PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS BLOG IS NOT A REPRESENTATION OF MY HOST COUNTRY OR OF THE PEACE CORPS.
A Long Overdue Update
It needs to be said that the Nica 65 group is pretty great. Through the incredible roller coaster of ups and downs that come on as Peace Corps Volunteers, this crew sure knows how to cheer each other up. The last week of August, our health team met up in the capital to have our 3 month IST (in service training). Leave it to our group to take a 15 minute between-session break to transform into pirates. I mean, I did theatre and changing between scenes got pretty professional, but take my word for it, this was down right impressive. And of course, I only took this one picture to put on my snapchat story...
September had itself a slew of some pretty fun activities. I was able to go back and visit my host family from training in Santa Teresa. It was awesome to be able to go back and see my family after 3 months of flying solo in Villanueva. The best part of the trip was being able to actually hold meaningful conversations with my family members AND UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY WERE SAYING BACK TO ME! It was a bit of a confidence [in my spanish] boost to know that I'd come a long way since leaving Santa Teresa in June. It makes me excited to know that the future family reunions in Santa Teresa will only become more fun as my language continues to improve.
Back in Villanueva, we also celebrated a "Trabajadores de Salud" (health workers) holiday. We all had the day off of work (well.. expect for a few rotations) and the Ministry of Health threw us a dinner party at a local restaurant. I had my friend help me get ready and she definitely had me Nica'ed out for the party. Lipstick. Heels. Sass. It was a blast. And while dancing is one of my favorite activities, I was not actually born Latina so my coworkers helped me out on learning the most suave moves. Once I master the dance floor, I'm pretty sure people are going to be convinced that I'm pure bred Nicaraguan.
Something I was super happy about this past month was a training that I did with the community health workers and midwives of Villanueva. If you remember from past blogs, every 2nd Wednesday of the month, my counterparts and I hold a training called Red Comunitaria with the workers from my site. I was in charge of running the main session for September's meeting. I decided I wanted to focus on HIV because of the huge misconceptions and lack of information that I've found existed in my community (from prior conversations). With the help of some friends and one of my PC bosses, I built a curriculum to lead a HIV training that would help the community health workers/midwives learn how to educate the people in their rural communities. I was lucky to have my boss Alexis come and watch the session and I think it went really well! At the end of the session, all of the health workers present had presented some type of non formal education technique that taught about HIV prevention or transmission. I think the coolest part, was some workers pulling me aside after the meeting that day to ask if I could help them make their own materials to teach the games and activities about HIV in their communities. I am hoping to be able to plan some type of training for all of the upcoming Red Comunitaria meetings because I am super lucky to have a passionate group of people who are ready to go out and give their communities the educational opportunities that they've not had the chance to learn before. Here is a picture of one of the groups giving their presentation of a game called "Sida, No da" (SIDA in español is AIDS, creative huh?!). This activity helps groups to understand the different fluids that can transmit HIV and those that do not; helping to break down some myths and misconceptions about the virus.
And I can't forget to mention the crazy Villanueva celebrations that took place in the middle of September. I kid you not, when I came to site visit in MAY my host family was already talking up the Fiestas Patrias and HIPICA that would happen in September. Wellp, they came and holy moly were they right about how crazy my town gets. Our calm little park turned into a beer garden with carnival rides, tents on tents of nick nacks, snacks, and fried food... It was intense. A few friends from my group came to visit for the different events and it was a whole lot of fun. On the Friday that began the madness, I was asked to judge an english singing competition put on by the ministry of education for students taking english courses that wanted to participate. My english-teacher-friends (not knowing that I actually sing and do musical things with my life) thought it would be hilarious if I participated in the event because english is my first language. They were a little upset with me that I hid my musical talents from them but I think it was more so the fact that they couldn't watch me crash and burn singing in english. (sadly, I didn't take any pictures during the event but my friend Kendra snapped a few of me playing with my neighbor before I headed to the competition)
For the rest of the weekend, there were parties and lots of justified reasons for everyone to drink a whole lot of alcohol in my town. OH and how have I not mentioned the 4am bombas and drum line that happened every morning... I talked about the bombas when I was training in Santa Teresa but let me just remind you where I am now... My town is a little guy and there aren't big buildings or things to muffle sounds. POR ESO, every. bomb. sounds. like. you're. under. attack. AND it sounds like the people are lighting them off right next to your head. Ear plugs and pillows did not help with anything, I was up every morning to walk my little neighbors to watch the bomba show in the park at 4:30am. And other than bombas, highlights were probably all of the children dressed up as cowboys/cowgirls for the HIPICA. And speaking of my little neighbors, my novio was the cutest!
Oh and last but not least, right now I am back in the states for a little visit home! I have to admit, the whole running-water-all-day thing and the throw-your-toilet paper-in-the-toilet thing are crazy. My whole bathroom routine is such a mind process! But outside the lou, the fall in New England is incredible and I've been able to eat and enjoy lots of things that I've missed while abroad. I've only had Pad Thai 6 times so far (yikes..) and am hoping to shovel in some more before the flight back to the land gallo pinto and tortillas! Hoping everyone up here is enjoying the long weekend! I'm excited for a sister hike tomorrow and a day of baking with the coolest hermanita I ever did have! (Also hoping this cold and sinus pressure will chill out...) Besos mis amigos.
Hola, I'm Justine