A great big welcome to the new Batahola Volunteers, Kelsey Schrock and Erika Coe! They arrived in Nicaragua September 9, but were quickly shuttled off to the northern city of Matagalpa for a week of language school. Since returning, they’ve been living with host families in the Batahola Norte neighborhood, getting their fair share of gallo pinto and fulll-on introduction to Nicaraguan family life. Sam and I have been giving the two of them a thorough orientation–introducing them to the people, places, and tasks they’ll need to know. It’s been fun to get to know them and pass on the baton!
I thought a Q&A would be a nice introduction to the new Batahola Volunteers, who will be at the Center for the next two years…
Name: Erika Maltiox
Hometown: Roseville, Minnesota
Hometown: Wellman, Iowa
1) Why do you want to spend two years in Nicaragua?
Erika: I came here last year and fell in love with Batahola Norte and the people who live here. I wanted to more fully embrace and live in this culture, and improve my Spanish. I really connected with the mission of the cultural center and the volunteer program, and want to fit in where I can as far as service opportunities.
Kelsey: I have always wanted to live outside the U.S. for at least a year and after spending some time in Latin America I knew I wanted to go back and that one year wasn’t going to be long enough to really get established somewhere. Since I had already spent some time in Nicaragua getting to know the people, history and culture, that made it easier to make the decision to return for a longer period of time. I also felt like it was a good time in my life to do service and the Batahola Volunteer position presented itself at the perfect time.
2) How did you hear about the Batahola Volunteer position?
Erika: I was staying in the neighborhood last year during a study abroad program and my host-mom works at the Center and she told me about the program, as well as an alum from VMM.
Kelsey: Last year I was in Nicaragua for three months for a study service term with a group from my college and we visited the Center for a mural tour and mass. I remember at the end of the tour they told us the volunteer position would be opening around the same time we would graduate. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but as graduation neared I came across the volunteer position again advertised on Goshen College’s Job Net. Even though I was only at the Center for a few hours I still remember how much that visit had impacted me and I knew I had to apply.
3) Describe Nicaraguan hospitality
Erika: LOTS of delicious food! People offer and serve you the best of everything, the people I have stayed with are so incredibly generous and want you to feel welcomed and loved.
Kelsey: I think I would describe it as a coffee culture. Everyone has the mutual understanding that if you stop by you come in, sit down and have a drink. I guess I associate that with the atmosphere of a coffee shop where you slow down and focus on just catching up with people, not worrying about what else you have to do at the moment. I have also noticed most Nicaraguans are curious and genuinely interested in who you are and how you’re doing, even if you are a foreigner just passing through.
4) What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen so far?
Erika: Un oso perezoso (sloth)
Kelsey: Probably the man I saw in Matagalpa, sitting on the street trimming his chest hair with a scissors. Yep…definitely.
5) One goal you have for your time here?
Erika: Be able to start interpretting (maybe hopefully), take some dance classes, be able to teach English!
Kelsey: To be able to dance like a native.
6) What cartoon character/superhero do you most identify with?
Erika: Cat Woman.
Kelsey: Scooby-Doo. I’m a pretty reliable friend and I’m always up for an adventure. I will also eat just about anything and at any time of the day.
7) What were you doing right before you came tp Nicaragua?
Erika: An Americorps program in Minneapolis
Kelsey: I was living at home with my parents for the summer in Iowa. I worked at a day camp for kids with disabilities in Iowa City called Mayor’s Youth Empowerment Program. I also did a lot of traveling to weddings and family vacations, which was a lot of fun.
8) Best thing you’ve discovered in Managua thus far:
Erika: Ananda (the vegetarian restaurant)
Kelsey: Our neighbor who sells fresh tortillas made over a fire…nom!
9) Nicaraguan habit you think you’ll pick up?
Erika: “Dale pues” (means ok, alright, go ahead…etc)
Kelsey: Definitely stashing money in my bra, already started doing that. Also saying “dale pue” all the time.
Stayed tuned for updates on Erika and Kelsey’s new adventures here at the Centro Cultural! Sam and I have our goodbye party next week Friday, on Oct. 11th, and will say our ‘hasta luegos’–until later.