This past week was “Practicum Week” and everyone in the Entrepreneurship Education and Health sectors visited specific cities in Nicaragua to apply their learning in a real-life setting. I ventured northwest closer to the Honduran boarder to one of the country’s largest cities, Chinandega, also referred to as “Chin City” amongst the PC volunteers. While this department is known to have the highest volcano in the country – San Cristobal – it is also called the Ciudad Cálida because it’s sooo hot. Every Nicaraguan who I spoke with prior to my trip warned me that it would be incredibly hot. And hot is an understatement…it was “super caliente!” And I’m a girl who likes her heat, but wow, this took sweating to a whole new level. People actually walk around with a bandana or small towel to wipe the sweat off their face. Yes, really.
Upon our arrival to our hotel, we were greeted by the bustling foot traffic in the mercadito (market). Local Chinandegans were out and about buying and selling, and it was very apparent that this city is a buzzing economic metropolis. While I’ve become a city girl having lived in NYC for nine years, I’ve spent the last month in a super small town, so this change of pace was a big adjustment. But I realized how much I feed off of the energy and activity of the city (mental note as I process my possible site placement).
We kicked off our week with a trip to the beach – yes! It was so much fun to be outdoors and near the water (mental note #2 – prefer to be near the water/access to nature). And what a blast it was to spend time with the other Chinandega PC volunteers who are the biggest fans of their department. This trip started off on the right foot, but took a quick detour downward when I became severely ill with food poisoning. While I blame it on the fried whole fish and churritos (chili chips with vinegar), the caramel coffee Frappuccino sure didn’t help my cause. It was a BAD scene. And if you read Tess’ blog post a couple of weeks ago recapping her experience with “the cheese” then you can gather how bad this was considering that it was a lovely mix of fish, chili chips and caramel coffee. YUCK! Suffice to say, I was bed ridden for about 24-hours indulging in Gatorade, hydration salts, Dramamine and Pepto…delish. And even then, it took a good 72-hours to get everything out of my system.
The rest of the week consisted of co-planning and co-teaching with our counterparts at the local schools in the area. We visited one school in town and two in rural communities outside of the city center. It was interesting to compare each of our experiences co-facilitating a class. Each professor had their own style of teaching and each class had its own personality, stressing the importance of being able to adapt to different surroundings. We also visited the Chinantlan winery that the Chinandega PC volunteer has been working with over the last two years, which I found to be super interesting considering that I would love to work with small business owners during my service. We received a tour of the property and factory and learned more about how this business is providing jobs for local women in the community (mental note #3 – strong desire to work with women). In addition, we visited the local Ministry of Education in Chinandega and then ended the week facilitating a teacher training with about 12 teachers from several cities in the department, which is something each of us will need to organize while here in country. Overall, it was a full work week.
But we definitely made sure we fit in some “Chin City” fun. We hit up a local salsa class where the locals taught us “Salsa 101.” It was PACKED and very intimidating at first, but within no time I was partnered up with someone and received personal dance lessons. It was the most fun I’ve had since arriving in country and definitely something I plan to do more of while here (mental note #4 – master salsa).
We left Chinandega with a little swag in our step and some added confidence. I had been craving a larger city and was so happy to have gained the knowledge of what life could be like at a bigger site. While there are always pros and cons to wherever we are placed, this experience left me excited to find out our site placements. Three weeks and counting!