Home and Family Life
I have spent by far the most amount of time during my stay in León at home with my host family. In her own words, host mother describes her house as “humble,” but always open, and there are always people at her house. She has four sons, each of whom also have at least one child, and who all spend at least a fair amount of time at the house. It creates a pretty nice family environment, but I still did have some problems getting acquainted with everything. First, there isn’t really any hot water, so taking a shower every morning really wakes me up. No one else really seems to mind, though. One of my host nephews, for example, takes around an hour long shower everyday before school. I have no idea how he does it. I generally take maybe 5-10 minute long ones, which is just enough time for the refreshing feeling from the heat to go away and be replaced by just plain cold. Where we take showers is part of the house but not fully closed off to the outside, so at times bugs and other things get in and keep you company in there. I also wear sandals while showering, kind of like during freshman year, while no one else in the family does.
The family owns a bunch of chickens, a rooster, along with two ducks, and a dog. All of these frequently wander around the yard and often make it into the house. I have had both duck and chicken poop in my room, which is always a fun thing to come back to. One time I left the door open and came back to find two hens laying on my bed. I also frequently come across these little lizards that sneak in between the roof and the top of the wall, although they usually leave pretty quickly. One night in the beginning, though, when I slept with a mosquito net, I woke up to a lizard sitting at the top of the net, seemingly looking down at me. I chased him down and out of the room, I thought. When I woke up the next morning, however, he was there. I looked around the room for something to catch him with before settling on my laundry bag. After some maneuvering, I managed to get him inside. One of my host brothers watched me as I emptied the bag and shook it, trying to get the thing out. He broke out laughing when finally the lizard came free. Even then, though, it didn’t move, resting upright around 10 ft or so from my room, just looking at me. When I went back to chase it further away, it fell from the walkway of the house to the ground, where one of the chickens ate it. I have also seen much larger lizards out in the yard.
The rooster always crows in the early morning hours, usually between 2:30ish and 5. It used to wake me up more but I’ve gotten used to it. The rooster and all of the hens sleep in the trees in the yard, which are right outside my room, so at night or in the morning I often hear their feet pattering around on the metal roof above me. For some reason the chickens really crack me up– I just find them incredibly funny looking. Not that farms in the US don’t have chickens or roosters, but I find it a little weird that people all over the city, at least in my neighborhood, have roosters. When one starts crowing, I can usually hear a response from one of the neighboring ones. Maybe it just seems funny because I’m not familiar with them, but everyone else is so used to them they don’t pay much attention. I still find it amusing when one of the little chickens wander into the kitchen looking for food, but they pretty much always get chased out right away. One time, we had chicken soup for lunch on the weekend, and my host mother filled me in that we were eating one of the chickens from the yard. She had killed it earlier that morning while I was still asleep so I “wouldn’t hear.”
Nicaraguan table manners, at least in my family, are pretty different from those of the US. The only eating utensil used is a spoon. To scoop things onto the spoon everyone uses either a tortilla or their hand. No one ever uses a fork or a knife. I’ve gradually moved over to the Nicaraguan way, and I’ve grown to like it. It’s much more relaxed and informal, and the spoon can hold more food than a fork can. The only real time that we had soup was the same one with the chicken, but the chunks of meat were so large that I was trying to cut it into pieces in the broth, until I saw other family members drinking the broth first, and then just using their hands to eat the rest. On a slightly different note, I almost always get more food than most people in the family, in addition to always eating first. I don’t know if that’s solely because I’m a guest or some other reason, but it makes me a little uncomfortable. I appreciate the sentiment, but I would also be happy to eat less to be on par with everyone else.
I spend a lot of my free time playing with my family, usually with one of host nephews, who is 12, and one of my host nieces, who is 10. My other host nephew who lives at the house is around 17 and also hangs out when he has time, although he is busier. I’ve played soccer, both in the yard and in the living room, played cards a lot (two games in particular, one called Set and another one that I brought) ,and also this app called Clash of Clans, which is incredibly popular here in Nicaragua. I saw that two of my host siblings played it a lot, so I decided to join them and try it myself. I knew about it but had never played it before. The app is fun, and was a really good way to both bond with people in my host family and improve my Spanish. It sounds stupid but I don’t think my experience would’ve been the same here had I not made that choice. It has also been a really good way to relax when I’m at home. Since I started playing, my host niece also picked it up, so that all four of us who spend the most time at the house play.
One deterrent to playing, however, is the unreliable wifi that we have. I know that I am spoiled by strong wifi both all over house and all over the campus, for the most part, at school, but the lack-thereof has been really frustrating. Every once in a while I pick it up in my room, but most often I have to go sit outside and use it, which isn’t the end of the world, but it is a slight inconvenience. Only after asking about it was I told there was any wifi at all. I guess everyone else in the family uses mobile data, or there is some other network they use, because no one else has a problem. I’ve realized how reliant I am on being connected to the Internet. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to look something up, related to teaching or to recent news, and haven’t been able to, either because the signal was too weak or because it simply wasn’t there. In the grand scheme of things, this probably doesn’t matter much, but coming from the US I’m pretty reliant on reliable internet. My host family probably finds it amusing how often I am outside sitting on the walkway that leads to the kitchen, using the wifi, but to me it is weird to go even a day without it.
Finally, I was also really glad to have been able to find a guitar here that I could use and keep in my room to practice. The nice people at the Taller Xuchialt, where I have my guitar class, had an extra one with missing strings they said I could use, as long a I replaced the strings. After hunting around a little for the best price, I was able to find some, and spent one afternoon with one of my host nephews learning to string a guitar. I also spend a fair amount of time playing that. All in all, though, my time at my home here in León has been very enjoyable, and I am really grateful to everyone in my host family for being so gracious and accommodating.
Aiden Egglin ’17