Emily mentioned in her last post that we are tasked with the mission of ¨community integration¨ for the next two and a half months, as there are only 2 weeks left in the current school year before the two-month Nicaraguan vacation period (think U.S. summer break, but for December & January). When we first saw that this is what we were being asked to do we immediately thought:
¨Whoa! Community integration sounds like an awesome assignment!¨
Now that we’ve been in Estelí for over a week, we find ourselves thinking:
¨But wait…what does integration entail, exactly? And how can we know we’re doing it right?¨
This is what we’ve been wrestling with since arriving in site on November 8th. Our desire to be super-integrated, extra-awesome PCVs, and our urge to slow down a bit after a busy training schedule has been a bit tricky of a combination for us so far. We find ourselves wondering things like:
- If we take an afternoon and evening to ourselves to read Harry Potter in Spanish or update our blog are we bad PCVs?
- Is it OK that I don’t go to my school everyday this week, and instead take some time to buy supplies to set up our apartment and make it feel like home?
- Maybe we haven’t met with the mayor, Ministry of Education delegates, or the chief of police here in our site, but we have been to all of the supermarkets and open-air markets. Is that OK?
- In a city of roughly 120,000 how can we feel like we’re meeting enough people to be a part of the community?
Shoof! This whole integration thing is fuzzy and finicky! Although we may not be sure of the answers to these questions yet, we’ve found it’s very important to remember that we’ve been here less than two weeks. This is a process, and one in which we must be gentle with ourselves, and celebrate small victories. So far it’s been in the little moments where we’ve found comfort and inspiration, such as:
- Meeting the owners of the little pulperia and librería on our block
- Spending time in our schools, observing more classes and learning the names of the other teachers
- Being asked to join an all-staff photo at school, even though I’ve only been there a handful of times
- Having the vegetable seller at the end of our street remember you from a few days ago and greeting you with a hearty handshake as you walk by
- Using public transit to make it to a new department in Nicaragua
- Meeting up with PCVs in the area and listening and learning from their experiences
- Making our apartment feel like home
- Knowing Spanish enough to effectively interact with strangers and read AND understand the first chapter of Harry Potter
- Buying produce in the supermarkets AND the open air markets
- Learning how to cook in our new, teeny kitchen with Nica ingredients
- Receiving a bag of cookies on our way out the door of Doña Brigida’s house after stopping by for a visit
- Making a local waiter laugh after dropping some Nica slang
- Hanging out with our host family while the 12-year old son and his friends practiced a traditional Nicaraguan folk dance
- Crossing off almost all of our goals on the list we made for our first week in Estelí.
We’ll get there, as long as we keep giving ourselves space to make mistakes, take care of ourselves, and keep being curious.