Friday, February 27, 2009

Back to Work

Tuesday night I realized that I had forgotten to tell my counterpart that I wouldn't be in class on Thursday because of Peace Corps meetings (we finally have a new director for our sector! glory be!). So Wednesday I went up to the school to tell him and instead I learned that there wouldn't be any classes on Thursday at all because we were going to have a workshop in the morning. That's what we call Nica Style.

My work situation this year is a little bit different from last year. I've started working with another teacher at a school out in the boonies and it looks like I'm gonna go out there twice a week to work with a young teacher who's already using some really great activities in his classes. The first class I taught with him we played Tic Tac Toe where the students had to turn a singular noun into a plural noun to win the square (we played boys vs. girls, always a motivator). When I went out this week I was looking at his lesson plans from the past couple weeks and saw that he used Tic Tac Toe in a couple of his classes! With the other teachers I work with I sometimes wonder if they'll ever use the stuff I show them ever again and here's this guy using it again right away. So awesome to see that.

My other errand at the school on Wednesday was to tell the counterpart I've had problems with in the past that I wouldn't be working with her in the classroom anymore. This has taken me some serious time and thought to finally decide to cut her loose because I hate giving up on anything and anyone. It became utterly apparent very quickly that, despite numerous discussions on the topic, she still does not understand why I'm here or what we're supposed to be doing together. Even though we haven't successfully planned a class yet this year due to her not showing up, she seriously told me that if we stopped working together it's because I don't want to work with her and not because she doesn't want to work with me. Somehow this rubbed me the wrong way to the point that I agreed to give it one last shot. I am clearly a glutton for punishment, but this time we're doing this right. I've written up a little contract for us and the principal to sign and I'm going to have Peace Corps call and explain for the umpteenth time why I'm here and why it's important that we plan together. I have no idea how this will go.

Here are some photos from my recent site-seeing trip in Managua with my friend Maria. Unfortunately, Managua doesn't have many sites to see.

Maria in the middle of the Plaza de la Revolucion. Note the large pink Ortega billboard in the background. They had one of these in each corner of the plaza and they all say the same thing:

Me standing near the ruins of the National Cathedral, it was damaged in the earthquake in 1972 and tourists aren't allowed inside due to falling concrete:

We approached the lake that borders Managua that I can never remember the name of, and that's probably because no one goes there because it stinks!! Seriously.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I turned 25 this weekend and for the first time in my life I got to have a summer birthday. Growing up in Minnesota I was a little jealous of the kids who could have outdoor birthday parties in the summer while I was stuck inside in the middle of February. To make up for lost time, I invited some friends over and we hit the beach, and then we had a BBQ. It was definitely a birthday to remember.

Cumplí 25 el fin de semana pasada y para la primera vez tenía un cumpleaños del verano. Cuando yo era niña en Minnesota estaba celosa de los chavalos con fiestas de cumpleaños afuera de la casa en el verano y yo siempre estaba celebrando adentro por el frio en febrero. Pero este año invité a mis amigas a mi casa, fuimos al mar, y tuvimos una barbecua. Fue magnifico.

Here are my awesome volunteer friends who came over to celebrate with me:
Las voluntarias quien vinieron a celebrar conmigo:

and our whole beach crew, Nicas and volunteers alike:
El grupo en el mar, Nicas y voluntarios:

We feasted on ice cream on that night:
Comimos muchisimo Eskimo:

My friends showed up at my house around 3:00 on the afternoon of my birthday carrying a lit barbecue. Only in Nicaragua.
Mis amigos llegaron a mi casa llevando una estufa con fuego. Solo en Nicaragua.

On my back patio with my friend Maria:
En el patio alfondo con Maria:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Vice Minister Comes to Visit

There are a lot of changes happening in education in Nicaragua right now, they are instituting a new curriculum this year from pre-school through the third year of high school (which is now 9th grade but we all still say third year like last year). Next year the plan is to put into place the changes for the last two years of high school which is supposed to focus more on technical education (mechanics, carpentry, hands-on stuff). I'm curious to see how the changes will go through, right now we're doing review and supposedly on the 20th the new materials will be ready (but I won't be surprised if they're not, we've already been told that if not in February, then in March, and if not in March then August, and if not August then next year. I really hope it doesn't get pushed back to next year).

Hay muchos cambios en educacion en Nicaragua ahorrita. Este año tenemos un curiculum nuevo de pre-escolar hasta tercer año (un cambio mas es que tercer año es noveno grado pero todo el mundo todavia dice tercer año). El proximo año cuarto y quinto año va a cambiar a programas tecnicas. Supuestamente vamos a tener las materiales nuevas el 20 y si no el 20 entonces en marzo, y si no en marzo entonces en agosto y si no en agosto entonces el proximo año. Espero que no necesitamos esperar hasta el proximo año.

Anyway, the Vice Minister came to visit because in addition to the instituto or public high school where I spend most of my time, we also have a tecnico or a technical high school program that's run in a different location. It's pretty new, only a couple years old, and there are only a handful of similar programs throughout the country. The V.M. came to see the tecnico so I headed out there to be among the small welcoming party.

La Viceministra de educacion nos visitó esta semana para ver el tecnico, un programa nuevo que tenemos y no hay muchos programas parecidos en Nicaragua. Entonces fuí a conocerla.

Here are some students working on motors and cars:

Alumnos arreglando un motor y un carro:

One of three girls in the program (in total there are 48 students in three levels):

Una de las tres muchachas en el programa (hay 48 estudiantes en total en 3 niveles):

From right to left: the Vice Minister, the delegate for the Ministry of Education (MINED) for the municipality, the director of both the tecnico and the instituto, and three employees from Cemex (Cemex is the cement plant just outside of town, they donated a giant motor to be worked on and generally provide a lot of support to community projects here):

De la derecha a la izquierda: la Viceministra, la delegada de MINED, la directora del ambos el tecnico y el instituto donde trabajo yo, y 3 chicas de Cemex (Cemex es la cementera, ellos donaron el motor y da mucho apoyo al proyectos comunidades):

A welding demonstration:

No sé como se dice esta cosa en español!

I think the program they have going is great, especially in an area like this where not everyone can or wants to attend university and people often depend on their skills to make a little money here and there. My high school in Minnesota had a huge industrial tech department and even though I never really set foot there I knew it was extremely helpful to a lot of the kids who might not continue their education or would attend a technical college for two years.

El programa me parece muy bien porque hay mucha gente aqui quien no quiere ir al universidad y depende en sus propios habilidades para ganar dinero. My colegio en Minnesota tenia un programa similar.

Although I didn't have a chance to speak much with the Vice Minister herself, before leaving she did thank me for my support which was nice of her. We'll see how this new curriculum works out, I know my one counterpart is hoping that I'll be able to help him with new lesson plans so I have my fingers crossed that the materials we're waiting for will come on-time so we can get started.

No hablé mucho con la Viceministra pero ella me agredezcó para mi apoyo en las escuelas. Vamos a ver como sigue este curriculum nuevo, uno de mis contrapartes esta esperando que puedo ayudarle con planes nuevos y yo tengo ganas de empezar el trabajo (si tenemos las materiales!).

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Today is my 9 month anniversary in Nicaragua, which means I'm roughly one-third of the way through my 27 months of service. Because the weather never really changes that much I have a hard time marking the passage of time, but even so, I feel both like I just left yesterday and also like my life in the States seems so far back. It gets confusing.

Ya llevo 9 meses acá en Nicaragua, y este es un-tercero de mi servicio de 27 meses. Pero no hay temporados como en Minnesota, siempre hace sol aqui entonces me siento lo mismo ahorrita como en julio. Y a veces me parece que salí de los estados ayer y otros veces que hace mucho tiempo que estaba allá.

School got off to a pretty good start this week. Tuesday was the first official day of class to which I arrived late because the pedal on my bike fell off. I stopped to ask some nice gentlemen for help but they couldn't do much because the bolt on the pedal was bad so I walked the rest of the way to school, got introduced to the students along with the other teachers, and then ran off to fix my bike. I came back in the afternoon, got introduced again (the school runs on a morning shift and an afternoon shift, I don't remember if I've explained that before), and then sat around planning the week with my counterpart teacher because the class schedule wasn't finished yet and he didn't have a homeroom class to do orientation with.

Clases empezó de nuevo esta semana. Llegué tarde a la primera día porque el pedal de mi bici se cayó. Pedí ayuda de unos varones pero el pedal fue malo entonces caminé al instituto, la directora me presentó a los estudiantes con los otros profesores, y después fuí a arreglar la bici. En la tarde hicimos lo mismo pero ellos no habían terminado el horario entonces planifiqué con mi contraparte.

I'm feeling good about the new school year, I'm a lot more confident than I was when I arrived in August and that goes for both in and out of the classroom and with both my students and fellow teachers. I'm working on getting to know the other teachers better and I feel like they're accepting me more as one of them instead of a temporary volunteer which is awesome. A lot of the same challenges remain with my counterparts and the educational system in general but hopefully I can make some headway at least with my counterparts.

Me siento bien con este año escolar nuevo, estoy más confidente que antes ambo en y afuera de la aula y con mis alumnos y los profesores. Me parece que los otros maestros piensan en mi mas como colega en vez de una voluntaria quien va a salir muy pronto. Todavia tengo las mismas retas con mis contrapartes y la sistema de educacion pero espero que puedo hacer algo por lo menos con mis contrapartes este año.

Lastly, I would just like the mention that right now my house is a neat-freak's nightmare! I have never cleaned so much in my life and still had such a dirty house. It's been really windy and since it's also bone dry the wind kicks up a lot of dust. Add into that the fact that we have a cement plant nearby that may or may not filter the dust from the processing and you get dust in and on everything. My attempts to clean have been further frustrated by the water going out the past couple days when I wanted to clean. But really, I'll take this over high temperatures below zero like Minnesota can be this time of year.

Al final, quiero mencionar que mi casa es una disastre! Nunca en mi vida he limpiado tanto y aun tengo una casa bien sucia. Hay mucho viento y sin lluvia el polvo esta increible. Juntos con el polvo de la cementera hay polvo en todos lados. Lo mas, cuando quiero limpiar muchas veces no hay agua. Pero prefiero esta situacion al frio que hace ahorrita en Minnesota.