I signed up to be a project supervisor for this non-profit, Amigos de las Américas, in the summer of 2014. Before I knew it, I was boarding a plane and flying to a country I'd never been to- Nicaragua. As soon as I got there, I realized I had no way of reaching the project director, and I was the only staff member coming at an off time. Several Nicaraguans in the airport graciously offered me their phones to call my boss on his Nica phone, and everything went smoothly after that.
It's hard to describe in 200 words what this experience meant (and means) to me. I lived in a 2-bedroom house with 9 other people- it was cramped, but they were my family. We supported each other, we laughed, we cried- I don't think I've ever become so close to a group of people the way I did with this staff.
Nicaragua is known as "La Tierra de Lagos y Volcanes" and it definitely lived up to its name. But besides the great natural beauty of Nicaragua, I was blown away by the people. I felt like I really got to be a part of these rural communities- I was not just a visitor or a tourist, and I think that's what makes Amigos so unique. We don't come into these communities with our North American views and try to impose them on others. Rather, we come in with open minds, ready to engage in cross-cultural exchange. Of course, some of our "North-Americanness" inevitably peaks out over the summer, but it's about adjusting to a different lifestyle. I struggled to embrace the rural, laid-back lifestyle, but I also really learned from it.