Va Pue Magazine

Peace Corps Nicaragua stories of service.



Entrance Interview: Thomas, TEFL 68

Who are you?

Thomas Bagby Orange… (*dramatic pause*) Jr.

What do you like to go by?

Thomas, Tom, TO, Orange and/or any variation.

Where do you call home?

Glen Allen, VA

Why did you join the Peace Corps? Continue reading “Entrance Interview: Thomas, TEFL 68”

Entrance Interview: Jasmine, ENV 68

Who are you?

Jasmine Williams

What do you like to go by?

Fachenta Frankie! Haha, just kidding. Call me Jasmine!

Where do you call home?

Peace up, A town down! (And for those of you who suffered a childhood without the musical stylings of Usher and Lil Jon, I’m from Atlanta.)

Why did you join the Peace Corps?

I joined the Peace Corps for many reasons but I think that they can all be summed up into the fact that I just want to be a better person. I wanted to learn more about this world, the environment, how to grow my own food, speak Spanish and how to make a lasting positive impact in the lives of others. My aunt and uncle met in the Peace Corps while serving in Ecuador in the 90s. They’ve always been an inspiration for me, because they’re incredibly interesting, well-traveled and full of amazing stories. I want to be just like them.

What is one thing you want to do while in Nicaragua?

Aside from my professional goals, I want to eat a meal in each departamento.

What is your perfect pizza?

This is a hard one, because I’m torn between two pizzas from the same pizzeria. If you’re ever in New York, do yourself a favor and visit Artichoke Pizza. The spinach and artichoke is creamy and delicious without being too overwhelmingly rich. The crab pizza is seasoned with Cajun spices, breadcrumbs and succulent pieces of actual crab meat. I typically order a slice of both, because a.) I’m grown; b.) I love to eat; and c.) I’m indecisive as hellllll.

Who is a character from a TV show or a book that you’ve always resonated with?

Jess from “New Girl”, because she’s a teacher who’s slightly awkward, has a definitive aesthetic and sings show tunes. Side bar: Another Peace Corps goal of mine is to play “True American” with my compañeros during a holiday. It’s a game that was created on the show “New Girl” and I’ve always wanted to play it!

Have you ever danced in the rain? If not, HOP TO IT!

Ummm, absolutely! But I need to do it again soon! The conditions are perfect.

Do you believe in pinky promises?

Yes, but they’re only valid if both parties simultaneously kiss the swirl of their hands while the pinkies are locked.

Are you an PCV in Nica 68 (or an older group) but haven’t yet responded to the Entrance Interview Qs? Never fear, the questions are here.

Entrance Interview: Andrea, TEFL 68

Who are you?

Andrea René Franke

What do you like to go by?

Andrea (pronounced the Spanish way!)

Where do you call home?

Portland, Oregon is where I was born and spent the first 23 years of my life. However, a RPCV from The Gambia once told me that home is something that is internal and once you have it you can be at home no matter where you are in the world. I would say that is a meta of mine.

Why did you join the Peace Corps? Continue reading “Entrance Interview: Andrea, TEFL 68”

Entrance Interview: Neal, ENV 68

Who are you?

My name is Neal.

What do you like to go by?

Neal. I’d say I’m just that boring, but I think it is a pretty nifty name.

Where do you call home?

I’m from the Columbia river gorge, on the Washington side. My house is the evergreen trees, my carpet is the moss on the forest floor, and my window is the rain.

Why did you join the Peace Corps?
 Continue reading “Entrance Interview: Neal, ENV 68”

Entrance Interview: Jill, TEFL 68

Who are you?

That is a really good question, I’ll probably never answer right; but, let’s just go with Jill Camargo

What do you like to go by?

I like to go by houses and make up stories about the people who live there.

Where do you call home?

My home is where my husband is, and he’s in Nebraska, I hope.

Why did you join the Peace Corps? Continue reading “Entrance Interview: Jill, TEFL 68”

Exit Interview: Robert, ENV 64


Robert F. Brown (formerly Maria)

Site and Sector:

San Nicolás, Estelí. ENV64

Project assignment:

Community-based Environmental Education

Project reality:

Elementary Science and OTV Teacher and Town Environmental Consultant Continue reading “Exit Interview: Robert, ENV 64”

Querida Mita,

Peace Corps life can be a lot to manage at times.  I love my community, but sometimes struggle to be so far from my support group and from the things I used to love to do.  Add in a couple acosos on the street, struggling to communicate in Spanish, or a hard day of teaching and I can start feeling pretty down.  Querida Mita, when life seems stacked against you, how do you keep from feeling blue?

Querida voluntaria,

What do I do to keep from feeling blue? Well, let me tell you something. Fijate que…

There will always be sad times in life, but it’s important to remind yourself of what you are grateful for. Have you thanked God for being alive today? Even if you don’t believe in God, you can still be thankful for that breath you just took. Hay mas tiempo que vida (There is more time than life) is my favorite saying for a reason. Life is short, and we must appreciate it.
Continue reading “Mita’s Secret for Happiness”

Exit Interview, Amanda, ENV 64


Amanda Fisher

Site and Sector:

El Valle de La Laguna, Masaya. Environment 64

Project assignment:

Environmental Education Promoter

Project reality:

Primary school science teacher, garden and compost engineer, papelografo artista.

Did you have an apodo during service?


Most and/or least useful thing/experience brought into country:

My own sheets. Even brought 2 sets, super useful because Nica host family sheets were scratchy and elastic was always shot so never stayed on mattress. I usually got 9-12 hours of sleep in site every night so they were definitely put to good use!  Other most useful thing, EARPLUGS. Least useful: Watertight bag. Never used it and the one chance I could’ve used it (tour of Somoto Cannon, lots of swimming) I didn’t bring it with me!

What do you wish you had done here?

More sports related stuff in site.  It’s what I’m good at and what I love to do but I let the lack of materials and hilly terrain prevented me from getting something started. Wish I could’ve been a part of a committee, maybe would’ve had the chance to be a part of the camps and teach Nica kids the importance and values of being part of a team.

Most creative way you killed time in your site:

Working out with Shaun T videos, he saved me.

What books/podcasts/shows/movies did you get hooked on during your service that you would like to recommend to other volunteers?

Favorite podcast I discovered was The Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson.

Most Nicaraguan habit you’ll take home with you:

Lip pointing and nose scrunching.

What will you miss six months from now?

My PC friends, host family, Laguna de Apoyo, Crossfit in Managua.

What will you not miss six months from now?

Having to use public transportation, latrina life, piropos from gross/disrespectful men in public.

How have you changed during your service?

I went from valuing my independence and free bird lifestyle to really longing for a husband and family of my own. “Settling down in Delaware” used to scare me but now I know I am ready to do just that. Living in a culture that truly values family definitely influenced and inspired this change.

Did you ever want to ET?

Every other day but my friends and family kept me going. I’m no quitter.

Big plans for your readjustment allowance?

Pay off credit card debt that I accrued while in PeaceCorps, car maintenance stuff, pretty new clothes 🙂

What’s next?

Coaching college field hockey, part time work as a teacher at an early learning center, find a husband and live happily ever after.

Final words of advice:

No matter how tough things may be… have faith in yourself and others, laugh A LOT, take care of your body and mind, spend time with the people who make you happy, and last but not least: work hard but play harder.

Exit Interview: Sam, ENV 64


Sam Connor

Site and Sector:

Env, Diriá

Project assignment:

First, co-teach and plan with primary school teachers.  Second, implement community environmental projects.

Project reality: Continue reading “Exit Interview: Sam, ENV 64”

Exit Interview: Amelia, ENV 64


Amelia Evans

Site and Sector:

San Lorenzo, Boaco. Environment

Project assignment: 

Co-plan and co-teach science with 4 teachers

Project reality: 

Providing free babysitting for a multitude of necias but wonderful neighborhood niñas. Continue reading “Exit Interview: Amelia, ENV 64”

Exit Interview: Lindsay, ENV 64


Lindsay Ellingson

Site and Sector:

Balgue, Ometepe. ENV64

Project assignment:

Environmental education

Project reality:

Just plain old education Continue reading “Exit Interview: Lindsay, ENV 64”

Exit Interview: Robin, TEFL 64


Robin Swanhuyser

Site and Sector:

Nindirí, Masaya. TEFL

Project assignment:

TEFL Teacher Trainer

Did you have an apodo during service?

Robin Hood.  Continue reading “Exit Interview: Robin, TEFL 64”

Exit Interview: Michelle, ENV 64


Michelle Zaragoza

Site and Sector

Juigalpa, Chontales. Environment 64

Project assignment

Primary environmental educator

Project reality

Taking hours creating the perfect materials for classes that NEVER happen while eating WAY TOO many tajadas. Continue reading “Exit Interview: Michelle, ENV 64”

Exit Interview, Char, TEFL 64


Charleen Johnson Stoever.

Site and Sector:

Matagalpa, Matagalpa, TEFL

Project assignment: 

Co-plan and co-teach English with 3 Nicaraguan English teachers.

Project reality: 

Practicing how to pronounce “three” differently from “tree,” coming out to strangers and colleagues, and having meaningful discussions about race, class, sexual orientation, gender, mental health, and destigmatizing  these discussions. I also explained that I could be white and Mexican and that not all Americans are white, blonde, and with blue eyes.

I also led STAR’s LGBTQ Safe Zone Trainings for Peace Corps Nicaragua staff, taxi drivers, hotel staff, and host families. These trainings were incredibly rewarding.

I also used my social media skills to fundraise thousands of dollars for Camp Glow for Girls and blogged about the effects this amazing camp had on Nicaraguan girls, and I also reflected on what we could do better for the next camp. Camp Glow was my favorite week of my service.
Continue reading “Exit Interview, Char, TEFL 64”

Exit Interview: Jennifer, TEFL 64


Jennifer Awesome Rowley


Sébaco, Matagalpa



Project assignment:

To enhance the lesson planning and English instruction abilities of the counterparts assigned

Project reality:

Become friends with everyone in sight and maybe teach a few kids some English words Continue reading “Exit Interview: Jennifer, TEFL 64”

Nica 64 Exit Interviews

The time for Nica 64’s official COS has arrived. Over the next few weeks, we will share some of their final thoughts and words of wisdom here on the blog in the form of VaPué Exit Interviews.

Are you an RPCV in Nica 64 (or an older generation) but didn’t get to respond to the Exit Interview Qs? Never fear, the questions are here: Continue reading “Nica 64 Exit Interviews”

Exit Interview: Eric, SBD 63


Eric Insler

Did you have an apodo during service:


Site and Sector:

León, SBD 63.

Project assignment:

Coaching entrepreneurship teachers; advising small business owners. Continue reading “Exit Interview: Eric, SBD 63”

Exit Interview: Ilana, HE 61


Ilana Hipshman

Did you have an apodo during service?

ili, ila, ilanisima, (ilanita to my host father only)

Site and Sector:

Health sector. 2 years in Rancho Grande, Matagalpa, and a third year in the city of Matagalpa.

Project assignment: 

a. Sustainable public health education and promotion
b. Cultural exchange

Project reality:

a. Survival
b. Cultural exchange
c. Sustainable public health education and promotion Continue reading “Exit Interview: Ilana, HE 61”

Querida Mita,

What is the key to a long distance relationship? I have never had to do one before, but I am about to.

Querida Muchacha,

Fijese que…

There’s an old saying that goes amor de lejos, amor de pendejos. Why would you do that to yourself? Oh well, chavalos y chavalas these days are moving so much que andan como pata de perro that I understand why you’re doing a long distance relationship.

In my 73 years, I’ve seen my family and those of my neighbors separated because Continue reading “Mita’s Secrets to Long-Distance Love”

Exit Interview: Tim and Caressa, HE 63


Tim and Caressa Kruth

Site and Sector:

Nueva Guinea, RACCS, Health Continue reading “Exit Interview: Tim and Caressa, HE 63”

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