Written by Olivia Deresti
When I was eight my family decided that we were moving to Nicaragua. My mother hates the winter and we all love traveling, so it seemed like a good idea to get out of Canada for a while. I don’t actually remember how I felt about moving there initially, but I know that I came to love my life in Central America for those six months back in 2005.
It was totally different than living here in Toronto. We settled into a small and pleasant fishing town called San Juan Del Sur. First of all, there was a huge language barrier. My family and I had to take a couple months of Spanish lessons. Since I was young, I learned quite fast. The culture is also very different than here.
Nicaragua is a Third World country, which was shocking to my naive eyes. I had never seen real poverty before. The locals lived mostly in shacks, hand-washed all their clothes and dishes, and had chickens as pets. Despite all this, they seemed to be happy. This blew my mind, and I immediately felt guilty for being the slightest bit ungrateful for everything that I had.
The biggest change I experienced in Nicaragua was the schooling. The only good school in my little fishing village was a Catholic one called El Estrella Del Mar (The Starfish, for those who don’t speak Spanish). I am not Catholic. I was totally immersed in Nicaraguan culture. The teachers were nuns, they wrote in cursive, and they did not speak a word of English. The classrooms were tiny, sweltering rooms, filled wall to wall with desks and seated students. The washrooms were outhouses. The schoolyard was a giant square of concrete, no play structure or anything. The worst part of it was the uniform I wore: a white blouse and a navy dress made of thick fabric, adding to the discomfort of the extremely hot climate.
At first it was scary and I felt very alone, but I quickly made friends with another non-local girl who’s parents moved to Nicaragua from England. As the only two foreign kids in a school of Nicaraguans, our friendship was bound to happen.
Even though we lived amongst the locals, we didn’t completely embrace the Nicaraguan lifestyle. We were still tourists. We went out to fancy restaurants, took boat tours, and sat by the pool at the resort overlooking the bay. It was beautiful there, and we had a generally laid back lifestyle. I miss it and plan to return to visit as often as I can. I am so grateful for the experience of living in another country and I would recommend it to anyone.