At this point in my service all my fellow aggies from my group are in the process of finishing up projects (or are just killing time since they’ve already finished their work in their sites) and are planning for their trip back home to the States. The official leave date for my group is the end of July, but some are leaving as early as the first week in June, depending on their grad school start date or a new job that’s waiting for them. There are a few volunteers hoping to stay in Nicaragua and find jobs with local NGO’s, but I’m officially the only AG volunteer from my group that’s staying on as a volunteer for a third year. So what am I feeling right now? A little bit of loneliness that I’m not leaving with the group I arrived with. A longing to be going home to all the things I miss about home. An eagerness to start looking for a career back in the States. Restlessness with the difficulties of the Nicaraguan culture. But also motivation to have a productive and successful third year. When I was preparing to leave for Peace Corps service, two years seemed like a long time to be away from home. There’s the nervousness of having to leave the home and the culture you’re accustomed to and be immersed in a new language surrounded by new people. But once my service started and my Spanish improved a bit, I began to realize how tedious and difficult it can be to get projects started and keep them going successfully in a two year period. Now, after 2 years of service and finally achieving an advanced Spanish speaking level (yeah!), I still have such a long list of projects I’d like work on. These past two years have flown by, and so trying to get projects done during this next year will go by even faster. But it will help to give me more time to research jobs that I’d like to apply for while I’m still here.
So, an update on what I’m currently working on: The school donation project from Fillmore Elementary school in Lompoc is still going. I finally got someone from my site with a truck to help me haul the 20 pre-school desks from the carpenter’s house in the next town over to the primary school in my site. He’s currently building two teacher’s desks that were bought with the donation money that I hope to have at the school within the next few weeks. The chalkboard in the pre-school classroom was installed and recently painted this past weekend. And soon I’ll be organizing the oldest students to help me paint the world map mural at the school with paint bought with the donation money. I plan to also paint a map of Nicaragua later on with the extra paint from the world map.
|The new pre-school desks|
|Painting a new chalkboard in the pre-school classroom|
Of the 6 women’s baking groups I originally formed, 3 are still organized and regularly show up to the classes I give. Recent recipes have included focaccia and ciabatta bread, bread rolls, chocolate chip cookies, and pineapple cake. The other 3 groups have kind of fallen apart due to lack of money or just lack of organization to keep showing up on the dates we set. But now that the rain has started there will be more money coming in with the crop harvests so I hope to start up again with all of the groups in the coming months.
|One of my women's baking classes, making pizza|
I’ve started a girl’s youth club, which they’ve named “Club Las Estrellas”, or The Stars Club, and have given two charlas so far. Some meetings I give an official life skills talk (health topics, making good decisions, communication skills, etc.), and other meetings we just do fun activities like dance or games. I’m planning on inviting “specialists” to some of the meetings to make them more official, like nurses from the local health center to talk about birth control methods, and also other Peace Corps volunteers to help me facilitate certain topics. So far the 8 or so girls that have participated have seemed to enjoy the discussions and willingly participate, and I’m hoping to attract more attendance in the coming meetings to build confidence and education in the community.
An old project I’m trying to get going again is the primary school garden. The 5th and 6th graders have a class called Orientación Técnica y Vocacional (OTV), which means Technical and Vocational Guidance. It focuses on agricultural activities like school gardens and tree nurseries, so I’m using that class period to organize the school garden with the teacher and students. If you remember my blogs from the previous years, I haven´t had much success motivating the students to maintain the work in the garden, and we haven´t had many vegetables come of it. This time, through the OTV class, I´m trying a new strategy of having the 5th and 6th graders compete against each other for the best half of the garden. The winning grade that works the hardest and hopefully has the best harvest will of course win a prize (of which I haven’t decided yet) and that will hopefully motivate them to keep up the work and actually take an interest in getting a good final result.
|The 5th and 6th graders in starting their new garden|
Something fun and totally un-work related I did recently was go fishing! I went with Paul, my fellow Pantasma volunteer, and one of my Nica friends from my site, Nely. She knows a guy whose cousin has a row boat, so we took it for a little spin around the lake. Lake Apanas is about a half hour’s bus ride from my site, and so three of us decided to try our luck at fishing the other weekend. Nicaraguans don’t use fancy fishing poles. They use nets or a simple flat piece of wood to wind the fishing line around to catch fish. We didn’t have any bait, and figured we could just find worms along the lake side. When that failed, we were given partially cooked corn to stick onto our hooks, which was a total joke, but it was all we had. It was also highly comical because the boat had multiple leaks, so water was slowing trickling into the bottom of the boat and we had to use a plastic bowl to occasionally scoop it out. Nely can swim but had never been on a boat in a lake before so she was nervous and kept a close eye on the water level that was seemingly threatening to sink us. Paul very gentlemanly did all the rowing while us girls sang songs and changed the lyrics to fit our current fishing adventure situation, like “pasame la pana, quiero botar el agua” (pass me the bowl, I want to toss out the water) or “quiero sacar pescado, para cenar delicioso“ (I want to catch some fish to have a delicious dinner) set to the tune of “Preparame la Cena” by Calle 13 if you know the song. It was funny and a fun day, which ended with a huge rain storm as we were paddling back to shore. Needless to say we didn’t catch any fish, so on the way home I quickly jumped off the bus at a local venta and bought some fish to take home and fry up for dinner. Although it was delicious, it would have been much more rewarding to have caught it ourselves. Maybe next time.