It’s been almost two full weeks in Nicaragua. I’m a lot less overwhelmed than I first was, although every day is full of challenges.
I finally feel like I’m starting to adjust to this life. To be perfectly honest, I’ve had many moments in the last two weeks where I’ve wondered if I’ve made a mistake by trying to go somewhere that I didn’t know the language.
Now I knew when I decided to limit myself to Central America that my Spanish was far from conversational. And I had the option of choosing Australia, where I could have actually gotten credits toward my major. But I decided to push myself and go somewhere that I could hopefully gain at least one valuable skill from.
Now the language is still a challenge every day, but I’m finally getting better at skirting around words I don’t know. We have “Conversation partners” in our program, which are basically students at the Universidad Centroamericana who get a free lunch if they eat with us and speak in Spanish once a week. Today was my second week with mine, and while there were awkward communication moments, it was a lot less awkward then last week.
And as of tomorrow, I have three months left here. If my Spanish has already improved this much in two weeks, I’ve got a lot to look forward to, I think.
This past weekend, I turned 21. This is an event I’ve been looking forward to my entire life, so I was a little skeptical of turning 21 in a country where it doesn’t matter. But I have to say, it was the most memorable and best birthday so far.
First, my entire study abroad group came to the club with me, which was incredibly sweet. We went to a trendy club called Chaman. It’s not exactly something you can get in the U.S…
Now Nicaragua is famous for its rum, Flor de Caña, the best rum in Central America. I have to say, it’s the best rum I’ve ever had in my life, so it made a great birthday drink. Not to mention that one rum and coke here costs 20 Cordobas – less than 1 U.S. dollar. So I wasn’t able to go to the Franklin Street bars at midnight like everyone else, but I feel pretty damn good about it. Dancing in Nicaragua is a lot of fun – and much classier than in the U.S. The club was also hosting its first major event of the year (a Valentine's Day celebration), so it was absolutely packed, and had people spilling out into a beautiful attached outdoor venue.
But what was even better than my Saturday night was my Sunday. My host parents threw me a party and invited the entire neighborhood. It was very traditionally Nicaraguan; they served everyone dinner and I got to blow out the candles on the cake as the room sang to me. My fellow students brought their host families and they brought me these wonderful Nicaraguan gifts, several of which were made by little siblings. It was so precious. And I just absolutely felt like a part of their family. This is not a family of great means, and for them to put all of this time into a party for someone who has only known them for one week touched me so much – I feel like I’m part of a family here, and that’s incredible.
In short, it was the greatest birthday I’ve ever had. Thanks Nica.