Inside my room!
A better view. :)
The path I walk to the volunteer house from the kids' house.
My section of boys from top left to right: Oscar Medina 14, Julio Obregon (the Tio) 24, Henry Jimenez 14, Carlos Ponce 14, Alvaro 15, sitting down, Oscar Condry 14, and Heymi Lopez 13.
Another show of the visit.
The first days of school were always the best. New notebooks, new clothes, new backpack, new students, teachers etc. were always the highlight. Here at NPH was no exception as the week began with a new school year, many meetings, and a low-key weekend.
The school day begins at 7 a.m. the children have classes until 1 p.m. Lunch directly follows and then study time is from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. The kids have “free time” which consists of washing their uniform and doing their chores from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. At 6 p.m. it’s dinnertime and after dinner the kids iron their uniform for the next day and are in bed by 8 p.m. It is quite the routine! Although, this week was more low key with the homework I think the kids were definitely jolted back into the swing of things. In general, everyone seems to be comfortable at school and the routine is a welcome change for all, including the volunteers. As one of the two resource room teachers, I have been assigned my own room to work one on one with students. Many of the kids come to NPH at different education levels for their age. My task is to get the ones who either have come in a bit behind or fallen behind up to speed. I frustratingly still have not been assigned students because the other resource teacher has been on vacation until today. Tomorrow, I will hopefully get my list of students. The past week I set up my little room and tried to make it look like less of an interrogation room and more of a learning space. I knew my art skills would come in handy! Rumor has it that I will be working with the primary grades and this is a good thing because my math skills are definitely a concern. I am very much looking forward to welcoming the kids into my newly spiffed up room.
With the first week of school came many meetings of different groups. Meetings here are called reuniones and can last for as short as 10 minutes or be as long as 5 hours in the case of one I attended this week. The problem with meetings here is that you have no idea when they actually start and if you are in it for the long haul or not. All the volunteers, the director, and all the Tios (caretakers) had a meeting to discuss certain issues and set some standards. I thought it was a great idea until I realized that when someone starts talking about an issue they beat it to death. We discussed everything in great detail from how the boys need to do a better job showering every day to how the best way to work out the shortage of spoons to eat. It was a good meeting to have, but I had no idea people felt so strongly about which soap was best to wash the school uniforms.
Everyone is required to go to mass here once a week, usually Saturdays at 4 p.m. Because it is the most formal event of the week the boys get all handsome with closed toed shoes, ironed jeans, and a tucked in shirt. Their hair is always perfectly gelled in porcupine fashion as well. The girls on the other hand have a much different concept of Sunday best than Midwesterners like myself are used to. Tight, bedazzled jeans, with a brightly colored painted-on shirt seem to the requirements to make the sign of the cross properly. Although, just a difference in taste and what is considered attractive, it can be a rather funny event to look around and realize I look like a nun in my plain black dress, my sandals, and gold hoop earrings.
When I first arrived I was rooming with Verena, a lovely woman from Germany, who unfortunately decided to leave NPH for personal reasons. It should be obvious that NPH and all its dealings are not for everyone. It was a good decision for her, but it means that I am getting a new roommate and her name is Carmen. Carmen is a 20 something Nicaraguan lady who seems very nice and is the other resource room teacher who has been on vacation. I am looking forward to working, living, and talking with a native speaker!
The front porch sounds like U.N. Conference
Almost every night all the volunteers gather on the front porch (where the best internet connection exits) before they go to bed with their computers to either check their email or chat. Sometimes it is very fun to catch up and get updated with what everyone is doing. Other times it sounds like a break from talking about the world’s economic development in Geneva. Ryan and I are speaking English, and the others are speaking a potporrui of Dutch, German, German dialect (because one of the Austrian girls speaks with her family via Skype), and Spanish. It is very funny because in order for everyone to understand one another at once they have to speak Spanish or slowly speak English.
Visiting the Sick
One of the Tios, Randal, is in charge of religious growth of the kids. With this, every week he plans an excursion of sorts to take a group on. Some have gone to a special mass in the larger town here, some have helped clean the church, and today I accompanied a group to visit the sick who cannot make regular mass. About 10 kids, Randal and myself visited 3 people in the nearest town. We sang (well the kids sang in Spanish), prayed, and Randal shared a message. It was an eye opening experience to see how people where living here on the Island outside of NPH. The make shift living spaces that people are comfortable in are truly amazing. The kids seemed to enjoy it too and some who in my presence have not shown much maturity were very respectful. It left me feeling very thankful for my healthy body and the comfortable volunteer house.
It is strange to think I have been here enough time to consider the coming week “just another week.” Taking things day by day have been challenging, but it has been the best way to approach some of the uncertainties. I wake up many days here not knowing what will happen, for example, I did not know today I would be meeting 3 homebound women. I am constantly learning more Spanish, more about myself and why the heck I’m here. I am not sure I can define much yet, but the picture is less blurry than it was a month ago.