After breakfast everyone prepared to leave the retreat center for the ride up ‘the big hill’ to Jinotepe, to Casa Goshen Schirch, the house of Maria and Doug in Nicaragua. For about 30 minutes the bus wound up the road into the mountains south of Managua, and then it was mostly a level ride for another 30 minutes until we got to Jinotepe (elevation about 1,900 feet above sea level), a small city in the department of Carazo. The temperatures here about 10 degrees cooler than in Managua, which is a welcome change.
Casa Goshen Schirch will be a central meeting point for the students most days. Students will come here for Spanish classes from 8-11:00 on the weekdays they do not have a field trip or game. Those days they will also have lunch here and some academic and group work meetings. For supper they will always return home to their host families.
Before their host families come and pick them up, Doug and Maria showed the students the essentials for finding their way around the city of Jinotepe (population about 30,000). Nine of the students will be with host families in Jinotepe, and the other 6 students will be with families in the neighboring town of Dolores (population only 6,500). With a map in hand, the students found where in Jinotepe they can change dollars to córdobas, where the ATM’s are, the locations of two supermarkets, where to get a haircut, and other essential locations (including where to get ice cream). Eventually they ended up at the location where they can get public transport (for $0.25) to the Dolores, only 1.5 miles away.
Back at the casa the students relaxed and took showers until 5:00, when their host families began coming one-by-one to pick them up. There was some nervousness, but everyone was brave and took the plunge to go live for 3 weeks with a family of strangers who speak a foreign tongue. By tomorrow they won’t be strangers anymore.