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Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

Nicaragua

I started my summer of 2017 by spending a couple of weeks in Nicaragua studying at a Spanish school.  I opted NOT to do a homestay this time, staying at the school’s hotel instead.  This meant it was more convenient for me to get to and from class (I just had to walk downstairs) and my lodging was more comfortable with a private room and a real shower, but it also meant speaking a lot less Spanish outside of class because my afternoons and evenings were spent surrounded by Americans not interested in practicing their Spanish with me.  You ganar some, you perder some.

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Open-air grammar “classroom”

I had two hours of grammar class and two hours of conversation class each morning, then a school-arranged outing each afternoon.  I made some traditional Nicaraguan snacks baked in a wood-fired oven, swam in a volcanic crater lake, visited some nearby towns, peeked inside an active volcano, hiked, went to a beach, and spent a day in Granada.  It was, as the Nicos say, tuani (cool).

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Laguna de Apoyo, a large lake in an old volcanic crater. Perfect temperature and gorgeous.

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Swimming in Laguna de Apoyo.

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Masaya Volcano

I then spent a few days on my own at Isla Ometepe, a volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.  From my school in the tiny village of San Juan de la Concepcion, I took a minibus to a nearby city, a taxi to the bus terminal there, another minibus to Rivas city in the south, another taxi to the ferry terminal, a ferry to the island, and a final taxi to my garden hotel on the island.  The transportation was amusing, and the destination was gorgeous.  Worth the crowded hot buses.

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Beach walk on Isla Ometepe

The thing that really struck me in Nicaragua was the poverty.  I’ve traveled (and lived in) plenty of poor countries, but there was something about Nicaragua that made me see it more.  Maybe it was because I was living in the school with a bunch of Americans who had all traveled extensively (as have I), which made a stark contrast with the locals who worked at the school and lived in the town.  Maybe it was because I talked a lot with my conversation teachers about the lack of job opportunities in Nicaragua, and the amount of Nicaraguans who migrate (to Costa Rica, the U.S., and other places) for work.  Maybe it was seeing the social projects that my school organizes to help kids in the village. Probably it was a combination of all of the above.  It’s a shame, because I found Nicaraguans incredibly approachable and friendly, and the country, full of volcanoes and lakes, absolutely beautiful.

More pics available here!

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… for being able to speak Spanish! Word has spread among the Latino community that the English teacher habla espanol. When I asked one of the room service stewards how he knew I spoke Spanish, he told me that a Mexican crew member told him my Spanish is very good. I am so excited! Crewmembers I don’t even know greet me in Spanish when they pass me in the hallways.

I think this has also given me a little more credibility professionally. Several different crewmembers have asked me if I speak any other languages. I get the feeling they ask this with the expectation that I, like many Americans, only speak English. Something in their face changes when I answer that I majored in French and now speak Spanish. They seem to respect me a little more knowing that I too have struggled with a second language.

And just so I’m not blowing my own horn too loudly, one example of my limitations in espanol: I was at a disco a couple weeks ago and a Mexican came up to me and said something in Spanish. I asked him to repeat it (in Spanish) 3 or 4 times. Then he switched to English and said “I’m sorry. I thought you spoke Spanish.” I replied “I do, but not in here!” They play the dance music so loud that conversations are challenging – I can hardly understand my own language at the discos!

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