Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Volunteers in San Juan del Sur with random pirate! See below to identify who's who!
Walking in the dark after coming back from San Juan del Sur! My fashion sense has sort of taken a down-spiral...
Cute little Saliche...a raindrop from heaven.
Nothing says fun like a piñata! I was chosen as the token volunteer to take a swing batter! Whoa! By the way...the piñata was Barney...oops!
Volunteer dinner at the house. From left to right (Nadine from Austria, Carmen from Nicaragua, Tini from Austria, Antonia from Switzerland, Tinka from Holland, Verena from Austria, Verena from Germany, yours truly, Monika from Holland, Ryan (the token male and photographer is taking the picture) :)
Whew! What a week/10 days! It is amazing how fast and slow time can go all at once. More of la vida nica began in San Juan del Sur, a beach town in the south of the country, with the rest of the volunteers as we took a short break to get to know one another and relax. It was very nice to get away and see some of the country other than the NPH property. After that a demanding week with the kids followed. I have decided to continue my “categories” to explain things - so, off we go!
San Juan del Sur
It is beautiful there and there seem to be more gringo surfers than Nicaraguans in this town. We were able to find a hostel for $7 a night and eat a couple of hamburgers and drink beer. All in all it was great. The somewhat sleepy fishing town definitely has started to feel the waves of tourism, but not to the exploited degree of many beautiful port towns. The beaches are not very crowed and it was good to spend some time with the other volunteers, although, I have found that my personal bubble is slowly diminishing and or is non-existent. It is hard to find a moment to walk alone on the beach or sit and read. Hopefully, in two weeks with my next break I can get some reading done J
Getting around Nicaragua and finding what people call the bus stop is a constant cat and mouse routine. Although, a transportation system exists it is hardly consistent, safe, reliable, but if you are in the right mindset it can be very comical. For instance, getting to and from the coast via the bus is what can best be described as a clusterX@!?. All buses in Nicaragua are basically hand-me-down school buses that are creatively decorated with catholic imagery and have large graphic names like “Amor de Dios” (God’s love) or “Jesus es Señor” (Jesus is Lord). One has to be careful to not catch the “ordinario” bus that stops for every woman, child, and chicken to pack like sardines on the bus. Ryan and I have smelled more armpits and had people way closer than we ever thought possible.
This past week all the volunteers have spent from dawn until dusk shadowing the main caretakers, the Tios and Tias (Uncles and Aunts), of the kids. We were each assigned a section of kids that we will now eat dinner with everyday. I have been paired with a group of 8 12-15 year old boys with Tio Julio. It has been a very enriching experience to get to know the boys who are still sweet and want hugs, but who want to appear tough around others. They are always active and are very patient with my faults in Spanish. I feel very blessed to be able to spend time with them and mother them. I have learned that the Tios/Tias work very hard and deserve much respect. They are with the kids all the time and are in charge of discipline, chores, and keeping tabs on their every move and word. It has been an exhausting work to constantly be with the kids this week, but very rewarding.
No matter the hour, the heat, the amount of players, the goal posts, the weight of rice of beans in the belly, or the desire of the volunteers, the kids LOVE playing soccer. I have been able to really hone my skills on the field here, which means that I have kicked the ball maybe four times that were followed by a cheer from the crowd. God works in mysterious ways, and I have begun to wonder about his sense of humor as I unsuccessfully attempt to understand why soccer is the most popular sport on the planet. What I find amazing is that all the kids play barefoot and are very tough on the field. I have a couple of welts on my shins that only highlight my gringa background. I will keep you all updated on this very exciting news that now at the age of 24 am I playing a team sport on a regular basis.
School is scheduled to start officially February 2nd, so we have one more week of camp/daycare/wear the kids out so they don’t cause trouble. Tomorrow, I am overseeing my first official “activities” as the coordinator. While the older boys play soccer during the day the younger kids will be making nametags for their doors in the morning and in the afternoon playing fun get-to-know you games! Yay! The other volunteers will be helping me, but I hope it goes well and the kids have fun. It is evident that the kids need to start a new routine and I am looking forward to school starting. I will have more news about my position in the resource room soon.
It may be a surprise to many of you, but over the last couple of days with the news of the earthquakes in Haiti, the lack of personal space, a lack of sleep, and missing good old Rockford, I cried a bit while hearing my parents’ voice over the phone. J As my Dad would say I got a little dehydrated as I thought about how much I am loved and how big and scary the world is sometimes. In the midst of it, though, I am glad to be here and I am looking forward to the coming weeks with school starting and getting to know the kids more and more. Bottom line - I know I am here for a reason, I just hope its just not to pretend to play soccer. Mucho amor.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Upon arrival Ryan and I had no concept of when our work would start, how the routines here are with the kids, etc., so in baptism by fire we have found that during the months of December and January half of the kids are on vacation and with extended family. School does not officially begin until February. As a result, we have been playing soccer, racquet baseball, drawing with chalk, jumping rope, going to the beach, having races, putting on a talent show, and basically anything involving a lot of movement to wear out the kids. The people here don’t seem to be detail people, so little by little I am learning how things work.
La comida (the food)
Two words: Gallo pinto (painted chicken). It is the common red beans and rice dish here that is paired with everything from eggs, hot dogs, chicken feet (not my favorite), plantains, and sour cream. The kids love it, but if eat too much of it I feel as thought there is a lead ball in my stomach for hours. The fruit here is really wonderful and here at NPH they are self-sustained so everything is very fresh. The juices that they serve, however, are a mix between oatmeal, fruit, and vegetables. It is sort of like V8 third world style. Although, I have not had a problems with the food I have found myself craving a beer and pizza after the day.
I have already developed a sincere appreciation of washers and dryers and warm showers. Living here is sort of like glorified camping under a tin roof and mosquito net. Overall, it is comfortable, but definitely not plush. I am going to be an expert at washing clothes by hand and I think I am going to develop immunity to being scared with a thunderstorm.
Los Niños (the kids)
The 60 or so kids that I have met so far are all ages from 5-17 and all have their own stories. As I get better with Spanish I understand more and more that each one has their sweet and a not-so-sweet side. All the kids are very tough and not a lot bothers them except losing a soccer game. They all hold NPH with a high regard and refer to their friends as family. Once 100 more kids get here for school to start things will only be more magnified. I am sure I will have more to say about my one on one experiences with the kids.
La cultura (the culture)
The culture here has a rich political history that seems rather absent here at NPH. Once outside, however, there is political propaganda in many corners and street signs. All Nicaraguans are very proud to be so and are very connected to the landscape here. For example, earlier in the week we drew with sidewalk chalk for what seemed like hours, but almost every child drew the two volcanoes that are on the island, a sun, and tropical like trees. I remember when I was younger, and even now, drew pictorial houses with fences and sunshine. I am sure such comparisons will continue to be interesting. All the volunteers also had the privilege of “surprising” the kids the night we had a talent show with a Nicaraguan folklore dance that one of the older boys taught us. Everyone was thrilled to see us all dressed up participating. I defiantly thought about how no 10 year old in the U.S. would be so excited to see a Nicaraguan do square dance. J
El concepto de tiempo (the concept of time)
Simply said, the concept of time does not exist here like it does at home. Dinner time is from 6 – 6:30 p.m. and will sometimes start at 6 sometimes at 6:45, you never really know. Also, we were instructed to be ready for Mass at 8:30 a.m. to get on the bus to the nearest town on Sunday, little did we know that we would actually get on the bus at 9:15, that the 10 a.m. Mass would begin at 10:30, and we would be back to NPH at 1 p.m. Everybody else seemed to know though. Oh well, la vida Nica.