Saturday, July 17, 2010

Before, during and after "Spring Break"

Back to class was the order of business this week. All the kids were not very excited to get back to class, but it was best after a week of vacation and game playing. To celebrate the end of vacation everyone went to Santo Domingo, a beach here on the Island, and it was a great time. I have begun to plan ending activities and soaking up being around kids who continue to surprise and amaze me.

Eating together

Have you ever noticed how a watermelon seed is not always black? Sometimes it has an amber shine to it and I feel like it could be the center of a great piece of jewelry. I have begun to notice things, of course now that I have decided to leave in a month, that I haven’t really appreciated or taken account of before. For instance, during vacation, instead of the boys and girls eating in their respective dining rooms, we all ate in the “ranchon,” sort of the gym/assembly hall of NPH. The other night I looked around and really noticed how many kids and people are miraculously fed at every meal. The thermoses that they use to serve the food never seem to be full enough for over 160 people, but there are always seconds.

My section: Grandes I

Each volunteer is assigned a group of kids to sort help out with and eat with. I haven’t shared much about the boys in my section, called Grandes I, and now that I know them much better than before I thought I would share a little light on each of them. I included their picture too to make it all come together.

Oscar and Marlon showing off their lockers.

Henri Jimenez

Henri is a loveable troublemaker. Not uncommon for a 15 year old he loves giving the teachers trouble and is known for breaking things in the section, i.e. windows, mirrors, light bulbs, beds, but not out of malice, but throwing things and being dumb. He is an honest kid, and smarter than people give him credit for. He has a very gentle spirit with animals to the point of being a bit strange. He always has one of the stray dogs following him around and is always taking care of some sort of wounded creature. He can eat a lot too and has an extra Tupperware at every meal to store away food for later.

Alvaro Sequiere

He’s 15 and very sweet. Because he is just over 4 feet, everyone calls him Alvarito “little Alvaro” and he loves movies, the color or neon green, and gets really angry when he isn’t allowed to get seconds at meals. He likes to do his homework in my classroom and always seems to know what is going on i.e. what time an activity is, who’s birthday it is etc. It is very funny to ask him things in English and make him say words, he has a giggle fit every time and can’t control himself. I really appreciate his quiet nature and the way he can be a little kid. The other day he called me over to have me look at how beautiful the sky was and had the biggest smile on his face. He is a very special person.

Oscar Medina

When my brothers came to visit they considered him the best soccer player they came across at NPH. At 15 he is one of the best students in his class and most considerate and polite of the kids in my section. More notable, he bashfully told me recently that three years ago he couldn’t read until he came to NPH. He likes to draw and his locker is the neatest and most organized by far. Oscar is another heartbreaker of the group as the girls always try to flirt with him and he doesn’t know quite how to react sometimes. It is funny to watch. His quiet confidence is impressive for his age, and the fact that he always saves me a seat in the dining room makes him very likeable.

Carlos Ponce

14-year-old Carlos is best described as the group jock. He main concerns daily revolve around games/soccer and food. He is a pretty simple kid, but don’t make him mad and has a temper I fear. He loves to make inappropriate jokes and laugh his head off. He likes to call me Megatrons after the Transformers movie. He has 3 brothers that live at NPH and all are very similar, but they are very proud of each other and it is really cool to see them all hang out together once in a while.

Marlon Hernandez

Marlon is a salesman, negotiator, and has some issues with attention. The 14 year old is constantly figuring out how to get seconds, how to watch 2 movies instead of one, how to get out of chores, but all the while manages to be thoughtful and mindful of those around him. He always asks me how I am and if he gets a hold of a treat he always shares with others. Although, constantly being told to calm down, Marlon when he talks to you makes you feel very important. His questions about the United States and his understandings of how the world works always make me laugh. For example, he doesn’t quite get the concept of states, how Minnesota is separate and a bit of a drive from Illinois, but he just assumes that is where we are from and asks us how our families in Minnesota are. It’s the thought that counts with Marlon.

Heymi Lopez

Heymi, pronounced Amy, is a little kid trapped in a growing body of a teenager. He turns 14 on Sunday and next to Alvaro is the shortest and skinniest. He acts tough most of the time, but all of a sudden he will surprise you with a big hug and bury his face in your stomach. He loves to ask me what things mean in English and as a result constantly tells me and his peers to “calm down” instead of Spanish “calmáte.” He can be quite disorganized and would forget to take a shower without reminders. He has a great laugh and loves to wrestle with the little kids. It can break your heart though to see him go around and finish almost every plate after a meal.

Oscar Condry

Everybody calls him Condry and at 14 he is a soccer fanatic and a band geek all at the same time. He plays trumpet in the band and practices often. He is sort of a Renaissance man and can play many parts: the nice guy, the sporty guy etc. He is quite the character sometimes and very much enjoys inappropriate humor. Condry, though, has taken a liking to agriculture too and is part of the program here to learn how to grow his own crops. I like Condry because he is not concerned with silly things like action movies or the latest knick-knack. He does his own thing and he is content.

Jeffery Williams

Although his name is gringo as can be he is from the farthest away and has the most exotic of background. He, his brother, and two sisters are from the east coast of Nicaragua, Puerto Cabezas, where Africans from escaped slave ships got together with Indians. Where he is from they speak Spanish Creole and half the people don’t identify themselves as Nicaraguan, but as Miskito (Indian) or not. At 14 he loves to dance and mess with the older boys and is quite the heartbreaker among the ladies. He has grown fond of asking me “Why?” after everything I say because it annoys me. He reminds me of my brothers sometimes as he calls me out on being overly dramatic.

Tio Julio giving peace and Fabiola below playing in the sand.

Boys at the beach.



Maria Elena.


Franklin and a big bug.

Artwork by Bryan Jimenez.

Ivan and Spiderman.

Ryan and I with Marveli, our most faithful student for the Tio/Tia English class.

Fish brought to the volunteer house to enjoy!


Heymi made me a name sign.

By Daniela.

By Jose Antonio.

Artwork by Kerry.

Tios setting off a fire for a vigil.

Everyone gathered for the vigil.

Investigation volunteer house

I love my section of boys and they are well behaved most of the time, but, unfortunately the biggest news around the volunteer house is a robbery that occurred last week where we live. None of the boys in my section were involved, just to clarify. By opening the door with a machete the little jerks took 3 cell phones, a camera, and money the night of a mini-fiesta during vacation from the room of Nadine and Verena, both from Austria,. After a thorough search of the boys’ lockers and investigation by the Tios, 5 boys have come forward admitting the break in and the stealing. Three of the boys are older 15/16/17 and 2 quite younger 12/13. All of the items have been returned, besides one cell phone that regrettably had been sold to someone on the outside before the Tios could find who had it. The boys are still lying about who has the money from the sell. It has been incredibly frustrating to know that a violation such as this has taken place. All of the boys have shamelessly lied to both Nadine and Verena and pointed fingers at one another. The main reason that was given as to why this crime was committed was because “we were bored.” A consequence has yet to be agreed upon by the administration, but as of now all the volunteers are double locking their doors in order to prevent another incident. I share this not to say how horrible anyone or the kids are, but to show that these kids are tough and not so sweet all the time. NPH as an organization has to deal with these tough issues and have to love these kids through their acts of stupidity and disrespect and I don’t know how they do it.

Packing it all in

So now I have begun to plan all the little things that I have wanted to do since I got here. I have started planning a self-esteem workshop for the older girls and that is underway. I am planning a special activity with my section. I am trying to get a couple of art classes in, but it actually feels good to plan and get ready for all these things including going home. A Tia told me today that I looked really happy and when I first got here she thought I looked so scared. Well, she was right. I was really scared in January and now I feel happy and content.

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