Learning to Learn All Over Again

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By Conor Sanchez

Everybody reaches a point, I think, in his or her twenties where they look around and say, I got this. Despite all that life throws at us, especially when you graduate from college and spend the next few years trying to pass as some kind of an adult, we all manage to find some level ground at one point or another, if only for a brief moment.

You’re paying the bills, you’ve got an exercise routine, you’re eating healthier, you’re building a savings. In other words, you got this.

In less than two weeks, Peace Corps has shattered all those feelings for me.  I’m back at the bottom of some behemoth of a mountain, no more than a mile or so from base camp, and so far as I can tell, there are no shortcuts to the top.

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La Iglesia Católica.

A lot has become much clearer in my two weeks here in Nicaragua. First and foremost, there is a lot of work to be done, and I’m not talking about the responsibilities I’ll incur once I’m sworn in as a Volunteer and assigned to co-teach in a secondary school elsewhere in the country. I’m talking about work on myself.

On Saturday, August 16, Michaela and I officially started our Pre-Service Training (PST), a three-month intensive technical and language preparation. We were dropped off at our respective host family homes, which are fairly close to each other. I am in a town of about 15,000 people located in the Department of Masaya, living with a retired couple that has four grown children, two of which live in Managua and two who immigrated to the United States.

If I’m not awoken by a flock of crowing roosters, a pack of stray dogs fighting each other in the street, or heavy rain pounding on my tin roof, my alarm goes off at 6:30 am every morning. I eat some breakfast (juevos, gallopinto, y café) with my host family, Salvador and Adilia, and walk to Spanish class, which I have daily from 8 am to 3 pm at the house of a fellow trainee.

Although the initial suspense of not knowing where I’d be living for two months has passed, new challenges have revealed themselves. Living apart from Michaela ranks high on that list. Our houses are about a ten-minute bus ride from one another. In fact I just caught the bus back to my house after a spending few hours over at her house this afternoon. We stay with each other every weekend and trade off sleeping at each other’s houses.

This, compounded by the daunting task of learning Spanish, will make the next two months pretty tough. But it’s the only way we’ll both reach a level of Spanish required for our service and we’re determined to get there.

In this situation I believe my closest friend (besides Michaela, of course) will be patience. I wish there were a way to deposit Spanish into my brain with some magic flash-drive, but I can’t. There’s just me and a bunch of phrases I need to learn over time.

But having patience with myself has been surprisingly difficult. I find myself wanting to convey much more than I’m able to say and it’s frustrating to say the least. I keep telling myself that this is a process and fluency won’t happen overnight. I have to practice, I have to repeat, and little by little, things will start make sense.

I guess that is exactly what learning is, though. It’s a process of acquiring knowledge. It’s learning to be patient, which for me is just learning to learn all over again.

My training town in the Masaya Department.

My training town in the Masaya Department.

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