By Conor Sanchez
As Peace Corps Volunteers we not only try to better inform the country we’re serving about the United States, but we’re also expected to better inform Americans back home about our host-country. I do my best to satisfy that goal via this blog, but it recently dawned on me that it’s always my thoughts, my impressions, and my observations. It’s always an American perspective.
As part of my blogging goals for 2015, I hope to bring you more Nicaraguan voices. I’m calling this project Hello, USA, which will allow readers like you to hear directly from Nicaraguans. This month, I am excited to introduce to you my counterpart teacher from Nueva Guinea who I have had the privilege of working with for the last 7 months co-teaching 7th-10th grades in a small rural community called La Esperanza.
Can you start by telling us a little a bit about who you are and where you are from?
My name is Freddy Alvarado. I was born in Jerusalen. It is a community near Nueva Guinea. In 1995 I moved to Nueva Guinea, Nicaragua to attend school and to work. When I was studying at school I met my wife and I got married soon after. Now I have two daughters and my own house in Nueva Guinea. I work as an English teacher in a secondary school in a community named La Esperanza. It’s 15 kilometers from Nueva Guinea.
What do you love about Nicaragua?
Of course, I love the lakes and volcanoes. They are really amazing, I also love the customs of our people. Traditions like Palo de Mayo and folkloric dancing are part of what makes us Nicaraguans. We also have beautiful natural wonders. I especially love the jungle, where I grew up. I was born on my grandparent’s farm which is surrounded by animals, trees, and rivers. This is where I learned how fish with a harpoon, milk cows, and drive a boat. Outside the farm you can find monkeys, foxes, ducks, squirrels, sloths, iguanas, and basiliscus – the lizards that run on water.
What makes Nueva Guinea unique from other parts of Nicaragua?
The people, the customs, the weather, and tourist sites, like El Salto de La Esperanza. It’s warm here during the day but cold at night. I like that. The people here are very social. We are a sport-loving city. We are always playing soccer or volleyball. I like the way our people tell jokes, too. I love how the people here speak Spanish. We have our own dichos and our own accent.
Why did you want to become bilingual?
When I was 17 years old, I had a friend named Angel here in Nueva Guinea. One day a teacher from Juigalpa came to visit and I saw Angel speaking to him in English. At that time, there weren’t that many people who spoke English. In fact, we had just one English teacher, Profesor Rosalillo Martinez, in the whole city. So that encouraged me to learn.
Angel told me he was learning English by watching movies. At this time Nueva Guinea had a small movie theater with a really old camera that projected onto a big white blanket. There they showed movies in English with Spanish subtitles. For five cordobas (roughly $.18) I’d pay to go watch movies with him. I used to watch Bruce Lee movies because I loved karate. I also watched movies with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris.
At the time, I was in school preparing me to become a math teacher, but I soon decided I wanted to teach English. To be a secondary teacher here in Nicaragua you have to choose a specific subject and to me, English is the first language spoken around the word. Everybody speaks English. Chinese, Italian, French…everywhere you go in the world, you can communicate with anybody. Speaking English gives a lot of opportunities to get jobs.
What made you want to become a teacher?
I liked to read many books growing up. And I wanted to share all my knowledge with somebody, so the perfect form I found was teaching. The other reason is because I like competition. I tried to prepare my students to compete in math when I was teaching it in primary school. I had one student who won first place in the city competition. To see him win…I was very proud. That’s my passion. If they succeed, that means I did my job.
If there were one thing you wished Americans knew about you or your country, what would it be?
Of course, tourist sites like Tola, a surfing place where there are competitions from around the world. Las Huellas de Acagualinca in Masaya, where there are footprints in lava of old volcanoes. A long time ago, some tribes were trying to escape, but they didn’t make it.
But also Nueva Guinea City because there are jungles, forests, lots of animals, and trees. For me, it is the most beautiful place in Nicaragua. The people are nice, and it has many attractive tourist sites. It is also a good place to learn Spanish and its idioms. My grandmother used to say, “Los dichos de los viejitos son evangerios chicitos.” which means “Old sayings are little gospels.”