Ciudad Sandino –> Masaya

  • Quick Notes about Ciudad Sandino:
  • My host mother’s name in Ciudad Sandino is Lesbia. I  cant say her name without giggling. Apparently I’m still in middle school.
  • I don’t go anywhere without Pepto-Bismol, 2 dozen antidiarrheal pills, and an empty bag in case the baño is preocupado. I’m basically a walking pharmacy.
  • In Nicaragua, there are two versions of every song: the original, and a remix featuring Pitbull. You cant go anywhere without hearing “Mr. 305, Mr. Worldwide, (insert rapid Spanish rapping)” on the radio. Might I point out: PITBULL IS AMERICAN. Homeboy was born in Florida. Chill with the Mr. Worldwide…you are American. Nonetheless: Nicas love Pitbull
  • Hora Nica (or Nica Time) is a phrase people use to a lot here. Basically, I should just set my clock for 2 hours behind for the remainder of my trip because when somebody says meet me there at 1:00, they really mean 3:00. There is no sense of time or rush here, (which is a breath of fresh, hot, humid Nicaraguan air).
  • On our way home from orientation yesterday, our host dad insisted on picking us up from work (even though we only live a few blocks away), and we were expected home at around 6 PM for dinner…. But didn’t quite make it home until around 8:00 PM.  He is so proud of his town (Ciudad Sandino) and even more proud of us (the American interns) that he said we were going to las tiendas (the stores), but we kept running into all of us friends on the streets because that is pretty much what people do all day. They sit outside in the gravel or on the sidewalk in chairs and chat, eat, and people watch. Somehow we ended up going to museum, the local boxing arena, and even partook in a photo shoot with his best friend’s family (Lord, wait until I show the pictures).
  • We stopped at his best friend’s house, we met all of his friend’s family, daughters, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandma’s grandmas, grandma’s grandma’s best friend, ETC.
  • Ciudad Sandino = people on people on people.
  • Peter (host dad) whipped out a camera and before I knew it the whole family had their cell phones out (all shapes, colors, and sizes) and were snapping pictures of the “dos gringos” (the white girls— AKA Rachel and I). The oldest daughter ran inside for a while, as the rest of the family took turns taking pictures WITH Rachel and I. And when some of the family didn’t come out (As if there weren’t enough IN there)… the dad yells “You don’t want to take pictures with the gringas???” as if it were a crime to not want their picture taken with us. As I began to wonder where the oldest daughter went, she ran back outside with a scarf and signaled me to put it on her. I wrapped it on her as best as I could, and when she turned around to look in the mirror, she got the BIGGEST smile. Here is our picture:

I’m not longer in Ciudad Sandino (Alhamdullilah—thank God). Ciuadad Sandino is a poverty stricken city. Whenever a natural disaster happens, the government pretty much throws everyone affected by it in Ciudad Sandino (hence the poverty).

Ciudad Sandino and Masaya are much different than each other. Ciudad Sandino was so dirty, trash all over the streets, naked babies running around, boys whistling at anything with 2 legs and a butt, and more trash everywhere. Nobody has a legitimate sewage system, so there is pretty much feces on the street, and all of the shower water runs into the streets as well (now I understand why the life expectancy is so young).

Masaya is much different……it’s the art and music capital of Nicaragua. Thus, I am excited. I cant wait to learn how to play the marimba and caracas.

PS: I am 3 shades darker already. Not sure if its a tan, or just all the accumulated sweat.


The Good, The Bad, & The Creepy

The Good, The Bad, and The Creepy


Right now, I am in Ciudad Sandino living with another intern and a random host family as we undergo orientation. Orientation lasts until Wednesday, and my first day of work in the clinic is on Thursday. On Thursday we will enter Masaya and I will meet my official host family that I will be living with for the next two months.


Good News: I made it to Nicaragua!

Bad News: I forgot a belt at home. So I can either make one out of bed sheets or just gain enough weight so that I won’t need one anymore.


Good News: All of my luggage made it to Nicaragua as well!

Bad News: A mouse ran into my closet last night and this morning I found a hole in my bag. (Sorry Sheridan Jordan….)


Good News: As soon as we arrived to Managua, our supervisor from FSD picked us up from the airport and took us to McDonalds!

Bad News: I spent my first 5 hours in Nicaragua getting really familiar with the toilet as I regurgitated everything I had at McDonalds the night before. I should have known that something was wrong last night when everyone in the car ordered “numero cinco’s” (McChickens) and I was the only person in the car to order a “numero uno” (it was a BigMac which was in turn was a BigProblem). Needless to say, the Nicaragua’s volcanoes weren’t the only thing erupting with lava this morning. 2 words: both ends.


Good News: My house has a shower!!!!

Bad News: It doesn’t matter taking one. I’ve been sweating so much lately it looks like I’m always taking a shower.


Good News: My host family has a baby chick and it is ADORABLE.

Bad News: I commented on how cute it was and the son responded with “it will taste even better in a few months”.


Good News: I woke up for Fajr  this morning!

Bad News: …..thanks to the squawking roosters that live next door


Good News: I have a fan in my room.

Bad News: It still feels like I’m living in an oven.


Overall, I am having a wonderful time. The people are so entertaining and life here is SO different from life in America. I can’t even begin to describe the differences.


Actually: I can. For one thing, none of the female interns can go outside without being cat called, hissed at, or hearing words like “gringa”, “bonita”, or “me amor”. We took a stroll around las tiendas (or the stores) and kept catching stares and having people yell at us. Later, our supervisor Laurel explained that guys calling at or hissing at girls here is normal, and part of the Latin American culture. While it seems like they are being rude or objectifying you (some maybe—but most aren’t), it’s their way of calling you pretty or saying you look nice today. Is it creepy? Most definitely. Does it make me uncomfortable? Of course. But there is nothing I can do about it. We are advised to ignore it and keep walking; they do it to everyone. 


As salamu alaykum, marhaba, guten tag, bonjour, hola, hello: family, friends, and anyone else who mistakenly came across my blog.

I guess I should probably introduce myself before I go any further; my name is Safiyah Ismail and I am a rising sophomore at the wonderful University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For the next 2 months, I will be interning at a public health clinic called Cuidad Sandino in Masaya, Nicaragua under an umbrella organization otherwise known as the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD). This blog will be a running collection of my journey this summer as I work, travel, and explore the woods and waters of Nicaragua.

I’m currently in Colorado visiting family, but depart bright and early Saturday morning (5/26) for a series of flights and bus rides that will eventually lead me to the capital city, Managua. What I’m feeling today is a familiar feeling. It’s the same feeling I got in 3rd grade, the night before my first day of public school. It’s the same feeling I got when I was 14, the morning before my first cross country race in high school. It’s the same feeling I got in 12th grade, the day before college decisions were released. It’s the same feeling I got last summer, the night before I left for my Outward Bound trip in Utah. While I am comforted by the fact that I survived all of those experiences– nothing calms me more than the simple phrase: Maktoub.

I first learned this word last summer during my backpacking journey in Moab, Utah. It’s from the novel, The Alchemist– written by the brilliant Paul Coehlo. Maktoub is an Arabic word that literally translates to “it is written”. This seven letter word indicates the existence of Destiny; in plain language, what’s meant to happen will happen. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I could spend my last day in America stressing about “what ifs” and double, triple, and quadruple checking that I have everything packed and ready to go– I should accept what I’m about to experience, because afterall: it is written.


“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist