Eleanor spent 7 weeks on an AMIGOS program in Nicaragua. Here, she speaks about her relationship with her host family.
I had lots of expectations going into my 7 weeks in Nicaragua.
I expected to miss my family, friends, communicating in English, and a whole list of other things. I was unsure if I would like doing charlas, the food, waking up at 5:30; I was terrified that I would regret spending my summer in Central America instead of hanging out at the beach with my friends, like most people my age do. I had an open mind, but was still extremely anxious. Little did I know, I would have a summer I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for.
My first day in community (Waswali Abajo), I was still terrified. Speaking in Spanish was hard for me. The culture was so different. I felt like an alien; I thought that I stuck out with my red hair and freckles. But one person I found an immediate friend in was my host sister, Yara. Yara is eighteen years old and I consider her a sister. She asked me how to [say] “friends forever” in English, so she immediately made me feel welcome in their home. I slowly began to feel reassured that my summer might just go alright. The next day, I learned more about her. On Saturdays at the university in Matagalpa, she studies to be a Spanish teacher. During the week, she works from 2 until 10 with my host mom. Soon, I got to know her as a friend. She taught me how to make friendship bracelets, cook Nicaraguan food (plátanos are my favorite), and she was also my dance teacher–my partner and I learned salsa from her! I was not expecting, this summer, to find such an amazing friend. She is an incredible role model to girls in not only Waswali but to me, too. She was so passionate and motivated to help her community– I was constantly inspired by her. I expected to have a host family who would be polite to me, but I never expected to find someone to look up to.
I had another host sister, too. Roxana is ten years old and in the fifth grade and I consider her a sister, too. I could always count on her to make me laugh. She is not an average ten year old! My first week, I made the mistake of using guerra instead of gorra–war instead of hat, which she constantly teased me about. She once found a summer reading book of mine and wrote Alison (my partner) y tú son locas, so when I got to that page I found what she wrote and couldn’t stop laughing. She made me laugh every single day. A couple days before I was about to leave, she told me that she thought people were prettier when they smile. I never expected to have such a fun, unique younger host sister.
I wish I was able to repay my host family for the amazing times that they gave me. They went out of their way to make sure I felt comfortable. My host parents were so amazing; they are very hard working, intelligent, amazing people. I will never forget making tortillas every morning at 5:00 AM with my host mom, teaching my host dad how to play UNO, or getting art lessons from my talented 12 year old host brother. I had a ton of expectations going in the summer… I was occasionally homesick and, well, I am not the biggest fan of cuajada, but it was completely worth it. At the despedida I found myself crying, realizing how close I have grown to these people who have become my family. I will never forget my amazing AMIGOS experience.
All of the AMIGOS host families volunteer their homes and time for this invaluable cultural exchange.
They become family while participants are living in Latin America.