I've been in my homestay for three days now and it's been nerve-wracking, awkward, awesome, funny, fun, challenging, and all in all very good for me. I'm so glad I didn't know this was going to happen because I am the sort of person who would have gotten nervous about living with only Spanish speakers, and it was much better to just be thrown into it.
I was dropped off on Sunday to my new weekday home where I met my host mother and immediately went with her to the family gathering at her dad's. I met my two energetic host sisters, Andrea (9) and Nahomi (7), and some of their cousins, and became the focus of their attention and of a flurry of Spanish words and questions. I'm thinking I understood about 20% of what was said, but I learned a lot and am getting very comfortable with making mistakes. When you can't communicate much, you just string together whatever you can and make it work!
In the days since then, I've heard so much Justin Bieber and One Direction and Disney princesses that it is hard to believe I'm in Nicaragua. The girls totally love all of these American pop stars (they like lots of Spanish singers too) and sing these songs at the top of their lungs even when they don't understand the words they are saying. Today when I was eating lunch, Andrea and Nahomi were lying on the kitchen floor watching Hannah Montana in Spanish and it was very strange to see -- two girls, in their slightly dirty school uniforms, laying on a red tile floor, avidly watching the portable TV screen as it showed teens with endless amounts of clothes, fancy houses, and snazzy cars... all things that these girls may never see. And this family that I am staying with is actually very well off in their community -- they own a clothing store (their house is actually attached to the back of it), and the dad is a reporter at the local TV station (when the mom turned on the morning news I saw the dad wearing the same red-and-white striped shirt he was wearing at breakfast and I was totally shocked), they have a young woman who does some cooking and cleaning every day, and the girls have a tutor in the afternoons.
But don't think it's all THAT nice... we have a tiny bucket of water to hand-splash the dishes with, there is a big barrel of water in the shower and you use a scoop to dump (yes cold) water on yourself, and the toilets don't flush -- they are 'bucket-flush' which means you just pour a bucket of water in on top and the pressure makes it flush. Kind of. So that's been fun .Yep.
People should be proud. I've eaten things I would never eat the states. Plus lots and lots of rice and beans. And I voluntarily got up at 5 AM yesterday morning to go walking with my host mom. Shocking. Also, since we are working with coffee farmers and it is kind of the town culture, I am drinking coffee. And it is DELICIOUS. I'm pretty sure they aren't even putting anything in it to sweeten it (I've poured it straight from the thermos), and it is dark and so good. And I'm not even a coffee drinker! Maybe I'll have to start. The kids drink coffee starting at 6 months here, so it's definitely a thing.
Oh, and they also have lots of pets. One inside dog and two outside dogs, and an inside cat and her three one-month-old kittens. The "gatitos" are adorable to hold, but the cat is less fun when it jumps up on your lap to eat your food or you turn around to see it snitching food off the counter. Just don't think about it. It's pretty gross.
One of the unfortunate negatives about this society is what they show on television. Yesterday I was eating lunch with the girls and the local channel was on (where there dad works), and suddenly a photo of a body with horrible gun-shot wounds appeared. There were all sorts of different angles shown and it was something that never would have been even considered on US TV. The girls started flipping out and Nahomi started shrieking and gagging, and I figured at least some of it was fake since she is that sort of drama queen, but then she went outside and actually threw up. It was kind of sad.
Our Rainforest Alliance project has been temporarily stalled since our partner's grandma is dying, so I've been spending a lot of time at my homestay house catching up on online classes and my research internship. In the evenings, I usually want to get out so I've taken walks to the center square with the girls and then played hide-and-seek or some running game with them in the gardens and fountains there. They don't get much attention from their busy parents so they are usually bored all afternoon and come ask me questions while I work or try to play YouTube music on my phone or feed me namacitos (this little yellow fruit/berry that I really can't stand the taste of but they dearly love). One day they were making maps of the house and hiding things for me to find. It's always an adventure and loud around here;)
And on the positive side, I am understanding probably 50-60% of what is being said now. It takes effort so sometimes I don't feel like listening to conversations or the news because it takes conscious effort to comprehend, but when the girls talk to me I can usually piece together that is being said, with a lot of questions and back-and-forth. Two weeks is clearly too short to get very far, but I can see why this is about the only way to really learn a language. You just have to dive in and start butchering it, and then you realize how much you understand and can say.
I'm a twenty-something from the Pacific NW making home in new places as I follow where God leads.
My intent is to show Christ's love to the world and use business to solve some of the social problems we face: hunger, illiteracy, healthcare, economic hardship. For now, I'm in a stage of learning. A little adventuring, a few books, some good friends, and a whole lot of prayer and life runs on.