After finally meeting as two full Progressio teams at 6:30am in Heathrow Terminal 2, both the Parcila and El Bramadero groups set off across the Atlantic, landing tired and jet lagged in the Nicaraguan capital Managua, a full 24 hours later. Understandably it didn’t take long for everyone to fall fast asleep at our accommodation for a few days of orientation before travelling to our community.
With the sun blaring through the windows at around 5am the next morning, most volunteers woke early to a bowl of cornflakes and delicious coffee. We then received information about Nicaraguan culture and the country’s recent history, which we read while we awaited the arrival of our national volunteers. It’s safe to say we became experts, with the local volunteers arriving several hours later than expected due to a huge parade along the main street of Managua, visible from our accommodation. Once they arrived, the awkward silences and Spanish dictionaries were out in force as we tried to start conversations and remember what Duolingo had taught us.
Eventually we realised that making fools of ourselves through hilarious games would help to 'break the ice'. This was then followed by the celebration of the upcoming birthdays during cycle 16 with plenty of cake, music and awful dancing (from the Brits).
Our next day in Managua started with the much needed information on what to do in an emergency and keeping safe in the communities, leading to some concerned faces. As a group we were then shown some photography tips, learning how to take the perfect shot as shown by Fergus Brown. Time was then allocated to preparing a cultural presentation for the Nicas causing some debate about typical British dancing, famous Brits and whether we should mention the Royale Family. As a treat, we then went to play football at a local sports centre, stopping at the shopping complex to pick up some important supplies... mostly sweets and chocolate. The hot and humid climate really hit home within minutes of playing football, as did the very high ability level set by the Nicaraguan volunteers. The football proved entertaining and helped to show that despite the cultural differences, as two dissimilar nationalities, we still had much in common.
Our third day in the capital started with more 'icebreakers', despite the ice being well and truly broken. We also lead and ran games that could be used and taught in our communities to meet and introduce ourselves to the people we would be helping over the next ten weeks. This included games like musical statues, easily understood by all and providing great entertainment. The Nicaraguans then gave us their cultural presentation consisting of delicious local cuisine and impressive local dancing, after which it was the turn of the Brits… As a group we decided to present slides and posters on typical British food, British sport, as well as the big locations in Britain and the typical music scene featuring a quiz on big British artists, most of which were well known by the locals. The afternoon and evening consisted of a tour of Managua walking along the waterfront of the lake, seeing the park and Main Square. We then visited a music stage to take part in some more cultural dancing with the ‘Inglaterra’ well received by the local crowd.
After only a few days in Nicaragua, most of the Brits had become accustomed to the early morning starts, as well as the rice and beans for breakfast, but it was still something of a shock to see the national volunteers fully awake at 4am every day. Following the nutritious breakfast, we started the day identifying problems occurring in the communities, their causes and the actions we could take to reduce the issues, such as a lack of food security or deforestation. Though a lot of time was spent with the Nicas showing off their artistic tree drawing skills.
We then spent time recapping the last few days, with the Parcila team discussing our specific roles in the community and how to do them well (although more work may be needed depending on how this blog is received!). We also discussed what objectives and aims we would make as a team. Following more 'ice-breakers' (with the ice now more like tepid water…) and 'energizers', met with collective groans, the groups took time for an appreciation circle and what everyone wanted to get out of the experience.
The evening was spent furiously packing and socialising. Everyone spent the time making the most of the limited Wi-Fi before departing for our respective rural communities early the next day, with much trepidation about what the next few months had in store……
Written by ICS volunteer James Hayward