A Week in the Life: Home Stays!

When I first heard we were doing a homestay in Cedro Galan, I was excited, but definitely nervous. The first step we had to take was to find someone to ask to let us stay in his or her house for five nights. To me, this was a little crazy. How do you ask some person you’ve only met for a few months, in another language, to open their house to you for five nights?

So, after long thought, I choose Uermay, a friendly 15 year-old girl in my English class. This was a little risky because I had never met her family before and no one from Manna Project has ever stayed or even been to her family’s house before. I am very pleased to say it was a wonderful experience and that I finally have a Nica family down here!

On my first night, I went to Uermay (pronounced ‘where-am-I’)'s house just before lunch and met her family. This amazing family includes her 10 year-old brother Uerner, 18 year-old sister Mer, her mother Mayera, and father Uerni. They were the most welcoming family and even had a welcome note on the whiteboard saying “Bienvenidos a casa Jessica! Welcome to our home!” I was also introduced to their cat, Pelusa, and their four dogs.

They got me settled into my new room, which I had by myself, while the three siblings slept in the other room together. I was very thankful for them to give me my own room in only a three-bedroom house. I was a little embarrassed though when I had to ask directions on how to flush the toilet, which consisted of pouring a bucket of water into the toilet for it to flush.

That night, we went to English Level 1, since Uerner is starting to learn English, and to Levels 4 and 5 for Uermay. We were dropped off at their house, had dinner, chatted a little and went to bed early. The following day, I woke up and had my first ever Naca Tamale (recipe below). This is a very popular Nicaraguan dish consisting of a tamale with meat, rice, and veggies wrapped in large banana leaves. I can’t remember a time when I’ve eaten so much food for breakfast, but it was tasty.

After walking the kids to school, I went to work for the morning, but was able to make it to their high school soccer game at a private school about a 20-minute bus ride away. Both the girls' and boys' teams defeated the home teams. It was excellent to be able to spend time with all three kids of the house surrounded by their friends.

On the third day, I had breakfast with the family and had a typical dish for breakfast consisting of gallo pinto (a rice and bean mixture), an egg, and bread, with coffee. Although it’s common for people in the States to drink their coffee differently, here it’s mostly taken black or with milk, but sweetened with a lot of sugar. They were taken back when they found out I take my coffee without sugar and joked with me about it for the remainder of my stay.

Mayer walked with me to the road to wait for my ride to work and it was a great chance to talk with her alone. Although I had a lot of work to do that day, I was able to eat dinner at the house where they made me a special soup with chicken similar to chicken fritters, veggies including yucca, quequisque, and more. Once again, I was incredibly stuffed after dinner, but very content.

The following day, we left the house early to walk the family to school. After finishing work midday, I went back to the house to find Uermay and two other students working on their project for my English Level 5 class. I helped them create their own candles and perfume by hand and I was so impressed by their creative skills. I would never have thought to melt down a piece of crayon and a white candlestick to make a colored candle or mixing citrus, water, a dash of rubbing alcohol, and flower petals to make perfume. I dubbed them the most diligent students for going above and beyond on our English project.

We also walked to visit a family friend of theirs while talking and watching novelas with the other family. It was a great experience to meet other people within the community and I was thankful for them to be so welcoming to a complete stranger in their house. By the end of the night they were asking me when I could stay at their house next.

On Saturday, Manna Project’s Cedro Clinic had its annual health fair to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the clinic. While I had work during the morning, I was able to spend time at the house for the rest of the evening. Uerner showed me all the plants they have in their yard, and - no joke - there must be 20 different plants and trees that grow fruit, vegetables, and spices, like avocado, plantain, oregano, and passion fruit.

As we were walking in the yard, we ran into a snake! Uerner went into the house to grab someone to kill it with a machete. As eventful as it was to see a snake hacked into pieces, it was nice when I was able to sit on the porch and talk with Mayera for a few hours. We talked about my life at home and hers here in Nicaragua. After we watched movies with the family and relaxed the remainder of the night.

Sunday was my last morning in homestay and the family made me an amazing Nicaraguan dish with a cabbage salad, boiled yucca, and chicharones. It was a great meal to end with an amazing family. Although I was sad to leave the house, I am thrilled that I will have another 10 months to spend time with them.

Until next time,
Jessica Whitney