, however, visions of turtles and pumas have been quickly replaced by the reality of dogs, mice and ants. A few of us have spotted geckos, and some of us have had the misfortune of finding a tarantula. And if fear of gargantuan spiders isn't sufficient to keep us awake, cockerels have now become our compulsory alarm clocks, getting us up in time for brisk 5am starts.
Our first ten days have flown by. Aggressively British with our pill-popping, deet-spraying, water bottle carrying ways, we are living up to the Nicaraguans' stereotypes of us faultlessly. Impromptu salsa dances are becoming a regular occurrence- a hilarious way to get us awkward Brits on our feet. With a bit of practice, it shouldn't be long before we're all dancing with ease to the Nicaraguan rhythm!
Written by ICS volunteer Anastasia Georgiou