By Michaela Sanchez
First of all, I need to apologize for my lack of posts on this blog. Learning a language with no foundation is actually incredibly difficult when you’re expected to reach an intermediate level in 12 weeks. I pretty much have only been living and breathing Spanish for the last three months, but I am proud to say that I did it! Immersion, FTW.
Well, kind of. I still say things to my host-mom like, “Do you have a man?” when I mean to say, “Are you hungry?” To be fair, they sound very alike – ¿Tiene hombre? versus ¿Tiene hambre? There are so many Spanish words that sound very similar but mean two very distinct things. I am so much better than I was 12 weeks ago, but needless to say, I have a long way to go before I can consider myself fluent.
There were a lot of things that were unclear before we joined the Peace Corps, especially what we’d be doing for the first three months of training that we needed before we could actually call ourselves Volunteers. After countless hours of intensive language and technical training, I can proudly say that we have successfully finished and were officially sworn-in on Friday, November 7 to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers. We are no longer aspirantes, but rather Volunteers in the Peace Corps.
On swearing-in day, we were given a very special ceremony, which was broken down into two parts. The first part was slightly more intimate with just Peace Corps staff, our host families, and Volunteers in attendance. Dressed to the nines, our families traveled from the departments of Masaya and Carazo, where our groups trained, to be with us for the ceremony. Conor and I both felt a little emotional at the thought of having to say goodbye to the people who helped us with our Spanish, cooked for us, and taught us about Nicaraguan culture for our first three months. It was extremely special to share the moment of becoming a Volunteer with them.
The second ceremony was a bit bigger with the Peace Corps Country Director Howard Lyon, U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Phyllis Powers, and the Director of the Ministry of Education in Nicaragua. The entire ceremony was in Spanish so there were some parts that I did not understand completely, but there were some parts in English as well. The U.S. Ambassador shared the following quote by President John F. Kennedy, which certainly stirred up emotions inside: “If that journey is a thousand miles, or even more, let history record that we, in this land, at this time, took the first step.”
When we got to the part when we were about to take the oath, I could feel myself starting to cry.
For me, this was a moment I had thought about for a very long time. What made it even better was that I had my partner standing right next to me, pledging to go through the same act of service alongside me. This has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I left my family, friends, cats, job, community, and many other things behind in the U.S., but when I raised my right hand and took the oath that I will promote peace and respect as long as we reside in Nicaragua, it felt right.
The work is just beginning. Our next assignment: integrate.