by Crooked Trails guide, Alexis Bonoff
When I first arrive on Ometepe Island in 1996 I couldn’t speak Spanish in the future tense. Nor could I form sentences using the past tense of the verb, so everything had to be in the present. And that’s how that first trip was, all in the present.
I was only 15 but was lucky enough to be placed in a homestay with a loving (and very patient) family. They smiled at my grammar mistakes and introduced me to a magical unknown world. With my host siblings I swam in the lake, fished from the boulders, climbed through the plantain forests, played barefoot soccer in the dirt and ate mountains of mangos. My host mother cooked gallo pinto (beans and rice) in the widemouthed pan over an open flame stove and mixed sugar with lime juice for lunch. My host family took me to his construction site and had me unbending old nails for new use. I slept in a woven cot on the dirt floor next to the open window to catch the night breeze.
Fifteen years later my language has greatly improved, along with the lives of my host family. All my host siblings have completed university–the eldest has just received her residency as Senior Pediatrician in a hospital in the city. My host family’s house now has electricity and a tile floor, and my host mother is nagging me about having grandchildren. We joke about the past and talk far into the future.
But the connect never changes. I am always welcomed home with stories and questions. In the hope that I can help create a similar experience for Crooked Trails travelers, a chance to find a new place where there is always fried fish on the stove and the mangoes are always fresh, I’ve helped to create this fall’s first Crooked Trails Nicaragua program. You don’t need perfect Spanish, all you need is an open mind and a little bit of incurable curiosity. Join me!
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door…You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” –Bilbo Baggins J.R.R. Tolkien
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