Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Worm Woman of Kalamazoo and IKEA

I initially hated IKEA as I first visited when I lived in London and anything in/around/about London I hated. But, since they built a store within the Metro-Detroit region I've been slowly growing to like the company.

Now, after receiving this link from a former professor, I think I have to love them. Commercial scale vermicomposting! I wonder if Ingvar Kamprad has read Natural Capitalism.

Site Visit

I'm not really sure that I could have gotten a site that I wasn't excited about because I really didn't know any of the sites and I didn't have too many specific things I was looking for. So, I went to Palacagüina (ümlaüt-ville) expecting to like it, and after spending a week there, I'm reading to move in.

We travelled from Managua to Palacagüina on Tuesday morning. The ride is 3-4.5 hours depending on the bus you take (school bus or Greyhound), but it's an otherwise really nice trip through the mountains (especially when along the way you hear The Scorpions hit, The Winds of Change). I travelled with the sub-director of one of the schools I'll teach in, and when we got to Palacagüina he was able to show me around. This was, of course, after we stopped and took a break at a friend's house where we watched the Michael Jackson Thriller, Billy Ocean Get out of my Dreams, Get into my Car, and Gloria Estefan Rhythm Is Gonna Get You music videos. Yes, with the school buses and music, it could be 1985 here.

Anyway, Palacagüina is a small town with around 3,500 people that live within the central city and 15,000 people within the entire municipality. It's a lot cleaner than my training site and has a bit more to offer wtih a couple of restaurants, three internet cafes, a "gym", etc. All in all, for a small town, it has a lot more than most. It's about 20-30 minutes away from the department capital which is a larger city with anything else I would need, including an actual grocery store, and it's an hour to an hour and half away from Esteli, the North's largest city.

The family that I'll live with for the first six weeks is also really nice. The house is smaller than the one I live in now, and it's a lot more basic with concrete walls and a "tile" roof. We have electricity and running water, but the house only has a latrine and my shower is a brick structure with four walls and a door that works well for the short women in my family, but only covers me to my upper chest. The short shower stall makes for a great view of the house kitchen or looking the other way, a great view of Nicaraguan mountains.

I'll be teaching at two schools. One school is within the central city and has 2-3 sections of third year students (it's basically the equivalent of sophomore year in high school) and the other school is in a small rural town about 10 km outside of the city. I didn't get to spend too much time at the schools, but the directors and the few teachers I met seem really nice (they all spoke slowly which is really all I ask) and happy to have me. I also met the coordinators of a youth group that was started by a former volunteer and that I might do some projects with.

Three nights isn't a long enough time to get a great impression of any place, but as first impressions go, I'm really happy with my site. As much as I enjoy being around my training group and having an English outlet, I'm looking forward to having more time and space at my site. And, though I feel like I could still go through months of Spanish classes, I think I'll more quickly learn the language once I'm at my site and surrounded by it all day.