What can a Fox Island teen learn from volunteering in Nicaragua? The short answer: More than I could have imagined. Last summer, my eighth grade Spanish class and I went to Jinotega, Nicaragua to experience a different culture, practice communicating in Spanish and to teach English to local children. My relatives donated to give me the opportunity to see wild sloths in a city park and hike to the top of Peña de La Cruz, a mountain overlooking the city. I also was able to learn all about the process of growing and producing coffee beans, and to see the world through different eyes.
Before I went on this trip, I had my own ideas of what the city and local children would be like. I expected Jinotega to be cut off from the modern world. I also expected it to look run down, with all of the buildings made of tarps and scrap wood. I also assumed that the food would be unsanitary and bad tasting.
When I arrived in Nicaragua, almost all of my opinions quickly changed. Jinotega was cleaner, more modern, and more exciting than I had expected. All the streets were paved with cobblestones, and there was a general lack of litter on the sidewalks and roads. The wild sloths in the city park were about the size of a typical dog.
We were able to sample new exciting foods and taste local coffees. During one occasion, I ordered the specialty, tres leches cake, which is a very sweet and moist yellow cake. The last night I was there, I got to try a unique local delicacy, which included chicken bones, wrapped in some kind of a husk. The sight of the chicken bones made it very unappetizing, and the other things inside it didn’t make taste much better.
For the volunteer work, we started by handing out flyers to kids around the city advertising the free English classes we were putting on at the local theater. The first day of class there were about 20 kids there, ranging from 5 to 9 years old. We did not have textbooks or lessons planned out for us, and we had to make it up on the fly. We did various activities with the kids, and one consisted of the kids drawing us. The kid that I was sitting with drew a picture of my friend, but he gave him gigantic eyebrows. After he finished, he looked at me and pointed to his eyebrows, then at my friend, and spread his arms wide, with the biggest grin on his face. It was fascinating how he was able to tell me a joke without even speaking the same language as me.
My trip was a life changing experience, and I would highly recommend going on a trip of this kind to any other students wanting to do something different with one of their breaks from school. I am going to go back on another trip like this in the next two years because I loved what I did and got to experience the first time, and would like to do it all over again.Joey Hugo will be a sophomore at Gig Harbor High School in the fall.