Thursday, July 21, 2011

Final Days of the Internship

There has been so much happening in these last final weeks that it has been difficult to keep up with the blogging.  All of the new materials in the recreation center have been inventoried and put in their places.  There are lights and electricity, books, games, DVDs, karaoke, and coloring books.  There are chess boards and dominoes, cards, clay, and puzzles.

The director and I spent most of last week incorporating the recreation center into the curriculum schedules. Each class has a designated time when they can go into the recreation room (under the supervision of the teacher) to read and play.

Everyone is really excited about this new space and I am so glad that everything turned out successfully!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Nica" Time

The concept of time is one difference between the United States and Nicaraguan cultures that has made the adjustment to life here just that much more interesting.  If I have learned anything so far, it is patience.  Here is a helpful guide to “la hora Nica” for anyone planning on working here in the future:

Nica Word    Meaning in Nicaragua           Actual Meaning
Entre poco    Soon                                  A week, a month…
Un rato        A while                               Sometime that same day
Un ratito      A little while                        Within the next 8 hours
Ahora           Now                                  Within the next 3 hours
Ahorita         Right now                           30 minutes or so
Ya               Right right now                    10 minutes

Another aspect of Nica-time is that it makes it very difficult to estimate the time needed to do certain things.  To me, setting up a meeting with my supervisor is something that should be relatively easy.  Scenario in my head: I go to her office, ask her what time is best for her, and then show up to her office at that time to chat.  What really happens: I go to her office, the door is locked.  I go to the library next door to ask where the director is, the librarian doesn’t know.  I walk to the next class building and find the assistant director; she doesn’t know where the director is either.  I finally ask for directions to the director’s house, go there, and set up a meeting.

Other things, however, that I estimate will take days, happen before I can realize what is going on.  The fact that the recreation room had zero electricity was a detail that I had been worried about since the beginning.  I thought that it would be an expensive project—but obviously necessary.  I used long extension cords from the other class buildings for the first half of the internship, but then realized last week that something needed to be changed.  I asked the director how to go about getting an outlet installed in the room, and she directed me toward Ernesto, the school’s Mr. Fix-it.  I explained to Ernesto that the recreation room needed electricity and he made a phone call to one of his buddies.  Within 10 minutes, two of Ernesto’s friends arrived with all of the supplies.  The removed the ceiling tiles and did some re-wiring and presto!  Lights!  What I thought would take three days and about 100 dollars took only 3 hours start to finish and 11 dollars!  In Nicaragua, I am amazed every day...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I ate lunch on the mouth of a volcano on Saturday!

Last weekend we went on the FSD mid-term retreat to La Isla de Ometepe, an island made up of two volcanoes in the middle of Lago de Nicaragua.  We woke up at 5am Saturday morning to start the 8 hour adventure.  All four interns (Matthias, Christine, Katie, and I), our FSD supervisor, Whitney, Whitney's two friends from California, Michelle and Mary, two hospital workers from FMRC, Sanghe and Jessica, and four Nicaraguan guides crunched into a small van (ten of us inside the van and three sitting outside on top of the roof)!  The van took us as close to the volcano as it could--the roads were atrocious.  We all got out of the van and started to climb.  

The hike up took about 4 and a half hours at a grueling pace.  The first phase of the hike was jungle, with a bunch of awesome looking insects and a lot of monkeys.  The second phase was steep rocks.  The weight in my backpack made it almost impossible for me to pull myself up the vertical slope.  The third phase of the hike was through a bunch of knee high shrubs.  The slippery mud path that we were following was extremely narrow.  The shrubs on either side of the path were so overgrown that we couldn't see where we were stepping.  It was especially nerve-racking during as the slope became steeper and steeper.  The last phase of the trip was by far the most difficult.  The climb was so steep that I could just reach out my hand and touch the ground in front of me, which was hot, hot gravel.  There was a really strong smell of sulfur that got stronger as we got closer to the mouth.  The amazing view that I had been waiting for was made foggy by all of the smoke and clouds at the peak.  We took our last break about 4 meters from the peak--it was so difficult to see that we had no idea that we were so close.  I was so terrified to be so close to the mouth of the volcano.  There was ash all over the ground so we had to sit on our backpacks to keep from burning ourselves.  Nice place to eat lunch.

After about a half hour at the top of the volcano, we started the decent.  I spent the entire 3 1/2 hours on my but, grabbing on to rocks and plants with my hands to slow myself down.  Two hours in and I couldn't feel my legs anymore--felt like Jello.  We all wiped out a lot on the way down, but nobody got seriously injured, thankfully.  Our guides called me "piernas borrachas," or drunk legs--a joke that lasted the rest of our trip.

What an adventure!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Libros para Niños

Traveling anywhere in this country is an adventure—whether a 20 minute taxi ride or a 4 hour bus ride there are bound to be bumps along the way. Busses are problematic because they don’t have actual “stops,” people usually just wave the bus down wherever they may be. Once you get on the bus, you are really lucky if you get a seat. Most people stand and there are usually a few, more able-bodied boys, hanging off the back of the bus.

Yesterday Zeneida, the librarian from Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, and I traveled to Jinotepe, and the trip was no exception. We were headed there along with another librarian from Las Salinas and Steve, my future boss from FSD, for a meeting with Libros para Niños, a foundation that supports different libraries and schools in order to increase the level of reading among children. Although the trip to Jinotepe is only supposed to be about an hour, it took Zeneida and I a bus ride, a “microbus,” a taxi, and 2 ½ hours to arrive at our destination.

Together with the director from Libros para Niños, Zeneida and I were able to organize a workshop for the teachers, parents, and students in Tola that is scheduled to take place in early July. We are both really excited about the outcome of the meeting and we are excitedly awaiting the capacitación.

Capacitación para el Huerto Escolar

So much has happened in the past week!  Last Thursday, Christine, a fellow FSD volunteer held a workshop in the High School in Tola in order to educate the students and teachers how to create a nursery garden for the school.  Since she knew that the creation of a school garden is one of the goals of my project, Christine invited three teachers from Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and me to attend the workshop.  A man from the National Forestry Association came from Managua to give the presentation and to guide the teachers and students through the planting process.  The presentation explained how to mix the right proportions of sand and dirt in order to allow for proper germination and maximum growth.  Everyone loved the workshop and was happy to learn the new planting techniques. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week 3

It is only Tuesday and it has already been a rough week.  I got robbed on the bus ride back from Masaya on Sunday--at least it was only my phone.  Then, on Monday, I went into the recreation room and someone had broken into it.  The desk was gone and the box of paint was left on the floor.  All of the markers were left without the tops and were all dried out.  Permanent red marker was scribbled on the floor and over all of the paintings that the students worked so hard to complete last week.  I spent the morning trying to paint over the marker.  A few more coats and I think everything will be okay.  Eduardo, the school's maitenance worker helped me fix the lock so that this won't happen again. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Support the Cause! The link to donate is at the bottom of the post!

The Municipality of Tola has an estimated population of 23,008 and is located on Nicaragua’s western coast. 20% of the population is illiterate and only 13.1% of students finish high school. Regular school attendance for primary and secondary school is just over 46%. With 70% of the population under the age of 30, the majority of the community is comprised by children and young parents.

The Centro Escolar Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is a primary school for children ages 3-12 in Tola. There are over 500 students and 21 teachers who are split between separate morning and afternoon sessions. Since there are two class sessions, students are in the classroom for a maximum of four hours each day. After classes, there are few places where the younger students can do their homework and spend their free time. There is a park in the center of town, but it is mostly for the older high school students.

After a meeting with the director of the school, we decided that the creation of a recreation center would be the best way to offer additional support and resources to the students, parents, and teachers. We held a meeting with all of the school teachers decided that a recreation center would be the most sustainable and effective way to increase the sense of community between the students, teachers, and parents. The recreation center will also function as an important resource for the teachers, who will have access to all of the materials within the recreation center. The center will provide students with a fun and interactive place where they can do homework and play with purpose outside their homes.

The recreation center will be built through collaboration between students, parents, teachers, the school’s administration, and support from FSD. The school is providing the physical space for the center and the land for the garden.

Donations to support this project will be used to cover the expenses of the materials needed to build the recreation center. All future maintenance will be funded through the selling of the produce from the “huerto escolar,” a school garden that will be included in the recreation center work plans.

If you are interested in supporting the recreation center, copy and paste this link into a new window!  Any and all donations will help! Thank you!!!