Wilbur, Wilson and I.
Boy it’s been hot lately and that means that the warmer/wetter season is on the way. Things continue to change here as Ryan and I have a new schedule due to a new class he is teaching, as I my roles here continue to mold and as I find myself wondering what I will do when I get back to the US. I have realized that lately my entries have lacked details about some of the kids here at NPH. I hope to remedy that now.
Wilbur and Wilson
Wilbur and Wilson are brothers and are 17 and 15 years old respectively. They are extremely close and say openly that when one of them is not around they feel very alone. Their story is a unique one as Wilbur, the elder, left his family at the age of 8 to work in the fields due to the quick remarriage of his father to a woman he did not respect after his mother’s young death. Wilson was left at home. Once the powers that be in Nicaragua figured out that Wilson at the age of 12 should go back to school he refused to go back home and ended up at NPH. NPH then discovered that his brother, Wilson, was also not happy at home and Wilson chose to live here too. So, at NPH the brothers have lived since. Unfortunately, though, Wilson lives here on the Island, and Wilbur lives on the new property in Jinotepe on the mainland. Thus once a month a day is arranged for them to hang out together. For a little “adult” supervision, Ryan and I as volunteers were pegged to accompany them to the beach. We spent the morning riding bikes, getting to the beach, playing soccer, learning card tricks, and drinking soda. They are wonderful kids and I will truly say it is by the grace of God they are seemingly emotionally stable and socially normal due to their story. They have dreams and they talk about everything any teenage boy does: sports, girls, cell phones etc. They are not bitter young men, but ready to take on the world and expect more from it than the hand they were dealt.
Angel and Bryan
As the Resource Room Teacher at the NPH School I have played a lot of number and letter bingo so I have those down, but I have also found myself needing to review my multiplication tables and figure out how to explain syllables in Spanish, but no school could have prepared me for Angel and Bryan. Angel and Bryan are two very special boys who I have begun to teach in individual math instruction for 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Carmen, the other Resource Room Teacher, teaches them Spanish. I start with Bryan at 7 a.m., she with Angel and then we switch at 8:30 a.m. to then we are to be done by recess at 10 a.m. Both boys have proved that they are too much of a disruption in a regular class to the other students, so the school psychologist and administrators have come up with this new plan for them. Carmen and I are told the topics and we try to come up with creative ways to reinforce them. So far, they seem to be responding, but it is a day-by-day, minute-by-minute marathon. Only time will truly tell if it works.
Bryan Jimenez is 13 years old and in the first grade. He is a sturdy, awkward kid who has a tough presence, but when he gives you a hug he reminds you of a big friendly bear. He is developmentally challenged and will probably not supersede a third grade level of understanding in math or language. He can be sweet and mild and often asks me what my favorite food is. He says his favorite thing to do is eat so we have that in common. J His huggable character though can change without warning and I feel I am constantly negotiating with a rabid Winnie-the-Pooh to give up his honey by asking him what number comes before 50.
Angel Ponce is 12 years old and in the 4th grade. He is fully mentally capable of being anything he chooses, but suffers from serious behavioral problems and refuses to believe school can be anything but a colossal waste of time. He is known to be abusive to the younger kids and disrespectful to adults. He lives with the older boys at the house in order to prevent him from roughing up the kids smaller than him. I have learned to not approach him socially as he is very influenced by his peers and will always call me ugly and to shut up. He is really just a little ray of sunshine. We have been working on addition, subtraction, number placement, word problems all with numbers 1,000-1,000,000. I had no idea that I would learn so much vocabulary from math word problems upon arriving here. I am constantly trying to come up with ways to trick him into doing anything math related. Sports has helped, but why has someone not developed a sport where you can score 300,000 points?
I wonder how/what/why I find myself making up math games for these two. Everyday there is a small glimmer that something clicked like when they ask to play a certain game rather than me coaxing them with candy. It is a test of my patience, and they are not always learning math, but they are one of the few 150+ kids that get one on one adult attention for more than 5 minutes a day. I hope it does something. If I can be that attention, so be it. That is why I signed up for this gig. I credit my brothers, who I am very proud of, Brian and Greg, as I continue to meet with Bryan and Angel daily. Growing up I was lovingly, constantly reminded of how I should shut my mouth, how I was fat and unappealing, and how I was the source of all pain and suffering. Well, apparently the years of training built up to an immunity that has come full circle today. God works in mysterious ways.
Nuevo horario (new schedule)
Upon arrival the normal schedule for all the volunteers was to work for 10 days and have 4 days off. This worked to have every other weekend be a four-day freebee to travel and get away. At first, this seemed like paradise, but upon living here now for going on 3 months, a break is not only a perk, it is a necessity. Well, due to a new English class Ryan has begun teaching, we now have every Saturday and Sunday off as opposed to every other weekend with 4. This past weekend was the first one with the new routine and we spent the two days on the island exploring Santo Domingo beach and I finished a good book. On Saturday, we had lunch with Tio Julio (the caretaker of my section of boys) and his mother, near Santo Domingo. Chatting and learning how the island looked before the road was put in was awesome as we sat on the front porch and watched several herds of cows go by to drink water from the lake. It is the first time I felt like I was not being pushed back on to the NPH property, because I have next weekend to look forward to! Next weekend we have been invited to Juan Pablo’s , a Tio that works here at NPH, house for beer and empanadas to meet his wife and baby in Managua. While there, I hope to visit the Oriental Market in Managua, the largest market in Central America.
As I discover myself looking forward to the days I realize that I am getting used to life here. I still find things to throw my hands up and say whatever at, but the good with the bad have become more normal. One change that has come to be is that the role of Activities Coordinator. Many of the Tios had a system in place and it does work. Every Wednesday morning they gather and schedule the weekend. Well, now with the new program with Bryan and Angel I am teaching them during the meetings, so I cannot attend. They often come to the volunteers for help with ideas, and for this I have been willing and useful, but not really in realizing them. So after some time here I have stepped back from wondering how I can organize things in an ambiguous schedule of weekend events and said I am willing to help when you need me. The reality is unless someone is here every weekend, which a volunteer can’t do anyway, there cannot be one activities coordinator. I am more than okay with this as I have realized that being a Resource Room teacher is taking up a lot of time with planning and being at the school from 7-4 everyday. In my opinion, too, it is where more support is needed.
I apologize for the lack of photos. More from Managua and of the kids to come! Mucho amor.