Friday, September 29, 2006

Site Visit!!

I'm so excited because on Sunday we will be leaving for 4 days to go visit another volunteer in their site. Today (at the end of the day!), we will find out where. It should be an interesting trip because this will be our first time traveling by ourselves. We haven't even been to Managua (which can be pretty sketchy alone), but it should be a fun adventure. Then, when we get to the volunteer's site, we basically have to go around the town and ask where the gringo (white person) lives in order to find them. I love the Peace Corps!

The four of us in our town found this really cool path to go running on. So, this week we've gone three times. What a relief especially considering the fact that everyone here expects you to become gorda. While I was running with one of the other volunteers we encountered our daily herd of cows. Usually, they just move to the side or leave us somewhere to walk around them. That day, however, they spaced themselves out so that we literally had to try and squeeze between them. I really thought we were going to get rammed or trampled, but we survived! We also started a habit of getting eskimos (icecream) in the afternoons after our meetings. Then, we go to the park to eat them or rather swallow them whole because it is so hot that they melt immediately.

I saw my first big bug the other day in the shower. Towards the end I noticed it sitting on the wall. I thought to myself, "As long as it doesn't move I won't scream." So, I dried myself off and put on my clothes as fast as I could and right when I was about to pick up my things, it dropped right behind my shampoo bottle. So, as you all know my fear of bugs, insects, etc., I shrieked and family came running over to see what it was. Of course, they all stood there laughing at me because obviously they are used to these massive, man-eating (o.k. maybe I'm exagerating a little) coachroaches.

Every Friday we have technical classes all together in another town close to ours and for lunch today they were serving lengua (tongue), but I went for the chicken instead. When you are really hungry you have to go for the safe option. Our Peace Corps meetings usually consist of a lot of skits and dinamicas (games) which means they are usually pretty fun. The ride home from the meetings is usually pretty interesting, too, because we take a microbus home and being that there are either no laws on the number of passengers or they are not followed to closely, they try to cram in as many people as possible. I think the record so far has been 24 people in a bus that probably should only hold 16.

I gave my first charla in the 6th grade class this past week. It was pretty basic, I introduced my rules and then, we talked about respect. It went pretty well, although I am definitely going to have to get used to the constant noise (both inside and out of the classroom) because they are not really used to just sitting and listening quietly and it is probably pretty hard to do some when kids are constantly outside screaming and running around. I also had two kids that were a little disruptive who looked to be about 16. I guess it is pretty common for kids to be held back several times. Overall though, it went well for the first one. Definitely glad to have just gotten a foot in the door.

Time for the meeting to start! Hope everyone is doing well and I will let you know how my site visit goes!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Finally, some pics!

I was trying to think of a title for this blog because nothing in particular has really happened, but I´ll just have to type until I think of one. Let´s see what´s been going on in the past couple of days...or weeks. Lots of studying and training! I´ve heard that even though the training is really intense, don´t take advantage because once you get to your site, things really slow down! Umm, I took my first bucket bath last week. It actually isn´t bad at all, in some ways even better than taking a shower because you can better control the amount of cold water your body is exposed to. : ) The water goes about probably every couple of days, not sure why because it rains enough here. I found out why the electricity goes out almost everyday though. It´s because (according to my host parents), the electric company shuts it off to conserve power/energy. I´ve gotten pretty used to it though and have learned to put my headlamp in a convenient place, so I don´t have to scramble around for it. Everyone still laughs at me when I wear it.

On Thursday, we had a birthday party for my host sister, Sacharis. It was the most moving birthday party I think I´ve ever seen. I guess for some evangelical families it´s typically to have a church service in the home, which is what she did. The living room was packed with people from the church, friends, family, neighbors, you name it. The entire service was dedicated to her birthday and at the end they sang the birthday song while every person went up to give her a hug and wish her a happy birthday. Then, her mother and father said something special about, as well as anyone else who wanted to. Of course after this, the crowd was pretty teary-eyed, including myself. Afterwards, they passed out arroz a la valenciana (a typical Nica rice dish) with bread and of course, cake. It was a great night!

This is a good example to show you how the Nica time system works. Yesterday, I was supposed to go to the river at 10:00 with my sister and her friend, which in Nica time means 10:30/11:00. So, I was ready and asked where they were and apparently they had gone to see the festivities for their independence celebrations. My mother then asked if I wanted to go as well, and we took a walk down to walk the bands play. When we got back, I guess plans had changed because they said we were now going to the beach (which produced no arguments from me except that I couldn´t go just don´t spring the beach on a girl, especially when you have to take quick bucket baths, if you know what I mean). So, we all piled into the Toyota pick-up truck they had borrowed, the mom and son in the front and me and my 2 host brothers and sister in the back. Apparently, it´s not illegal to ride in the back as long as you are sitting down in the bed. This is a very common means of transportation here and I swear sometimes it´s as if there´s a contest to see how many Nica´s you can fit in the back of a truck. It took about 2 hours to get there because every time we would gain enough speed, the driver would have to slam on the brakes or go off of the road a little to avoid the tremendous amount of potholes in the road. It´s kind of exciting at first until about the 5th time your butt bounces off of the metal bed. The beach was absolutely amazing and beautiful! I think I´ve changed my mind and wouldn´t mind being placed by the beach. It was the Pacific side and the water was so perfectly warm. Hopefully, if I can figure it out I will put some pics up. We could only stay for a short while because apparently the water overtakes the beach pretty quickly, but I definitely expressed an interest to return. We also had lunch while we were there at this little outside bar. I ate some kind of fish which was delicious and some chicken and my family had salad and turtle eggs. I am pretty brave about trying most things, but when I saw the runny yellow substance inside, I just had to refuse.

Well, I guess that´s all for now. I need to head home because all day today we had a training to learn about how to make a tree nursery and garden with our youth groups. I´m excited to begin working with them. Monday is our first official meeting.

O.k., so I figured it out. Here are some pictures I took while at the beach, well, actually eating and riding in the truck. My time is running out so I try to post more next time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Our first reunion

All of the volunteers in the Environmental Education sector got together today for a technical meeting (basically about our job description). In the next couple of weeks, we are going to be surveying our town to assess their needs and figure out what environmental project we are going to do with the community. We are also going to be doing ´charlas´(environmental chats) with the 3rd through 6th graders in the elementary school. I went to visit a 4th grade classroom with another volunteer the other day. Let´s just say that the noise level in the classroom is about 5 notches higher than in the states! At one point, I was just taking notes as part of the observation and about 8 or 9 students just surrounded me and were watching me. Everyone is so interested in the gringos.

Anyway, at our reunion today I found out that one of the volunteers has left already after the first day. I feel so bad because it was one of the girls I roomed with when we first got here. She was really sweet, but had a basic level of Spanish, so I can imagine how difficult it is. Not only can you not understand or speak, but you are living in conditions that are completely different than what you´re used to. I think many of us weren´t quite expecting the degree of poverty that we´re living in right now. I have to admit that the thought of being here for 2 years has scared me a bit and made me a little doubtful of if I can do it, but I just keep reminding myself of why I am here...and pray a lot. : ) Your comments and e-mails definitely help though...and letters. : )

So, last night I had planned on getting home around 5, studying, then maybe going to bed a little early so I could get some reading in. Yeah, that didn´t happen. First, Doña Christian (my host mom) told me we were going to visit her other daughter who I hadn´t met yet. Then, the power went out (which has happened two of the three days I´ve been here), so she changed the plans and I ended up going to Jinotepe (a city close to my town) with my 2 host brothers and sister. We got to eat pizza though, so it was all good. I also had my first taxi ride which wasn´t so bad and was only $5 cordobas (17 cordos = $ figure it out). I was a little weary about the ride though just for the fact that most of the cars have several cracks in the windshield, including mine. And, the way to find out if the car is a taxi or not (because they all don´t have a sign) is just to whistle really loudly and if it stops, there ya go. So, after we returned, we ended up going to the daughter´s house because the power came back on. Remember, I just had pizza but because it was around dinner time the sister gave me a huge plate of food. It´s rude to refuse it, so I just ended up eating about a 3rd. I can definitely see myself getting a little gorda (fat) while I´m hear. It´s so funny because if you are fat, they have no problem and it´s perfectly acceptable to call someone gordo right to their face.

My family is so awesome hear! I really got lucky. Remember how I saw my host brother is a stylist? Well, today he did my hair and he is also supposed to give me a manicure soon. : ) As first, I was a little shy around them, but they joke around so much that it´s hard not to join in. It´s so cute how much they take care of me. Like last night when we were walking, they keep grabbing my arm whenever there was a puddle, telling me, ¨Cuidate, Susie!¨ (Be careful!)

I guess that´s all for now. This will probably be my last one at least for a few days until we get our next little paycheck.

Monday, September 04, 2006

In the big city!

Well, the title isn´t exactly true if you saw the town I live in. Two of the other volunteers and I decided to walk to a town called Jinotepe. It´s only about a 10 minute walk from the town I am in, which is called Delores.

So, we met our families on Saturday. Mine is very nice! I have a mama, papa, two brothers that live in the house with us, one sister, and a little boy who is 10 years old. He´s so cute...even though I can´t quite understand him that well yet. The house is pretty big. All of the families we are staying with are middle class, which is completely different than our U.S. definition. We do have a toilet but it´s in a little room in the patio behind the house. Our shower is the same with only cold water. If I get up at the right time in the morning though when the sun is beginning to come up and it´s starting to get warm, then the cold water is actually refreshing! My family has a panaderia in the back of the house as well which is where they make bread for a living. I enjoy it though, getting fresh bread everyday. I have my own room with a big bed and a dresser...and a fan! We also put up my mosquito net the first night. It´s kind of cool because it reminds me of sleeping in a tent. The food is delicious so far, definitely no complaints, especially about the fresh, natural fruit juices I get to drink everyday from the fruit growing behind their house.

What else can I tell you? Classes are going well, even though we just started yesterday. We usually have classes from 8 to 12, have lunch at home, then go back from 1 to 4. For today´s class, we made a family tree and that´s our homework for tonight with our families. In the afternoon, we walked around the town making observations in order to create a town map for ourselves, then we identified some environmental problems to get ideas on projects we could do in the community.

One thing I can say about the Peace Corps is that they really know how to break you in slowly, even though there feels like so much to do. It really seems like we´ve already been here for several months and not just one week. Well, I guess I should get time is almost up! Hopefully, there are some letters coming soon!! : )

Friday, September 01, 2006

And so begins PST (Pre-Service Training)

Hello again! I figured I would send out one more post before I head to my new host family's house because usually there is very limited to no internet access. We received the names and photos of our host families today. It was pretty neat. They put each picture up on a screen through a powerpoint presentation, distributed the picture and info to the volunteer, then everyone applauded. Tomorrow, around 8:00 A.M. we will be taken on an old school bus (which is typical means of transport here) to our new home where we will be helped in with our luggage, then left : ). I heard that one volunteer actually has a toilet, so we'll see if I get lucky as well. : )

Training seems like it is going to be pretty rigorous. We had our language assessments yesterday and got placed into our language groups today. They didn't tell us our exact level, but I am assuming I am either Intermediate High or Advanced being that I was in the top group. Now, this may seem like exciting news, BUT, apparently since we are in the top group, instead of 11 weeks of language training that everyone else will get, we are only going to "need" 2 weeks. I guess it makes sense considering our language requirement is to only be at an Intermediate Mid level. Then, we get to recruit some high schoolers to come up with a community-based project to do with them. In addition to that, with a partner, we are going to do another community-based project with elementary students from 3rd to 5th grade which will consist of making a vivero (nursery), as well as making composte (not sure what that means). Should be interesting though.

So, right now I am feeling a little overwhelmed with going to meet a new family, trying to think of the project I will be doing, on top of the other projects I'll be doing, plus reading all of the materials they have given us to read, which consists of about 5 books and at least 7 Peace Corpsmade binded books, and on top of all that trying to do ALL of this in Spanish. It's definitely going to be a challenging 11 weeks to come, but I am so excited for all that I am going to learn. Keep me in your prayers, especially in the weeks to come and I miss you all!