Va Pue Magazine

Peace Corps Nicaragua stories of service.



Nicaraguita, A Poem

Samantha / Peace Corps Stories

Oh Nicaragua, Nicaraguita
That girl at the bar said you have no culture

But I know
Culture is not something can see in colorful cloth or folk dances

But something you taste, like the dust that lines your mouth in April before the rains start
Like the ash baked into tortillas
And those small strawberries that come down from the mountain once a year

And culture is something you smell
Like the elote blackening in the street
The red and black paint drying on telephone poles
And the trash burning outside

It’s something you hear
Like the cars with the speakers tied on top, announcing a funeral
The sound of a plump mango falling from the tree
And every adios as you walk by

It’s something you feel
Like the warm hand of a stranger, inviting you in
The bumps on the road, as you pass by the mountains
And the ache of your heart, once you’ve left

Peace Corps held a poetry contest in 2015 that received more than 800 submissions from Volunteers in the field and returned Volunteers. Samantha Austin’s poem received the runner-up prize in the returned Peace Corps Volunteer Category. Austin was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua from 2010-12.

*Originally published on

17 Smiles to Start Your Day…or Year

Peace Corps Stories

Sometimes all it takes is one smile to make a Volunteer feel right at home.  (read more)

How I Joined Team Azul in the League of Retirees, Veterans, and Chubbies

Conor / Nica 64 / TEFL

Michaela and I arrived in Nueva Guinea just as the school semester was coming to an end, which left us ample free time our first few months in site. As a result, we made it a priority to meet as many people as possible by getting out and about.

We started by frequenting a local gym, which is where I met Omar. Every night at 6pm, Omar arrived with a laptop computer and a black trash bag with a hole at the bottom. He pulled his head through the hole and wore the bag like a pancho. Then he opened his laptop and turned on the workout program “Insanity.” For 35 minutes, he was the Nicaraguan Sean-T, calling out floor sprints and power jacks in Spanish to a group of 10 to 15 people.

After a while, I asked Omar if he knew how I could join a soccer team. He said he played for a local men’s league and invited me to meet him the following Tuesday night for meeting with some of the organizers. He instructed me to say I had never, ever, played soccer and just wanted to learn. Continue reading “How I Joined Team Azul in the League of Retirees, Veterans, and Chubbies”

Instagram: Cleaning Coffee

via @peacecorpsnicaragua: #repost @lindsay_nason: “Cleaning coffee beans with the host family #nica65 #fincalife” #peacecorps #howiseepc

#BaldIsBeautiful: Why I’ve Decided to Shave My Head

Emily / Nica 64 / TEFL

In December of 2015, a crew of PCVs and Nicaraguan students held a community event, raised over $5,000 and donated a lot of hair.  This is part of that story.

“This December, my husband and I will have a lot less hair on our heads.

I’ve donated my hair twice before. I tend to like long hair, and used to be rather attached to it. My junior year of college I decided I wanted to know I could feel pretty without super long hair. I cut it short and loved it!

This time though, it’s a little different. Short will not suffice.” (read more)

Diversity Update: Nov 2016

Diversity Committee / Peace Corps Nicaragua

In July we had an affinity group!


It was amazing. For the first time, in a long time, PCVs who identify as being diverse had a safe space to share and get to know one another. We spent an entire day discussing how our service as diverse volunteers varies greatly, how we can support each other and how to broach the topic of differences with our fellow PCVs and host country nationals. Continue reading “Diversity Update: Nov 2016”

Si Dios Quiere

Nicholas / Nica 64 / ENV

“Si Dios quiere” es un dicho tan común en Nicaragua como los frijoles rojos, los bailes folklóricos y el uso del voseo. Se escucha en la calle, en la casa y en el trabajo. Es una conjugación sencilla de palabras y mientras sea tan sencillo para el nicaragüense, puede causar frustración o miedo al extranjero a quien nunca creció o se formó en su fe.

Entendamos la frase mejor. Continue reading “Si Dios Quiere”

STAR Update: Nov 2016

STAR / Peace Corps Nicaragua

STAR is a group of LGBTQ and allied Peace Corps volunteers who support one another, train staff on LGBTQ issues, and collaborate with Nicaraguan communities.

1. Pride Managua

In June, a group of Peace Corps volunteers attended Pride in Managua, where they were surrounded by hundreds of other people celebrating LGBTQ and allies identities in the streets of Managua. Photo by Coco Lim.

From Coco Lim, EEP 67: Continue reading “STAR Update: Nov 2016”

Support: Youth Leadership Camp 2017

Be a part of making this project a reality.
Give. Share. Support.

Project Highlight

Nicaragua | Youth Leadership Camp 2017

Gray / Nica 65 / HE
Volunteer from New Hampshire

The gist: Youth Leadership Camp 2017: Be the Change is a four-day camp for 54 Nicaraguan youth between the ages of 16 to 19 who have demonstrated themselves to be outstanding students and peer leaders and who could benefit from a more focused training in leadership and community project planning.  (Read more)

The goal: $9990.02.08

The PCVFriends, family, and people who love empowering youth:

Please consider donating to help me put on Youth Leadership Camp 2017 in Nicaragua. This year, Youth Leadership camp will take 54 Nicaraguan youth from across the country, and using the Design for Change curriculum, will teach project management and design. We hope to put our Peace Corps technical skills to use and train youth to implement projects in their own communities.

Remember that every U.S. dollar you donate is worth 30 bananas here, so just imagine your donating as the mountain of bananas we’re trying to build and consider pitching in. We need $8,000 USD to fully fund our camp, but every bit helps!

So spread the word, chip in, or follow us on Facebook to hear what’s going on with Youth Leadership Camp! – Alexandra Morgan

The link:
 Donate here!

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: 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”

Entrance Interview: Debby, HE 65

Who are you?

Debby Drew

What do you like to go by? 

Debby in English; Deborah in Spanish

Where do you call home? 

Peace Dale, Rhode Island

Why did you join the Peace Corps?
Continue reading “Entrance Interview: Debby, HE 65”

Peace Corps Nicaragua, TEFL Project

Produced in 2012, this provides a glimpse into the lives and work of TEFL Volunteers here in Nicaragua.

Exit Interview: Kelsey, HE 63


Kelsey Guziak

Site and Sector:

Health 63, Terrabona, Matagalpa

Project assignment:

Teach sexual and reproductive health to teens and mothers, and promote breastfeeding and healthy eating habits at the Casa Materna Continue reading “Exit Interview: Kelsey, HE 63”

STAR Committee Updates

1. Support group retreat!

2. Alternativa Nicaragüense de Diversidad Sexual-ANDISEX is proud to announce the June 28th LGBT Pride Parade in Managua.

Continue reading “STAR Committee Updates”

Un cariñoso hasta luego de Martha PCMO

Martha / PCN Staff / PCMO

Dear Volunteers,

It is a bittersweet moment in which I am writing this to all of you. Due to family issues I have to leave Peace Corps Nicaragua. My last day in Peace Corps was May 13, 2016.

I must say this is quite difficult for me to write.

During the past 15 years, I have learned so much about my country and my people through each one of the volunteers I treated as a patient. Continue reading Un cariñoso hasta luego de Martha PCMO”

Why Peace Corps LGBTQ Safe Zone trainings are so important

Posted originally on the Peace Corps Passport official blog by Char Stoever.

As the coordinator of the Sexuality Training Awareness and Response (STAR) Peace Corps Volunteer committee in Nicaragua, I train and support staff and Volunteers on LGBTQ issues. STAR formed in 2014 because Peace Corps Nicaragua was slated to start hosting same-sex couples. In light of this, LGBTQ Volunteers in-country recognized the need for their identities to be acknowledged and better supported.

In 2015, STAR led four LGBTQ Safe Zone trainings. Our first training was nerve-wracking, yet rewarding. During these trainings, we realized there was a great need for staff to learn about the differences between “sex” and “gender” before moving on to more complex topics of “gender expression” and “sexual orientation.” We trained the office staff, both Nicaraguan and American, as well as our hotel and hostel staff. Last but not least, we trained several of the taxi cab drivers who make sure we travel through Managua safely.

Check out why we need LGBTQ Safe Zone trainings on my 4th Peace Corps Passport blog post!

You Are My Other Me

Tara Seibel/ Nica 66/ ENV

My neighbor in the United States was a vibrant, strong 6 year old with big glasses and a black and white puppy – Rainy. Every day after school, she’d visit. Sometimes her visits were to share a new song she learned or teach me how to string a fishing pole. When summer storms would roll into Wanblee (a small town on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and home to the initiation of the American Indian Movement) she would run to my garage, grab our Pow Wow chairs, and we would sit. We would watch as the Thunder Beings made their way to the Badlands, bringing rain and an epic storm across the sky – a storm we could see coming from 40 miles west. Watching the storms and admiring the grand nature of all that surrounded us, Rainy would tell me stories about the Star Boy and the White Buffalo Calf Woman. She shared stories that rested close to her heart. She told stories that were passed down to her from her mom and dad and from all of her ancestors that, too, welcomed the Thunder Beings through their history on the land in (what is now) South Dakota. Rainy is Oglala Lakota Sioux, a descendant of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. Her whole self is strengthened and enhanced by the stories, the people and the traditions that surround her. Continue reading “You Are My Other Me”

STAR Update – Feb 2016

Eric Insler / Nica 63 / SBD

We Want You to Work with the Nicaraguan LGBTQ Community!

Coming from the United States, we sometimes convince ourselves that our country and Europe are some of the most socially progressive countries in the world, and most other countries are “religious and conservative.”

However, as I spend more and more time in Nicaragua, I have come to realize that my original suppositions were unfounded, and there are many liberal aspects of Nicaraguan society and culture.

One of these areas is LGBTQ awareness, acceptance, and rights. Continue reading “STAR Update – Feb 2016”

PSN Retreat for Aug 2016: Your Opinion Matters

PSN Committee / Nicaragua

Peer Support Network plans a super divertido retreat twice a year. These events have a limited number of space and are a DRY event. PSN wants to provide opportunities to relieve some stress without substances. The last retreat has been so wonderfully and concisely wrapped up by Ms. Jen Rowley.

The most recent and wildly successful PSN retreat was held on December 27th-29th in Jiquilillo, Chinandega. A small group of us PCVs that were here for the holidays took a long and bumpy journey to the northern beaches of Chinandega to relax and reflect. We stayed at the very peaceful Rancho Tranquilo (dorm beds, 7USD a night) where we chatted on the beach by day and colored Mandalas by night.

Rancho Tranquilo lives up to its name and has a calming beach vibe. Chris Shepperd (HE 63) stated it was a, “Super tranquilo beach and hostel with a staff that made you feel like family. It was conducive to just sitting around, taking a break, and getting to know PCVs and other travelers. It was what a PSN retreat should be.” There was something for everyone; Jen Rowley (TEFL 64) ran and surfed to her heart’s desire while Mary McCoy (HE 63) diligently worked on the OCV grant and read.

A good time was had by all- Rancho Tranquilo has a family style restaurant in which all the guests votes on the two main dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then once the food is ready everyone sits and eats together. We would socialize at dinner then reflect with retreat members about their successes and struggles within the past year. We then brainstormed goals for the 2016 year.

For our next retreat, we will be trying something new! Current PCVs: go to the survey  to vote on the next retreat date and location!

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