PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS BLOG IS NOT A REPRESENTATION OF MY HOST COUNTRY OR OF THE PEACE CORPS.
For the past week I have felt like a chicken running around with my head cut off [well, just to put it simply]. Peace Corps does an incredible job of filling up our time during training with activities. They do such a good job that sometimes I feel like I don’t have time to sleep! It gets a little overwhelming at times but it definitely helps in making the time fly by. For example, today I: gave a charla at the health center on “Exclusive Breast Feeding”, followed by Spanish class, a quick lunch, a language level interview, a youth group meeting and a charla with them on “Gender Roles.” Tonight I have to start preparing an HIV prevention charla and another on Teen Pregnancy Prevention, write a journal entry about how our youth group went, make it to bed eventually and get up at 5:30 because training is in another town tomorrow. I don’t want to sound whiney though because I know my service after training will require a schedule completely planned on my own (aka I’m going to be bored on bored on bored if I don’t throw stuff together). I cannot even believe that training is nearly halfway over. I’m trying to be optimistic through the stress and see the cup half full instead of empty. Next week is practicum and all of the health trainees will be traveling to other parts of the country to gain experience alongside a volunteer who is stationed at that site. I am headed off to Chinandega and while that means absolutely nothing to you, here it’s a different story. Chinandega, so I’ve heard, is brutally hot and every time I tell someone that I’m going to there, they apologize and laugh at me. Talk about a confidence builder, huh? I wish I could compile gifs of the facial reactions I get when I tell people. It’ll be a nice change of pace to see a new part of the country and I think I’ll come back to Santa Teresa with a very thankful heart for the beautiful breeze we get up here.
Other than that, I’ve been a pretty boring gal the past week… Hopefully I’ll have some better stories to update you on in Chinandega. Pray that I don’t get heat stroke during practicum and that I can make it through the rest of this week as a sane human being. And finally, I’ll just leave you with a video of my role model because this video will never get old for me.
Surgery and a terrible sunburn
I’m not a wimp (usually) when it comes to medical stuff. However, it's apparently different when it comes to animals. This past week, Chingo, my Tía and Tío’s dog, got straight up hit in the arm with a machete. Some crazy person a couple streets away decided to take out some aggression on the poor little guy… I mean, this dog only has 4 teeth and probably weighs about 30 pounds… he is harmless. By no means is animal cruelty necessarily accepted down here but there is a different mindset about animals than back home. Luckily, my cousin has training as a veterinarian (who would have known… a guy who drives a moto taxi by day and is a DJ by night). I wish I could say that the whole thing went smoothly but this little 4-toothed cutie fought HARD against that anesthesia. I have to give him props, that little guy had some serious strength despite his droopy-eyed-tongue-hangin’-out-of-his-mouth complexion. When we finally got him up on the table, it took 5 of us to hold him down while my cousin stitched him up. My cousin’s girlfriend is currently studying to be a nurse and she nearly passed out from all the commotion! It made me feel a little better that I wasn’t the only one about to faint. Good news though, Chingo is running around on three legs and in much better spirits (don't worry he still has the other leg).
Okay I need to get this off my chest. During holy week, there were a whole slew of masses held at church. On Thursday night, I attended the longest mass of my life (but that’s beside the point). So you know the individual kneeling benches that fold down behind the chairs in Catholic Churches? Got it? Alright, you got it, so a little kid a couple of rows ahead of me knocked one down during mass on Thursday. It wasn’t even that loud but the entire church jumped like 7,000 feet in the air. Absolutely scared the crap out of them. I sat in pure shock. WHAT ABOUT THE BOMBS THEY SET OFF OVER THE WEEKEND? THE ONES RIGHT NEXT TO THE CHURCH EXPLODING DURING SERVICE THAT LITERALLY SHATTERED MY EAR DRUMS AND GAVE ME HEART PALPITATION?! HOW DID Y’ALL JUST SIT THERE LIKE NOTHING’S HAPPENING BUT WHEN A KNEELING BENCH FALLS. A. KNEELING. BENCH. IT’S THE MOST STARTLING THING YOU’VE EVER EXPERIENCED?! Boggled, absolutely boggled.
And in latest news, yesterday the whole family packed up and went down to San Jorge beach in Rivas. We left around 7:00 am to head down there. There was a little traffic but we arrived within an hour and a half or so. I could not believe how many people were already there… I was never good at those “guessing how many jelly beans are in the vase” games so I cannot even make a rough estimate but it was ridiculous. Also, it was crazy to me how much easy business was going on there. We paid someone to set up some sticks with a tapestry tied to it so that we could have some shade on the shore. Well until yesterday, I thought Nicas were crazy for how much they don’t like the sun. But what I didn’t see is that it’s because they understand how powerful it is. Oh my days I totally understand that power now… I am absolutely FRIED, head to toe, but it definitely helped move along my Chaco tan. So thankful that I brought a big thing of Aloe Vera with me. Moral of the story, I will happily pay for someone to tie some tapestries on sticks for the rest of my time here.
Happy Easter sweet friends and family! Such a great reminder today of the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made for us so that we may experience God in all His glory. Hoping today that each of you will feel that beautiful and perfect love wherever you are. I’m so thankful for each and every one of you, besos from Nica!
Shoot, it has been busy down here! We finally began our training projects this past week and so far, so good! One of our assignments was to form a youth group with the goal of creating young health promoters in the community. We meet with them twice a week for about an hour and thus far the attendance has only been increasing! [knock on wood] Next week we will start getting into the real stuff. But like most teens, they’re still pretty awkward around us and have a lot of pena (shame/shyness) in speaking about tough or uncomfortable stuff. Cross all your fingers and toes that it’ll all go alright! Below is a picture from our last meeting on Thursday. We did an activity with them called “Community Mapping” where they split up into groups of girls and boys and drew maps of their communities from their perspectives. It was super interesting to see the differences between the two groups to get an idea of how they view their community. It was also pretty great to see the amount of detail that went into the girls’ map while the boys just drew a bunch of floating buildings. (Not being a hater)
On Saturday the town threw a massive 500th Birthday party for Santa Teresa (the saint who our town is named after). This celebration should have been aired on MTV… First of all, Nica’s love to set of bombas (literal bombs) starting at 4:00am whenever there is a big celebration. So, the day began with a marching band through the town and bombs at 4:00am. I woke up in sheer panic and honestly thought there was a man throwing grenades into my house, trying to come in and kill me. It made it even worse that no one was waking up in my house! All of the PCV’s in my town were texting each other making sure everyone was safe haha. My family thought it was hilarious when I told them because it doesn’t even phase them anymore. Oh, and the bombs didn’t stop there… They actually didn’t stop for about 24 hours! I facetimed with a couple friends from home who got to experience the ruckus first hand. There was a slew of processions throughout the day and a couple of masses to celebrate. Oh! And I can’t forget the cakes that fed the entire community. I kid you not, each was as big as a full sized dining room table. I unfortunately did not snap any photos of them so you’ll have to take my word for it!
Sunday was the most adventure I’ve had here so far. My Tía, primos, and my PCV primo Jay went to Granada! Jeepers crow, talk about one of the most beautiful places my eyes have ever seen! My Tía cooked a delicious lunch and we ate picnic-style on our own personal boat as we toured the little islands in Lake Nicaragua. One of the Islands had monkeys on it so OBVIOUSLY we came prepared with some bananas to feed them. After the boat, we went downtown, danced a little in the center and walked around to look at the beautiful colonial architecture that has been so beautifully preserved. Breathe. Taking. Wow. All I’m saying is, Granada made me excited to continue exploring this country.
For the week ahead, there’s a whole lot of planning to do. We have a couple days off for Semana Santa but I’m sure they will be jam packed with preparation. We need to plan health charlas (chats or lecturettes) for the health center as well as one for our youth group. These are nerve wrecking because teaching health topics in English is difficult, never mind in Spanish… Last week we interviewed some community leaders on health problems that exist in the community. From that data, we need to select a focus group and a health topic to start conducting surveys. It’s fun now that stuff is actually happening but it’s also stressful in looking at the weeks ahead. For those of you who know me, I am definitely straying from my “plan oriented, always looking ahead” self because it’s pretty impossible to do that here. But, such an outlook has calmed my stress un poquito and mentally it’s a wonderful thing.
However, let me be very honest and tell you that tough days are TOUGH down here. Please be praying for my endurance and strength through the rest of training. Semana Santa (Holy Week) has been beautiful thus far and I’m so soo excited for the celebrations this weekend. Pray that I look to the Lord always and find my purpose and drive in Him. Oh and do me a favor and buy out all the Cadbury Mini Eggs from all the CVS’s in New England then send them to me (even if by the time they get to me they are mush)… Kthanx, I love you forever.
Becoming A Nicaragüense
So if I’m going to be honest, some days are a little more discouraging than others while trying to learn a new language. I know that my Spanish must be improving but it almost feels like I’m getting worse at speaking. From talking to other aspirantes (pre-volunteers/trainees) it seems pretty unanimous and we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably because we realize the level we want to be at but aren’t there yet. Its exciting to think of where we will be at the end of training but right now I’m inpatient and un poco frustrated! It’s hard to get your point across in conversations when you are trying to translate the verbs with the proper conjugation and tense all at the same time. It’ll get better (I hope).
Since my last post, there have been some pretty sweet events:
Well, what can I say... I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS COUNTRY! I can't believe that it has only been a week, it feels like I have been gone for months! My host family is so great and my new home is beautiful. I showed up at my family's home on Saturday and served me 6 plates of food. SEIS PLATOS DE COMIDA! ENSERIO! I told my family that I feel like a queen whenever I sit down to eat.
Well, what can I say... I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS COUNTRY! I can't believe that it has only been a week. I'm pretty sure it feels like I have been gone for months! My host family is so great. I showed up at my family's home on Saturday and served me 6 plates of food. SEIS PLATOS DE COMIDA! ENSERIO! I told my family that I feel like a queen whenever I sit down to eat. (one plate is missing in the picture above haha)
I have a sister who is a little older than I am and she's a sweetheart! I feel so silly sometimes though because my spanish isn't really up to a place where I can share a whole ton with her just yet. But last night we hung out, painted our nails, talked about boys, and swooned over Enrique Iglesias so I'd say it was a pretty successful hang out sesh. Interestingly, I feel like my english is getting worse. Its as if I need to flip my brain around every time we meet up with our whole group for training sessions to communicate with my fellow volunteers. I always tell my host family that I can't wait for the day when I can communicate with them and not need them to correct me. It's definitely been challenging to get my point across at times but their patience is incredible. I'm hoping by the 3rd or 4th week here that I am in a much better place (well... I have spanish classes 6 hours every week day so the odds are ever in my favor) . Other than language, it's been muuuy tranquillo (suuuper chill). Sleeping with my mosquito net, taking showers with a bowl, and waking up with the roosters at the crack of dawn have become easy peasy. I'm hoping to go on some kind of adventure this weekend and explore the area around my community. If such is the case, I promise to make my next post a lot more interesting!
Something I really miss today: cheese... cheese on cheese on cheese...
El Departamento de Carazo
I don't think I can quite describe all of the emotions that are running through my mind right now. Today I'm finally heading off to my host community where I'll be spending the next 3 months training before getting permanently posted for the following 2 years (well.. If PC decides to hire me after training). These past few days in Managua have been absolutely JAM PACKED with meetings and I'm looking forward to being able to settle somewhere and truly start to immerse within the culture of Nicaragua. The initial nerves definitely come in with thoughts of not being able to communicate efficiently but I'm sure the 6 hour per day language classes will help with that. I'm also looking forward to being able to have some space in my day to be able to "escape". Today I was able to get a second to walk around and I stumbled upon this beautiful little chapel. It gave such a sense of peace and hope for this big day. Carazo, I'm excited for you to be my new home.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
Staging in Miami
Staging in Miami was basically a pre training to our pre training service in Nica and it was quite a long day of flip pad lessons and group activities. We were able to discuss a lot about expectations for departure and it gave great time to get to know the people that I’ll be working with for the next 27 months. I have to say, I don’t know what the other groups have been like, but the Nica65 (we are the 65th group to enter Nicaragua and it is what we are referred to as by Peace Corps) family is incredible and I feel super lucky to be a part of such a great team of individuals. We are a combined group of about 40 people working in the health and small business sectors. After the meetings finished, a group of us went and got some pretty fancy shmancy dinner together. I don’t know about you but sometimes I just have to have a big steak and mashed potatoes and last night was one of those nights. Luckily, the group followed along with the idea and we ate like royalty at a steak house a block away from the hotel. I think what made the meal even better was that Peace Corps paid for it (well more like… thank you for paying your taxes so that my friends and I could eat 12 oz. steaks and be merry together).
Hola, I'm Justine