Nicaragua – A Gap Year in Photos

By Brenna Trollinger

Roof of the main Cathedral in León

During my time as a Tufts 1+4 Nicaragua Fellow, my worldview has significantly expanded through this rich cultural experience. I appreciate the chance to encounter people and places in different walks of life from rural mountain areas, to coastal towns to vibrant city life in Leon. Through my internship and through independent travel, I have documented my time here in a series of photos. From rural schools to active volcanoes, I continue to fall more in love with this amazing country and the diversity of life here.

Fireworks during La Gritería, a Holiday that celebrates the Virgin Mary

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Volcanoes

By Sophie Impellitteri

 

     When I saw the sweat drop off my face and streak my mud caked ankles I really thought I am never doing this again. Never again am I going to let someone convince me that hiking 5 hours up a mountain will be fun. I get winded carrying my school books to a third floor math class, so why did I think I would be capable of hauling a 50 pound backpack to the top of a volcano. 

 

        By the time we reached the top and fell onto our bags, I hardly cared about the volcano sitting behind me. All I could think about was how, on top of everything, there was no shower, and no bed. The only things waiting for me were a toosmall tent and a very early hike back down. All I could think was that I never wanted to do this again.

 

        But then we started walking up the final slope to the rim of the volcano. All at once, the forest was gone and my entire view was consumed by reddish rocks. I was in a movie or on Mars or in a dream, and my brain was so preoccupied with consuming it that, for a moment, the aches were forgotten. 

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Rocking Chairs

By Sophie Impellitteri

Like many homes in Nicaragua, my host house is littered with rocking chairs. Made from dark wood and wicker backs, some have permanent spots while others appear to multiply as my host mother arranges and rearranges them. On my first night I decide to trust in some orientation advice and take my book out of my room where I fold my legs into an oversized rocking chair. When my host sister joins me and asks something in Spanish, I twist my eyebrows and give her an awkward I have no clue what you said smile. On top of the Spanish, my mind was still trying to digest the fact that this 13 year old girl – irrefutably the scariest demographic – seemed to be being . . . friendly?

She laughs and repeats the question more slowly. In this way we pick our way through simple conversation for nearly 2 hours; rephrasing and miming and rocking and laughing out no entiendo after no entiendo. When she pieces together my thought, she spits it back in the correct grammar. I try to fit the words back into my own mouth, though they feel like square pegs in round holes, and she laughs and slows down.

She tells me about how she hates English class and about her volleyball team and listens to me talk about New England winters. We laugh at how she can’t pronounce Connecticut and at how I can’t pronounce almost anything. We talk about our families and our friends and our schools and where we want to travel and what we want to do when we’re mas grande. The whole time I speak in broken present tense, waving my arms in front of my to show when I’m talking about the future and pointing behind me when telling about the past, but this doesn’t seem to bother her.

It’s not raining but I watch thunderless lightning fill the whole ceiling, because in Nicaragua you’re never really inside, least of all when you’re in the center of your house. At the end of the night I smile because we’re 4 years, 2,000 miles, and a language apart but we both still agree that school is usually boring and that we really hope to see Paris some day. I think every house needs a few rocking chairs.

Roots

By Brenna Trollinger

Today, I bought a plant.

Every day on my walk to work I am surrounded by organized chaos. Here in León, Nicaragua, I pass by camionetas overflowing with people, groups of little boys playing “quitball” ( a version of baseball using arms instead of bats), and little old ladies who sell fresh tortillas on street corners. There is a small pulperia that sells various plants in anything that could be used for a container. Coffee cans, milk jugs, and plastic water bottles house the assortment of plants that change daily. Seeing the greenery amid the craziness when I walk past Pulperia Marielos, I can’t help but admire how these plants thrive. As far I can tell, these odd containers of old milk jugs, buckets, and bottles make excellent homes for plants.

On this walk I think to myself, I want to buy one of these plants and be able to see it grow during my time here. In León, there is constant sun and it rains often enough that I would not have to worry about watering it. Despite the cannon that goes off at 7 am every morning, the random fireworks, and constant noisy parades, a plant would just grow. Seeing it outside my room every morning would be a reminder that something from this land belongs to me and will grow alongside me.

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A Rainy Day

By John Lazur

Caponera pedaling through the half-filled streets outside my house

Tropical Storm Nate—soon to be Hurricane Nate—hit Nicaragua on a Thursday. I heard news of a “southern-Carribean tropical storm,” so I figured I wouldn’t even be affected. The storm itself hit the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, but what I didn’t realize is that the small size of Nicaragua means that when a storm like that hits the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast gets beaten up too. The storm pulled water from the Pacific Ocean eastward, causing torrential downpours across the Pacific Coast, where I’m living in León.
I didn’t know what it was going to be like, and I was a little worried that there was going to be flooding like I had never seen. Once it started storming, I was safely tucked away at home, but because the roofs are open air, I still got exposed. While I usually worry about the bugs and bats flying into our kitchen, I was a little more preoccupied with not slipping in the puddle that the floor became. This also meant I had a pretty accurate sense of what the storm was like; I would describe it as “persistent.” It didn’t rain incessantly, there was still some on and off, but it was obvious that the water wasn’t going to end for a while.

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