January 1, 2018 I decided to start off the new year by traveling to Nicaragua to take a class for a month on globalization, the economy, and it’s effects on women. During this class I got to travel around the country of Nicaragua and stay with two different host families who taught me so much about the culture of Nicaragua. I immediately fell in love with this culturally rich and beautiful country. After learning about this country ‘s history and how intertwined it was with American politics, it was extremely interesting for me to learn all about the political structure of this country and to see how the economy intertwined with politics to create a “socialist” government.
I learned so much from this trip, since I had previously only visited countries in Europe- it was extremely different to visit a third world country in Latin America. Just like the U.S. there is a wide range of family incomes and social status’ but a culture shock for me was when we saw impoverished shanty towns outside of large cities. I learned that people in need often built make-shift homes using tin and other gathered materials along the outskirts of town. A lot of citizens within the city of Managua (the capital) made their money by being entrepreneurs- opening or selling food along the streets, working in markets, or working in large factories that were mainly outsourced from American companies.
Culturally, so much in Nicaragua was different. Both of my host families I stayed with were so accommodating. Although there was a strong language barrier, we all tried so hard to communicate and attempt to learn the most we could about one another. In my first homestay, we stayed at a rural family owned cooperative coffee farm in Matagalpa. This rural homestay was located deep in the mountainous jungles of Nicaragua. Our family was so giving and shared so much of their culture with us. Although we couldn’t communicate well, we certainly tried our best. The children in the family played with us everyday and practiced their english skills with us. One day, we learned to cut and harvest coffee with our homestay father as he walked us through the entire coffee agricultural process. Another day, our homestay mother helped us learn the process of making tamales on her wood fire stove. My favorite memory from my first homestay was when we hiked up in the coffee farm and our homestay father stopped at a giant ficus tree in the middle of the jungle; here he said that people from all over Nicaragua would come to the 100 year old tree because it had spiritual capabilities. We sat around the tree and meditated for 30 minutes in the jungle, taking in all the sounds of nature around us.
Seeing our first homestay family organically grow and harvest coffee was interesting to process. For one, we learned about how these local farmers who are not apart of a specific company sell their coffee to a “middle man,” who then sells the coffee to a larger corporation. In this process, local families lose a large profit for all their hard work while big corporations. These companies outsource their work and most of the time do not properly pay their employees so they can make a larger profit. One large take away I got from this experience is to make sure you are being a responsible consumer- make sure to read labels and be aware of where you are buying your products if you want to help local families grow their business.