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:
video

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quinceñera

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).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Camping and condoms and raindrops, oh my!

How’s that for a title, eh? Oddly enough, it fully encompasses my Friday and Saturday this week because I helped out at an overnight camp to teach family planning skills to a group of 36 youth (which in this case stretched from 9 years old to over 20). The camp was organized by that NGO I always talk about where I teach English but the facilitators included two from the health center, a German volunteer from the NGO as well as other staff, and leaders from the Club de Jovenes Ambientalistas (Young Environmentalist Club, mas o menos). The participants were members of the aforementioned club from two different towns in the municipality.

The two days involved various games/ice breakers, leadership activities, some environmental stuff, a bonfire, a hike, and talks about gender, sex, forms of contraception, and STDs/HIV/AIDS. Although the group got a little out of control sometimes and especially the second day didn’t always want to participate, there was definitely learning going on and most of the participants seemed to enjoy it.

Working hard


What would a sex ed talk be without putting condoms on bananas?
Some of the facilitators:


La Practica:


And of course, blowing up the condoms once they were off the bananas:


As always, the night was the most interesting part. Several of us were concerned about how the kids would be kept under control – especially keeping the boys and girls apart – but that was left up to the leaders. They set up three tents – two for the girls and one for the boys – a ways away from our center of activities while several of us facilitators decided to sleep under the shelter where we’d been working all day. We thought we’d get more sleep there.

Apparently the guys didn’t all fit in their tent so about half slept in the shelter with us, it didn’t take too long to quiet them down but then someone starting snoring like you wouldn’t believe so I didn’t sleep too well. Sometime around 1am the sky opened up and poured down rain and I woke up to find the folks who’d been sleeping down below in the tents running up to the shelter all wet and muddy. Turns out those tents weren’t water proofed by any means, so we accommodated all 50ish of us on the tarps in the shelter and lights went out for the second time just before 2am. Again I didn’t sleep well and before I knew it it was 5am and the kids were getting up already.

It was pretty cool to see something like this organized here – I didn’t think the topic got breached very often what with how religious people are and the especially high amount of Catholics (about 75% of the population). But they really reached a lot of people through the camp and another part of the project - organizing groups of kids to present short skits at local schools about family planning.

I intend to do my part by wearing my camp t-shirt to school so that while I’m writing on the board my students will read the back:



“A hero who helps you plan and really saves lives”