Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wedding, Anniversary, and visiting home soon!

The happy couple!

Inside the church.

View from the aisle.

The bride's sister and son.


Jumping on pinatas!

The bride takes a swing!

The couple dancing.

The reception hall of the ranchon.

Oscar, Jeffery and I.

Leaving the the church.

Throwing the bouquet!


The past 2 weeks have been some of the most eventful weeks here at NPH. A wedding, the 16th Anniversary of NPH, and the regular schedule. It has gone by fast and in just over a week I will be visiting home. Time continues to frighten and fascinate me.

Juan Pablo and Aura’s Wedding

As mentioned in my previous entry Juan Pablo, a Tio (caretaker), here at NPH and his wife were wed two weeks ago at the chapel here on the NPH property. All the kids were able to attend and many of the kids were part of the wedding party. It was a true gift to witness the couple’s ceremony. Aura grew up here on the Island at NPH and seeing her life sort of come full circle by ways of NPH was very cool. After the ceremony there were 6 piñatas, lots of candy fights, and dancing until 10 at night. It was awesome to see the kids all be apart of the special day too. Not many of them have seen such a celebration of such a respectable pair. It was beautiful, but also very Nicaraguan in the planning. Earlier that day we ran some errands into Moyogalpa (the hub of the Island) and asked Aura if there was anything last minute she needed from town. She happily responded and gave us the responsibility of finding the wedding music that would be played as she walked down the aisle and for her and Juan Pablo’s first dance. Yikes! The gringos in charge of wedding music at the eleventh hour! We found the requested music at the makeshift CD/DVD stand on the street corner and got it back safely and successfully. Phew! It was good to have a hand in the celebration and see a family in the making.


Now I know in my previous entries including the paragraph above I have not been keen on the way some things are planned here. It works out just fine in the end, but I can say that most of the time I would do things differently if I were in charge (which by the way I am very glad I am not). HOWEVER, the 16th Anniversary of NPH Nicaragua was a logistical miracle and a ton of fun. About a month ago there was a grand meeting with all the volunteers and Tios about the grand day. It even got a little annoying at times because it seemed that that was all anyone cared about, but nothing here has been so meticulously coordinated and planned. It was basically a fun long day best described as the NPH Olympics. There were 16 teams; they each had a name, flag, song, t-shirt, presentation, and lots of enthusiasm. All competed against one another for the most points to be able to go to Managua and see a movie and go out to eat. All the volunteers were assigned a game to coordinate and also be the judge. My game was the Telaraña (Spider web) where 2 teams had to take apart and remake a spider web made in the shortest time possible. The day started off with Mass, of course, games followed, lunch, more games, the election of the NPH queen, dinner, cake, and fiesta until midnight! Also fun, I was able to judge the queen election and the youngest, Katerine, won because she was clearly the most confident. All the kids were totally into the day and very tuckered at the end along with the volunteers. The best part was seeing the kids forget about a lot of the stuff that bothered them: other kids, adults, school, chores, grades, teachers, family and just have a good time.

The night before when all the teams assembled.

Watching the presentations.

Night view.

Cute photo of Juan Pablo's son Pablo Issac with Uriel and Eduardo.


My game set-up of Telerana.

Queen presentations.

Volunteers from right: Tinka, Antonia, Me, Nadine and Victor (an NPH kid)

Dinner that night.

The finalists! Katerine, Escarlett, and Melida.

All the teams ready.

Going for gold.


Feeling tired.


Winter rain

The long talked about rain has finally arrived and I love it in the middle of the day when a big storm rolls in and cools everything off. Things are getting greener too and it is a nice change from the dust. I am glad my family will be visiting when it is more lush and fresh. The changing seasons also unfortunately has brought on a lot of colds, headaches, and overall strange corporal feelings. It’s beginning to be “winter” here and I had no idea that people adjusted to the seasons just as they do in the Midwest. When winter rolls around everybody is worried about catching a cold and people start getting moody, same thing happens in a tropical climate.

Malcriados , Milagros y Mangos

This past week I finally figured out that I could look up past records of some of my students and look at the notes from other “teachers” from past Aula de Recursos tutors/volunteers. It might sound a little funny, but I was under the impression that such files were only available to the occupational and physical therapists. Anyway, I was able to find out a little more about some of the kids here at NPH. It was a very interesting experience to read notes from the social worker and know more about the backgrounds of the children and now that I know more I am not sure if ignorance is bliss or knowledge is power.

Regrettably, I forget at times that these kids do not have families that can take care of them. The majority come from families of extreme poverty paired with drug abuse, violence in the home, abandonment, illiterate parents – overall terrible situations. All the kids know it too. They know that some people have parents that don’t leave, hurt them, that can feed them and give them all the attention they deserve. In Spanish, there is a term to distinguish these kids from others - malcriados (badly created, or better said, dammed). The kids here will openly admit to being malcriado/a and almost use it as a way to band together. Up until reading some of their histories do I truly understand why they feel that they are distinguishable by such a term. They have only received that message. Here at NPH, too, they are constantly reminded that they are one of many, and special, but that all together they sort of represent the brokenness that exits in the world.

Many frustrations exist here at NPH for me personally, and sometimes I don’t understand the decisions that are made, but this organization works. NPH is not for every child or every situation, but those who have grown up here and gone through all the ups and downs of adolescence seem to be functional citizens who truly just want to raise families without the past of theirs haunting them. The majority of the older kids of 16-18 years old who are in their “Service Year” doing dishes, helping with the smaller ones and doing all the annoying chores are respectful, goal-driven and recognize NPH as their saving grace. In reflection, it has so far been a milagro (miracle) to see and be a part of.

So with the changing rain not only comes more foliage, but mangos. The mangos here are wonderful and sweet now and we have a joke that mangos actually control our world more than we do. Mango trees are all over the property here. The kids are constantly figuring out ways to collect as many as they can and trade them for things like marbles, pens, etc. I have not gone an unsleeping hour without seeing a kid with a stone/stick in his hand pointed at a mango tree. Somebody always seems to be in trouble because they left school to look for mangos, so and so took so and so’s mango without permission, they climbed the tree to high and fell, or left to many seeds as evidence and didn’t clean up. When kids come to work with me their hands are always sticky and if you tell a kid to draw a tree that isn’t a palm tree, you will get something that looks like an apple tree, but those apples are yellow/reddish mangos. I have grown very fond of them myself and it really is a unique experience to eat a just ripe mango from a tree.

Back in Illinois in a week!

By this time next week I will be packed and ready to get on the plane to visit home. I am VERY excited to see my parents, my grandmother, and see my brother receive an awesome honor. I can’t wait to give friends a hug and eat my parent’s food. I already know it will go by WAY to fast. What will be notable upon return is how perspectives of life at home and life here change and don’t change. At least it will be an excuse for another blog entry!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Markets and more

The past two weeks or so have been a continuum of heat waves, thunderstorms, market visits and classes. My apologies for the frequency of entries as the internet continues to come and go as it pleases. Everyday is different here, but predictably the same and as I am approaching my fourth month here many frustrations and exciting moments have arisen. Sorry about the pictures being a bit out of order! I uploaded them in an internet café and their copy-paste functions are not working on the keyboard. Bummer.

Operation Dictionaries

Two weeks ago Ryan and I ventured to Managua’s Oriental Market to buy 35 Spanish/English dictionaries for the students here. Previously the only available dictionary was a monstrous Webster from 1985 that couldn’t leave the library. Ryan was able to solicit some money from the NPH honchos and we were off with over $250 in hand.

The Oriental Market is the largest in Central America and you can find anything besides a car dealership there. I mean anything: vegetables, video games, wedding dresses, large appliances, sporting equipment, rice, jewelry, fabric etc. It is about 40 football fields big and without someone knowing where they are going it is an outdoor maze of narrow passageways, tin scraps, and iron gates. Predictably, too, it is not the safest place for two white-skinned Americans. Any Nicaraguan will tell you to be careful. Thankfully, we had Juan Pablo, a Tio at NPH, and his wife Aura with us to help us navigate and negotiate a good price. I knew that the rumors of the Market were true when Aura told me to take off my rings, my earrings, and my necklace and to put my backpack facing forward. So into battle we went.

The plan of attack was that Aura (the ultimate price negotiator) was the leader of the pack, I followed behind her, Ryan after me, and Juan Pablo watched all three of us to make sure we didn’t run into any trouble. We moved fast through the poorly made stands as she asked where the “book” section was. Looking determined was the key. To make the experience even more memorable in the middle of our search the first heavy rainfall of winter came upon us. Water fell from everywhere and there were little rivers in between each section. We eventually found what we were looking for and a price of 4 dollars a price was agreed upon. It was a crazy day and we were exhausted. We also enjoyed a lovely lunch with our helpful pair. That sane day we headed to San Juan del Sur, a much more tranquil and gringo-friendly, town were we spent the rest of our break.

My students

I have realized I need to start sharing more about my students that I spent time with everyday. Everyone is wonderfully different with a myriad of needs. Some love to come spend time one on one with an adult and will do anything for the little hard candy I will give them at the end. Others hate encountering difficulty and will leave the second that they guess the wrong answer on a flash card. I spend about 40ish minutes once a week with each one. That varies much, however, as the schedule changes here everyday. We play games, do exercises and talk about how important school is. I am not sure sometimes that working with the students does much, but they rarely get individual attention from an adult, so here I am. In my previous entry I mentioned the two students Bryan and Angel with whom I have been working. Angel has moved back into a regular class, but I still spend time with Bryan. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures.
Granada, Masaya, Volcano…oh my!

Last weekend we took our break in the cities of Granada and Masaya. The market in Granada is great to walk around in and more tourist-friendly. Granada I believe is the only safe place to find things of luxury (Managua is just too spread out). We were able to find a wine bar and sit in air conditioning! I took some pictures this time of the market and bought a lovely screen-print from a gallery there too.

Masaya is a lovely middle-class city in between Granada and Managua. Many tourists visit the “old market” that is filled with souvenirs and knick-knacks galore. We stopped by, but didn’t purchase much and preferred to sit in the central park where on Sunday children, families, and old men drinking beer and playing chess were hanging out. It was so nice to see families interact in a “real” Nicaraguan environment. At NPH, we are “all one big family,” and quite frankly live in a bubble. Although infused with Nicaraguan culture, it is not representative of how people really live here.

Near Masaya is the active Volcano Masaya also known as “el boca de infierno” (the mouth of hell) . Last time it really blew off some lava-filled steam was 1772. Never in my life had I thought I would have so much contact with volcanoes! We were able to visit the national park where you can walk up to the lip of the crater and take in a big gulp of sulfurous fumes. It was spectacular to see. We also took a little tour in a lava created cave. There were bats galore and naturally cool air. Indian legend says that in order to keep the volcano at bay they would select a virgin in the cave and then walk up to the edge of the volcano and they would have to jump in! Ay! It was great fun and also one of the most organized tourist attractions we have encountered here in a country that has a lot to offer.

Changing Seasons

Beginning May 1 is the beginning of “winter,” better referred to as the rainy season. Lately, the humidity and the heat here have been unbearable. Being from the Midwest I thought I could handle it, but this is another beast. Last week, I took three showers a day to just have the 5-minute relief from the suffocating air. I really hope the rain that is supposed to be coming makes a difference. The living situation is also made poorer with the increase in heat. Power outages are more frequent, which means no fan for sleeping, mosquitoes are everywhere all the time, and my appetite for the food they serve has taken a severe nosedive. All in all, I guess the honeymoon stage for me and Nicaragua is officially over. Bottom line – living here is not comfortable and sometimes sucks. I don´t been to sound like a princess, but, for example, pretending like it is fun to check for lice in each other’s hair is a big fat lie.

Previously, talking to my parents or friends, would catalyze my homesickness, but now it has taken a materialistic turn. I miss my clothes, good/healthy food, clean room, lack of insects indoors, regular internet, driving a car, clean fingernails…the list, unfortunately, goes on. I have really begun to think about how “spoiled” my life is in the U.S., by U.S. standards it’s pretty normal, but here the idea of to-go coffee and eating raw vegetables is an anomaly. I have grown tired of feeling guilty about how I live in the U.S. compared to the kids here, it is how the cards were dealt and I thank God for my life, feeling guilty is a waste of time. I am proud and thankful for my blessings, to be an American and I am going to stop feeling guilty when I say I can’t wait to go back.

Looking forward

Today Ryan and I are attending a wedding of one of the Tio´s, it is actually the religious ceremony of Juan Pablo and Aura who I mentioned earlier. They have already been married by the court, and today by the priest. Here in Nicaragua a pair must be married by the court and church separately in order for it to be recognized by both important parties. Aura is actually a product of NPH, she grew up on the property we are working at and she met Juan Pablo when she was an adult working on the mainland for NPH and he began as a Tio here. So they decided to get married here on the Island in the church here. Pretty cool. They already have a beautiful son, Pablo, and all the kids are going to be at the wedding too. Everyone is pumped for a fiesta. Look forward to pictures!

Dictionaires brought to you by a grain bag!

More dictionaries!

The only picture we got from the Oriental Market in Managua. Captures it well I think.

Sergio with his glory of hard candy.

Walking up to the viewpoint at the volcano.

Trying not to breathe in at the volcano.

View of the parking lot at Masaya Volcano.

Above...sulfur smoke. Hmmm...

Ready to go into the lava cave at Volcano Masaya.

Outside the souvenier market in Masaya.

From the souvenier market in Masaya.

Above...streets of Granada.
Below...piggie banks at the Market in Granada.

Market in Granada.

Mariposa print from Granada.

Mangos for 5 cents a piece. Yummy!

Flip flops galore!

Food stand in Granada.

Noe doing some homework.

Bryan playing a game to review the difference between a noun, verb, and adjective.

Kenny reviewing numbers 1 to 100.

Juan Ramon loves to smile!

Arancy. Easily distracted, but lovely.

Angie. She always looks so clean compared to the other kids.

Bryan enjoying a hard candy and refusing to smile.