Living and volunteering in Diriamba was an incredible and unique experience. I learnt so much in just one month from the places I went, things I did and, more than anything, the people I met. I’m amazed by the connections I made with people and the town in such a short amount of time, and already can’t wait until I can go back-Nicaragua definitely found a place in my heart!
Before going to Nicaragua, my Spanish was pretty basic, and just before I left I started worrying that I’d made a massive mistake and was going to be completely out of my depth-in a totally different country, on my own, and not being able to understand people (let alone try and teach them!). It turned out, my worrying was completely unnecessary: although living and working in a language I didn’t know very well was a challenge, and mentally tiring at times, everyone was so patient and helpful and my Spanish improved so fast! Nicaraguans’ laid-back, friendly and helpful nature and the fact that almost nobody in Diriamba speaks English (as it’s not on the tourist trail) made it the perfect place to learn Spanish.
Living with a host family is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture, lifestyle and language of the country you are in, and it completely enriched my experience of volunteering. I loved having the time to properly get to know my family, and learn about their beliefs, experiences, opinions and just day-to-day living. It was really interesting to see things from the perspective of people who live in a culture and country completely different to my own, and very eye-opening! (Also, eating rice and beans three times a day was not as hard or tedious as I expected-I actually started loving them after a week or two, and couldn’t wait for meals!)
Teaching was a completely new experience for me; the idea of standing up in front of a class full of children was quite daunting! I had two classes, fifth and sixth grades, which showed me two very different sides of teaching. Fifth grade were loving, lively children, eager to learn and quick to understand. They were an absolute pleasure to teach and I just wanted more time so I could get to know them better and continue to help them progress! Sixth grade were definitely more of a challenge, as most fourteen and fifteen year olds are, and I had my work cut out to keep them engaged and learning instead of gossiping and doodling on paper... Although my lessons with sixth grade were more tiring and less immediately rewarding than fifth, they definitely pushed me to be more creative with my teaching. It was a good reminder that doing things which are challenging or out of your ‘comfort zone’ are always positive, teaching you new skills and improving you as a person. Teaching both classes were valuable and memorable experiences.
One, Two...Tree! were great to work with and for, and I am so pleased that I had the opportunity to contribute to a wonderful project run by such good-hearted, lovely people! As for Nicaragua...all I can say is BEAUTIFUL. Everything from the landscape and nature, to the buildings, streets full of horses and carts and ‘moto’ taxis, and (of course) the people. Having the opportunity to travel around on the weekends and my days off (which is really easy and cheap-I was amazed at how good the Nicaraguan transport system is) took me to some incredible places, and I was surprised at how quickly Diriamba started feeling like home!
I could go on and on about all the great experiences I had, but I think I’ll stop here. I have so much gratitude to Pedro, Maru, my host family, all my students and everyone at APAN for making my time so valuable, unforgettable and amazing. Gracias!!