Can you believe that I’ve been living in Nicaragua for a year already!? Because I can’t. Last week, I celebrated one year in country, and I can’t even begin to tell you how fast time has flown by. It feels just like yesterday that I was stepping off the airplane, clueless as to how my life would unfold. So much has transpired over the last year that has changed me for the better and has shifted my perspective in more ways than I could have imagined.
What made my anniversary even more surreal was serving as a greeter for the new group of Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) who arrived last week from the U.S. to begin their 3-month training. Instead of walking off the plane with way too much luggage (we all know I overpacked!), I was excitedly waiting outside the airport with some of my fellow PVCs waving a big welcome banner. I felt so honored to have been selected to represent the Entrepreneurship Education Program (EEP)/Small Business Development as well as the Diversity Committee here in Nicaragua. This new group, which we refer to as Nica 69 (the 69th Peace Corps group to serve in Nicaragua) is comprised of 35 PCTs, 15 in EEP and 20 in Health. These two groups will add to the current 135 PCVs serving in Nicaragua.
After waking up at 1:30am to begin their journey from Washington, D.C. to Managua, the group arrived eager, excited and nervous to kick off their 5-day orientation retreat. Similar to our orientation last year, the week was jam-packed with activities – welcome speeches from the U.S. Ambassador of Nicaragua and the Peace Corps Nicaragua Country Director; Safety and Security, Medical, Program Overview and Language trainings; as well as PCV-led sessions providing tips on surviving Pre-Service Training. As PCV greeters, our role was to represent the PCV community and our sectors in Nicaragua and to serve as a resource for trainees.
I knew going in to orientation that a big part of my role was to answer their questions to the best of my ability, and, boy, were there a lot of questions! I remember what this experience was like for me. As incoming PCTs prior to training, we were only given a certain amount of information about our job description — the rest was left to our imagination or to PCV blogs, Facebook and Instagram! We also spent almost a year wondering and trying to envision what our Peace Corps life would be like so once we finally had the opportunity to actually speak to a real PCV, the questions were neverending. At certain points during this last orientation it felt like a rapid fire Q&A. Just about any and every question that one could conjure up was asked. It was pretty wild to be on the other side this time. What was more incredible was to realize how much I’ve learned and adapted to over the last year. To have the opportunity to connect and to share my experience, strength and hope with others who are beginning this new journey has been priceless. What a terrific group of incoming PCTs they are — I’m excited to get to know them better and to see how their Peace Corps journeys unfold.
Little do the trainees know that they will be creating everlasting friendships during their service — bonds within their group, sector, across sectors and with the PC staff. Moving to another country, learning another language, integrating into a new culture, learning new customs and traditions, growing through the many discomforts, sharing an abundance of TMI stories and leaning on each other for support during really tough times, among others, are what connect us on a completely different level. We begin our PC experience as strangers from all parts of the U.S. and grow to become some of the best of friends living one of the wildest adventures of our lives.
As I reflect back on this last year in Nicaragua, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of awe. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come thus far having enjoyed all of the highs and overcoming all of the lows of being a PCV. To think that I actually left my comfort zone, have created this new life in another country, speak a second language, engage in meaningful work and continue to discover new aspects of myself is mind blowing. I can’t help but wonder what the next 15 months will entail!