There is a scene in ‘Cool Runnings’ in which one of the Jamaicans sees the falling snow of Vancouver for the first time, and runs back to the airport to put on every item of clothing he has brought with him.
By stark comparison, our Progressio team arrived in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, and were greeted by an unforgiving 40 degree heat. My first night in Managua was spent turning all of my trousers into shorts and trying to make the ceiling fan point in my direction.
After four days in Managua we moved to Masaya, a city quite unlike anywhere I had previously known. Although the poverty is rife and very visible, the people of Masaya greet you always with a smile and are full of questions.
We were told very little about our host houses except that they would be in the 'Barrio of Monimbo'. What I found upon arrival was a community full of kind and generous people living in an area, steeped in ancient folklore with the still noticeable scars of war, revolution and natural disaster.
The nights in Monimbo are full of hundreds of sounds. Almost everyone in the community owns either a dog, a host of chickens and/or a rooster, which bark and cockle-doodle-doo each night, and indeed most days too.
People here tend to retire in the evenings much earlier than people in the UK. That is, of course, except for the brass band that can be heard long into the night practising music for the following day. It is also extremely common to hear fireworks exploding at all times of the night and day, for no apparent reason, which set the dogs barking and alarms sounding.
Our host families and the Progressio national volunteers welcomed us into their city with open arms. During the day, we work on various development projects with the local community. The evenings are spent practising Spanish or hanging out with fellow volunteers, which might include playing football, trying new cuisines or using Google Translate to converse with the Nicaraguan volunteers.
I feel that there is a lot to be learnt from this experience.
Written by ICS volunteer James Andrews