Posted by: emily.anne | 15/12/2011

Tiempo libre… an update on my (boring-ish) life

I’ve been in site for about a month and I have sooooooo much to update everyone on! …No, wait – I haven’t really done anything at all. Shooooot. It’s been hard to update you all on my life because really I spend the majority of my waking hours just hanging out with my host family and/or with other members of the community. But in an effort to give you all a better understanding of my life, here are some thoughts/observations/surprises I’ve experienced in the past month:

  • I still don’t know how to wash my clothes using a pila. I’ve really been trying to master the soap to water to scrubbing ratio but every time my host mom or one of my host sisters (and yes, even my 8 year-old host brother) ends up taking whatever article of clothing I’m attempting to wash from me and does it for me.
  • I went running for the first time here – and it was HARD! Honestly I don’t know how anyone can run at altitude… I go for 20 minutes and want to keel over and die. Props to those of you who are able to do this no problem!
  • My bathroom situation. I am proud to say that I am becoming accustomed to using the latrine that we have in the back of my house… I no longer fear it like I had and can breathe out of my mouth while inside (most of the time).
  • SO. MUCH. DUST. The wind here is really strong all of the time, and every morning there’s a layer of dust that pretty much covers everything. I’m constantly washing my face/hands/self-in-general trying to get some of this off of me. Which brings me to my next point:
  • It is cold! I never thought that I would be cold in Nicaragua, but here I am up in the mountains (wasn’t expecting that either), and I am dressing in layers! OK, so most of you are in Wisconsin right now and it’s December, which means you win – but when you have to take showers using a rain barrel and a bowl it seems SUPER cold. I usually wait to shower until 1 or 2pm, not because the water is any warmer but because I’ve been able to mentally prepare myself by this time.
  • Field to plate. It’s pretty amazing how close we are here to the food that we’re eating. My family plants, farms, and cultivates their own beans and vegetables, they buy their rice from an aunt that has a large plot of land about a mile away, and we only eat meat when someone in the community kills and sells an animal they’ve been growing in house.
  • I feel like I’m being watched all of the time – because I am. Whether it’s walking down the street or sitting in my room, I’m definitely the new (gringa) kid in town… In fact, one of my little friends is looking over my shoulder as I type this to see if she can read any of the English words on the screen. I’ve gotten surprisingly used to going about my business (i.e. brushing my teeth, writing a lesson plan, peeling an orange) with people just staring at me.
  • We bake here! Honestly, I’ve baked more here using a wood stove than I ever did in the US. It’s a good way to bond with my host sisters and I am happy to report that we have made (almost successfully) cookies and a cake, complete with frosting! Soooo yes, we may have burned the cake and then broke it into tons of pieces when we were attempting to transfer it to the plate, and yes, we tried to make a pineapple tort that turned out to be a little chewy (they all joked that we could start selling gum out of the house) – but don’t you worry, by the end of these two years I’ll be a professional! Who knows, I may even start my own cake-making-using-a-wood-stove business… I could call it “Cake Boss: Campo Style.” Let me know if you want to be a part of this.
  • I’ve been working… sort of. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just sitting in Matagalpa doing nothing, I’m just not doing that much. I’ve been giving English classes on Monday and Wednesday afternoons to about 25 kids as well as hosting a literature hour twice a week. I’ve also started my first abonera (not sure how this is going to work out), and my vivero. My plan for this week is to get my fence done for my vegetable garden (this is the most important part seeing as we have tons of animals roaming around, some of which are pretty big and hungry!). I’m starting a women’s group in January and have been participating in community meetings… I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I’ll be able to talk to the school director about starting a small garbage program (they bury their trash in a giant hole right now), and that together we will be able to start something up when the school year begins again in February.

Other than that I’m still here living my life, and while some days are defintely better than others, I’m trying to make the best of it! I miss you all terribly (the holidays are definitely not helping) and hope that you’re doing well! I’ve been trying to send out mail to people, I hope it all gets through! Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to send things to me as well – I really appreciate it! Love you all!

PEACE! Emily

Posted by: emily.anne | 24/11/2011

I have arrived!

I’m alive! I’ve survived the first week in site and I’m happy to say that so far I am loving it! The mountains of Matagalpa are serving me very well, and I’m very excited to get started with my projects in the upcoming months.
I got to my house after waiting at Guanuca (a bus station in Matagalpa) for over an hour with my friend Lindsey (also from Wisco – small world!). I got on the bus alone and put my backpack on top instead of trying to fit it in the seat next to me – something we have been told over and over not to do. I figured it would be ok since we were heading up into the mountains instead of a crowded bus station… at least I did until everyone started piling in and about 30 people got on top of the bus! Mannnnnn, I thought, they are definitely taking something out of my backpack. 45 minutes later when I jumped out the back I looked at the ayudante on top and sheepishly asked… “Y mi mochila?” and was prepared for the worst. He told me to walk around to the side and proceeded to lower my backpack… in tact. SUCCESS
Once I gathered all of my things I was greeted by my host mama in the street in front of the house (she had been watching the buses all day!), who then proceeded to lead me inside into my new home. I spent the first day just talking a meeting a few of the neighbors… I think I was still sort of in shock that I’ll now be living here for the next 24 months!
As I said before, my little pueblo is exactly that – little. It’s quaint and quiet, and BEAUTIFUL! It’s nestled within mountains off of a dirt road that leads to nowhere, and I love it. The views are gorgeous, the people are friendly, and the stars at night are AMAZING (seriously, I can see literally 5 times more than I ever could in the States, and it seems like they’re close enough for me to touch them)!
I set up my room  with cards and photos from family and friends. If you don’t see yourself up there send me something and I’ll be more than happy to tape it to my wall! My house is simple and wonderful, we have dogs and turkeys that sleep on the roof, pigs (one of which sleeps outside of my door), pollitos, hens and a rooster, and two guinea hens that freak me out.
I also experienced a lot of firsts this week! Let me share some with you:
- I made tortillas! From start to finish, I got to help with the entire process… Granted my family was giggling at my sorry attempts from the other side of the kitchen – but it was still fun! (I also was forced to eat the two tortillas I made since they were smaller and sort of lumpy)
- I stepped on a little chicken! (I swear it wasn’t my fault though!) Don’t worry, it didn’t die, but I felt so awful! I started tearing up and had to leave to teach and when I came back my sister told me that it had died, which my host dad repeated – which, for those of you who know me well, made me burst into tears – and then the little chick walked around the corner. NOT NICE!
- I opened and used my Dr. Bronner’s mint soap for the first time! Three words: IT. IS. AMAZING.
- I made friends with a little old lady by helping her carry her wood back to her house! She’s the cutest thing, and makes the best coffee! Definitely going back soon to get more!
- I scored 8 goals! I got to play soccer in the road in front of our house with some kids one night and our team (the girls – what WHAT??!) won! We were amazing and now I get to tease some of the boys about the fact that we kicked their butts!
To be honest this week was a blur! I spent a lot of time walking around and meeting people, ate a lot of tortilla and quahada (I don’t know how to spell it… but it’s a salty cheese), and drink a lot of coffee! I went to both of my schools to re-meet the kids and the teachers, went to a community meeting to meet some of the leaders, met with the NGO Sister Communities of San Ramon to begin discussing a timeline for the library we’re putting in…
I’ve decided to continue with the English classes that the previous volunteer had been giving twice a week, but after two days I had 35 kids sitting in front of me ranging from 6 to 16, so it’s become obvious to me that we’re going to have to split them up. The good thing about this is they all are at the same level since English classes don’t start until they get to “high school” and they are all very eager to learn! I know this isn’t my first priority as an environmental education volunteer but it’s a great way to keep busy until the schoolyear starts in February and I love that I can already walk down the road and hear “Adios Emily!” being yelled out of various houses.
I’m also continuing with a ‘literary hour’ of sorts for any interested students. The previous volunteer was amazing and got over 700 books donated to Yucul and was able to get into contact with an organization (Sister Communities of San Ramon). We have about 150 to 200 in a locked cabinet in a classroom in the school (and 4 big boxes shoved under my bed in my room), and the students have been coming twice weekly to read through them. Right now I’m working on separating the books into different levels so that I can narrow down the selection for now and to help ensure that the kids are reading books at the correct level (thank goodness for my methods of literacy classes – Edgewood College shout-out!). Again, not one of my main objectives here but it would be amazing to be able to develop an appreciation for literacy and books here… I feel like if I take the time to do this right there may be a few kids who really benefit from this experience. I’m still working on figuring things out, but I’m hoping to be able to get them to keep showing up for classes and maybe even host a “Reading Workshop” during the vacations since the kids literally have nothing to do the majority of the time.
But back to the main objective of my being here: I have a lot of great ideas! I’m starting on my abonera this weekend, meeting with the Sixto Sanchez to discuss how we’re going to do the school garden/composting project, we’re using the horno (oven) to make some bread/cakes this Sunday morning, I’m heading to Finca Esperanza Verde to learn about lombricultura (worm composting), leading a dinamica at the teacher training tomorrow…. (It doesn’t look like I’ll be too bored for the next few weeks at least!

Miss you all and love you! Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: emily.anne | 19/11/2011

a few things

I just realized how down my last post was… and don’t get me wrong, I’m having a wonderful time here in Nicaragua, I’m just a little homesick!

To prove to you all that I’ve been having fun, here are a few little stories from my experiences so far in country:

There was an old woman… Pancho and I went running the other day in the country, and we stopped to say hi to a woman who (I think) is a member of the family… She’s 102 years old and lives by herself outside of Niquinohomo and has more spunk than me! (most days anyway) She’s an adorable and tiny woman who went to vote on November 6th by herself on foot (about 2km), machete tied around her waist, and didn’t take any crap from anyone… She also told me that she was 150 and had some interesting philosophies on how to live my life… LOVE HER.

Bigger is beautiful. Since arriving in Nicaragua I have been indulging daily in typical Nicaraguan foods… tajadas, gallo pinto, tostones, hot soup in the middle of the day, tortilla, queso, repocheta, frescos served in tied plastic bags, Eskimo, and hot milk in the morning to “fill me up until lunch” according to my host mom (seriously Chelsea, I drank that every morning… I need some LactAid)… and I have gained a few pounds. While I have definitely felt this in the fit of my pantalones, I was perfectly happy to never admit this out loud. One morning however, my host mom was all to happy to point out how nice and ‘filled-out’ I looked. I shrugged it off until she proceeded to come over to me, pat my belly, and pinch my legs – all the while commenting on how much more womanly I’ve become since arriving in the country. Ohhh cultural differences!

I point with my lips now. You know how you use your entire arm to motion toward an item, a person, or a place? What a waste of energy!!! Here in Nicaragua the only pointing that is done is with your mouth. Where are you going? (mouth point). Where is ________? (mouth point) Did you see my jacket? (mouth point) I love this… please consider adding it to your conversations back home.

You don’t even know the meaning of capacity. Since arriving in Nicaragua, I’ve had the pleasure of taking a few public buses and I need to tell you something: you have no idea what crowded means. You know how our yellow school buses have maximum capacity signs on them? HA! Here we multiply that capacity times three, and then we head off to our destination.

Posted by: emily.anne | 19/11/2011

My name is Emily…

…and I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer. (WE SWORE IN!)

It’s official everyone, Nica57 has arrived! Our group was sworn in this morning in Managua at the Holiday Inn in front of some of our host family members, the DCM Mr. Robert R. Downs (acting as US Ambassador), our country director, and PC Nicaragua staff. We were introduced, sang the Himno Nacional de Nicaragua, and took an oath to defend our own country and to do what we can to assist our new community in Nicaragua.

As we sat there listening to CD Carol Barrick and other official volunteers as they spoke during the ceremony, a lot of us started to get a little misty-eyed. This was the culmination of three months of hard work in language, technical sessions, and more charlas than we care to count – and we’re finally ready to be set free into the wilds of Nicaragua. Those of us in the environment group will be living and working in Leon, Chinandega, Rivas, Granada, Jinotega, and Matagalpa until November of 2013. Sitting there it was hard to believe that this is my life… and that I’m finally going to be able to live out a dream that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. One of my philosophies is not to have any regrets and to live fully in every aspect, but I’ve got to be honest, I’m still freaking out a little. I’m heading to Matagalpa tomorrow to start completely over with a new “family,” a new job, and a new community… I’m so excited but scared and am hoping that I’m prepared enough to be off on my own. Our little Peace Corps bubble is about to burst, and we’re all going to be more alone than we’ve ever been before. I’m so looking forward to this experience and to grow and mature in ways that would never have been possible otherwise but am also scared to be as alone and disconnected as I’m sure I’ll be in the upcoming months.

But… I am ready. I have to be, don’t I? I started on this journey more than one year ago when I applied with the intent of serving in a different country with the Peace Corps in order to learn a new culture, to share my life with a different kind of population for a time, and to help bring change to their lives in whatever way I can.

I head into the mountains tomorrow, and communication is about to get a lot more difficult. I’ll try to update this as much as I can but cannot guarantee how often that will be… But I’ll be thinking of you all as I go through my days, wondering what’s going on back home and how everyone is! Take care and write often! I appreciate all of your support!

Love and miss you!

Posted by: emily.anne | 06/11/2011

my little town

i’m back! it’s been awhile (i’ve been busy and sick) BUT i have successfully gone  to and returned from my site visit in matagalpa!

it was a great week filled with ups, downs, and in betweens – but overall i’m extremely excited to begin working in the community of Yucul and to begin my two years of PC service there.

I will be living up in the mountains until November 2013. My site is about 12 km up a dirt road from the nearest town and has a bit less than 800 people living in it. I met with my new host family and will have three brothers, two sisters, a sister-in-law and her baby (and mis padres, of course). These 9 people along with our pigs, turkey, guinea hens, chickens and roosters, dogs, and kitten will make for a full house with no shortage of activity… but at least I’ll never be bored! They seem very kind and eager to have me there, and I’m excited to get back there.

The community is little and the houses are spread out on the carretera and up into the nearest mountainsides… it is gorgeous! I have amazing views of mountains and valleys, as well as a beautiful genetic reserve filled with pine trees that are unique to only this region in all of Nicaragua. There is also an ecolodge about 4km from my house called Finca Esperanza Verde (www.fincaesperanzaverde.org) that I hope to be able to spend some time at – it has little cabanas with hammocks, gorgeous sunsets, walking paths, a waterfall and swimming hole, a great food (have I convinced you to come and visit yet?!).

While this is all wonderful there are a few things I’m a little nervous about… I’ll be using a latrine for two years, I have to climb a mountain or go into town to have any sort of cell signal, I may very well turn into gallo pinto since it seems that I’ll be eating it 3 times a day, I don’t trust our turkey (he’s huge! and frightening!), and the soil sucks for gardening (high pH levels with rocks and barely any usable soil = a lot of work for a PCV).

While there are a few problems I need to sort out, I also have some ideas for projects…

1. Composting. I have a feeling that I’ll be doing a lot of composting here, especially since the ground sucks. The previous PCV started worm composting at one of her schools, so I hope to continue that and possibly expand it as well.

2. The library project. Geory, the PCV that I will be replacing did a lot of work to get a library started in the school in Yucul so that the kids there would have an opportunity to read. She had two “literature hours” every week where the kids could read books that had been donated through International Book Project (I’ll be explaining about this later, so look for a post on how to donate to that). It’s amazing seeing these kids show up so eager to read the 700 books that Geory was able to acquire with the help of her family and friends. In a community that is somewhat illiterate, it’s inspiring to see young children and adults poring through the pages of these books. I will be working with the Sister Communities of San Ramon in the upcoming months because they will be finally breaking ground on the first mini-library in the community! We’re hoping to be able to hire a part-time librarian and to get some more community classes started here!

3. Youth group. I’m not sure what this will look like yet as we don’t have that many youth living in any one area of Yucul (everyone’s pretty spread out) but I’d definitely like to do some sort of environmental brigade and/or sports team (maybe even a women’s soccer team?!). We’ll have to see if there is any interest once I get back there.

4. La basura (the trash). Yucul is too far to merit starting a trash collection program, but I’d like to educate the community about other options for disposing of their garbage… The majority burn it, and the school builds a giant hole every year to put garbage in and then covers it at the end of the year. I’ll need to be creative in solutions or alternatives for this and even more creative in how I present this to the community… Any ideas??

5. Teaching! This starts in February when the school year starts, and I’ll be working with 4 teachers in two different schools. Eventually I will be co-planning and co-teaching natural sciences with each of them. The idea behind this is that the PCV is able to introduce a more interactive approach to education and to emphasize the importance of environmental education, especially to the youth of Nicaragua. They are the future of this country after all! I’ll be working at a larger school (about 200 students) and a small school about 25 minutes away in a multi-grade school (1st through 6th grade in one room) that was just constructed with the help of Seeds of Learning, an amazing NGO that works throughout Nicaragua and in El Salvador as well. (www.seedsoflearning.org – check them out and get involved!)

Other than that I’ll spend the next couple of months continuing to learn Spanish and getting to know my new community. Wish me luck! I also have my new address posted on the side, and will be literally living for the mail I receive! Please don’t hesitate to send me things…. I will love you forever!

Love and miss you all! Stay well!

Emily

 

Posted by: emily.anne | 23/10/2011

the moment we’ve all been waiting for…

leaving for the usual (seemingly) deserted university in a nearby city for our 7th friday of charlas charlas and more charlas, everyone in the group was anxious. usually we are pretty animated (mostly because we’re looking forward to our coffee and cookies the PC provides), but this microbus ride was somber. today was the day that we had been dreading/looking forward to since we arrived in nicaragua almost two months ago. as we sat there a few of us sang along to the 80s hits that were blaring from the radio and others sat in silence. some readily voiced their worries, hopes, and desires for their homes for the next two years and some of us just sat there with knots in our stomach… we had all been interviewed throughout training, but what if our instructor had gotten it wrong? ohmylord, i thought, i might get a site that i hate and have to live in it alone for the next two years what the hell?!!!!?

but there was no more avoiding it – it was the moment of truth. one of the staff members called us in and we nervously entered the empty classroom to sit in our plastic chairs (note to any man coming to nicaragua: if you sit in these chairs DO NOT lean back! there is a 100% chance that you will end up on your butt on the ground and the aforementioned chair will be in 3 to 4 separate pieces… i’ve witnessed this on multiple occasions and while it’s pretty funny, the chairs aren’t that cheap!). ANYWAY, they pulled out a map of nicaragua and began to tell us the spots that had been picked for us. first they went through jinotega and i didn’t hear my name. then came matagalpa, one of my other top choices… i waited and waited but 5 people were called and my name was still somewhere in the stack of folders on the table in the front. and then… it happened (i hope you’re enjoying this little dramatization) THEY CALLED MY NAME.

i am going to be living in matagalpa for the next two years! in case you want more information, read on:

matagalpa is located northeast of managua in the central region (about 3 hours total to my site in 2 different buses). the department is cooler (WOOO!), and most of the people in my region grow rice, corn, beans, and COFFEE! you can also find a lot of cows there, so if i’m ever feeling homesick i always have the option of going out and tipping one or something (wisconsin reference…). but who cares about all of matagalpa anyway??! let’s talk more about my site! (totally kidding, i’m super excited to check all of it out!) so… there are less than 800 inhabitants in this area which means there are about 2 main roads and not much else. according to the description that i received in my packet, the current volunteer (who is leaving in november) has been super busy! she started a library construction project which i’ll be able to finish, english classes, literacy hours, a SPA project that brought potable water to the house of over 25 families in the community, and more! so excited (although at this point it’s also a little daunting – the girl was crazy successful with her projects!). but anyway it’s a quiet place with a few pulperias that sell a couple of fruits and veggies as well as the basics (ie. cookies, bread, soda, frescos, and toilet paper), no cibers (i have to travel 30 minutes by bus to the nearest town), annnnnnnnnnd little to no cell phone reception… which means that i will be communicating with the PC office via short wave radio (i’m weirdly excited to use terms like ‘over and out’ or ‘copy that’ when speaking with people). so yes, i’m excited and scared… which is where you all come in! i have some requests:

1. send me mail! i don’t need packages (although i definitely am not complaining about receiving them… thanks to everyone who has sent them so far!), but i have a feeling that i’ll be living for the snail mail that i’ll be receiving once i’m in site!

2. let me know if you have any contacts in your community (ie. rotary groups, school groups, other community groups looking to get involved globally!). i’m going to be trying to start up an improved stoves project and maybe a community bakery/panaderia (deforestation is a big problem here), and we made need some outside help to get started!

3. keep me updated! on your lives, celebrity gossip…. THE NEWS! i don’t want to lose touch with the rest of the world so if you read or see anything interesting write it down or cut it out and send it to little ol’ me! i promise i will love you forever! i’ll put up my address later this week once i have the correct one.

LOVE AND MISS YOU ALL! take care, be safe, and stay warm! i hear it’s cooling down already and the leaves are changing… and here i am about to start my first summer in nicaragua (are you jealous yet?)

Posted by: emily.anne | 17/10/2011

Oh no! A political entry…

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the Nicaraguan presidential elections are coming up in November, and things are starting to heat up. Debates on the different political parties are common practice at many social gatherings and rallies/protests are becoming more frequent throughout the country as the candidates push their platforms one last time in the cities as well as the campo.

For those of you who don’t know, there are five(-ish) potential candidates. While I have yet to study up on all of them, here are the names of the men who are fighting to win the vote on November 6th:

President Daniel Ortega (FSLN), Miguel Angel Garcia (Alliance for the Republic), Arnoldo Alemán (Constitutionalist Liberal Party), Fabio Gadeo Mantilla (Independent Liberal Party), and Enrique Quiñonez (Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance)

While I am not allowed (nor am I knowledgeable enough) to take sides politically, it has been really interesting to listen to friends and family here. Nicaragua’s democracy is just a baby, and everyone here has a strong opinion on who should win the election. I’ve seen verbal assaults from supporters of different factions and have heard stories of families torn apart because of political allegiances. The passion that Nicaraguans demonstrate in regards to their politics is partly a result of the revolution that occurred here in the latter half of the 20th century (and partly because they are simply passionate people, in all aspects of life). Either way, everyone is talking about the first week of November, and the changes that the election may bring.

This morning I was talking to one of my friends here who works in a large factory close to the town I work in. I was on break from class and saw him, so approached him to tease him about why he wasn’t at work today (there was a big concert in our town last night, so a lot of young people here played hooky today, and I figured he was one of them). He proceeded to tell me that he was given the day off and that he was going in tomorrow to see if he still had a job. I was surprised at his candidness and asked why he might lose his job, to which he responded, “La instabilidad, Emily.”

Instability. The American-owned company he works for is worried about the stability in this young democratic country after the elections, and to cut their own losses before anything happens they’ve decided to fire over 1/3 of the people working there. Immediately my mind went to the people I know who have lost their jobs because of the never-ending recession that we find ourselves in now, and how awful this situation is, no matter the country.

A lot of people here are frightened about the future, about what might happen if the Sandinistas lose, and what might happen if they don’t. But now my friend has the added stress of not knowing whether or not he’ll have a job to go to tomorrow. He is a good, responsible man and it’s a shame to have to watch him go through this. (Don’t worry, I’m not in harms way, and the PC is staying on top of every possible political situation).

It’s been truly amazing to be here and to witness people who are so passionate and strong-willed with regards to their preferred political party. The struggles, triumphs, upsets, changes, successes, and failures have shaped the last 40 years in Nicaragua. Their effects have been political certainly, but have changed the face of the people as well. They are cautious, excited, skeptical, optimistic, and more often than not, vocal about the candidate they are supporting. It is truly humbling to watch a country so deeply entrenched in their political history and so actively involved in it’s future. I will definitely be watching as the votes are tallied the first week of November, and hope that whichever candidate wins does what is best for the people living here, regardless of their political party.

Posted by: emily.anne | 11/10/2011

6 weeks in!

AHHHHHH we’re six weeks into training, and I have one question: where has the time gone??! Hard to believe that in less than two weeks we find out our sites and in just over a month we’ll be sworn in as volunteers!

So what have I been up to?

1. I gave my first class and it was awesome! Who knew that with enough planning and practice I could actually effectively teach in Spanish?!? The lesson was on energy sources (nonrenewable vs renewable) and from what I could see the kids seemed to get it and enjoy the activities – at least I hope they did!

2. We’ve continued with our technical training and slowly but surely I am becoming a bit more savvy in regards to gardens, tree nurseries, and composts! I still have a lot of learning to do, but I’m super excited to get started and find my way… Our huerto at the school is doing well, but we have some cleaning up to do (which I’ll explain later). I’m hoping  to start a mini garden at my house this weekend if we have time!

3. We had our site fair and our second interview for placement, which means we’re a little closer to discovering where we’ll be for the next two years! The sites all seem amazing and each offers some amazing opportunities.

4. La lluvia (the rain!) We’re in the end of winter here and it has literally been raining for the past 24 hours thanks to the tropical storm making it’s way up the Pacific coast. It’s crazy how slammed Nicaragua has been with rain – and sad too. There’s a lot of flooding right now and a lot of people have lost their homes.

Other than that I’m still happy and healthy – almost. I’ve been sick for a few days and am currently nursing a mild fever (thank goodness for my med kit!). Hoping this rain ends soon so I can soak up some sun!

Love and miss you guys – and thank you for all of your support! I love the emails and letters!

ALSO: Congrats to mom, dad, bean, pegi, kiki (even lani and evan!) for finishing the Chicago Marathon! So proud of you guys!!!!

Posted by: emily.anne | 25/09/2011

ohhh my word.

things are starting to get very busy around here. in a nutshell: we have a group meeting tuesday and will give our first charla on making good decisions, we have training on wednesday afternoon/evening after class, we are going north to observe a current volunteer teaching in a multi-grade classroom on thursday morning, i’m giving my first natural science class in spanish on thursday afternoon, and we have training all day friday and saturday. ahhhhh! at the beginning i was concerned i wouldn’t have enough to do and now i’m a little freaked out that there only 24 hours in a day (it’d be nice to extend that to 36 or something like that – i need time to get a decent amount of sleep!)

but here i am, starting my fourth week in country and i still can’t really believe that i’m here.  i swear i’m still waking up every morning a little confused as to where i am (or maybe that’s just my malaria meds.) and can’t believe that this is my life for the next 26 months! whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat??!

first update: we have a youth group! we tried again to hold our youth group meeting and ended up with about 20 kids both monday and tuesday afternoons! we’re in the process of deciding on our recyclable product and creating our timeline with them concerning what exactly we’re going to make and how. they’re awesome kids and so far it’s been a lot of fun hanging out with them! we had them collect trash in the park across the street last week and make bathroom products out them them. some of the best ejemplos: a toothbrush holder made of chip bags and paper, planters made out of the bottoms/sides of plastic bottles, soap dishes, decorative flowers made with plastic/paper/cardboard, and toilet paper holders out of boxes…

second: we had our garden practicum and actually created our garden yesterday! it was a lot of work but we had a lot of help from the kids at the school, and we’re hoping for some of our plants to sprout in the upcoming days… keep your fingers crossed! we’re going into the elementary school as well to assign kids to water the garden. keep your fingers crossed about that too since we’ll be gone most of next week!

third: i’m giving my first class this week! i’m in a sixth grade classroom (ages 11 to 16!) and my topic is renewable vs nonrenewable energy – for 45 minutes in spanish. ahhhhh! i’ll definitely be practicing this all week long.

and fourth: i hope you’re doing well! miss you all and feel free to keep me updated with everything you guys are doing! it’s great to hear from you!

paz y amor, emily

Posted by: emily.anne | 12/09/2011

so THIS is what they were talking about…

We were supposed to have our first youth group meeting today at the library… We were ready, we had our materials, our cookies, and our giant bottle of Coke and were all set up by 1:45.

We were excited.

Then we looked at our watch and it was 2:05 (the meeting was supposed to start at 2pm). No one had arrived. We were still excited (it’s common practice to show up to things 30 minutes after said-start time).

We chatted, and I may have stolen a cookie (sorry group!), then we glanced at our watches again. 2:40. Shoot. No one was there and the streets were relatively empty. We were nervous.

Fast forward to 3pm. No one was in the library besides the little children making pinatas for the celebraciones this week. We were defeated.

BUT in true PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) fashion, we immediately began to think of what we needed to do in order to make our youth group a success from the beginning (i.e., GET THE KIDS TO SHOW UP!) Two of us began to make individual invitations to hand out to kids in their homes as we walked around the community, and two went to the nearest secundaria to drop off some anuncios for the kiddos. We returned to our excited state.

So yes, we were supposed to hold our first meeting of our youth group (these are the kids we will be doing our recycling project with and hopefully will be the base of our ‘charla’ audience), and YES, no one showed up. While we may have freaked out for a minute, I think we’ll be ok. We’ve been invited back to one school to talk to the kids tomorrow morning about the group and plan on making the rounds during the long weekend in order to make ourselves seen (can’t really ignored the gringas wandering around town!) and to invite the kids personally. I think this is what the Peace Corps was talking about when they told us that one of the qualities we needed to possess was that of being flexible regardless of the situation. So our first try at a youth group was a flop: FAIL. The fact that we’re working our butts off right now in order to make sure we get our group together: SUCCESS!

In other news:

This week is a short one. We have one more day of Spanish class, and then the 14th and 15th are holidays. (WOOOOO!) This means that I get to watch the parades the schools put on, hang out with my family and friends here, and hear loads of bombas(don’t worry, they’re firecrackers)! And eat food – lots of delicious foods.

We have our ‘huerto’ (veggie garden) technical training session this Saturday, which I am really excited about. Then we begin our school gardens the following weekend (another WOOOOO!). Two of the teachers at our school are interested in beginning a compost as well, so we’re trying to see if we might be able to fit that in.

Still loving Niquinohomo. It’s small, quiet, and safe with cobblestone-like streets and friendly people. There are a few small pulperias (they sell grocery items), a couple of bread shops (panaderias), a lot of churches (including one especially gorgeous church in the middle of town – I’ll take picutres before I leave!), a library, 3 schools (2 public, 1 private), and some amazing chocobananos (banano dipped in chocolate… aka heaven-in-your-mouth).

I miss all of you guys but I’m sooooooo happy to be here! Keep the mail/email coming, I love hearing from you! I’ll update after this weekend and hopefully put up a few pictures!

Paz

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