Central America & Caribbean

Sound Travels: What Does Nicaragua Sound Like?

Sound travels.

Whether we travel abroad or stay at home, they orient us in time and place.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer living without the distractions of Internet in my house, I’ve been able to focus on the sounds I hear in Nicaragua.


Image by Pixabay user PublicDomainImages.

Whether it’s the milk truck waking me up at 6 AM, or my phone ringing, I have come to treasure these sounds that weren’t a part of my life before. Check out the video I made (above) of a typical morning, where I’m buying fresh, handmade tortillas.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99xK7w53074]
I’m not the only one who appreciates these “travel sounds.” I wanted to know other volunteers’ favorites, so I asked them!

“What is your favorite, or the most memorable, sound that you wouldn’t normally hear back home?”

Some of the sounds were relaxing. Others were annoying.

Often, as travelers, we have a love-hate relationship with sounds.

A band’s trumpets blasting “Happy birthday” to your next-door neighbor at 5 AM may not be your ideal way to wake up, but it’s sounds like these that mark our travels and orient us.

Sounds are a consistent presence in our lives, no matter how much we travel.

Here are some of Peace Corps Nicaragua Volunteers’ favorite sounds. Which have you heard before?


I know the difference between a bus, taxi, mototaxi, and motorcycle without looking. – Jules

Blaring announcements from speakers in a passing truck. – Chelsea

The sound of a panga (boat). – Nadia

The way bus drivers and operators yell their destinations’ names. – Rachel


A panga (boat) ride in Nicaragua courtesy of Instagram user @Nicadventure.


Blaring bachata music (think Romeo Santos). – Jen

The noisy chicheros — the bands with trumpets and tubas. – Iris

Sad ballad karaoke in every bar. Why would you want to listen to something upbeat on a Saturday night? – Jules


The Pillow Vendor. – Danica

Vendors saying ‘Eloooooottttttteeeeeee’ and ‘Controles, controles!’ – Hana

The person selling water at the bus stop just past the airport: ‘Agua, agua, agua, agua!’ in a super high pitch. – Mariel

The guy who walks through town, yelling ‘Raspadooooos!’ [shaved ice] – Tim

The Eskimo Ice Cream vendor’s bells! – Ilana

There’s a guy walking around every morning selling something sounding like ‘Breakfast!’ After six months, we realized he said, ‘Raw fish’ — ‘Peces!’ – Tim

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZfjTOQt0To&w=560&h=315]

Fellow TEFL volunteer, Jen Rowley, and I, translating the sounds we hear in markets and on the buses we ride daily.


Greetings. ‘Ehh chavalo!’ or a whistle greeting, or even the ‘Oooaaee!’ – Eric


One of the most emotive phrases in Nicañol! Image by Char Stoever.


The ‘pat pat pat’ of tortillas being made every morning. – Liz


The geckos that crawl on the wall and make the ‘tsk’ing’ sound. – Jen

Howler monkeys at 3 AM. – Amelia

Horse footsteps. – Meg

Roosters on the bus. – Haley

Dogs barking all night. I like to hear monkeys on the weekly run up the mountain. – Deva


Just your friendly, neighborhood Chow Chow. Image by Char Stoever.


The sound of a soccer game during a penalty kick. – Chelsea

The BANG of mango falling on a tin roof. – Pete

Children laughing. – Eliana

Funeral announcements blasting from vans. – Rachel

The splash of water when clothes are washed in a basin. – Jen

The ‘tsst tsst’ sounds people make to get your attention. Or, the imagined sound of your sweat dripping down your face and blinding you. – Corey

Our neighbor’s electronic tennis racket that zaps mosquitos. – Michaela

My host mother’s laugh. It’s loud, rambunctious, contagious, warm and comforting. It speaks for her whole personality. – Nadia


Photo by @Linds-raee on the Volcanic Island of Ometepe. Featured on @PeaceCorpsNicaragua. Used with permission.

Want more? Check out this poetic reading, The Sounds by business volunteer and published author, Janae Werdlow:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTJdPjoH1tw&w=420&h=315]

What are your favorite travel sounds from abroad? Share them in the comments!

Char Stoever
Blogger Char was born in Mexico and grew up in Moses Lake, Washington. While at Wellesley College, she gravitated toward learning French and enjoyed being in language classrooms the most. After studying abroad and traveling in France, she realized how empowering it was to be a woman traveler. After graduating, she tutored at-risk high schoolers in San Antonio, Texas. She then taught at Brooke Charter School in Boston. In August 2014 she began her 27-month Peace Corps Nicaragua service as a TEFL Teacher Trainer. As the LGBTQ volunteer coordinator, she has led safe space trainings for Peace Corps Staff. She does social media marketing for the Peace Corps Nicaragua Gender and Development Committee,  and is an editor of Va Pué, the volunteer-run magazine. She also does social media work for Soma Surf Resort Nicaragua. Char enjoys cooking bacon, going running in the hills surrounding her city, blogging, and painting portraits of Nicaraguans.

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