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.