I have been in Nicaragua for almost 24 hours now. We are staying in what amounts to a compound somewhere in Managua. Its exact location is and will likely remain a mystery, given that I have not seen (or heard of the existence of) a detailed map of the city. But that doesn’t matter much, since we will only be in Managua until tomorrow. No volunteers serve here in the capital.
Last night I had my first plate of gallo pinto, the national dish. It is (surprise, surprise) beans and rice. After dinner, I promptly went to bed on a mattress that folded like a taco when I sat on it. I was so exhausted I hardly cared. Based on the food I have eaten here so far, I expect to be gordita after these two years. In addition to the gallo pinto, last night’s dinner included deep fried tortillas wrapped around strips of beef, cabbage slaw slathered in ketchup and something resembling mayonnaise, and to wash it all down, a glass of Coca Cola.
Our main order of business during this three-day retreat in Managua is to determine where we will be training. We will be placed in small towns in groups of three or four, based on our language ability. The levels go from Novice to Intermediate to Advanced to Superior. The diagnostic test was a thirty-minute personal language interview designed to take the speaker to the point where their communication skills broke down. I definitely got there.
I am nervous about a lot of things (one of them being that we are told to expect not to get five consecutive minutes by ourselves for the next three months), but above all I am incredibly excited. When I think about everything I’m going to learn here, I can hardly contain myself. All of the current volunteers we have met rave about their service and say that the time has passed quickly, too quickly. For now, we have internet service, but I expect that to end on Saturday, when we head out to the towns where we’ll be living during training.