by Anna Brodmerkel

What’s that word again? ….ummmmm….. Oh yeah! Um.

It’s a pesky little word that seems to fall from our lips without us even realizing it until it’s too late. It’s a placeholder for the time we need to recall a thought or a memory. It’s the word that currently dominates my vocabulary in Matagalpa. How can I explain… ummmm….

In Nicaragua, at least Matagalpa, Nicaragua, most people only speak Spanish- a problem for those of us who don’t. Luckily, I know a few basics, but even that is not enough. My brain simply cannot comprehend Spanish as quickly as those fluent in Spanish can speak it. This is a struggle, but one I welcome, even as it frustrates me to make people slow their speech to a turtle’s pace and constantly repeat themselves… multiple times. I must have 100% focus and concentration when someone speaks to decipher the meaning of even the most simple sentences, and by the end of the day my brain is as fried as all the food I eat. In order to reply, I must take a good minute to think of all the words that I know and how I can formulate them into some sort of understandable form.

Ummmm… Queiro…. umm… aprender Espanol mas rapido.

Even in one week I’ve lived in Matagala, my vocabulary has expanded and people can somewhat understand the thought I’m trying to say. Luckily, My host sister, Lussiana, can speak English and can interpret if I really don’t understand, but she tries to speak to me in Spanish as much as possible. I take ten hours of Spanish classes in the week and my teacher, Hazel, only speaks Spanish. I am forced to speak Spanish here, which I appreciate because I am learning much quicker than I would if I could speak English most of the time. I realize I won’t be fluent in two months, but I will hopefully be able to drop the “um…” at least some.

Language isn’t the only thing making me drop that dirty little word um here. It’s culture shock, but a bit different form of culture shock than in Ghana. Ummm…. hmmm… It’s culture shock from Ghana and New Zealand and Greece. During my two weeks home in North Carolina I didn’t feel the reverse culture shock from living in Ghana for three months as I thought I would. Of course, I was constantly on the go and never stopped enough to truly think about it. Ghana almost felt like a dream, a world so different from any I knew before, and I couldn’t believe I had been there for three months, because when I came home it felt like nothing had changed except the weather. But here, I feel the culture shock even more than ever.

Sometimes I can’t remember where exactly I am, and my travels are starting to catch up with me. Now I realize how crazy my gap year sounds to others, as opposed to before when I thought, “No biggie, just going to four different countries all on different continents and not buying tickets to get there.” On my second night, I went to a small fundraising concert for the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve. There were many foreigners who attended and I kept counting the “Obrunis” and kind of started freaking out because the Matagalpans and foreigners were mixed in the crowd and the foreigners were all speaking Spanish. That night also felt strangely similar to my first night alone in Katelios, Greece when I went to see live music at a bar with Lucia and Katerina and everyone was speaking Greek, not Spanish. However, unlike in Greece, I wasn’t absolutely terrified at Unidos por Bosawas.

During my first week, my Spanish has improved, my host mom who speaks no English can now understand me a little, I know how to walk the 40 minutes to Famalias Especiales (where I volunteer) from my house without using my map, I’ve figured out a schedule for volunteering and my Spanish classes, and I have made a great group of friends. I’m in the “um” stage of settling into a new country, trying to figure things out and my way around the city. Although a bit daunting, I’m experienced in this area by now and am enjoying the process.

Ummmm… I think that’s it for this blog! More to come on my volunteer projects and host family soon 🙂

 

And just in case you were wondering….

I did not have any complications getting to Nicaragua flying standby. WHOOHOO! All my flights worked out perfectly and the people from FE came to pick me up at the Manaugua airport. The most exciting things to happen to me were 1) getting a job offer on my flight to Charlotte in four years (who said potential antro majors can’t get a job?) and 2) playing my ukulele for the TSA officers who drug tested my hand in Miami security. Life is good.

 

The view from my homestay

The view from my homestay

My type of school! Colibri Spanish School.

My type of school! Colibri Spanish School.

Mayan ritual at Unidos por Bosawas concert

Mayan ritual at Unidos por Bosawas concert

Typical dinner

Typical dinner

Typical breakfast

Typical breakfast