On the Brink of the Unknown

By Conor Sanchez

Ready to go at 6:00 am on  the morning we left New Mexico.

Ready to go at 6:00 am on the morning we left New Mexico.

On Tuesday, August 12, Michaela and I finally departed for Nicaragua. For seven months we looked forward to this date with excitement and even some trepidation.

Our day started very early. By 2:30 am we were checked out of our hotel and on a bus in downtown Washington, D.C., ready to make our way to Reagan National Airport. Our fellow blurry-eyed Peace Corps trainees filed in, one by one, and promptly fell back asleep as soon as they found their seats.

There was a moment when I remember thinking, it’s happening. It is finally happening. Months of logistical preparation, which included moving out of a comfortable apartment, leaving our jobs, driving across the country, and finding a temporary home for our two feline friends, Milo and Mish Mish, had led us to this moment. There was no turning back now.

For us, we couldn’t be more excited, but for others that we talked to about our plans, we could always sense a certain amount of apprehension. Friends and family members were often surprised by how little we actually knew about what was in store for us in Latin America.

“What part of Nicaragua will you be living in?”

“Where will you be teaching?”

“Are you teaching at the same school?”

We tried our best to fill in the gaps, especially to reassure our families (who had already expressed some concerns). But the truth is we didn’t know much. And what we did know included vague ideas of what was relayed to us from friends who had visited or worked there. A welcome book provided by Peace Corps contained plenty of insightful tidbits on what life would be like, but a lot was still left to our imaginations.

We were invited to serve as English teachers at a secondary school in a decade-old TEFL program. For the first three months, we would be in “Pre-Service Training,” where we would live with a host family and receive language and technical training in preparation for two years in our permanent assignment.

That’s pretty much it.

We had no idea what our housing conditions would be like. We were advised that we might be separated during training to help us adjust to the culture and learn Spanish independently. We didn’t know whether we’d be living in a city or on a farm. Under normal circumstances, this is no way to walk into a job. But then again, all of this is pretty far from normal.

This is everything I brought with me to Nicaragua.

This is everything I brought with me to Nicaragua.

The next thing I remember from our departure date came a few hours after our pre-dawn bus ride to the airport. I had just woken up after sleeping through most of the second leg of our flight from D.C. to Managua. The Caribbean Sea had disappeared and it looked as if we were about to land. Peering out the window, off in the distance I was able to see a huge volcano spewing a small amount of smoke from within its crater.

It’s an indescribable feeling when you get to peer down at the place you’ll call home for the next two years. All kinds of questions pop into your mind; will I hike that volcano? What about that town over there? Will I pass through it one day or will I work there?

We were on the brink of the unknown, and it felt awesome.

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