After a few days on my own in Granada, I headed north to Matagalpa. Up until this point I had mostly been with other people. I did a tour in Costa Rica, a photography workshop in Granada, and another tour through Nicaragua. And then I was in Matagalpa completely on my own.
It was always in my plan to go to Matagalpa for Spanish school, but looking back I can’t seem to remember how I made this decision. I think I stumbled upon reviews for the Matagalpa Spanish School on Tripadvisor and read great things. There are plenty of language schools in Granada and Leon, so I’m not sure how I found the one in Matagalpa, but I am glad I did. Even though it was a big city, it seemed way off the beaten tourist path.
This week was tough. It pushed and challenged me more than anything else during my six weeks in Central America. I was living with a family who spoke no English. In Guatemala I had done homestays, but there were always other travelers in the house with me. This time it was just me.
The house was nice, but pretty basic too. Cold showers only, a twin bed with an otherwise pretty bare room. They did have wifi which was a HUGE plus. My room was on the second floor and I had my own balcony, which actually was a saving grace. I loved sitting out there at night with the great view, watching “How I Met Your Mother” on my ipad just to hear a little bit of English. It was the only English I heard most days, and even the ipad was showing Spanish subtitles.
The food was gallo pinto (rice and beans) and eggs….every single meal! There may have been some sort of meat mixed in once in a while, but mostly just gallo pinto. Even though it is what I expected it would be, by the third day I was ready to cry, and dreaming of anything else to eat!
Living with the family was interesting. The mom, Mina, was so sweet. We ended up having some really interesting conversations in Spanish. One I remember specifically was about how hard, nearly impossible, it was for anyone in Nicaragua to visit the US, difficulty with the border, and why so many Nicaraguans were fleeing to Costa Rica.
I didn’t talk to her husband, Mario, too much. His accent was so thick I could never understand a word he said, so I was pretty much limited to Buenos Dias! He taught driver’s ed out of one of the rooms in the house. Their daughter, Maria, worked at the tour company attached to my Spanish school so we walked there together everyday. She is in her early/mid 20s. We had some great conversations, many about traveling throughout Nicaragua. She works for a travel company and has been to many areas. If I had been there longer I could have seen us becoming actual friends.
The house was also full of animals. There were two dogs, although I never saw them off their leashes outside, three birds who woke me up everyday, and a cute guinea pig. I was just very thankful the guinea pig was a pet, and not a meal as it would be in Peru.
A few strange things about my meals in the house: Nobody else ate….EVER. Mina sat with me while I ate, but I never saw her put a thing in her mouth until she took me to a café and had a smoothie. She actually told me she rarely ate dinner. Another funny thing was the music. Each morning American pop music from the early 90’s through early 00’s blasted throughout the house. When “The Thong Song” and “Baby Got Back” came on I was cracking up. I don’t think they had a clue what was being sung.
Matagalpa was a great and interesting experience, and staying in this house was definitely part of it. After a week it started to feel like home.