When I arrived in Nicaragua I knew there was a possibility of a day or two’s stay in an authentic Nicaraguan household. Waking up when the family wakes, eating what they eat, living how they live.
When I first arrived in Nicaragua I wasn’t overly keen on the idea, but I was more than willing to give it a go, after all it was only for 2 days.
At around week 2, when I had realised how ill the staple food of rice and beans made me and I realised just how difficult it was to understand the Nicaraguan accent I began to worry a little bit more about my upcoming stay in a Nica household. But, there was a possible silver lining, because of the upheaval of in country staff for Progressio the home stays had yet to be arranged and it was unsure whether they would be.
So the weeks passed, slowly, and eventually the notion of homestays slipped my mind. Life was routine, wake up at 6am, make your way to work for the day, come home and go to Spanish class for 2 hours, eat dinner and go to sleep.
Then the plan for homestays was on the table again. But this time longer, 5 nights, 6 days.
It’s pretty clear the horror and dread in my mind, and most likely on my face, when I heard the news. I was most certainly imagining the worst.
17 rice and bean based dinners. 6 days of using a latrine and bucket shower. 6 possible days of bed time at 7pm and rising at 4am. 6 days of speaking no English.
However I’m happy to say that my worry was in vain.
My host family lived in and owned a shop. I had a mother and father who were 6 years older than me, and a 7 year old brother. Our national volunteer friends warned them of my inability to eat rice and beans, so meals weren’t always so bad. I mean at times breakfast was still fried chicken, cheese, plantain and random vegetables but Weetabix isn’t exactly readily available.
We did have a latrine, which was always kept clean and proved to be no problem. Along with a cat and a dog, we had 15 chickens and a duck (I do believe one of the chickens was sacrificed for that breakfast I mentioned above).
I didn’t have to suffer a bucket shower! We had a normal shower… sort of. It was outside, it was bone chillingly cold in the morning mountain air and the shower enclosure was several wooden posts with black bin bags for walls but it was better than what some people have. Although, being taller than your average Nicaraguan I did have to crouch rather a lot in my outdoor shower to avoid flashing all and sundry.
The language didn’t even prove much of an issue. Thanks to five weeks of constant Spanish lessons, a pocket sized Spanish dictionary and my “mum’s” courtesy to slow down and try and explain things to me when I replied to whatever she said with a blank look.
It did strike me as odd, that the part of the trip I was dreading most –and I mean dreading, I had hatched many a scheme in my head to get me out of doing it- ended up being the part I most enjoyed.
My Spanish improved more in the week than in the previous five and my family were amazing, they actually cared about this random non-Spanish speaking, pale Scot. Whether it was putting a treat in with my day’s lunch or dragging me to the doctor because I cut myself playing football with the neighbouring town, as far as they were concerned I was part of the family.
Now time is coming to a close and soon I’ll be back home in Scotland, and I’m unsure whether I’ll ever come back to Nicaragua. Maybe three months is enough for me. I’m not keen on the food, I disagree with the political situation and for a country which grows amazing coffee, they have no clue how to brew it! But the people are some of the nicest I’ve met.