Saturday, May 31, 2008


Wooo, tropical storms! Or was it a hurricane? I'm not sure, I've heard it called both. All I know is that it rained for more than 24 hours and we got classes canceled for it. It also caused a lot of flooding and at least one death. Here's what it looked like in the backyard. Those dark things obscuring the view are laundry trying to dry very unsuccessfully. Unfortunately much of my laundry was included and even things that were previously dry became excessively damp due to the high humidity.

I posted a bunch of photos on my Facebook page, but I've got a good connection today so here are some more:

This is my little host niece Alandy (though in my learning of the espaƱol, I keep calling her my grandaughter), she's 3 and completely crazy. Everyone agrees that she's the epitome of the word 'necia' which is basically a super energetic crazy child. She runs in and out of the house, leaving messes everywhere she goes, and only really stays clean for about 5 minutes after a bath. And pretty much everyday she hurts herself or just throws a tantrum or six. I still can't really understand anything that comes out of her mouth.

This is the view from El Crucero, a little place where we have some of our training sessions. I just took a panoramic photo from there today when it was completely clear that I'll try to upload soon too. You can almost see the ocean!!

ok, time's running short. I got mail today, thanks for the letters!! It absolutely made my day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When they say don´t have expectations, that means the internet as well!!

Well, I jinxed the internet. Our cyber cafe has been inexplicably closed for several days now, so yeah. Hopefully it´ll be functional again soon, but for now I will only have access once or twice a week. I wrote most of this entry on Sunday.


Anyway, the transportation strike is over so I've been learning to navigate the local transportation system. Because we live in the boonies, the first step to go anywhere that isn't within walking distance is to hop in a taxi. The taxis run a set route from here to Jinotepe, the departmental capital city, for 5 cordobas, about $0.25 per person. In Jinotepe you can catch a bus to pretty much anywhere in the area for cheap. Our group classes are held in Diriamba, so we know the right corner to stand on and wait until a microbus pulls up (they're little van like things that hold about 12 people comfortably and lots more uncomfortably).

Pretty much all the buses and microbuses have their destinations written on the windshield, so it'll say Jinotepe – Diriamba for example, but in case you don't see that part there's always a guy hanging out the window yelling the destination. It takes a careful ear to understand them sometimes, since Diriamba Diriamba Diriamba!! turns into Dyambadyambadyamba!!! Then they stop along the way to pick up more passengers or drop people off. Today I went with another sitemate and her host-mom to Masatepe to visit one of the small business volunteers and get more practice traveling around.

Pueblo Planning

Now that I've been to a few towns of varying sizes, it's become very clear that towns here are based on a particular system of the Central Park and Church. The central location is always a one square block park, generally with a play area for kids and possibly a basketball court or other sports area as well, and across from the park is the Big Catholic Church. In Minnesota they say you need a bar and a church to make a town, here it´s a church and a park.

Youth Whatnow?

I've gotten a few questions about what it is I'm doing with this youth group thing, so let me say a little more. We´re working on this independent of the school, so there are no teachers involved. The mayor´s office is helping us though, because they´re connected with some of the youth organizations in town and know everyone anyway. So right now we´re working on getting a project chosen and started. Looks like we might be helping to clear an area and plant some trees for a new park in a little settlement of about 50 houses not far from El Rosario. I go from being very optimistic to very pessmistic on this venture.

The Big Picture

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by everything, and sometimes I feel good about it all. Changing our planned time for the youth group meetings will free up time that we can use to start co-planning and co-teaching at the school which is difficult to schedule. Training is intentionally difficult, much like the application process, to weed out people who aren't in it for the long haul. The days are long but I'm slowly adjusting more to the noise and I'm pretty used to the food now too. When I'm not exhausted, things are a lot easier to handle :)

The host family also continues to be good, the power was out this morning so I was chatting with my host dad who, much to my surprise, has read the autobiography of Isadora Duncan – the mother of modern dance!! Latin American men are famous for their machismo, and all I've heard so far about Nicaraguan men is that they're all liars and cheaters. Listening to some of the other trainees talk about how uninvolved the men in their families are makes me all the more impressed that my host dad and brother-in-law spend so much time with their kids/grandkids. The whole time we were chatting, my host dad had his little granddaughter playing in the hammock with him. And as soon as he gets home from work, my brother-in-law is playing with one of his daughters.

Sidenote: we do usually have electricity, but it's gone out two or three times this week usually as the result of a strong rain though I don't think it rained last night. It is, however, raining a whole lot right now, so we'll see what happens tonight. The water, on the other hand, comes and goes. I think it works more often during the day when I'm not home, but we keep two big barrels out back full of water for washing clothes, dishes, and ourselves. I did get to take a real shower last week for the first time when the water was actually on, but generally it's bucket baths (take a 5 gallon bucket of water, use a smaller scoop to dump the water over your head, wash, rinse. I can bathe using less than ¾ of a bucket!) and dumping water in the toilet to “flush.”

In closing, I missed two weddings this weekend, so congratulations to Rosie and Nic and to Steph and Burt on what I can only hope will be happy lives spent together!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

John Travolta Nica

Nicaraguans love John Travolta circa 1970. So much so that there was a competition this weekend in Managua to find the John Travolta Nica that I was just lucky enough to attend. One of my fellow-trainee´s host brothers, Onis, is a dance teacher and Travolta fanatic so there was a whole microbus of relatives going to support him and I was able to hitch a ride as well. We had signs and noise makers and lots of excitment. I really didn´t know what to expect in terms of a venue, I was thinking auditorium or small stadium or something with sitting, but what we got was one of the premier discos in Managua, El Rio, and 30 odd Nicaraguan dudes dressed in leisure suits and shiney shirts and slicked back hair.

They did 4 rounds of 3 people dancing at a time, each time the more ridiculous and un-Travolta like dancers were weeded out. They all gave it their best, that was clear, but there were also clearly some way more impressive Travoltas and that included Onis who made it into the top three. With our hopes riding on him winning the impressive motorcycle sitting outside, we were all standing on chairs and tables (ah, so not the U.S.) chanting "Siete! Siete!" (Onis´s number was seven) at the top of our lungs. In the end, Onis came in second with a prize of $2,000 cordobas which is about $100.

After the whole shabang was over, we stuck around to dance for about an hour and enjoy a little more freedom and excitement than can be found in our little pueblo. I think that I will definitely look back on this as an incredibly unique and fun experience during my time in Nicaragua. However, I would be ok with not hearing either Stayin Alive or Saturday Night Fever for a year or more.

At 4am on Sunday morning, I was woken up by a marching band and fireworks. I kid you not.

In other news, we had our first youth group meeting yesterday and we were incredibly happy to have 22 people show up. Overall it went well, they participated in all the activities we had planned and maybe even had a little fun. Today we met with our teacher again to plan our when we can all co-teach with him, so next Tuesday I´ll be in the classroom getting my feet wet!

In case you hadn´t noticed, I do actually have decent access to the internet here. We don´t have a phone to call internationally from but there is a Cyber Cafe that´s only 50 cents an hour, so send me an email with an update if you have a chance!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Buenas Tardes!!

Hola from El Rosario!! My host family has been really nice, & they're feeding me great food! Many Nicaraguans eat lots of carbs and not much for vegetables and fruits, but I've been getting a lot of everything so far. In addition to my host mom & dad, there are 3 sisters who live here, one is married and her husband lives with us along with their 3 year old & 4 month old, who are both really cute. I chatted with one of the sisters for a bit yesterday, her name is Gabriela & she's my age. She's studying international relations at a university in Jinotepe & wants to learn English & French. My Spanish is better than I thought and I can understand quite a bit, but it's still not great so conversing can be difficult and I'm still catching onto the accent. It's even harder to understand a conversation between two Nicas because then they aren't speaking as carefully as when they talk to us & their accents get stronger.

But I'm settling in pretty well here, it's hard to be away from the support system we all built up during the last week but I've been out walking a couple times with the other trainees & their host families so I'm getting more familiar with the town. My mama's son, who doesn't live with us, told me that there are about 5-6,000 people in El Rosario, but I think that probably covers the town & surrounding areas because it doesn't seem to be that big, but I also haven't seen the whole place.

Things are a little weird with the transportation strike, like Gabriela was supposed to be at school yesterday but couldn't get there & we were supposed to have classes as well but our language facilitators couldn't get to the sites either. They say that we'll have classes tomorrow, but I'm not sure how the facilitators will get here. Wednesday we're all supposed to take the bus into Diriamba to have class with the other TEFL trainees, but again, not sure how we'll do that with the strike (they're striking over the price of fuel, which apparently Ortega promised would be lower if he was elected).

They show the strangest dubbed American movies on TV here, so far I've seen Water World, Beethoven, and Indiana Jones. Looks like a lot of American TV gets down here, though they have their own stuff too. It also finally rained yesterday, it cools off when it's raining, but when it stops it's even hotter. It's not as bad here as in Managua- I'm sweaty but not too bad :) Though I keep getting bit by random little ants! Stupid things. We have a dog, a cat, & lots of animals wandering around the yard that may belong to my family, or maybe the one next door, I'm not sure. There are chickens & a rooster, a turkey, I've heard a cow but not seen it, and a couple pigs.

I'm still in disbelief that I'm here, I know that it'll be a day by day process because I just can't imagine 27 months of roosters crowing & reggaeton music blasting at all hours of the day. For now though, I'm still giggle to myself every time I hear the turkey gobble gobble and get the most entertainment out of watching the kids goof around :)

and now, fotos:

Our hotel in Managua, not bad eh?

Here I am with my two roommates, Kat in the center and Sam on the right (Sam was my roommate at the hotel in DC & was also supposed to go to Bolivia but with the Health group), at Peace Corps Headquarters in Managua.

Looks like those are all the photos it´s going to let me upload today! I´ll try for more next time. Hasta luego!

Friday, May 9, 2008


Today is the first day I really feel like I live in Nicaragua! We were finally able to leave the hotel this evening & tour parts of Managua & we leave in the morning for our training sites and host families. I'll be in El Rosario, which is in the "state" (they're called Departments here) of Carazo, not far from Masaya which is probably the closest city that can be found on the map. I don't have my little info sheet with me, but I'll be living with a family that has 3 daughters around my age (like 20 to 25), also a 4 month old baby & I think a 6 year old. So I'm hoping that they all like me :) There are 3 other trainees in El Rosario & I was told that there's also a volunteer living there.

So this is our last night in the hotel all together, the business volunteers are training around Masaya & we won't be seeing them much during training, which is sad. But now it's time to go see the real Nicaragua & get on with what I came here to do. Thanks for the emails from those of you who have written me so far!! Keep them coming :)

The connection here isn't great, so I've only successfully uploaded one picture so far. Here are some of us doing yoga at the airport in DC on Wednesday morning:

Thursday, May 8, 2008



We landed yesterday to a sunny and hot (90s) Managua in the midst of a transportation strike - the whole of Nicaragua actually - but since our hotel is across the street from the airport & we have nowhere to go till Saturday, the strike isn't affecting us much yet. For being across from the airport, it's surprisingly quiet, I think i've only heard planes a handful of times so it's not a super busy place.

Training is going fine, we do have AC in the hotel so it's a slow transition, & also this lovely wireless that I can only access by sitting next to a post out on a patio, but whatever!! I have some pictures I'll try to post later when I have time. Sounds like Skype is alive & well in internet cafes here, so if you have an account & I didn't find you, find me!! and I may wait till I get my site assignment to buy a cell phone, but the volunteers who are here with us say that everyone has a phone.

Tomorrow I'll find out my training site and also the 2-3 other people who'll be there with me through July. But it's approaching dinner so I need to go, hopefully post some pictures soon - maybe later tonight.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Staging is a fancy name for orientation in the Peace Corps world. I arrived back in DC this morning & have been meeting my fellow trainees and getting oriented ever since. There are about 40 of us, both English teaching and business education folks. So far so good :) We fly out early on Wednesday morning for Nica.

Thanks to everyone for the words of encouragement!! Please keep in touch while I'm away, I look forward to reading emails & will try to reply as much as possible. These first couple weeks I probably will be out of touch, but I will do my best.