Thursday, June 29, 2006

Palacagüina and Parasites

We've been really busy the last few weeks, so I haven't had the time to update. But, a lot has happened and we're almost done with our training period, which is exciting and frightening.

My training group finished our youth group project a couple of weeks ago when we spent three days working with our group and students from two local schools cleaning the main street of Niquinohomo. The street really did look a lot nicer when we were finished, but it was completely trashed again within two days. That was a little discouraging, but without trash service or waste baskets within our town it's hard to fight. Anyway, it's been a lot of fun working with our youth group as most of them are around my age. It's also helped my spanish along.

Our second class at the school was two weeks ago. I taught to the same class which made it quite a bit easier than the first time. My second class was definitely a lot better than my first. My Spanish was a bit better and I was more prepared for the environment.

We also had our second language interview. Basically, you talk with one of the language professors for 10 or so minutes. The conversation is recorded so that when the interview ends two people are able to listen and critique your Spanish ability. My first interview wasn't much of a conversation. It was more me blurting words (and by words, I mean colors) and the two or three phrases that I knew. Needless to say, my second interview was much better. I was graded at the intermidiate level which means I can carry on a simple conversation and "get by." I certainly don't feel all that comfortable with the language, but it has gotten a lot better since I arrived, and the interview helped remind me how much I have improved, even if I have a long way to go.

In other news, this past weekend I woke up on Saturday morning running to the bathroom. I then spent the morning in the bathroom and the rest of the day in bed without energy and with a fever. Sunday, I woke up feeling alright and Monday I was back to normal for the most part, but I learned on Tuesday that I have a bacterial infection and two types of parasites. Pleasant, I know. Truthfully, I feel fine sounds a lot worse than it is. Anyway, I took some pills last night to kill the parasite and for the next three days I have antiboitics to take. The worse part is that it has made me a lot more conscious of what I'm eating and how it's prepared. This makes it a lot harder to eat anywhere in Nicaragua. I haven't had much of an appetite lately, but slowly it's returning.

And...we finally received our sites. For the next two years I'll be living in Palacagüina. We got a list of possible sites two weeks ago and then we had an interview with our boss to explain our preferences. We had to wait a week before finding out which made for some good speculation amongst the trainees. It was a little unnerving the night before knowing that someone else was deciding where you'd live for two years, but I didn't have much of a preference in sites. Beyond Niquinohomo and a few other towns, I really don't know much about other cities and regions of Nicaragua, so it was hard to decide where I wanted to move based on a short paragraph description. Palacagüina sounds good to me.

The town is in the north of Nicaragua, in the department of Madriz. The entire town has around 16,000 people with 3,500-4,000 people within the main city and the rest in the surrounding rural areas. It's the first time that a business volunteer will live there, but there's been a number of health and environment volunteers, and I'll have a sitemate from the health sector. I'll teach in the city school and also in a small rural school outside of the town, and apparently there's several other NGO's that work within the city.

On Monday I leave for a week to visit Palacagüina, giving me a nice chance to get to konw it a bit more before moving there for good. The following week we return to our training towns for our final week of Spanish and technical classes before spending our final week in Managua before swearing in as volunteers and moving onto our sites. The last few weeks are really busy with finishing everything up before training ends.

Other thoughts: How are the Tigers so good and why do I have to miss this season? I can't wait to move back to this. I'm jealous of all that went to Bonaroo. Why isn't anyone going to Nashville for the 4th of July?

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Thanks to everyone that has posted comments so far. I can't quite explain how fun it is to hear from people through email or through this blog, but going through a day only communicating in Spanish is tough, and when I'm able to escape to the internet to enjoy an hour in English hearing from friends and family really is cool. Thanks.

Also, congratulations to Brent Carr on his new job in Houston, Texas. I hope it's not EECS related.

Friday, June 09, 2006

"Teaching" a class

Since my last update, I managed to "teach" a class and travel to Nandaime for a volunteer visit.

As part of our training, we are required to give three or four lessons at one of the local schools in Niquinohomo. The trainees are able to pick the lesson and the class lasts 45 minutes. Easy enough in English, but in Spanish it's another story. If you could hear my Spanish you would laugh at the thought of me teaching a lesson on self-esteem in front of 45-60 sixteen year olds. To add to the problem, the classrooms sit back to back in one building with thin walls and lots of windows, allowing lots of noise to pass through and students to sit outside of the classroom whistling, talking to students in class, and laughing at the instructor.

Other than the environment my class actually went fairly well considering my language ability. We played two games that took up most of the time period and my speaking part was generally scripted out. It also helps that the students are interested in you (at least the first time) and are willing to listen to what the gringo has to say. But, it was scarry getting in front of a class and trying to teach in a second language. I have a lot more respect for the foreign GSI's that I had in college. Brent, give them a break in your next class. It's not easy.

This past week I visited a volunteer in Nandaime, a city about an hour away from Niquinohomo. The visit was for us to get an idea of what it will be like working in the schools, working on secondary projects, and living on our own. It was also a nice break from our training routine and language classes.

The volunteer I stayed with had a fairly large house with two rooms and a porch in the back. The two rooms had nothing except his bike. A bed sat in the middle of his porch and a plastic chair sat in the corner. That was it. He had a broken sink and a toilet that semi-worked, but nothing else. I slept on the floor with a small sleeping bag and a jacket as a pillow, and we traded the chair back and forth through the three days. Despite the living conditions, the visit was pretty cool.

On Monday we rode bikes on dirt roads into the country, crossing two or three rivers and stumbling upon different trails. I haven't seen much outside of the small towns I've visited, so it was cool to see a completely different environment and landscape. Tuesday and Wednesday we spent at the school teaching classes and meeting his students. It was cool to see the actual class and subject that I'll be teaching in a few months.

I learned a lot spending a few days outside of training. Mostly, that it's going to be hard moving to a new town without the safety net of other volunteers within your site. Finding housing, projects, friends, etc. will be a tough task to complete on your own. Especially after establishing a home in my training town. I've become comfortable with my town, my family, and my friends (despite my spanish). It'll be hard to leave and adjust again.

This next week we're busy with our youth group and another class at the school. I'm staying healthy (somehow I didn't get sick after eating trash food and drinking tap water for the weekend) and happy.