By Michaela Sanchez
Looking back on where Conor and I were a year ago – living and working in Washington, D.C. – life has changed quite a bit for us. We’ve experienced most of these changes incrementally, but when we reflect back on this time last year, the juxtaposition of these two incongruous pictures is pretty stark.
Here’s a list of some of the biggest changes we’ve experienced:
1.) Our job no longer consists of sitting behind a desk. This seems to have benefited our health and state of mind greatly.
2.) If we don’t shower before 10 am the water is probably gone and it is always cold. This is usually not a problem because who doesn’t shower before 10 am? Well, during this three month interlude of adjusting to site/not having an actual schedule, it can be tricky…we have to keep a bucket always filled with extra water in our shower in case the water is out, which is usually everyday from 10am-6pm.
3.) We are speaking Spanish everyday. For Conor, he had a leg up in this category because he studied quite a bit of español in escuela but for me, I had nada. See what I am doing here? I am using Spanglish – very beneficial in our lives at this moment.
4.) We sleep surrounded by a mosquito net. Yeah, this wasn’t really a thing in D.C., or anywhere in the U.S. for that matter.
5.) We check email less often. We don’t have a consistent WiFi connection – therefore, we take what we can get, which is usually once a day when we go the park to take advantage of the free WiFi. Then, we zone out for about 15 minutes before we see someone we know or it gets too hot to just sit and look at the internet. In our minds, this has been a positive change as we spend more time tuning in to people and the environment around us.
6.) Washing our laundry by hand. This was very tricky at first but we seem to have got this down to a science where we let our clothes soak in some detergent for about a day and then we lather them up with some more detergent, rinse, and then leave the clothes for about a day to dry but if there is sun, the clothes will dry in an hour.
7.) Our salary has shrunk by about 500%. No joke, we went from our salaried positions in DC with pretty comfortable benefits to making about $600 a month. But we’re also paying $60 a month in rent, so it all balances out pretty evenly.
8.) We drink filtered water. Some volunteers can drink the tap water at their sites, but we can’t. Conor thought he would be crazy one day and just drink the water from the tap, which handed him his first bacterial infection! Entonces, we drink filtered water.
9.) We get to travel around a beautiful country for work. Our dream has always been to travel for work, and here in Nicaragua, we get that opportunity about once a month. Whether it is teaching english classes in Leon, or having a training in Matagalpa, or practicing our Spanish in Masaya, Peace Corps allows us to cover a lot of ground and see how beautiful this country truly is.
10.) We live with other people – seven other people to be exact. And they are always extremely interested in what we are cooking, how we are washing our clothes, and where we are going, but it has also been the best way to practice Spanish, try the food of Nicaragua, and observe cultural norms. Our Nica families have become almost like real families and for that, we are grateful.