domingo, 20 de diciembre de 2009

Tis the Season

Merry Christmas everyone! This week has been on the duller side and I haven´t done much beyond reading. However, I did start a small vegetable garden at a local elementary school. Nothing major, just a few tomatoe and pepper plants, and 3 pepians (a type of squash).
I have to say though, that I´m not exactly looking forward to Thursday or Friday. While it will be nice to have some active days full of festivities, it will also be super weird being away from all the people I love when they´ll be all gathered together. A few weeks ago I watched my host family put together a plastic tree with some plastic ornaments, and while thinking that its just not as good as a real douglas fir smellng of pine and decked with tinsel and shiny glass globes I suddenly became very nostalgic. Thanksgiving was a little sad not fulfilling all the traditions I have with all my friends and family, but I ended up having a good time with my new Peace Corps friends. But Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, because then I was with all my family and togehter we would sit outside and spend the day playing dominoes and having a few beers, enjoy a huge feast at night, and the next day there would be presents and more family bonding time. I think this is going to be one of the hardest parts about being a Peace Corps Volunteer, being away from my family that I love so much. But I will get along, and who knows, I might even have a spectacular time with my new host family.
I miss all of you so much, and wish you the merriest of Christmases and the cheerrist New Year. May you take pride and fulfilment with your families, because trust me its not always easy being apart from them, no matter how you spend your time.

lunes, 14 de diciembre de 2009

¿Quien Causa Tanta Alegria?

¡La Conception de Maria! Or so I´m told. Last Monday was the Catholic holiday La Purisima, a strange cross between caroling and trick or treating. The holiday celebrates the Virgin Mary´s immaculate conception and starts off with the setting off of fireworks at noon, which makes it sound as if a war is going off outside. Later in the evening starts la gritura. This when you go traveling from house to house where people have set up an altar to the Virgin and you begin to sing songs to her (there are several songs dedicated to her). I sang ¨Por Eso el Cristianismo¨ so many times I actually memorized it. The cool part of the whole thing though is that once you´re done singing people give you free stuff. Of course, like Halloween, you get a lot of candy, but that was actually the least of what I got. I also got a nacatamal, a chicken sandwhich, 3 cups (2 plastic, 1 glass), dry beans, 2 bags of sugar, a bucket, a basket, soap, detergent, a razor. By the end of the night I had a huge bag just full of stuff weighing me down.
After the holidays I had a visit from one of my fellow volunteers who came to try the quesillos, a dish my town is known for. Its a stretchy cheese, on a tortilla with crema and onions. Super tasty. It was nice having contact with someone a friend as lately I´ve been kind of bored. We walked around town and saw the sights including the oldest genizaro tree in Nicaragua (its this huge amazing tree thats centuries old) and the mirador that you can climb up and get a great view of the whole town and of the nearby volcanoe. The next day I also accompanied her to the city of Leon, which is a pretty cool place.

domingo, 6 de diciembre de 2009

First Week in my new Town

I´m not even sure where to start. Training is finally over, except for the two days after swearing in it didn´t really feel like that as I had to go to the All Volunteer Conference, which was cool in that I got to see all of Nicaragua´s Peace Corps Volunteers, but it made me feel as if I was still in training as I still had more charlas to go to!
Since I got into town last Friday, I´ve gone to four elementary school graduations (only one of them is at a school that I´ll actually be working at). They are quite interesting. Kids don´t get to walk on their own, but are actually guided by a family member, this goes for high school graduation too. I also went to my first TEPCE (a monthly teacher planning meeting) where I got to meet all of my counterparts. It was nice, and they´re pretty funny telling me all of these bawdy jokes and happily scraping any meat that was on my plate (they gave me so much food) onto their own after finding out I don´t eat any meat.
I also learned a very important lesson: When in Nicaragua make sure to shake out your bedsheets in case of scorpions. Oh yes, and the thing is that the sharp pain you receive from a sting is nothing compared to the rest of the symptoms. For example a tingling feeling in your extremities (lips, tongue, hands and feet) that´s kind of like your limbs falling asleep, except you feel it even when you don´t move that body part. Also there is the complete restlessness that swept over me, despite my body being exhausted and me having taken a benadryl (not so drowsy I would say). The worst I would say though is the loss of control of my motor skills, causing me to walk around like a drunk baby. Luckily the effects only last 24 hours. So no worries, I am all better now.

domingo, 22 de noviembre de 2009

My last two weeks of Training

The Monday of my last entry was a bit wild. I got home to a nearly empty house. The only ones home were my host grandparents in the back. As the two of them are nearly deaf they couldn’t hear me as I pounded on the door or yelled out for someone to open up. As the rain started to come down I decided that I couldn’t stand outside and get wet and finally just jumped in through the window. Retelling the story to my host mom she was yelling out and laughing at me saying I was a bandido.
The next day was filled with more charlas. We went to a biodynamic farm in a neighboring town that was started by Methodists. That farm was actually really cool; they had a large organic operation going on there with a variety of crops, trees, and livestock. I got two great presentations on starting a tree nursery and on lombriculture (that is worm composting). It was rather exciting.
Wednesday and Thursday were on the duller side as they were just normal days filled with Spanish class. It all culminated with my last language interview during training. The week was not improved, however, with the writing of my final youth group report (to be done in Spanish). Even with several of us writing it together, it was still painful. Two things that made the end of those days lighter though were the purchase of my hammock, in which I will be taking my daily siesta after teaching at my very rural schools, and the playing of Monopoly. Yes, you have no idea how good it can be to sit around play a board game with your friends, eat popcorn, and speak English. Well, maybe you do, but it still felt so relaxing, and for a little while I almost forgot I was even in Nicaragua.
Friday was fun as we had our youth group ceremony were all 37 trainees had a presentation of what they did with their youth group. And some of the youth even got to attend! It was fascinating seeing the TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) group’s presentation as it’s quite different from ours. While we did gardens and made a recycled materials project with our groups, they taught them English songs. My youth group was terrific though. We were allowed to bring five kids to represent the group and they were great talking about our activities, I barely had to talk. And we also got a lot of compliments on the picture frames we made out of trash.
Saturday was yet another thrilling day exploring the beautiful country of Nicaragua. So a volunteer that’s living in my training town heard of some hot springs up in Mombacho, a nearby inactive volcano, so we thought we’d get directions and check it out. It seems the person who gave her the directions was a bit confused as they instead told her how to get to Las Aguas Agrias. We were also informed it was a 3km walk from the bus stop. No, no, not the case. We walked down this dirt road past several farms and rural communities for about two and a half hours (so about 10 miles) until we reached the entrance of the reserve, and from there it was three more kilometers! But in all earnestness, the walk was actually quite nice since it was still early in the day and not too hot, and the company was good. The entrance was C$5 (25¢) and the reserve was beautiful. It was jungle lite, very manageable, with a slow moving river. We followed the river along until we got where it collected in a big pool with crystal clear pristine water all in the shade with cool water that reached to about chest level. It was absolutely perfect, and the sound of howling monkeys in the background added just the perfect feeling of savage adventure.
Sunday I had planned a gringo free day, hanging out with my family and teaching my host mom to make lasagna. However, la queserilla ran out of the cheese we wanted so couldn’t make lasagna and everyone in the house was quite busy, and so I became bored. To cure my boredom I decided to go to the Hípica in the nearby town. This was my third hípica and by far the best one; an hípica, in case you’ve forgotten, is a type of horse parade that’s part of the celebration of las fiestas patronales. Had a good time hanging out with my friends watching the festivities.
Monday I had to go into Managua for a full day of AIDS charlas. I received four sessions on HIV/AIDS education and an introduction to some NGOs working on those issues here in Nicaragua. All of this is good as it gives me a bit more confidence in giving my own AIDS charlas; however it was a very long day that wore me out by the end.
Tuesday was my last day of Spanish class. ¡Ahora soy oficialmente un hablo hispano de nivel avanzado! This means I am not required to receive more Spanish training during my service, which could be a bit of a drag. The rest of class was dedicated to going over housing contracts and learning the Nicaraguan national anthem and the oath I need to say for swearing in.
Wednesday night was the despedida with my youth group. For the occasion we collected money and had a small little party. We made quesadillas, salsa, popcorn, and cake for the occasion. But before we got to the food we played some games; these included musical chairs and twister (which I fashioned myself out of paper, with dice in place of a spinner). They really enjoyed the games even though they were a bit shy at first as they can be when we make them play games (you should have seen them when we had them spell their name with their butts!). At the end we had a sort of awards ceremony where we passed out certificates to all the kids.
Thursday had to travel back to Managua for the last of the PST charlas. There were numerous, and required an overnight stay so that we could continue with them on Friday. Some of the sessions were a bit dull (such as my 7th medical charla), some where excruciating (such as having to sit through the program presentation for the third time), while some were quite interesting. The last one I speak of is the talk we got to have from the Ambassador. He is obviously a good source on the political and diplomatic situation here in Nicaragua. He was very open and gave us the realities, both good and bad, and it was great getting a better sense of what’s going on.
Friday after all the sessions were over I went along with half of my training group and went to the Laguna Apoya instead of my training town. We stayed at this hostel right on the water’s edge. It offered amazing views of the lagoon and the surrounding mountains (it’s a water filled crater). The water was incredible, the perfect temperature (neither cool nor warm, just perfect). At night without any lights we laid out on the dock and had a perfect view of the stars, unobstructed my light pollution or city sounds. It was the best possible way to celebrate the end of training.

lunes, 9 de noviembre de 2009

Been a While

So first I would like to apologize that it's been so long since I've last posted and that I have no photos this time. A lot has happened these past two weeks. Last weekend I went to Granada, which is really pretty. It's full of old buildings and kept up really well, its nice to walk around and wander around the city. That being said, it's quite a touristy place, very different from the Nicaragua I've gotten used to.
The most exciting thing that's gone on though is getting my site. This being the place where I will be living and working in for the next two years of my life. Site assignment is something that I've been pretty anxious about and working myself up to, and the event itself was rather anticlimactic. I am happy with my site though which is....(drum roll): a nice large pueblo in the department of Leon. My site is actually quite urban (by Nicaraguan standards) with a population of 35,000. The schools where I'm going to be teaching however are very rural. One of my schools requires me to take a bus out of town then its a 30-45 minute trek through horse pastures, corn fields, banana plantations, and a rickety bridge to get to a tiny multi-grade school that has 1 teacher and 11 kids.
So now that I've got my site and have seen it I have to say that I am done with training, or rather wish I was. I'm ready to start my service. To move to my town, get to know the community, and start working. I am excited.
Miss you all so much!

martes, 20 de octubre de 2009

The word of the week is TERRIFIC

This past week has been good and quite a bit has been going on. Saturday I saw my first volcano. It was exhilarating to be outdoors, do a little hiking and seeing something new, all with some pretty cool peeps: my fellow trainees. The landscape at the park was beautiful and offered some great views once you climbed up the dormant volcano (there was another one that was active and smoking). Afterwards hit up the nearby town and had the best pizza I’ve had in Nicaragua to date, mind you it still doesn’t compare to pizza back in the states, but that seems so far removed from here it doesn’t even matter that much anymore.
Sunday was a much calmer day. I got to sleep in (which means I stayed in bed until 7:30am) and then read my book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which is terrific. After breakfast I went out to work on the garden. It looks terrific! One of the pumpkin plants died after transplanting, but everything else is thriving. The pepian (kind of like a squash) looks especially good, I might even be able to eat one before I leave my training town.
Monday and Tuesday I worked with my youth group on a recycled materials project where we made picture frames out of inorganic waste such as popsicle sticks, candy wrappers, chip bags, plastic bottles, and more. Had some interesting results ranging from the really cool looking to the kindergarten level, but they got a kick out of it. The rest of the week went pretty smoothly too. Thursday I had my second language interview that I was a little nervous about. Although, they have yet to tell me if my level has changed at all, not that it matters since I still have class anyways. I do feel that my Spanish has improved since I've been here, but its not perfect so I guess its good I still have class.
Saturday was terrific. Me and a few other Peace Corps peeps (along with some German guy) took a bus out of town and went to La Laguna Apoya. It was awesome. First had a nice hike down into the crater, straight through a forest (unfortunately I did not see any monkeys), which took about an hour or so. The water looked so pristine, and the temperature was perfect, nice and warm. It felt so good to be in the water again.
Sunday I went to Jinotega with my host sisters and their ballet. The town (or maybe it was the department) of Jinotega was celebrating their 118th anniversary with an Hipica (sort of horse parade) and my sisters did traditional Nicaraguan dances. The area was beautiful set amongst the mountains, and the weather was quite refreshing. It was also neat seeing all the dances and the regalia they dressed in.
Right now I'm getting excited and a little anxious as next week I get to know my site where I'll be living and working for the next 2 years! The interview I had today with my boss over it was almost nerve wreaking trying to convey my wants and expectations. We'll see how it goes.
Hasta Pronto!

jueves, 8 de octubre de 2009

This last week has been great. I've actually been out of my training town since Wednesday because I got to do a Volunteer Visit. What happens is that for a few days I got to visit a current volunteer at her site, basically as a shadow. It went fantastic. It was my first time traveling in the country on my own. It was such a long trip. I took a bus (1 hour) from my town to Managua, then a cab ride to my bus stop, and then a very bumpy bus (3 hours) to the town I was visiting in the department of Matagalpa. It was a medium sized town up in the mountains with beautiful views of the hills and mountains and wonderful weather (I was actually cold at night). It was great also to see what the life of a volunteer is really like, which is extremely different than being a trainee, where everything is heavily regimented and I am constantly tied to a strict schedule. I was also excited about eating non-Nica food. Don't get me wrong, I like the food here, but it was nice to have normal dishes like stir fry veggies or pasta without ketchup.
As you can see I've also finally posted some pictures so enjoy them! Anyways, its been a really long day so I'll leave with just these few words and these images of my life in Nicaragua.
Hasta Pronto!

martes, 29 de septiembre de 2009

crazy busy

Since my last entry things have been hectic ( in good ways too). As Peace Corps trainees I've basically been reduced to a teenager. I have a curfew, I'm usually asleep before 10pm, I expected to alert my mom of my comings and goings, and after two drinks I'm only one away from being drunk. Last Tuesday one of the trainee's sister was having celebrating her birthday at home with cake and we were all invited. This got me as excited as the wild and out parties I liked to go to in the States.
Wednesday I was a wreck. We had a charla (informational session or class) in a neighboring town that lasted two hours longer than usual. I was also extremely nervous about the fact that I was going to teach my first class the next day and wasn't quite prepared for, and the fact that I was jittery from all the coffee I drank was not helping. I stayed up late into the night (midnight) finishing my class material.
All turned out well, and Thursday ended up being a great day. Spanish class was shorter than usual as we spent the first hour making pioquinto, a typical Nicaraguan desert (it's half rum cake half pudding). On top of that since it was our last day with that facilitator she let us have an extended lunch. My class ended up going smoothly, my students were attentive and seemed to enjoy the exercise I had planned for them. After class we all celebrated by getting phones (so you can now call me!) and eating the cake we made, which was delicious.
I did a lot of traveling this weekend, Friday's charla was in a neighboring tourist town that has this amazing look out point where you can see Granada across the lake. Saturday, after all the torrential rain went out on an adventure and jumped on the first bus.

martes, 22 de septiembre de 2009

Another week

So right now I´m procrastinating from studying. What exactly would I be studying now that I graduated from college? Biology, in Spanish! That´s what the first class I´m teaching is on, and I´m nervous about how its going to go. My youth group is going really well though. We have a great group of kids that have been consistent with coming to our meetings. They´re always excited to play a dinamica and work on our projects.
One of the main projects I have to do with them is make an organic garden. It´s coming along really well. We spent two days with the kids digging up the earth to make seed beds and earthen mounds to plant our seeds. We also had to make a fence around the garden out of sacos (kind of like burlap, but the plastic kind that rice bags are made out of) to keep out chickens and dogs. It was really exciting going to work on the garden today to find that the cucumbers we planted have already sprouted. I think that´s really going to motivate the kids to keep working in the garden. In addition to cucumbers we also planted pumpkin, squash, peppers, and tomatoes, yum!
There´s been a lot of interesting experiences that I´ve had this past week. Eating pizza Nicaraguan style was definitely one of them when you´re used to eating it in the US. Not only did I eat this sauceless pizza with a knife and fork, but I also had ketchup on top of it. To tell the truth though, it wasn´t disgusting, just unusual. Needless to say though, I won´t be hankering for pizza while I´m here.
Travel here is insane! I had to ride the bus in order to get to a nearby town (about 5km away) for a lecture we were having on natural history in Nicaragua). It was extremely cramped, with people pressing on me from the aisle. At one point the guy who takes your fare (never when you get on because that would be too easy) had to walk to the back. In order for him to do that he shoved me into my seat more, forcing me to practically sit in the lap of the guy next to me, with my leg drapped over his, for a good three minutes. And while I am quite uncomfortable with this the guy I´m sitting on doesn´t say or word or even look at me. Personal space is not a familiar concept down here.
I´ve been feeling a little stressed with how much I have to do, but either way I´m still having a great time and looking forward to making a difference. And don´t fret, I have been taking pictures and will post asap.

domingo, 13 de septiembre de 2009

It´s only been a week?!

Friday marked the end of my first week in my training town (please excuse my not disclosing it fully--Peace Corps policy). It feels like I´ve been living here for quite a while now. So much has happened. Each day begins around 5:30 for me as I wake up to the sun shinning into my room and the sounds of the neighbors´roosters crowing. At first it drove me crazy as I couldn´t fall back asleep after that and just lied there awake waiting for a reasonable hour to get ready for the day (and dreading that ice cold shower).
More recently, however, I´ve been using that time more effectively by working out a little and then joining two of my fellow trainees for a jog around town. We must make quite a site! Three gringos just running around town at 6 in the morning. Beyond the general health benefits and a way to keep down the pounds from the very large and heavy portions my host family serves me, working up a sweat makes that cold shower not just tolerable, but a general relief.
After getting ready I make my way to the houses of two of the other trainees house so that together we can walk to the last trainee´s house where Spanish class is at. Oh yes, Spanish class. After my language interview in Managua, I knew I definitely needed some help with my Spanish, but arriving at my training town brought new issues to light. The Spanish here is not that which I grew up with, the accent is quite different (some people keep mentioning how Cuban mine is), they never use the pronoun tu, only usted and vos. Yes, vos, which sometimes requires a different tense of the verb. And to top it all off, I have to learn whole new words for things I already knew. Sandals are chinelas, adios is hello, and the word pulove does not work here.
It´s pretty warm here, but overall the weather is actually nicer than it is in Florida. At night the temperature cools down quite a bit (to the 70s) and there aren´t too many mosquitos (although I still sleep with a mosquito net and take cholorquinine (a very bitter and unpleasent tasting Malaria medication that gives you vivid dreams)).
Training is a lot of work and can be quite stressful. As it is I have a lot of trouble staying up past 9:30 at night. Beyond just working on my Spanish, I also have techinal training which ranges from things like making maps of my town, interviewing the people here, and learning to make a garden. I also have to do several projects during the 10 weeks of training, including running an environmental youth group and teaching a fifth grade class.
Both of these projects have been hard to start. The youth we´ve been trying to get together keeps falling through. Eventually we found a class of third year students (thats 8th grade, I think) willing to be part of our group, the school director is giving them community service hours for it. So basically my group is a charity case... Teaching at the school also makes me nervous. The kids are rowdy, and never raise their hands, just all yell out what they´d like to say at the same time! I´m going to try my best though.
Overall I have to say, I´m having a great time, making friends, liking my town, and getting excited for the work that I do.
Till next time!

my new home

My last update took place during the orientation retreat in Managua. That was followed by more training and language sessions (where we played more dynamicas). For the last session all of the medioabiente trainees gathered around for the revealing of our host families. That´s were I found out I´d be living in the department of Masaya with the Serpas family. It was a three and a half hour ride in the van before I made it to my new home as we had to drop off volunteers at other towns. I finally got to where I´d be staying, and let me tell you its very different from anything in the states. First off the roof is tin and there is no ceiling so light from other rooms will flood into my own at night. And while my room doesn´t have a lock, I still count myself lucky that I even have a bedroom door. And the bathroom door! Its actually a shower door! But beyond these things I like it. The town is very nice, biggest in the department, but still not huge, and people here are very nice. The weather is great, its a lot cooler than stinking Managua, not to mention safer. Here I can wander about on my own with no problem, during the day at least, I don´t venture out at night.My host family is really nice too, and huge! There´s 15 others living in that house! I like them though. There´s a bunch more to say, but I´m sorry to say I have to cut it short as I´m running out of time here at the cyber.
Bay Pue!

day 2 in Nicaragua

So I woke up nice and early yesterday, with the sun shining into my room. I slept real good. I started the day with a shower, which was COLD, that's right, no hot water. Not to mention, there was no shower head, it was like one constant stream from a faucet. After the initial shock however, it wasn't bad and actually rather refreshing. The staging event in DC was exhausting with all the information we had to take in, but it was nothing compared to all the sessions we had yesterday. The day started after breakfast with some dynacas, which are games we played together as an ice breaker, our game was Fuego en la Iglesia. Then the first session included a speech from the new Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, who seems to be a great person for the job (especially after we saw his interview on a Nicaraguan TV show last night). His talk was followed by the country Directors. Next we had a long session that included a language interview to diagnose my skill level, a medical interview, visa photos, and my first vaccine: rabies (the first in a series of 3). This was followed by a big lunch that put my in the mood for a nap. Unfortunately that didn't happen. Instead, we had a talk from our Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMO), all four of which are actual doctors (usually they're RNs) that speak english. After them we met the Safety and Security Coordinator. This session was followed by one from our Project Specialist and Project Manager that told us more about our project which has me much more excited. Going to be teaching about the environment at three different schools once a week, setting up local gardens and compost piles, and working with youth groups and other NGOs that deal with environmental issues. After this session we found out it was one of the other Trainee's birthday so we sang happy birthday "Nica style" and had some tasty cake. Then we got our first installment of walk around money, $295 cordobas a week (20 cords = 1 US dollar). Finally our last session of the day finished to the very welcome surprise that some of our luggage arrived, including both of my suitcases. I went straight to my room and changed into some shorts and a wife beater, comfy! Going back out to the common area I decided to join in on the basketball game with my fellow trainees, which considering I haven't played in over three years, went just as expected. I gave up after I finally made a basket, either way it just felt good to do something active. Dinner was good, it was our first serving of gallo pinto, yum. After this we lounged about in the common area where no one was getting internet, so we just hung out and talked and exchanged stories. At 8 we watched a Nicaraguan news program "Esta Noche" to see Director William's interview. After this we saw an episode of Bizarre Foods that takes place in Nicaraguan, it was nasty (maggot cheese!). So that was my day, building up my anticipation and aspiration for my training and my service. Miss you all!
P.S. If you have skype, find me: krz820.

Peace Corps Trainee Chris

Hey! I'm in Nicaragua! Safe and alive, although not without some drama. Today was a serious day. For starters it started at 1am, That's when I woke up (went to bed at 11). Then I had to check out of the hotel by 1:30. They had a bus pick us up from the hotel that took us to the airport. We had to squeeze luggage for 38 people on board (almost everyone had 2 suitcases totally up to 80lbs) and it almost didn't fit. We made it there at 2:50, however, the airport desk doesn't open until 4am! so we were just sitting there waiting. Luckily a woman there started checking us in early and giving us our boarding pass. Our flight boarded at 5:45 and we arrived in Miami International at 8:50, exactly 24 hours after I had flown out from there! We get there to find out that our 11:15am flight has been delayed to 1:15, which was delayed to 1:45, which boarded at 2:10ish. We finally made it to Nicaragua, the flight felt super short, got there at 2:55 local time (4:55 your time). We go to baggage claim where we don't see any of our baggage (we all tied orange yarn to it). Then someone in our group informs us that half our luggage is in Haiti and that a woman from a Peace Corp has a list of whose luggage that includes. My name was on the list! So those of us on that list get a huge bottle of water and pack into a van and we drive from the airport in Managua to the retreat center. All of us in the van are in this weird dream state. I can't believe I'm here in Nicaragua, its just surreal. We make it to the retreat center (where we find out no one had baggage, even if you weren't on the list) and check out our rooms, I walk into this room I'm sharing with another volunteer and see four beds, a fan, a roll of tee pee (we had to take that to and from the community bathroom), and two bars of soap. I set down my backpack (which thankfully had my toothbrush, deodorant, and a towel) and we got to the dining area where we have dinner. I had rice, veggies in a sauce, pasta, salad, french fries and red fanta. After that we had a welcome session where they introduced the Peace Corps Staff and hand out forms. So here I am, in Nicaragua, part of Nica 51 (the 51st group of peace corps volunteers in Nicaragua since their return). I'm safe, alive, excited, and even having some fun.