sábado, 27 de marzo de 2010

Critters, buses, and class

I’ll start with the critters. Due to the fact that none of the schools that I work at have electricity, the windows are always kept open. This allows sunlight (the only light source in the schools) and some air to filter into the classrooms. This also lets in other things such as an incredible amount of dust. But the most exciting thing to fly in so far has been a bat, a serious blood sucking bat. As I was in the middle of dictating a spelling test to the kids, some bats flew in, one of which hung itself up on the wall near me. One of the students got up in a flash, threw an empty plastic bottle at it, make it crash down to the floor, where it wriggled for a bit before my student stomped his foot on it. All this right in front of me (the classrooms aren’t very big). It was heart wrenching watching that poor thing killed right in front of me when it wasn’t doing a thing to anyone, and could have easily just been chased out of the school.
So most of my encounters with reptiles deal with finding a few geckos on my bathroom walls. No big, don’t bother me none. Last week was a little different for me. One of the kids from my neighborhood came over to tell me how his family had gone to the river and wanted me to check out what they had found, but to wait a bit, he’d come and call me over. So eventually I make my way over and there in front of there house, right on the sidewalk, is lying this huge snake, about four and a half feet long! I watch as they hack its head off and start throwing it at each other. And can you guess what they did with it? If you’re thinking snake skin belt, then I’m sorry, but no. They fried it and had it for dinner. The next night I had gone over (no worries, the snake was all gone by then) they were having soup for dinner. Iguana soup, with these little iguana eggs floating at the top of it. They invited me to have some, which of course I responded that I had already had dinner. I don’t eat poultry, beef, pork, and I most certainly won’t be trying reptile anytime soon.
I think I may have mentioned traveling in Nicaragua before, whereby it involves getting on a very crowded old school bus from the states. Let me now emphasis just how crowded. This past weekend I was traveling to my friend’s small mountain town for her birthday party and to get away from the excruciating heat of Leon. The ride to the department capital of Matagalpa was glorious. There was a crisp, cool wind and we made good time since it was an express bus that makes less stops. The ride from Matagalpa to the campo where the birthday girl is located, not so great. This road weaves up and down and all around all these mountains, and it’s not even paved. So whereas 18 kilometers on Leon’s flat, paved roads take 20 minutes to travel, it takes an hour in Matagalpa. To make matters even better, the bus to this town leaves only every couple of hours, so when it arrives at the terminal everyone rushes the bus to get a seat (standing for 3 hours on a bus down a dirt road can’t be fun, thankfully I don’t know from experience). Luckily one of my friends that I was traveling with is friends with the driver who saw us walking towards the bus, so he saved us a seat, onto which we squeezed three people and a dog. Most of the trip there my friend sitting closest to the aisle had some woman keep resting her entire bosom on her shoulder, and my other friend three seats down from me had a fupa in her face. Things got better two hours into the trip when many of the passengers got off at another town along the way. However, 20 minutes after that the bus broke down, at a distance from our destination where there was no way we were walking there with all our crap. So everyone gets down from the bus and we stand around on this deserted road up some damn mountain, and at some point I look behind me and see the bus just rolling downhill! Thankfully there was someone on board who hit the breaks on that thing. Needless to say, once it seemed safe everyone unloaded their possessions from the bus, and waited around for a half hour or so for another bus to pick us up and take us the rest of the way (which was still a half hour trip left).
Despite the rocky start, the weekend was great; I barely sweat, whereas in Leon I consider it a good day when I’m merely perspiring a little as opposed to being drenched in sweat. Getting back home is a different story. This time I decided to go the opposite direction towards Managua instead. Apparently a town down the road (which of course takes hours to get to) was having some sort of festival, so the bus was packed. I’m going to go ahead and throw a cliché in here, because it fits rather perfectly. We were packed like sardines. The bus was so full they couldn’t shut the doors; people were literally hanging out of the bus. One woman decided to squeeze herself onto the two person seat my friend and I were sharing, by nudging us and plastering me to the wall. She then asked where I was headed, and upon finding out that I was going further than her, decided to seat her child on my lap. So there I was on this extremely crowded bus, pressed against the wall, with some random woman’s five year old kid sitting on my lap, for about an hour or so. Other than that, the trip went smoothly, or as smoothly as it can on an unpaved mountain road. The next bus I took, however, did break down. The good thing was that this happened just outside my town, and right in front of the best quesillo place, which is just what I wanted for dinner.
My last topic in this entry will actually be about my project. I’ve finally started to teach. My work consists of four stages; the first is observation where I just observe classes. I have now gotten into the demonstration stage, where I teach classes on my own. I can’t believe that I’m going to be an elementary school teacher for two years! When I signed up for Peace Corps, I wanted to be an environment volunteer doing environmental work, now I’m an environmental volunteer teaching. It’s not so bad since all of my schools are in the very rural parts of town, and the rural kids are so much easier to deal with than the urban kids, but still… I’ll survive, and maybe even impart some good knowledge.

martes, 16 de marzo de 2010

A familial visit

Last week was amazing. Why? Because I had a visitor. Andrew, my favorite brother. It was terrific having him here in Nicaragua, land of lakes and volcanoes. The first few days he hung out with me in my town, going to school with me and everything. Seeing what a normal day is for me, from riding 3 miles to get to school, to hitch hiking to get to my other school, seeing how my hammock time on the porch can easily turn you into a zoo creature as all the neighborhood kids press there faces to the bars and gawk at you, to washing clothes by hand, and trying your hardest to sleep when you feel you´re going to melt. Aww yes, the wonders of Nicaragua.
We also did quite a bit of traveling too. I´m not sure if I´ve mentioned this before, but traveling usually means you hop onto what used to be a school bus back in the states but is now meant to cover a distance of several kilometers and filled to brim with people (some of which travel with chickens), and where at every stop vendors get on and try to sell you everything from food, beverages, pills, dvds. Although most of the trip Andrew was lucky and we traveled mostly in micros (pronounced me-crows), which is a van that will seat 16 people, but usually jammed with about 20. Its much faster and more comfterable, and if you´re trully lucky they´ll even turn on the a/c.
So where did we go? All over. First we went to León, where I usually go about once a week for lunch and some shopping. But we were there to party and savor Nicaragua´s specialty, Flor de Caña! After that we headed to the beautiful city of Granada, followed by my favorite place to swim and relax by the water, the gorgeous Laguna de Apoyo. Finally we went to my training town to say hey to the family and spent our last night chilling in Managua.
I mention the sites in order to entice some of you to come and visit me, because I assure you, we will have a wonderful time. But really, the best part of the trip wasn´t so much the traveling, but getting to hang out with my brother for a whole week after not seeing him for six months. It´s funny, last night as I sat outside chatting with my neighbors (part of my normal routine), they said that as I talked about his time here and of how I get to see the rest of my family in December that I got a glassy eyed. Well, I´m not afraid to admit it, its been six months and I have to wait nine more until I get to see all my friends and family again. I miss them all so much, and do get homesick. But no worries, I´m doing fine, having a blast, and looking forward until our next encounter.