The 3 lads (later to become muchachos) of Progressio Nicaragua cycle 9, had quite the bonding expeience when we had to practice some newly acquired running skills with shock sprinting at the airport in response to the “gate closing” call. We had been too busy gently musing the 10 weeks ahead and what was to come! 15 hours later we, along with the Progressio ladies, had arrived in Managua, capital of Nicaragua, ready to make a difference. Excitement tinged with nerves filled the air – along with the humidity.
Following a day of introductions and form filling, it was time to meet the in-country volunteers. For each UK Progressio volunteer there is a national Nicaraguan counterpart (Nicas). After initially thinking that I would have a direct counterpart at 6 foot 2 with glasses and a dodgy haircut like myself, I was informed that there were just equal numbers and no such matches.
Understandably, integration wasn't initially the easiest of tasks. I, as well as around half of the UK volunteers only had very basic Spanish skills and not many of the Nicas spoke English. Thankfully, the typical notion of a school disco with two opposing ends was avoided with both sides not being afraid to shake a stranger's hand whilst having 2 completely different conversations in 2 different languages.
Resulting from the use of icebreakers and some terrible dancing (on my behalf, brilliantly talented on the part of the Nicas), friendships began to form. The completely different conversations started to fuse into unity and common areas of interest and amusement. As we learned more of each other's culture and the quirks that made us who we were, gestures and explanations paved the way for communication and laughter.
862 servings of gallo pinto (rice & beans) later, banterful exchanges were taking place even between UKVs and Nicas who had no prior knowledge of each other's language. We asked of each other's interests and taught useful (most of the time) phrases. ¿Vamos jugar futbol? Seemingly impossible amounts of hilarity were now take place daily thanks to our already beloved Nicas.
Written by ICS volunteer Jamie Regan