Me, my wife & my son have been in Nicaragua almost a week which means 25% of our time here is already over L makes me quite / very sad!
Well today at 7 a.m. the real work began. I did my first tour of our Spanish Immersion school Dariana here in Leon. I was super impressed at their teaching methods.
I started off with a killer breakfast with my wife Julie & son Miller that our cook prepared of fried eggs, gallo pinto (rice & beans a Nica staple), fresh water, fresh fruit, toast, and bacon.
You see, I studied abroad in Mexico with the Tec de Monterrey that the University of Wisconsin set up for us through their “international programs” office. I had the time of my life – from it I took away a few things:
1.) You don’t have to know a lick of Spanish to study abroad
2.) The real way to learn Spanish is to live with a local family
3.) Sitting in a classroom all day isn’t what most people call fun (it’s what I did and it sucked)
At Dariana, their class schedule looks like this:
8 a.m. to 10 a.m. – one on one grammar with a professor (they must have a college degree)
10 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. – break
10:20 a.m.-12 noon – mix of one on one time and group time in conversation, stories, and game playing as well as movies
Here is a picture of Carlos one of the instructors:
Break until 3 p.m. At 3 p.m. you go back to the school for an educational outing almost always free of charge. You go to the cathedrals; you go to the market, you to the theatre, you might go to a museum of art or history. The outing is completely in Spanish and teaches you not only about Spanish, but about the history & culture of Nicaragua. Leon is the oldest city here, founded by Francisco Cordoba (who was a real A hole too and killed all the local indigenous people along with trying to rip off the Catholic church and the Spanish throne). Leon is Nicaragua’s 2nd largest city and the oldest city in Nicaragua.
Today for the outing we went to the biggest (main) cathedral which is the third largest in latin America after the ones in Mexico City, Mexico and Cusco, Peru (I’ve personally seen both).
Back to Dariana – they also hook you up with a family to stay with that includes room/board and 3 meals a day which all the student raved about as being super good. If you check out our youtube at www.youtube.com/nicaeco you can see some student testimonials as well.
With Nica Eco, we put this all together. We help you with airfare. Our study abroad program includes airport transfers. We have staff fluent in English. We monitor the quality of not just the school and instruction but also your homestay. We are an American Tour Operator so we know what students expect from the US and set proper expectations.
Here is what a typical homestay house looks like:
We also arrange all of your side trips so you can actually see the country, as well as social outings with our other students so you NEVER feel alone or lonely in Leon when studying for a summer session, semester abroad, or even a year. The real key with Nica Eco is we get your credits to transfer to your college so you earn your 3 credits. It is why we don’t hide what schools we use – as our program covers the correct curriculum so that your classes will transfer you credit. We also arrange an educational visa so that it doesn’t expire in 30 days like a tourist visa does with our government contacts.
What a typical “host family mom” looks like, this is Hilda:
Alfonso the Director of the School was a HUGE help. He also instructs the very advanced Spanish classes if you so fall into that category. There is a test on our website www.NicaEco.com which you take & the instructors make sure they put you in the right level of preparation.
According to the students, that’s the key. The students were adamant that if you come to Dariana with Nica Eco and study a full semester abroad and came in with like a level of 2 or 3 as high school Spanish classes you’d be more or less very very proficient to nearly fluent (fluent to US business standards anyway) with just a semester here in Leon. The key is the one on one instruction that catches errors and rapidly progresses you – plus you are staying with a family that speaks Spanish to assist you.
More on Dariana later, back to our day…
At 11 a.m. Julie & I handed off Miller to our nanny here and went the 45 minutes to the ruins of Viejo Leon from the modern day Leon. Founded in the 1520’s by Francisco Cordoba a Spanish explorer in search of Gold, they mass murdered the indigenous people or enslaved them.
Here is a picture of a statue of the serial killer himself Sr. Cordoba:
If they thought that there might be an uprising, they would have a bunch of the indigenous peoples literally fed to these wild dogs they had that would eat them alive. All of their houses and structures in old Leon (Viejo Leon means old leon) had these doors out the back as apparently the natives frequently DID rise up and kill the Spaniards from time to time as they were so brutal. The Spaniards justified this behavior as they believed the Indians had no souls to save. The Catholic church vehemently opposed this behavior, and the wonderful Spaniards rewarding them by withholding the required 10% tithe that any Catholic government at the time was required to pay (like a 10% tax). This didn’t go over well and Cordoba was put to death.
Here are some of the people-eating dogs that ate the Indians…here puppy puppy puppy….
I shot several interesting photos of the ruins.
The Ruins of Old Leon:
The place was abandoned after like 50 years as the remaining tribes become unmanageable and starting killing off the Spaniards for a bit of time. Another odd point that in the distance you could hear the Nicaraguan military blowing off some big ass frickin’ guns but they said it was miles away. I guess some show of strength but that’s mostly I think for the local people not foreign countries.
For lunch (here it is the biggest meal and you eat it at about 2 p.m. (pics below) we had superb grilled chicken, gallo pinto, papas (roasted potatoes) and some salad with a fresh mustard/vinaigrette salsa our cook made us.
Check out our Lunch – everyone loves Nica food!
It did start raining as is common in the tropics in the afternoon. Tonight, we went to this Chinese joint that wouldn’t take my $20 bill as a tiny tear was in it. All over Nica if you have a bill that is torn, missing a tiny piece, or has some ink on it…forget it. They won’t take it. They do take Visa everywhere anyway.
So, that’s my night. I’m off to shower and try to talk Julie out of a mojito at Big Foot as a.) it’s raining and b.) I’m dead tired and just want to lie down.
This photo shows my wife Julie at an inlet off Poneloya Beach where like 5 restaurants are.
Ok – so we have been in Nicaragua and my wife is bored – why??!!! Well, our “official” itinerary of visiting schools, doing photos & videos, etc. doesn’t start until tomorrow. So for today, we woke up to a wonderful poolside breakfast at our house in Leon with eggs, bacon, toast, papaya, mango, cantaloupe, watermelon, and rice& beans. My son Miller LOVES eggs and eats so well. The time I get with him has really been amazing.
After breakfast we were going to go to church at the cathedral but Julie was running too late getting ready so we just went shopping. She got a pair of jeans for 5 bucks. The tight kind that I think would make me sweat.
We bought fried plantains and pototaes as well some papaya salted & lime juiced on at Leon’s plaza and did some walking. I have to get a picture up of Miller in his “backpack” kid holder I wear around he sits in and loves it. The fried plantains are sold as street food in little bags for $.50 cents.
It was DREADFULLY hot as zero wind, 100% humidity and 95 degrees. Still cooler than Texas however. For lunch we ate at the Union. I’m sorry to say it’s Wal Mart’s grocery store with a little deli. By the way….it wasn’t all that cheap. The grilled chicked skewers, rice, beans, and some sort of macaroni & cheese concoction was $7 bucks with a 7up…that was a rip off but oh well, Miller was hungry.
After the day was SUPER lazy dazy – Julie did facebook for like 5 hours and I watched a couple dreadful movies and even saw Teen Mom 2 on MTV. Sweet Jesus, right?
Tomorrow we have to get up at 6:30 a.m. to go to the Dariana language school here in Leon where our students will study Spanish for the summer, a semester, or a year. I only studied abroad for the summer – if I could “re do it” I’d come here in a heartbeat and come for a year instead of just a month like I did in Mexico. I’d now be fluent.
Big problem though is…you can live like a King here on a middle class salary. It’s going to be reallllyyy hard to leave and I’m already thinking about it with moist eyes – I think a lot of it is I work so much that I don’t get this sort of unbridled time with my Son – plus then, the REAL work begins building yet another company from scratch and getting Americans down here to see this insanely cool place to study abroad with us here in Nicaragua. I’m hoping us being an American company will give them some piece of mind they will be safe and have a bad ass time.
I’ll let you know tomorrow how Dariana language school goes!