Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo

I had a super tranquila Christmas because I had a nasty cold all of last week, but that meant I got caught up on my hammock sitting/reading time and went through like 3 books. Here in Nicaragua Navidad refers to the 24th instead of Christmas Day on the 25th. It’s funny actually, when we were talking about holidays in class this past year and I asked the kids what day was Christmas half said the 24th and half said the 25th.

The Christmas tree that sits between the central park and the catholic church:

Overall Christmas is a much smaller deal here than in the States, there are some present exchanges and some people put up small trees and a few lights but nothing over the top. I’m used to Christmas being a holiday spent with close family and the whole world shuts down outside. Here some families have dinner together or make something special and some don’t do anything at all. And of course there are parties - house parties, bar parties, parties in the street and at midnight (which is apparently the exact time baby Jesus was born) people set off fireworks & hardcore catholics have their dinner. With such a different atmosphere than the one I associate with Christmas (umm, snow??) it really felt like a normal day, except a lot noisier in the night.

I did get out of my hammock a little bit on the 24th though so I could see some friends and do what we always do, sit around and talk. I brought my camera but the only picture I took was of my landlord’s niece’s daughter who’s adorable and has finally decided that she isn’t completely terrified of me so we played and she tries to say my name but it comes out Issimer instead of Jennifer. We’re gonna keep working on that one.

Just to make it feel a little more like Christmas I bought some goodies and stuck them in my stocking, which included an apple like, ahem, Santa always left in my stocking at home. It is an unfortunate fact that apples are seriously expensive in Nicaragua. Why? Because they import the suckers from the US, the climate isn’t exactly prime for growing apples around here. So the standard, cheap fruit of my previous life suddenly became a rare treat when I moved here. I accept that because previously rare treats such as mangos & avocados are so plentiful and cheap in Nica. And of course, I took a picture of me and my apple:

One friend did comment something about who knows where I’ll be next year on the 24th. Usually when people speculate about where I’ll be in a year I laugh because I really have no idea, but I told him “I imagine I’ll be in Minnesota with my family next year on the 24th.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Roaming Around

Last weekend I finally went to see the infamous waterfall in a nearby pueblo (I say infamous because the town is named for it) and to wander around on a finca (farm) as I love to do. Photos:

Little bitty plantain plants:




Dried up corn:

Perty flowers:

Really big plantains:

Climbing a tree:


Me in the waterfall:

On Friday I went to the beach with my local NGO for their Christmas party which included all the Nicaraguan staff as well as the remaining German volunteers. At one point we decided there were more Germans than Nicas (and clearly I was waaaay outnumbered):

Perfect swimming spot:

Look at all those cheles (white people)!

My two favorite ladies:

And cute kids:

And just to make my tranquilo life here a little more interesting, I came home on Friday night to find this on my bathroom wall:

It’s only the second scorpion I’ve had in my house in the year that I’ve lived here and the other one was out of reach to kill & left on its own. Luckily this time I had my handy can of Raid so I grabbed a flip flop as back-up, carefully opened the door that goes outside from the bathroom so I could hide behind it and escape in case of Very Angry Scorpion, and sprayed the sucker. Thankfully it fell off the wall and tried to escape but fell over so I smashed him with the sandal & kicked him into the backyard. The end.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Back to Work

After coming back from vacation with my parents I didn’t have a lot of time to rest before jumping back into my random little projects and commitments. On Thursday I accompanied my friendly neighborhood NGO to do a Dia de Accion (Action Day!) with a group of primary school kids and their parents in a little community that’s technically in the municipality to the northwest.

We drove a ways on a dirt road though sugar cane fields that I never realized extended that far out. The caña is ready for harvest so it was huge and some areas were really pretty with the silky flowers blowing in the wind (sidenote: I would say hands down the favored liquor in Nicaragua is rum, and that rum generally is of the Flor de Caña variety, which refers to these pretty silky flowers).

But the harvest also means that giant, and oftentimes overloaded, trucks hauling caña go flying down these little dirt roads:



It’s not totally obvious in that photo, but the trucks kick up massive plumes of dust which get blown into the houses and the school which is located right on the road. I was coughing just from having spent the morning there so I can’t imagine what havoc that must wreak on the respiratory systems of long-time residents.

The NGO is building a new school for this community, the old one you can see to the left in the above pictures. Here’s what they have so far of the new one:

It’s pretty close to being done, just missing the zinc roof, the floor, and a coat of paint. We gathered the kids and adults outside for the morning underneath a giant chilamate tree:

The day’s activities included two piñatas and some presentations on family planning, some of which were more age appropriate than others in my opinion but that’s neither here nor there. The whole piñata thing here is just slightly different than how we do it in the States – throw in some energetic music and make the kids dance in between swings and you’ve got the Nica piñata:

And ensuing chaos:

And here's my Facebook album from mom and dad's visit.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Papito y Mamacita visitan a Nicaragua

Despite the obvious attempts of that big snowstorm to make my parents turn right around and return to Managua, they did in fact make it safely home. Overall, everything went really well – they enjoyed their foray into international travel, I didn’t have an anxiety attack, and no one got hurt. Now that’s what I call a successful vacation! I realized that I can’t think of a time in my conscious memory during which I spent every waking hour of an entire week with both my parents so I think it at least partially made up for my long absences over past few years. But what am I going on and on about? Pictures!

Mom and dad helped some of my friends/colleagues practice their English:

But work didn’t last long before we went to the schwankiest resort in Nicaragua, Barcelo Montelimar:

Mom loved the ocean:

Dad wore a fancy hat:

We swam in the biggest pool in Central America:

And watched the sunset over the ocean (I believe that was a first for them both):

Next we went to Granada where I ate tasty food to my heart’s content and we tried to negotiate their love of coolness with my now ridiculous sensitivity to cold as we programmed the AC. Mom and I went shopping in Masaya, we walked around town a lot, saw the lake, and a little bit of the Purisima (the celebration of the conception of the Virgin Mary). But the definite highlight was Volcan Mombacho, which now every member of my immediate family has seen since I first ventured there with my brother back in May.

A crazy guy who claimed to be Daniel Ortega’s brother kept hitting on me, which evoked the complete opposite reaction in my dad than I expected (he thought it was hilarious!) but at least the guy can take a decent picture:

Mom and dad on the trail:

This is the truck that drives up and down the volcano while you hold on for dear life:

We were pretty active in the morning and evening but we mostly chilled around the hotel in the heat of the afternoon - either in the pool or reading (my mom took one of me so I just had to return the favor):

I'll upload more of my photos on Facebook and link it here, but my computer is being finnicky so that will have to happen later.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

They`re still alive and kicking!!

So far so good on the parental visit. They arrived safely on Tuesday night and I ran them pretty hard on Wednesday, we traveled from Managua down to my town, practiced English with some advanced speakers as well as a couple beginners and walked around town a lot. I don`t think they were quite prepared for the heat coming from chilly Minnesota! But Wednesday was the only night they`ve had to spend without AC because Thursday we headed off to a schwanky resort on the Pacific coast and then yesterday we trekked our way over to Granada where we`re staying in a cute little colonial hotel. I will post pictures as soon as I`m back in site, but I thought I would alert the rest of the family that mom and dad are in one piece and enjoying their vacation, though they`ll probably be a lot more comfortable when they`re back in the house they keep at 65 degrees all year round in the ´sota.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Photos

Photo highlights from my Thanksgiving spent at the house of a USAID guy – let’s just say we were all ready to work for USAID after seeing his crazy nice house. I would also like to note that his co-host for our dinner (since there were 20 of us who went to eat at his house!) actually imported some ingredients to make this dinner.

First, the food:
Despite both hosts being vegetarians they did get us a turkey too, as well as REAL cranberry sauce, a lentil stuffing that was impressive, mashed potatoes, veggies, and really really good cornbread – there was more food but I was stuffed:

I wish I would’ve had space in my stomach for seconds on dessert – they had cheesecake with frozen blueberries, apple pies, and gringo ice cream (as opposed to the Eskimo ice cream we get here, that’s pronounced eskeeeemo):

Aside from the food, the digs were insanely comfortable. Here are my friends Liz & Dianne enjoying a couch which may not seem like such a big deal but trust me, it is:

And here I am, reclining – also a big deal:

Definitely a great Thanksgiving for us volunteers. Now I’m back in my little casita preparing for the imminent arrival of my parents on Tuesday night. I may not get a post in this week so don’t yell at me (yes, I have once been chastised for not posting soon enough).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias!!!

We just finished a two day All Volunteer Conference (AVC) in Managua. All 180 volunteers in Nicaragua came down to discuss the conference's theme of Food Security, do some training sessions on various topics, and attend some professional development info sessions. It's events like this that make me realize how few volunteers I really do know, mostly because there are very few volunteers in my department/immediate area and we're all basically from one or two sectors anyway. And since I'm leaving in 8 months my group was pretty meh about making new friends since we are inching slowly out the door.

The Nica 51 volunteers swore in on Monday as well so we officially have two groups of TEFL volunteers in-country again and means that I have new a semi-site mate and three more volunteers within about two hours of me.

For Thanksgiving, PC coordinates with the embassy to send interested volunteers to spend the holiday with folks who work at the embassy so I'm still at the hotel waiting to be picked up to go with a group of volunteers to hopefully enjoy a real gringo-style Thanksgiving dinner at a schwanky embassy house.

I was going to make a list of things I'm thankful for, but I won't. I'm just thankful in general.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Schoooooooool’s out for the summer

We’re in the last week of class right now, so I give you photo highlights from the 2009 school year: From my country school: Students singing the national anthem: Eighth Grade: The awesome picture my counterpart drew for learning body parts: And from the instituto: Some seventh grade girls: It’s a little difficult to see, but in this picture my students are playing baseball during recess using a paper ball and a seat plank from one of the desks: Singing songs in English: I like this one because it shows almost the entire 8th grade class hanging on the window bars to watch the 7th graders sing – clearly their teacher didn’t show up for class: Some of the best students from the 9th grade class singing I’m All Out of Love by Air Supply: Although they did get fewer points for reading, this group probably sang the best out of the 7th grade class:

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Saturday night I went to my first quinceñera, which is the big celebration thrown for girls when they turn 15 (quince). The girl, Keyling, has never been in any of my classes at the instituto but one day last year one of the teachers brought her to me with homework questions and since she studies English in Managua she regularly finds me at school or at home with questions. She’s pretty awesome and I was super excited when she invited me.

It was really similar to a wedding, except in pink. The quinceñera wears a fluffy pink dress and carries a bouquet of flowers and I think there were 12 pairs of damas y caballeros (ladies and gentlemen, kinda like bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding) who all wore their matching dresses and suits. The whole party gets ready and then walks down to the church, Keyling was escorted by her father but also had a younger guy escort who’s traditionally her cousin or some other family relation. I saw them walking down the main street, which is also the highway incidentally, but wasn’t fast enough to get a picture.

At the church, they did a pretty usual catholic mass with bible readings, a couple songs, a sermon, and communion. I was happy to see some familiar faces at the church, I wasn’t sure if I would know anyone but I don’t know why because this is a small town and of course everyone’s related or friends or something! None of my pictures are spectacular because I was way in the back at both the church and the reception, but you get the idea.

With the damas:

With the caballeros (you can’t see it well in this picture, but the guy on the left of Keyling was her escort guy and his shirt was pink to match her dress):

The Quinceñera herself:

Some of the damas, the one in the middle is in my 9th grade class:

From the church we all walked over to the dancehall for the reception, again the whole party walking down the middle of the highway which I find so hilarious but is totally normal here – most families don’t have cars and they certainly don’t rent limos like you might do for something this big in the US hence we walk, besides the town’s not that big anyway. I actually saw a wedding party doing the same thing past my house earlier in the day.

Clearly the theme for quinceñeras is pink – pink balloons, pink table cloths, pink cake, pink pink pink!

I should mention that this is probably on the fancier side for a quinceñera, especially in a small town (I’m sure wealthy families in Managua do much bigger than this). They rented the dancehall and paid for a band which a lot of families around here would not be able to do.

Once we were in the dancehall, all the guys and girls processed in and danced a couple semi-choreographed dance numbers including a waltz, bachata, and salsa. It was adorable and I wish I could’ve gotten better pictures but I doubt they would’ve captured it anyway. Here they are in the middle of a coordinated spin move:

Once the group dances were over, the band started playing and everyone got out on the dance floor and tore it up. I stayed long enough to dance a little bit, but since I was unaccompanied I headed for home before it got too sketchy to be out alone (around 9 or 9:30 on a Saturday night).