My love-hate relationship with “Fijese que…”

My love-hate relationship with “Fijese que…”

Lately, I’ve had an obsession with the Spanish words “Fijese que…”, which roughly translates to “Pay attention that (insert statement/excuse here).”

Why am I so intrigued by this saying? Because there’s no better way in Spanish to get one’s attention as easily. It’s as if you’re saying “Hey you. You better listen to this like you’re life depends on it. Or else.”

Other Nicaraguans take it only slightly less seriously than I do because they’re used to using it 93 times a day.

I have a love-hate relationship with this term. On the one hand, it’s a delightful little transitional phrase to give an underwhelming statement some pizzaz.

Even if you’re saying something like “There’s been no running water all day,” which is no big deal in my large city. If my host grandma were to begin this statement with “Fijese que”, then I’d be more likely to listen in. It makes mundane situations sound more dramatic and enticing.

This reminds me, if you think what you’re saying should be important, even though it’s not, and you forgot to say it at the beginning of a sentence, there’s a solution. Just say “fijese” at the end.

For example, here’s another dramatized situation: “Se fue la luz, fijese (The power’s out, believe it or not).” I’ll still think what you’re saying is more alluring, but the amount of anticipation I’ll have by using it at the end will decrease. It’s a science.

Now, when does “Fijese” make my eyes roll to the back of my head? When people say it before an excuse.

Well, I don’t actually roll my eyes, but I want to. Being emotionally intelligent means adapting your facial expressions to different contexts so you don’t make an ass of yourself.

I’ll explain. Say I’ve spent three hours prepping for my community English class, and none of my five students show up. When I ask a student why they bailed, I’m most likely to hear an excuse along the lines of “Fijese que tuve que hacer un mandado y no andaba saldo para llamarla (Pay attention that I had to run an errand and I didn’t have minutes of my prepaid phone to call you).” This one is a double whammy.

The “fijese” in his context is a fluffy replacement for “I have a lame excuse, but I’m going to soften the blow eloquently and politely.” Saving face and appearing non confrontational is very common.

The “hacer un mandado” just means that A. I didn’t feel coming to class or B. I didn’t have the mental energy to come up with a unique excuse. Why would I? I should just keep it vague to avoid an interrogation.

Finally, the most classic and undeniably convenient of all excuses: I didn’t have minutes on my phone to call or text you. Why would I if I could just stand in front of a café or go to the park and use the wifi there to whatsapp you? Oh, you don’t have a device that supports whatsapp? That’s your problem, fijese.

So, fijese que you should take up this expression as soon as possible , or maybe you already have. It’s a great way to integrate into Nicaraguan culture. It will soon be the term you’ll love and abhor the most.

What’s your most memorable use of the Spanish term “fijese que”? Is there an equivalent in another language?

Featured image taken in Esteli, Nicaragua, by Erica Saldivar. 


Camp GLOW 2016: What Do Nicaraguan Girls Want to Learn?

Camp GLOW 2016: What Do Nicaraguan Girls Want to Learn?

We offered 9 Gender Empowerment workshops at Camp GLOW for Nicaraguan girls, and we wanted to know what the girls wanted to learn before we assumed anything. Here are just a few of the insightful, surprising questions they asked.

How can I reduce “machismo” and “feminismo” in society?

Is one’s self esteem related to their sexuality?

Why do some people still feel empty inside after reaching their goals?

Read my second Gender and Development Committee entry to find out what the girls wanted to get out of the camp!

Adele: The Sweetheart of Big Corn Island

Adele: The Sweetheart of Big Corn Island

As a traveler, I’m used to constantly changing how I view the world. It isn’t something I feel as if I have to stick to-it just happens naturally for me. This year, as a traveler, I’ve begun to have more conversations with the people I run into on the day-to-day. I’m starting to ask them more about them instead of telling them about myself.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of explaining who I am and where I came from, especially since I am seen as a foreigner in Nicaragua, the place I have taught English for with the Peace Corps the past 17 months.

I’d gone 17 months without seeing my mom. Luckily, over the holidays, she came to visit me. I used the money I’ve earned writing travel-based articles to buy her and myself a ticket to Corn Island, an island off Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast. I didn’t know what to expect, because it is a small place, and has not been completely overrun by tourists. I’d only heard good things from other volunteers, so we made it out there.

On our third day there, my mom and I decided to go for a walk around the tiny island. We heard black men speaking in English Kreole to one another. Country music was blasting from one house. A group of men were sitting outside. I said “excellent music choice!” and gave a thumbs up to them. Listening to country music reminded me of home. “Come in and sit down, sweetheart!” one man said.

When I heard Kreole, though, It was strange for me to be in a land so close to my own, but I couldn’t understand the language. Luckily for us, people also spoke English and Spanish there. Sometimes we’d speak to people in Spanish and be responded to in Spanish, and vice-versa.

We stopped by this tiny little coconut shack on the north side of the island. We met Sidney, the shack’s owner, and my mom enjoyed a fresh coconut for about 40 cents. She sipped the fresh juice from a straw, then Sidney hacked it open with a knife. We ate the delicious, young pulp, and told Sidney we’d be back the next day. Meet Sidney on my facebook page!

Adele and her husband have been married for 40 years. They sell coconuts and jam by the beach. Sounds like a perpetual honeymoon to me!

Sure enough, my mom and I returned the following morning before our flight back to semi-reality. This time, Sidney’s wife, Adele, watched as my mom and I giggled at each other sipping from the coconut. We also took selfies by the bus stop that had a giant manta ray placed on top.

Yes, that is a manta ray on top of a bus stop. Only on Big Corn Island.

I wanted to know more about Adele. I told her that id I lived there, right by the beach like she and Sidney did, then I would never leave. “Do you ever leave?” I asked her.

“Only for visits. I have been to Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, to all kinds of places. There is no where like home, though.”

“I like your bag,” said Adele, complimenting mom.

Adele had such a calm, reassuring presence. She didn’t say much more than was necessary, yet she let us enjoy ourselves, soaking up the view and the breeze while sitting on her red, plastic chairs.

I never wanted to leave. I’m glad I met Adele and chatted with her for a bit on Big Corn Island. In 2016, I hope to spend more time asking people more about themselves during my travels.

Adele carved out the sweet, gelatinous coconut pulp for us.

This article is featured in the January edition of the Wanderlust Life Magazine. Interested in travel and wellness? Subscribe for free here and visit our facebook page!

Adventure Travel Nicaragua: Hiking Cosiguina Volcano, Pt. II

This is the second part part of my journey to hike Cosiguina Volcano near Potosí in Chinandega, Nicaragua. Read Part I of my travels here.

Friday, 2:10 PM

Jen and I had been on the bus for three hours. The bus rattled along the road into Potosí. We stopped outside of the Hotel Brisas del Golfo. “Oh, we’re here!” I said, tapping Jen on the shoulder. We hopped out and waddled to the entrance, where we saw an older woman with curly dark hair and button noise sitting with her stroller, as if she had been waiting for us all day. “Buenas!” we said to one another. She moved pretty quickly for an older woman with a stroller. She was on a mission. We had reserved dorm beds for $8 each, and luckily, we had the whole room to ourselves. We set down our things, relieved that we didn’t have to set foot on another bus for the rest of the day. The hotel didn’t have air conditioning (as 99% of hotels and houses don’t), so we tested out the three fans to see which ones could blow the hot air away from us the best.

The hotel had a quaint, yet eerie feel to it. It had colorful, red walls, and lots of rocking chairs. We laid in the hammocks and looked at how differently decorated this hotel was, compared to the others I’d been in. I felt like I was in Mexico. The walls had pictures of distant relatives, as well as antique advertisements for Spanish bull fights. There were three fat cats with healthy-looking fur. I never used to pay much attention to whether an animal had healthy-looking fur or not, but I do now, after having seen countless stray, sickly looking dogs and cats in the streets. Cat lovers as well as dog lovers would enjoy this place, since the canine hosts include a mother and a baby Chihuahua.

After having drunk a Coke and laid in the hammocks, Jen and I went for a walk on the beach. On the way there, it was as if every house had at least two pigs outside, grunting and looking for whatevever it is that strikes a pig’s gastronomic fancy. My favorite pig was a white baby pig with black spots, It reminded me of a cow. Potosí wins the award for the most pigs per capita, I’m sure. But where’s the bacon? I wondered. We passed a large swimming hole where families took a break from the heat and stared at us at the same time. Children came up to as to stare at our white complexions. One girl twisted her neck at me, as if that might change my skin color, so I did the same, and she smiled. Having staring contests with children is my new past time.

As we got closer to the beach, more and more men catcalled us. “Adios, mamacitas!” one man said on his bike. Jen poked fun at the monotone way at which I replied “Adios…”, because I’m used to this type of attention here. Luckily, it wasn’t the overtly sexual street harassment I’ve experienced before. They wanted to see if we spoke Spanish or not. So, in order to prove it, I asked them what the names of the volcanoes in the distance were. “That’s El Tigre, in Honduras”, one man said. I told them they were lucky to live in such a beautiful place, and they just nodded. As we approached the beach, we saw a group of kids throwing rocks at empty Coke bottles. I picked up a rock to join them, but I ended up missing by about 20 feet.

KPhoto by Flickr User Magda & Maciej

The beach was calm. Groups of men played soccer on one side. There were almost no waves, since we were inside the barrier that is the Gulf of Fonseca. I took off my Chaco sandals so that the dark, volcanic sand could massage my feet. We passed several fishing boats that were docking for the night. “Are those your dogs?” I asked a man, who had a handful of fish in his hands and looked as if he were about to feed the hungry dogs. “Just that one, he said” looking at the yellow Labrador in front of him. The beach reminded me of the beaches of Bahía de Caraquez, Ecuador, where I lived in the summer of 2011, during an internship with the La Poderosa Media Project. I thought of the beachcomber who took my flip flops as I’d gone for another barefoot run. I had to walk home barefoot that day-that’s not something I would do here. It doesn’t matter if you leave a Spanish plant outside, like my friend Danica did until her family advised her to put it away. It you leave anything unattended, chances are that someone will pick it up to reuse it.

It was getting dark, so we headed back and went on the boardwalk. There were shrimp exoskeletons all over it. At the end of it was a staircase, so I walked down it in order to get in the water. The stairs were so slippery that before I knew it, I’d fallen backward and scraped my elbow. “Oh my God, did you hit your head?” Jen asked. “No, I’m fine. I can’t believe I did that!” I laughed. She came down to help me and also tripped. Then, we noticed that the water was infested with jellyfish, and decided against swimming. My elbow was bleeding, so we went back to the hotel, where I rinsed it out and put antibiotic ointment on it. What a day.

5:30 PM

I ordered Chicken for dinner. While we waited, the mother Chihuahua came and sat on my lap. It was strange to be in the presence of a Chihuaha that wasn’t shivering. That’s how hot Nicaragua is, my friends. One of the cooks brought out our heaping plates of rice and beans, cabbage, tortillas, and meat, and I asked her what the dogs name was. “Is it Princesa?” I asked, jokingly, because that’s a common name here. I was correct. So, I put Princesa down on the tile floor after our cuddle session and enjoyed dinner. Just as we went to pay, the lights went out. Black outs are pretty common here. You never know how long they’ll last. Just as I was waiting for Rafael, the owner, to find a flashlight so that I could pay, “Garfield”, one of the fat cats, jumped up next to me and began munching his bowl of cat food. “We don’t feed them tortillas, or rice, or anything. They only kill the mice, but they don’t eat them. We only feed them Pedigree, Mar y Tierra (Surf ‘n Turf)!” said Rafael, who pinched his fingers together and moved his hand down to emphasize his point.

A half hour later, the power went back on, and the TV resumed its nightly telenovela. We went to bed at 7:30 because our guide, Ramon, would pick us up at 5 AM to hike Cosiguina. He would take us up the volcano for just $25 split between the two of us.

Featured image by @Handerson406

Sounds From Abroad: Nicaragua

Hi everyone! I’m blogging about the sounds of Nicaragua because I’m interested in seeing how sounds orient us throughout our day. I decided to make a short video of myself buying fresh tortillas because just recording the sounds wasn’t enough-I wanted to show where they came from as well. 

Which sounds did/do you hear in your travels?

Here’s the link to my 3 minute video


Why I joined the Peace Corps: To Rethink Latin American Culture

Q. What brought about the decision to become a Peace Corps volunteer?

It seemed like a no brainier to me. Who wouldn’t want to live and work abroad for 27 months, especially after realizing how ironically unproductive and stifling the 40-hour U.S. workweek can be?

I love learning languages, and I wanted to possibly learn a new language through the Peace Corps. I didn’t learn Spanish in Nicaragua, since I’ve spoken it all my life, so knowing Spanish has allowed me to integrate and get right to work in my community more easily.

I’ve also enjoyed learning the differences between Nicaraguan and Mexican Culture.

Mexican Spanish is very different from Nicaraguan Spanish. The food is quite different. Nicaraguans don’t like spicy food, which was strange for me, since I’m used to pouring hot sauce over everything that isn’t dessert!

This excerpt is from an interview with E. Manville.
Featured image of myself with my Host Grandmother, Santos.

Adventure Travel: 15 Firsts of Hiking Cerro Musún, Nicaragua

My recent travel adventure was hiking in Cerro Musún, near Rio Blanco, Matagalpa, Nicaragua. It’s a very muddy mountain. Rubber boots are a must. This month, I chose to hike Cerro Musún with my friend, Deva. For safety reasons, hiking is one of the few travel activities I almost never do solo. Hiking is a fun way to feel accomplished with a friend, too!

Each month I travel to at least one new place, whether it’s a lake, volcano, or mountain. I experienced 15 firsts on this hiking trip. Enjoy!

Hiking Cerro Musún was the first time I:

1. Was on the nearly on the edge of the RAAN, the only department Peace Corps volunteers are prohibited from going, for safety reasons I’m not fully aware of, other than the RAAN’s coast being in a strategic location for drug smugglers.

2. Had a spooky white dog, Princesa, as a hotel ghost…I mean, host. It moved around so much that I couldn’t get a clear shot of her pink, bulging eyes.

Princesa, our hotel's host dog...or ghost dog?
Princesa, our hotel’s host dog…or ghost dog?

3. Saw every other person in town wearing black, knee-length rubber boots. Going hiking reminded me of the UGG boots my friends wore in college. Except this time they were necessary. It rains every day here. This area should be called the “Wild, Wet, West”.

Rubber boots are a must in the Wild, Wet West!
Rubber boots are a must in the Wild, Wet West!

4. Wore rubber boots that were NOT wedges. All 4 years of college, I wore the coolest blue and green plaid-pattered rainboots. They were the only “heels” I wore consistently. I felt sassy as I listened to the Buena Vista Club’s “La Carretera” while stomping through puddles on the way to Italian class.
5. Saw people in rubber boots crossing a river on horseback.

Have I mentioned the importance of rubber boots yet?
Have I mentioned the prevalance of rubber boots yet?

6. Took a selfie while crossing a swinging bridge with a broken piece of sheet metal as the base.


7. Hiked straight up a muddy mountain for 3 hours. I didn’t fall into the small pits of mud, but our legs were covered in mud. I felt like a kid again. There were also eye-catching red and purple rock formations.

8. Saw 5 piglets sleeping while the mother snorted at us.

Piglets, doing what they do.
Piglets, doing what they do.

9. Saw spiders 6 inches from my face. As we hiked farther into the mountain, we put sticks in front of us to clear away the spider webs in our path.

10. Felt incredibly relieved to sit on a swing. Deva and I snacked on applies, nuts, and Doritos while overlooking the mountain.

Swinging on the mountainside.
Swinging on the mountainside.

11. Stood on the edge of a waterfall, and saw another waterfall from there.

Waterfalls abound at Cerro Musun.
Waterfalls abound at Cerro Musun.

12. Sat underneath a waterfall with my clothes on. I wore a swimming suit underneath, but my instinct told me not to strip. Another man along the way had chosen to join us. Oh, and he had a machete with him. He and our guide felt it necessary to hack at the sticks in our way. It was a nice gesture, but I still felt uncomfortable taking my clothes off in front of men I had just met. They were watching us the whole time anyway, probably because it was weird to see two American women go hiking for fun.

You can sit anywhere you want, if you believe in yourself.
You can sit anywhere you want, if you believe in yourself.

13. Wasn’t asked by my male guide if I was married. I’ve become so used to hearing this as commonly as I hear “bless you” after a sneeze in the bus, or on the street, or at the cash register. He did ask me was if I went hiking in my country, and what the lyrics to Cher’s “Do you believe” song meant. I explained, adding that the song was much too cheesy for me. He laughed.

William, our quiet, machete-wielding guide.
William, our quiet, machete-wielding guide.

14. Felt like Julie Andrews in the South of Music, as we hiked down through unbelievably gorgeous meadows. It felt like a dream. It also felt like we were in a randomly placed golf course with meticulously cut grass and thick, moping willow trees on the hillsides.

The Hills are Alive, With the Sound of Musun!
The Hills are Alive, With the Sound of Musun!

15. Took a 3 hour refurbished school bus ride home, ate beans and rice, showered, went dancing, and came home at 1 AM to my first baby tarantula.

Talk about adventure travel! Not only did I go hiking, I also experienced another side of the department of Matagalpa I haven’t seen. My hotel cost about $4, and my guide charged about $10. This experience made me realize how many activities Matagalpa offers. And that you can come home to a baby tarantula whenever.

Waterfall fun.
Waterfall fun.

Whether hiking, kayaking, or ziplining, what is your favorite adventure travel first?