Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Goodbyes: Host Family

I remember walking up the dusty main street of Somoto in July 2012.  I had just arrived after a three and a half hour bus ride, the longest trip I had made at that point, and was excited to be in my new site after several weeks of training.  I was nervous, but I also had high hopes for what life was going to be like here.  I saw my host sister, Eunice, sitting anxiously at the front door of my host family that Peace Corps had arranged.  I took a deep breath and walked into the house that quickly became my home for the first year of my service.

The house didn’t have much.  There was a nice, large patio in the behind the house with my room on the back of the lot.  It seemed like a closet and felt like cave.  I noticed the shower didn’t even have a roof on it- just three walls and a shower curtain.  It’ll be like camping… I told myself, but I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay with this family.

Then my host dad, Chico (nickname for Francisco), and my host mom, Maria, sat down with me at the kitchen table.  We drank coffee from their coffee farm in the mountains to the south of Somoto and ate rosquillas.   They told me that was what somoteños did.  That day was the start of a great relationship that has lasted to this day.

The first time I ironed a shirt and all of the family peaked around the corner watching me, just waiting for something to catch on fire. I looked at my host sister and she said, “¿Sí puedes?” (You can do it?)  Luckily, I never caught any shirts on fire (thanks mom for teaching me how to iron). 

Any time I cooked something new, I would let them try some of it.  The typical response would be, “Sos bien inteligente, Aaron.”  My thought would usually be, “All I did was make pizza, but thanks!”  One time I made spicy chicken taco meat and Maria started coughing because she thought it was so hot.  After that, I always had to assure her three or four times that what I had made wasn’t spicy before she would eat it. 

When I first got to site, I had no idea how to hand wash my clothes and had to ask Maria what I needed to buy.  Then I came back and said, “OK… now what?”  She and I would also joke about how Nicaraguans point with their lips. We would take turns pointing at things and asking if it was the right thing- “Aquí?” “No, está allí”- with our duck lips, laughing the whole time. There also was the time she taught me how to make tortillas and was quite impressed at my tortilla making skills.

One time, Chico helped with my local entrepreneurship competition. He is an accountant and helped judge the finance section of the student business plan.  He took his job very seriously and was impressed with the work I was doing in the schools.  He told me how proud he was to be a part of my project later that even as we sat in the kitchen again, the rain pouring down on the zinc roof, talking about life.

Good memories. Last week I took my host mom and dad out to dinner at the nicest restaurant in Somoto to despedirme. When I arrived to walk to dinner with them, Chico game out with his NC State shirt that I gave him after Christmas this past year. He said he only wears the shirts for special occasions, and this was a very special occasion.  He then proceeded to give me a big bear hug.  It was a great time as we reminisced about all of the silly stories that happened during my time at the house.  

While they aren’t my real family, they certainly hold a special place in my heart after these two years, and I will miss them greatly. They were there for me as I learned how to live in Nicaragua and helped me navigate all of the challenges and questions I had about living there.  

I didn’t visit them as much during my second year after I moved to my own apartment, and that’s something I regret, but every time I did visit, it was like I never had left. After I moved out, I gave them a framed picture of us- it still sits proudly displayed on their mantelpiece, and Chico points it out every time I visit.  I know it will still be there when I visit someday, that Chico will give me a big hug, and we’ll sit down in the rocking chairs to talk about all that has happened since I last visited.  Maria and I will point at various things in the house with duck lips.  We might even have rosquillas and coffee- the true somoteño way.

No comments:

Post a Comment