Saturday, November 5, 2011

I am back!

To all my loyal followers my deepest apologies for such the long lapse since my last blog post. Time just got away from me. I will try to be more regular from now on.

Since my last post many things have happened as you can imagine. I mentioned at the end of my last post that La Dalia’s Fiestas Patronales or Patron Saint festival were coming up in August well it was actually the 23rd anniversary of the founding of the town. I thought it was pretty crazy to be older than a town; however I learned that people have been living in La Dalia for about 50 years.  It became an independent town 23 years ago, before then it was considered like a suburb of a town of another town close to Matagalpa. It was pretty interesting learning a little about my community here. 

As for the party the town put on a good show. It reminded me a lot of the country fair back home. There were carnival rides, concerts, vendors selling cotton candy and candied apples, and a lot drinking! It was just like I was back at the Douglas County fair. The one thing different about the fair here and there was the safety standards on rides. I had the pleasure to experience a Nicaraguan Ferris wheel earlier in the year and while I didn’t kiss ground when I got off I was very very happy to be back on solid ground. So when the carnival came to La Dalia despite my students’ begging for me to get on I wasn’t about to go through that harrowing experience again. The ferris wheel in La Dalia like mostly everything else here looked pretty rickety as if it had been donated from somewhere in the 80’s. One during the carnival I am sitting in the cyber across the street where the Ferris wheel is set up and then all of a sudden there is a loud bang. Everyone looked across the street to see that the one and only chain that connected the motor to the ferris wheel had snapped, leaving the people stranded!  With no way to slow down the wheel one of the operator used his bodyweight to counteract the rotation by hanging on to outside of the chairs. Slowly but surely they were able to get everyone off by physically pulling the wheel. Needless to say this event only entrenched my beliefs more to never get on one of these death traps again. All in all the town’s anniversary was pretty fun the only the bad that happened during that week was some drunk guy kicked me really hard in the leg when he tried to take my beer and I pushed him away.
The Corn Festival Court all of their outfit are made entirely out corn husks and kernels. 

Miss La Dalia leading the horse parade through town

September was another important month in Nicaragua because of their Independence Day on the 15th and the celebration of the victory in the Battle of San Jacinto on 14th. It is just pure coincidence that these two dates are together since the battle and the granting of their independence are several years apart. It was interesting to see how independence day was celebrated in La Dalia in comparison to Niquinohomo. Independence Day was the first Nicaraguan holiday that was able to witness upon my arrival in the country just two weeks before. What I didn’t know was how much time the schools in town practice every day before the big day. I am pretty sure that the schools started band practice 6 weeks in advance. Every day the same drum routine. The funny thing about Nicaragua is that class gets cancelled for a variety of reasons that one wouldn’t even think of in a US school. I have just learned to laugh about and say “Oh Nicaragua you never cease to amaze me!” Band practice is one of those reasons. The school day during the month or so before Independence Day is cut back an hour for both the morning and afternoon shifts taking an already short school day and making it even shorter so that the students will have two hours to practice their drumming dancing and marching. I tried to suggest a different time so that we wouldn’t miss so much class, but to no avail. The thought of dedicating time after school to practice is just ridiculous to a Nicaraguan. 

Oh well if you can’t beat them join them. Since I had extra time I spent a lot of time watching the students practice. Although even when I wanted to take a break from the drumming I couldn’t because I live just a block away from an elementary school that practiced in the afternoon. Let me tell you after 6 weeks of drumming I knew that beat by heart and I was even in the band!!
On the big day all the students got dressed up and marched through town on both days. It was incredible hot that day so I felt really sorry for all the girls who had to march up and down the hill throughout town. They certainly had more endurance than I did! I tried to keep the mood up by dancing with them in the street, which all the students got a kick out of seeing the big gringo make a fool out of himself in front of everybody. I also passed out water to the students as well. It was very fun the march through town ended at the new market where there was a marching band competition with all the schools from the surrounding area.  

I wanted to pick some pictures but there are too many to choose from so check out this link from my facebook.

Another big event that happens in September here is the corn harvest festival. Very similar to local festivals back home like the cranberry festival everybody is out selling freshly made corn products everything from corn bread to corn tamales to sweet corn tortillas. Everything was so delicious I had no idea how much good stuff could be made from corn! Every town has its own corn festival were they elect a corn king and queen It was pretty fun to watch because their outfits were made entirely out of corn husks. 

September was also a very important month for me as it marked one full year that I have been living in Nicaragua. It’s incredible to think that it has been a whole year since I said goodbye to my family at the airport and headed off on this adventure. At my one year mark I was feeling pretty good I had had ups and downs with class, counterparts and projects but that is to be expected and except for some bronchitis and a few bouts with bacterial infections I had been pretty healthy. I was really excited to go and see my friends when I made my one year medical appointment. It was really fun I went down a couple days earlier and saw my friends hung out with them in Masaya. The actual day of my appointment I felt like crap, like I was in the midst of a flu. The Peace Corps doctors took my vitals and had me get a blood test which is standard protocol here. When the test results came back they showed that my white blood cell and platelet levels were below normal. This meant only one thing…the dreaded Dengue Fever. I had made it a year through my time here until my luck ran out. Having Dengue was as miserable as everybody says it was. In my case my legs hurt so much it was difficult to walk and I had a sharp pain behind my eyes that made it very painful to move my eyes from side to side.  Absolutely miserable I hope I never have it again.

The biggest thing that happened this month was that I asked by my Peace Corps boss if I could give a presentation on effective ways to teach speaking in the Nicaraguan classroom. It was a fun experience to go and meet the new group of TEFLers. My presentation when well although it was weird being look up to as a veteran volunteer when it seems like I just got here sometimes.  Not much else really happened in October just a lot of gearing up for the Presidential election that will take place on November 6th. I am pretty excited to be here and be able to witness a Latin American election first hand. So far it has been very interesting to watch the events unfold and read the newspaper stories. However as a Peace Corps volunteer I am to remain completely apolitical so I won’t get discuss it on my blog. If you would like hear about some of the crazy stories here feel free to contact me privately and I would be happy to share with you. So far the only real local action that has happened in La Dalia is a road block that the Liberals set up outside of town because the Sandnista government was supposedly not giving them their identification card so that they could vote.  This made travel to Matagalpa much more difficult since it is the only road out of town to the south.   However since I had no reason to go in Matagalpa nor did Peace Corps want me travelling the road block didn’t really affect me.

Today is the Day of the dead here in Nicaragua so there is no school in observance. Although in the week before the election class is not really in session because the government is going to be using the school as a voting center. So I have been spending a lot of time at home puttsing around my house working on fixing and cleaning up things. I was one three volunteers chosen to help out at a US Embassy English camp in December. I will be teach fourth and fifth year university students about the importance of protecting the environment. I am really excited to have this opportunity to work with other Nicaraguan English teachers and volunteers outside La Dalia.

Only a few more days until the election may the best man win!    

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

July recap

Monday, August 01, 2011

July was a pretty good month all things consider. Being that is my birthday month didn’t hurt its standing at all.  To start off the month I met up with a group other Peace Corps friends and celebrated Independence Day in Ocotal the department capital of Nueva Segovia. It was as my friend said the closest big city to the US, what better place to celebrate? We went to bar that an American ex-patriot owns and had wonderful time, it was just like being back home the only thing missing was the fireworks.  We had a competition to see who could find the most patriotic t-shirt or outfit. I found a t-shirt at a used clothes store here in La Dalia with a big flag on the front with Land of the Free Home of the Brave underneath. I didn’t win the contest but it lots of fun!  I also got see a lot of my friends and celebrate a little of my birthday with them as well.

I came back La Dalia after a fun filled weekend. Since the actually 4th of July was Monday I had my evening community English I told my students the importance of the day they were interested in learning the Star Spangled Banner. So I brought in the lyrics in Spanish and English and the music and we practiced singing it Monday and Tuesday but they all agree that it was too long and that the Nicaraguan anthem is much shorter and easier.

My birthday fell on a Wednesday this year so I went to class in the morning and had my students sing happy birthday to both in Spanish and English. It was a new experience to be at school during my birthday. Although I must say that I like being on summer vacation during my birthday. After class I went home and got ready for a birthday dinner that I was organizing. I bought all the supplies and my neighbor and her friend cooked up a grand fest of meat and veggies with rice and plantain chips, plus lots of rum and coke!! My friends surprised me with a birthday cake it was very delicious!!

The next week was a week of vacation for the ending of the semester. I spent most of the week in Esteli for an in service training with my counterpart Luis and fellow TEFL volunteers it was pretty fun to see everybody again and catch up. We learned a lot of good skills about how to keep our teaching up beat and interactive. Luis came with me to this IST although it would probably have more useful for Mariling she had just come back from maternity leave, so I thought she would be busy with her new born baby. Oddly enough she was quite upset and offended that I took Luis to another IST and complained about to the school principal. I told both of them that I wasn’t playing favorites; I honestly thought like anybody else that she would have been busy with a new born baby to leave for 3 days, apparently l was wrong. I told not to get her knickers in a twist that I would take her to the next IST that we have in January.

Also during my break from school I was able to spend some with my host family in Niquinohomo. I went down for my host sister Ana Alicia’s 15th birthday party which like the sweet sixteen in the US is a pretty big deal here. We got all dress up although I missed the church ceremony because I was rushing back from Esteli; the reception in the house was lots of fun. As is the norm in the party there is always lots of eating dancing and drinking so we all had a great time. It was fun because the other volunteer that my host hosted the current trainee and I were all there so it was a kind of like a host family volunteer reunion.

I also went out on date with Nica girl from Niquinohomo while I was down there. Her name is Jenny I met her through another Peace Corps volunteer Neha that I trained with in Niquinohomo and now lives close by. She is really nice but we are just friend just now until she graduates from college in October, then we will see if anything more happens.

I realized the other day when I was changing my calendar that I had been here for 11 months I will have been here for one year on September 1st. I can’t believe the time has gone by like it has it has been a year of ups and down but looking back on it, it has gone by fast.  The TEFL group before me is getting ready to leave this month and will fly home in November. While the new TEFL group is coming the beginning of September just I did a year ago.  It has been an interesting year I feel like now I have a pretty good grasp of the Nicaraguan education system and culture of education which I don’t want to go into right now for fear of sounding overly negative.  However I do want say something that just happening to me while I was writing this here in the public library.   A student from another school in town came up to me while I was sitting here with my counterpart Luis and a few of my Nica friends who are studying English. This student first asked Luis if he would translate a short paragraph he had written into English that had to do for homework for his English class. Luis said he charged 50 cordobas for his services. Then the student asked me if I would do his homework for him and I said I would help him free of charge but that I want him to make an effort to do it himself first. I explained to him that I could easily do it for him but if I did he wouldn’t learn anything. He didn’t like my idea so he asked my friends who did it for him for only 10 cordobas. I told my friends my teaching philosophy and mission here in Nicaragua is to help improve the level of English here. This student was so lazy that he didn’t even want to try and make an effort.  I feel that this is the biggest problem with the students here is that they are too lazy to even make an effort to try and learn. Even though my friends did his homework they improve their translating ability and thus their English level through his laziness. I realize I can’t overhaul the school system here, but I feel like if I can change just one small aspect of the students’ behavior here, I will feel like I have climbed Mt Everest!. We’ll what time brings…

Up deck for August is the Patron Saint Festivals in La Dalia. It will be a new experience so I am excited to see how the town celebrates.

More to come soon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

6 month update

Last week marked 6 months of services in La Dalia. Things are going pretty well over all. In these 6 months my outlook on my service has adapted to life in Nicaragua and the reality of the education system here.

It’s difficult to motivate some of students to study English or even copy today’s lesson in their notebooks. At the beginning this was very frustrating for me but now   I am focusing on helping those students who want to learn, and helping my counterparts improve their English. Right now Mariling is still on materiality leave, so currently I’m working with Luis and Ishmael who both have good levels of English I just help with improving their speaking.  I am not sure what will happen when Mariling returns but I am hopeful things will improve.

Over this pass month I have been working with my sitemates to on cross-sectoral projects.  A few weeks ago a couple other environment volunteers from Leon came over to help out Alison build a improve stove for one of her rural schools. This was the first time I had help a project of this kind but I really enjoyed it. This type of stove is good because it has two chambers and uses the heat more efficiently and therefore uses less firewood. The mothers of the students will use this stove to cook food for students at the school instead of having to bring it from home.  With my other health sitemate Lauren we are planning to do an HIV/AIDS pool tournament for the men in town. I am excited to start that.

School has been going pretty well. Lately class has been cancelled a lot recently for teacher trainings and student performances.  May 30th was Mothers Day here so there was no class that Monday. Class was also cancelled the Thursday before for a student performance dedicated to the mothers of the students. It was pretty fun a lot of mothers came to the school and the students sang, read poems and did traditional dances for all the moms watching.  Then later that week it was children day and so class was cancelled again for student performances.   I have told that this is the norm and to expect it more this year because of the Presidential elections at the end of this year. So I am just taking every day as it comes.
Lately I have been feeling a little stir crazy. I don´t know why exactly because I am starting to develop friendships here and whenever I am gone my friends always ask me when I am coming back. I really like that people are missing me when I am gone, it gives me a since of purpose here.  I have taken a few weekend trips here and there with friends or to visit friends which I feel is very necessary for my mental health, but I am always glad to be back in my house sleeping in my own bed.

Six months in my Peace Corps service is not going exactly how I thought it would, and its definitely different from what I learned and did during my first 3 months of training. I know this is normal real life can never be replicated over again so I am just going with flow and trying to make a difference any way I can. 

Next month during our one week of vacation from school TEFL will have a in service training for 4 days in Esteli. I am really excited about the IST but not terribly excited that they scheduled it on the one week during the where we have a week off from school. All the other sectors didn´t have to sacrifice their vacation to go to an IST I don´t understand why we do. In any event complaining about won´t change the date what done is done. I am looking forward to it to get some extra motivation to help me make it through the raining months

That´s all for now, hope you are all well!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

April Update

Hola a Todos!!

It’s time for another update from Nicaland!  The last couple weeks have been pretty eventful.  In my last blog post I talked about my plans for Semana Santa (Easter Week), it was really fun and relaxing I didn’t end up going to the Miraflor nature reserve but I did get to spend an extra day in Esteli a neighboring department capital with my friends.  Esteli is a thriving city similar to Matagalpa well known for its cigar factories.  My friends and I wanted to take a tour of one of these factories but unfortunately because of Semana Santa the factories were closed.  I thought that was pretty odd because everybody travels during this week, I would think a touristy city would be open for business but apparently not.  I have learned to never assume anything in Nicaragua because this country and it people are full of surprises.
That being said my friends and I still had a good time.  We went out to this all natural homemade restaurant, and had some of the best non-Nicaraguan food I have had in this country.  I had fresh whole wheat rolls with a big chunk of brie cheese and a plate of vegetables along with some homemade yogurt and honey. Everything was to die for!!!

The next day our group split up. Some people when home, some went to Miraflor and the rest of us myself included stayed at the hostel.  Just by chance one of the girls in my group ran into Ali a Nicaraguan friend that she had met at an embassy English in December. He invited us out to go swimming at a nearby natural reserve called Tisey Estanzuela. It was super fun and really scenic, but man that water was cold!! We brought fresh fruit, drinks and some chips and had a little picnic. Later that day Ali took us out to lunch at a place whose specialty is carne asada. You can never go wrong with grilled meat in my opinion.  It was delicious! Then he invited us back to his house and we had more barbeque. I tried grilled kidneys which had an interesting and familiar taste from something that I had eaten while in Spain.

Afterwards I returned back home to meet up with my friends to fix my leaky water tank. We spent most of Tuesday morning breaking up the leaky parts and then sealing it was cement. It is much better now there is no longer a stream of water that is running off my roof!  There is little dripping from the inside but only when it’s really full.

The rest of my week was really quiet came back here expecting some kind similar processions that I saw when I in Spain but in Nicaragua at least in La Dalia that doesn’t really happen. Everybody just leaves town to go to their farms and goes swimming. As a result the entire town shuts down from Wednesday and does open back up until Monday. I went swimming a couple times but I picked up a cold after leaving Esteli so I wasn’t really in the mood to do much swimming. (Fortunately I recovered.) So I spent a lot of quality time in my hammock resting and watching movies.  Not a bad way to relax at all, but next year I think  I'm going to go somewhere outside La Dalia and explore more.

The following day people were slowing coming back to work but still in the vacation mood. The following weekend was a 3 day weekend for Labor Day here. I took this opportunity to go down and visit my friend who lives down in Rio San Juan in the south of the country. Just getting there was quite an adventure! My plan was to take the early morning express bus from La Dalia to Managua then get on another direct bus from Managua to El Almendro, where my friend lives. I had never taken the Managua expresso before so I asked 3 of my Nicaraguan friends what time the 4:30am bus gets to Managua since I had to catch the 9:10am bus to El Almendro. All of my friends said and I quote” if you leave here at 4:30am you will get to Managua between 7:30 and 8.”  Great that will give me plenty to catch me next bus I thought. So I get to bus stop a 4:15am to find no bus. Not good, not good at all I thought. Turns out the 4:30 bus actually leaves at 4am, which my friends failed to mention. So I got on the 5am bus to Matagalpa hoping to still make it. As luck would have it on the way to Matagalpa we passed the express bus on the side of the road with a flat tire. I actually made it to Matagalpa before the expresso did.  I took a taxi across town to catch another express bus to Managua that left 7:20 and was scheduled to arrive Managua at 9:20am. It was going to be close. I called my friend and asked her if she thought the bus driver who she was friends with could wait ten minutes. She told me that she doubted it but that I should get off in this suburb of Managua that both buses pass through.  So that is what I did as soon as I got off there was a non-direct bus to Juigalpa a city where her bus took a short rest stop. So I got on that bus because she wasn’t sure if her direct bus would stop and pick me up because she couldn’t get a hold of the driver.  It turns out not ten minutes after I got on the bus her bus driver friend said he would pick me up.  Oh well I was ahead of that bus and scheduled to arrive Juigalpa before the express bus. Everything was going great I was enjoying the ride passing by a lot of towns where other volunteers from my group live. That was until about the last half of trip to Juigalpa when a large coach bus went sailing pass us as we were stopped picking up people.  Not good I started to panic again. My friend said not to worry as long I got there before 11:30am I was fine. We got in to town at 11:20 and I started to relax a little bit, but then proceeded to stop at every block in town! We are never going to make it in time I was sure of it at the crawl we are going at right now.  We got to the bus station just as the express bus was pulling out. I made it just by a hair, but I made it!! I sat down and took a big sigh of relief. 

The bus was one of the most comfortable buses I have been on in the country; it was an actual coach so my legs actually fit even the seats reclined! That is really nice given that the trip is 7 hours long.  I arrived at my friend’s town around 3:30 exhausted but happy to be there.

This weekend was the Patron Saint festival so there was a big celebration. Some other volunteers had come down for the festivities as well. It was really fun, we went to fair the first night and watched  some local guys try to climb up a greased telephone phone to get 2000 cordobas that were sitting up at the top.  It was pretty comical watching them try to climb up on each others’ shoulders. My friend and I commented about the safety standards of this event, with combination of grease and heights it was a miracle that nobody slipped and hurt themselves.

We spent the rest of the weekend swimming a nearby rivers and waterfalls during the day and going out to eat and drink in the evening.  It was a lot of fun! Rio San Juan didn’t look like what I pictured. Before going down I was expecting hot humid jungle like landscape that I had read about in my guide book but I think that is closer down to the actually  San Juan river and Costa Rica border. La Dalia and Matagalpa are more lush than El Almendro, although her site was much warmer than Matagalpa so I definitely sweated a lot more than I usually do.  She told me that it a more of a cattle and dairy farming area.  These farmers were doing very well for themselves because there were lots of nice elegant houses in a country town that had mostly dirt roads.  It was a very interesting juxtaposition.  Another thing I found very interesting was the in town's central park you had the Catholic church on one side with the devout followers attending the patron saint mass and on the other side was the rest of the town enjoying the patron saints festivities to drink and party.  

My favorite part of her site was all the fresh fruit right off the trees.  For breakfast I went out and picked mangoes and coconuts right off the trees. It was amazing!! The availability of fresh fruit and vegetable is definitely one my favorite things about Nicaragua. In La Dalia there is a wide selection in the market which just as cool.

Everything else is going well there is not much to report on school life I’m still working out the best time to plan with my counterparts because they are both really busy. It’s a slow process and I am trying to keep upbeat and not just go through the motions.  I am thinking about planning a HIV/AIDS pool tournament with my new health sitemate. I think it will be a good project for the raining season.

Well that’s all folks! Until next time
Check out this link for pictures

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Update from Nicaland

Hey everybody! 

How’s life up north? Last time we talked I was getting ready to head to Niquinohomo for my 3 month Spanish language check up.  It was a lot of fun to go back to Niquinohomo and meet up with my old training town friends. Spanish class itself was not terribly exciting we just review over grammar structure that we learn while in training. For the most part it was just a review but on the last day we did learn some more complex verb structures which was cool.  The nicest thing about was having a week off from school and being able to relax with friends.  While I was down there I went to Masaya a couple times went to the beach in Carazo and went to Catarina and the mirador with my friends.  After the language workshop a bunch of my friends came back with me to La Dalia. We had a dinner party and then the next day we went into Matagalpa to take in some stuff that the big city has to offer. It was a lot of fun showing my friends around my site and my house.  Although I was glad to get back and just relax by myself.

As for life in La Dalia things are going ok. I have had some hiccups like having to move out the house I was renting. Last week my landlord just showed up at my front door and the said there had been a family emergency and that she needed the house back.  I wasn’t terribly excited to move out and go through the whole process of finding another place to live especially after we had an agreement that I would live there for two years. Apparently contract law here is not what it is in the US, oh well.  I was able to find another place to live with the help of my neighbor without much difficulty.  I just had to spend a few hundred dollars to furnish it and it good as new.  The house its self is in the same neighborhood as where I lived before, so it’s the same style the only real difference between the two is that this one is less finished unlike the first house this house doesn’t have a second floor and more of the brick is exposed.

In other news last week just by chance I ran in to some Swedish volunteers who were helping out with handicapped children in the area. The group was made up of 5 teachers and 5 mentally handicapped students.  My friend Ishmael, the university English professor and I and helped translate for the Swedes while they were in La Dalia. It was great to meet them, and to be able to help them out.

This week I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Luis and my site visit from my boss.  However I called Luis Sunday went he was back in the country to find out that the Ministry of Education hadn’t paid him for the month of March; he wouldn’t be starting back at school until the first week of April.  So as a result I had to cancel my site visit until both counterparts were available. To make matters more complicated Mariling is going to be leaving on maternity leave within a week or two.  Trying to coordinate a time that is acceptable for all 3 people is proving to be harder than expected.  I am really looking forward to working with Luis when he gets back to La Dalia. There will apparently be a substitute taking over Mariling’s classes while she is gone. I am not terribly crazy about that idea although I realize it is necessary. I feel like I am just a revolving door for teachers, who haven’t received any Peace Corps training.  With all these teachers coming and going the periodic trainings that my counterparts and I receive don’t do any good. For instance in July after the semester end there is a in-service training which is supposed to gauge how things have been going with my counterparts and I, but I will have been working with only one of my counterparts for the past 3 months so it very confusing.  Oh well when it comes to Nicaraguan school every day is an adventure! I could write an entire blog post on just the chaos in school.

As for my new site mate Lauren, she sent me a text saying that she didn’t pass her final language interview and will have to stay in language classes for one more week until she is able to come up to La Dalia.  The same thing happened with the trainee that was living with my host family in Niquinohomo. He like Lauren just barely missed the cut off level and has to stay back another week. I don’t quite understand why Peace Corps is being so strict with this group because in our group there wasn’t anybody held back. In any event Alison and I are excited to welcome Lauren to La Dalia.  I was joking with Alison that we just need a small business and an agriculture volunteer here and we’d have a whole set. La Dalia has traditionally been solely a health post I am the first TEFL volunteer here and Alison is the first environment volunteer in El Tuma. El Tuma is technically part of La Dalia but it’s more like a neighboring village 20 min down the hill since it’s not actually attached to La Dalia.  Lauren however will live in the actual town of La Dalia and work at the maternity house with mid-wives there.

In two weeks is Semana Santa, Holy Week in English.  It’s kinda like spring break in the States but with a religious twist. Here everybody usually just goes to the river and hangs out and swims. April is the hottest month of the year so relaxing at the nearest body of water is usually what the locals do.  My friend Sara and I are planning to explore some of the natural reserves around La Dalia and then up in EstelĂ­ and surrounding area. Alison and I and some other friends were going to make the trip down to the southern part of the country to check out some islands and the San Juan River which is supposed to amazing with all the wildlife and jungle like landscape. However because April is the hottest month of the year here, Sara and I decided explore the mountains instead of going to the jungle where its certain to be hot and humid…my favorite type of weather.

Everything else is going pretty well just living the Nicaraguan dream haha. As some of you may know I have a slight addiction to peanut butter. My favorite lunch is a PB&J sandwich. I like the real peanut butter none of the artificial Skippy or jif stuff. I brought a 5 pound jar of Adam’s peanut butter with me but sadly it recently ran out. Yesterday as I was walking home from school I stopped by the open air market to find raw peanuts for sale much cheaper than the knock off skippy type peanut butter for sale in the supermarket in Matagalpa. I bought two pounds and took them home found a recipe for homemade peanut butter, which said roast them in then take to them to have them ground. Imagine that I would have delicious peanut butter in only a matter of time. However when I took them to have them ground. The ground peanut substance that came out was more the consistence of cookie dough than peanut butter.  If any of my readers have any suggestions how to improve upon this please let me know.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March Update

I wanted to give a quick update to my loyal blog followers. Not much has happened since my last blog post, but I think short frequent updates are better than long spread out ones.
I guess the most noteworthy thing was a visit from the Peace Corps Nicaragua Country Director.  It was kind of out of the blue Alison was visiting me Friday when I got a call from our country director Carol. She is very nice; she hosted my entire group of Nica 54 over at her house for Thanksgiving. Other than that I have really had much contact with her. So as you can imagine when I receive her call on Friday I was a little surprised. She told me that she and her daughter were heading up to La Dalia to stay an eco lodge for the weekend, that was nearby and wanted to stop by and say hi to Alison and I. Alison and I cleaned up my house for her visit, which was very nice. She loved my house and the area where I lived especially the cooler mountain air. After chatting for a while she took us out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Alison and I both really enjoyed her visit.

Other that not much is going on. My community English class is going really well. This week I broke up the class into two groups, a beginner group and an intermediate/advanced group. I will teach each group two nights a week. Last night was the first night of my beginner class we spent the evening practicing the English alphabet out loud and spelling our names. We finish with a few basic introductions and salutations and then put it all together with a dialog from our textbook. It’s a good dialog because it covers everything that we learned but I think it was little too long and caused a bit of confusion.  Although I am glad that I split up the class because I feel the students will actually learn more now. Tonight is the first night with the intermediate/advanced students, who are mostly just the university students that have been coming from the beginning. I plan on doing more conversation activities to help improve their speaking skills. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

I am still having difficulties with my counterpart, unfortunately.  I have talked with her but she is still not really listening to me. This as I am sure you can imagine is very frustrating.  I have tried different approaches to talk with her but she doesn’t seem to want to change her teaching methodologies or accept a different role for me in the class. I feel like I’m living the proverb “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.   She is not rejecting all my ideas but majority of them. Another really frustrating thing is when I make suggestions about planning and grammatical corrections she always gives some excuse about how it is my fault for why something is wrong or not working. It is a real constructive working relationship as you can see. However I am hopeful that things will change by the end of this month.  Luis my other (fluent) counterpart will be back from his two month training in Atlanta so I am sure he will be anxious to share all he has learned. I have worked with him before and get along with him great. 

Also I will have a site visit from a 3rd year TEFL volunteer at the end of the month as well.  She will talk with both my counterparts and also my school principal. So I am hopeful she can help straighten out the problems with my female counterpart.  My boss was supposed to come up and visit but apparently that fell through so the 3rd year volunteer is the next best thing. 

Next week I will be heading back down to Niquinohomo for a week for a 3 month check up our Spanish.  It will be nice to see all of my friends from training again! Then afterwards a group of friends is coming up to La Dalia with to check out my house and site as kind of a homecoming party. It’s going to be a lot of fun! That while I am gone a new health volunteer is coming up to La Dalia for her site visit, she will be working with maternal house and giving talks to the pregnant women here. Alison and I are really excited to meet our new sitemate…there is even a rumor that she could be from Oregon! 
I’ll be sure to keep you all updated to what happens
Hope everything is going great up north!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What I have been up to lately

Hey everybody, sorry that so much time has passed since my last blog post. I have been busy the last couple weekends and time just got away from me. I’m going to try and write shorter posts more often so it is easier for everyone back home to follow what I am doing down here.

 So what have I been up to since January? Well I have got all moved into my house and settled with all my things set up the way I want.  I bought some plastic shelves things last time I was in Matagalpa, one for my kitchen and one for my bedroom.  I took my pcv friend’s advice and took down the all the creepy pictures and other knickknacks that are my landlords and boxed them up and put them under my bed. I am really happy with the way the house is looking now. I’m going to have a house warming party later in March so my friends can see my new house and La Dalia

 Other notable events in February:

 I went to Matagalpa and watched the Super bowl with other PCVs it was pretty fun to hang out with everyone; I didn’t really care about the game although I almost won some money in score pool.  Unfortunately since the game was broadcasted in Spanish I didn’t get to see the commercials which are honestly my favorite part.

I put on an English teacher workshop the second weekend in February for all the teachers in the La Dalia area. I had requested some money from a grant available at the US embassy but for some reason there was a breakdown in communication and I didn’t get the money in time.  We still had a pretty good turnout though; I think not having the money made the logistics much easier. I just focused on what I was going to be teaching and didn’t worry about the other stuff. I was afraid that I had bit off more than I could chew but I was happy the way it turned out. Alison came up and helped me out and I had the assistance from Ishmael the Matagalpa university professor.  The teachers all gave positive feedback so I think I will do another one later in the future, but now I will know what to organize better.
I’m still doing my community English class in the evenings, it is going pretty well. I was co-teaching it with Ishmael but he is now working more at the university in Matagalpa so I have taken over as the sole teacher of the class. I was a little hesitant at first about the class but now that I am in charge I like it much better.  We are using an English textbook that I borrowed from Ishmael which gives us a good guide and base to go from but I am starting to do more dynamic activities so that we aren’t just reading out the book the whole night. I am also still working on the students’ punctuality. It’s an uphill battle but I am determined haha so will see tonight if there is any improvement.

The biggest event of this month has been the start of the school year last week. If had to choose two words to describe school and the whole start up process here, I would say chaotically unorganized.  We had a bunch of boring teacher meeting where I did absolutely nothing except get introduced then sit around and listen to rest of my teachers shout and argue with each other about various topics concerning their new schedules. Organization is not a strong point at Nicaraguan schools it seemed every day last week the schedule would change and the teachers would let the students go a few hours early so they could re-organize the schedule. I don’t know exactly why it took several tries but after talking with my fellow TEFL volunteers I learned that they were experiencing the same thing. In fact I learned today that the teachers are still working out the kinks in their schedules.

One interesting fact I learned at one of these boring meetings is that I got a new teaching counterpart. The one I had before that had gone through all the Peace Corps training and that had several years of teaching experience got moved to another school about an hour away from La Dalia.  My new counterpart’s name is Mariling she is 23 and in her last year of university to be an English teacher. Her English is ok although she doesn’t understand me a lot of the time when I speak in English. She unfortunately didn’t receive any of the Peace Corps training just a quick call from my boss telling her what our role together is.  I don’t feel that she quite understands what I am in the classroom for. So far I have just been sitting on the side while she does the teaching and then I read words off the board for the students to repeat back to me and proof read her lesson plans. When I called my boss for advice she said that I was right this was not my role and that is a common mistake that Nicaraguan teacher make when they first get a volunteer. When we plan together next I am going to bring this up so we can figure out how I can best be of service.  I also want to talk to her about classroom management, because in my 7th grade classes they students are out of control.  I am confident still that we can work out a solution.

Well that I all I have to say right now. I am going to post this today before the library closes. I will keep everybody updated on how things go at school more regularly from now on.

Check out this link to see pictures of my house