I recently celebrated my 4th and last birthday in Nicaragua. I arrived in this country at 27 years old and am now leaving at 31 (which makes it sound like I’ve been here 4 years, but it was only 3 since my b-day falls in the middle of the year). Three whole years, 39 months total. Three months of Pre-Service Training in Diriamba, Carazo, where I officially learned Spanish as well as a whole ton of other things, and then 36 full months of pure rural Nicaragua living in Wale, Pantasma, Jinotega. Although, I did take a little break there after two years and went home to California for a month, then spent two more weeks in Peru, which was amazing! Nicaragua has been a great experience and it’ll be with me forever, but at this point it’s time for me to start something new and continue on with my career development. I’m ready to go home.
This is what I’ve been up to the past few months:
In June I stared a walking routing each morning so I could get out more in my community and get some exercise. After a recent doctor’s visit I realized how much weight I’ve gained (a whopping 20 lbs!) since moving to Nicaragua and decided it was time to try and reverse that. The diet here, although it’s delicious (or because it’s delicious!), has given me quite the “pansa”, or tummy, and I’m more than ready to get rid of that! I’ve only lost about 3 lbs so far, but little by little I’ll chip away at it. I’m hoping my diet will improve once I’m back stateside.
|By birthday pizza with Gloria and Jureymi|
July was a very active month. Not only was it my 31st birthday, but I also attended and helped facilitate a workshop for people living with HIV with some other volunteers from the Health sector. It was a great experience and I appreciated talking to the Nicaraguans who attended and hearing their stories. I’ve also made three more improved ovens and 2 more improved stoves. I think I still have one more stove to make in Wale, then that’ll be it for me! In total throughout my service I’ve made about 36 ovens and about 12 stoves. Hopefully they continue to help people use less firewood to cook and reduce the unhealthy smoke inhalation of the whole family.
|A new side-by-side improved oven and stove for Filomena!|
I also spent 3 days in Managua doing my final COS (close of service) med check-up, where they do a physical, send me to the dentist, and do any final follow-ups needed. That’s when I realized how much my weight has changed from living here (I asked my doctor to check what my weight was when I was applying for PC back in August of 2010, and again when I first arrived in country). Other than the weight gain and this annoying persistent cough that’s seemed to have been aggravated while living here, I’m A-Okay! But I’m sure some kind of parasite will follow me home and rear its ugly head at some inconvenient future date.
So besides the ovens/stoves building and the HIV+ workshop, the only other work I’ve been doing is the Saturday girls’ club meetings. I’m trying to do an activity with them every week now, since my time is dwindling down so quickly. Recent charlas have been dental care and finding role models, and recent fun activities started with a day of “Uno”, and have since continued each week with more “Uno”. They LOVE this card game! I’m bummed I didn’t think to play it with them earlier on, ‘cause they went crazy for it! I taught them what “Skip”, “Reverse”, “Draw Two”, “Draw Four”, and “Wild” meant in Spanish, and they got it memorized within the first game. Now they’re pros. I’m definitely going to leave the cards with Nayelis so they’ll remember who taught them that awesome game.
|Profe Josefa and students looking at the photos from Lompoc|
I also did the very last pen pal activity with the now 5th graders in the primary school. This time instead of having them write individual letters back to their pen pal buddies in Lompoc, I had them write a phrase on a poster paper, stating something new they’ve learned about the American students in California. Some of the phrases included, “I learned that their school year begins in August and ends in June”, and “I learned that they have a computer lab and a library”. I showed them the photo book that my aunt sent with pictures of the students using the computer lab and visiting the library and getting a book read to them by their full-time librarian, and I think the students were surprised that American schools have these things. Their school here doesn’t even have books they can read, only the textbooks they have to share between 4 or 5 students during class time only. They can’t take anything home with them because there’s nothing available to take home. What’s considered a low-resource school in the U.S. is miles ahead of most Nicaraguan schools, if you compare the available resources, length of the class day, the quality of the education, and the expertise and dedication of the teachers.
|Wale students writing to the Fillmore Elementary students in Lompoc|
So these last 3 weeks in site I’ll be starting to sell/give away my things and pack for my trip back home to California! I’m selling most of my furniture to Gloria so that Nayelis can have a desk in her room to work on and a wardrobe to hang her clothes. I told Gloria I’d give her all my kitchen stuff if they’d cut me a deal on the last month’s rent, and she agreed and told me I didn’t have to pay at all, so that’s good for her and for me. She gets a kitchen full of gently used dishes and pans and knick-knacks and I save some money. Most of my clothes, save for a few items, I’m planning on giving away to the teachers during the despedida (going-away party) they’re going to throw for me. I’ve also been slowly but surely printing out lots of photos of me with all the different families and will be gifting those out to them when I see them for the last time. I figure they’re the only photos they’ll ever have of my time here, since no one here has their own camera, so why not print out all the good ones and give them out? I made a 2015 calendar of photos for Gloria that’s on its way in the mail at the moment, and I can’t wait to give that to her. She’s gonna love it!
Now all I have left to do in site is one more stove and the remaining few girls’ club activities, plus a few despedidas here and there as they come. Goodbyes are so uncomfortable, and I’m hoping this one goes by smoothly and without too much awkwardness. I’ve already had a lot of goodbyes with the previous volunteer group leaving country the last week in July, so my mind’s set on that mode, but it’s not good to be there for too long. I’m really looking forward to coming home and getting settled back in with my kitties and my friends and family. The next big step will be finding a job (hopefully in California) and starting a new career!
See everyone soon!