Written by Christina Bowman. Media by Taylor Harpster.
The United States is a crazy advanced place. Most of those who have lived there their entire lives forget this from day to day. They never think twice about having hot water or affordable air conditioning. It is not even considered a privilege, but just a normality of life.
Throughout high school, I went on different mission trips to third world countries, but I had never experienced permanence in these communities. I had watched from afar how the people of the country lived while staying in hotels or dorms over a short period of time. During my sophomore year of college, however, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Nicaragua for three and a half months and experience life firsthand in a community I had previously only observed.
There are five main differences between daily life in the United States and Nicaragua that I found to be the most noticeable. Whether they are positive or negative depends on the perspective of the reader.
#1 – Water
This is probably the one difference people are most likely to guess. The water in Nicaragua is not clean for drinking, and so a lot of permanent residents will provide themselves and guests with filtered water if able. Besides this, showers are usually cold.
#2 – Food
The food in Nicaragua is something I personally enjoyed quite a bit. One difference is the number of choices. The typical meal I ate was some form of plantains, rice, beans, and chicken. There were also many fruits and vegetables. For many Nicaraguans, rice and beans are two of the only foods they are able to afford.
#3 – Transportation
The safety regulations are a little different when it comes to transportation. Often times we would pack onto a school bus, fit as many people as we could in a taxi, or walk wherever we were going. The way of transportation is something I really enjoyed because it was so different.
#4 – Hospitality
The hospitality in Nicaragua is beautiful. When there I never felt so welcomed into so many stranger’s homes. I remember one experience in particular when my friend and I were walking down the street taking pictures and exploring when a woman invited us to sit with her. She gave us coffee and pastries and talked to us for the longest time. I cannot count the number of homes I visited in the communities where the people were extremely welcoming to me as a foreigner.
#5 – Less Stuff
Most Nicaraguans live primarily off of essentials. You never see an excess of food or unused objects in one’s home. Many have a bed, a stove, a place to bathe and use the bathroom, a dining room table, a TV, and maybe some other furniture. Even this was not commonplace in every community we visited.
These five distinctions of the culture and people had a profound impact on my time abroad and life after I returned to the United States. I will never forget what it was like to live in such a beautiful part of the world with such beautiful humans. I pray that as proclaiming Christians we will never take for granted the resources we have been provided with. If you ever get the chance, please visit Nicaragua to see for yourself the differences I experienced firsthand!
Promotional Video for a UNIV 401 group (Previously COR 401) to raise money to go to Nicaragua through Students International. Source: Vimeo