Thursday, July 26, 2007

Daily Life

Everyday pictures of us. Me cooking stir fry, well it sort of tastes like stir fry anyways. Anytime Chinandega has broccoli we get really excited, and buy it. I don´t know who this counter is made for because I am about the same height as most Nicas (or taller) and this is really ridiculous. Who is that tall that cooks in Nicaragua? Certainly not men.
Jeff sitting in the rocking chair, chillin´.
Jeff ¨mowing¨ our backyard.

Me washing.
July was a crazy month. It was the month of our fiestas patronales so there was something going on every Sunday of the month. Yesterday was the actual day of the patron saint and we had the day off. There was a lot going on in the park, like fair rides and even more plastic stuff being sold than normal. I bought a candy apple and almost ripped out each and every one of my new 15 fillings. I´ve never eaten anything so sticky in my life. It was delicious though.

One month to go until we have been in country a year. Before we came, I read a lot of blogs and a lot of the time the girls complained about the cat calling and hissing of the men. They talked about how it bothered them and I thought....get over it, grow used to it, and similiar things. Wow, there is no way of knowing how much it will drive you nuts until you are actually here. I hate it. There are days when I dream of punching people in the face when they hiss at me. Once and student said ¨Goodbye my love¨to me at the school. He wasn´t in one of my classes and didn´t really know me. So I walked up to this kid, I had had it that day I think, and told him that he could call me Profesora instead of my love and that he needs to have more respect for me and women. He was super embarrassed and apologized profusely. I wish I could do this to every man that offends me, however I would never make it to school because I´d be giving small charlas the entire way. Today when I was walking home, I was lucky enough to hear ¨Hey baby. I love you. I want you. I want to f**k you.¨ But what can you do. I have to live here for more than another year and if I say something back to him I could be putting myself in danger, especially since I sort of stick out around here and he is bound to recognize me the next time he sees me walking around. You can be having the best day and then hearing something like that, or even less offensive, can bring you down to a really low low. Just like that. Its so offensive and I´m super sick of being sexually harrassed whenever I walk around. They even do it when I walk around with Jeff, but not as bad. Anyways, thats just me venting.

August is coming! And with the end of August means we´ve been here for a year. Whoo!

Monday, July 16, 2007


Each city in Nicaragua has a patron saint that goes along with it. For Chinandega, its Santa Ana. Along with each saint comes the fiestas patronales, which is a large party for the city during the specified week(s). Our celebration just started this Sunday with a hípico, which is a horse parade. Well, its not just any horse parade, its a parade Nicaraguan style! Which means...lots of drinking. So, everyone that wants to participate gets their horses ready to parade down the main streets, with music, floats, etc. Preparation includes drinking for most everyone, including the riders and supposedly the horses too... People line the streets to watch the horses pass, drink with their neighbors, etc. Also, what makes it more exciting is that as the horses pass, they dance!, yes dance, by moving their hooves one at a time, kinda like hopping on one foot only with 4 in the case of a horse. Add to this bands playing music, motorcycles driving next to the horses, floats with women dancing on them, the occassional fireworks, and the possibilities of a really drunk guy wandering in front of the horse and you got yourself a hípico!
This was the second one that Jenny and I have been to, the first being in Jenny´s training town. But since we are a large city, there were a lot more horses and they were a lot pretty and larger. Some were supposedly worth upwards of 40,000 dollars!
And you are thinking to yourself...this sounds kind of dangerous. And it can be and we saw this first hand yesterday. After eating at a place on the route where the horses were going to pass shortly, we went across the street to a bar that had set up an outside tent with tables and chairs for the customers to sit at and watch the horses pass. So, one rider (drunk obviously) and their horse stops in front of the tent with the seating to talk to his friends and try to get his buddy(also drunk) to get on the back of the horse with him. Bad idea! Horse is not into it at all, and starts to buck his back the area where everyone is seating! The horse ends up connecting with an unsuspecting man, who is enjoying his beer at the table, in the face! Lots of blood to say the least and probably some missing teeth. As this happened we were standing probably 10 ft. away! Which shows you...don´t drink and ride!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Minnesota Rocks.

Okay, so I totally ripped off this article from someone elses blog. Thanks Erik. But I thought it was interesting.

Study: Midwest leads in volunteering
By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press WriterSun
Jul 8, 12:35 PM ET

The spirit of volunteerism is thriving in the heartland, but not so much on the coasts. Midwesterners are more likely to volunteer their time than are people elsewhere in the United States, according to a government study being released Monday. The highest rates were in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, where more than four in 10 adults volunteered.

"It's really about Minneapolis' commitment to the quality of life," said Michael Weber, president and chief executive of Volunteers of America of Minnesota. "If you look at the entire society, it says we will give back to the community and take care of our society.

"The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency, used Census Bureau data to determine the share of people age 16 and older who had volunteered their time in the previous year.

The study provides three-year averages, for 2004 through 2006, for the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

Minneapolis-St. Paul was followed at the top by Salt Lake City; Austin, Texas; Omaha, Neb.; and Seattle.

Las Vegas had the lowest volunteer rate, 14.4 percent. It was joined at the bottom by Miami; New York; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Riverside, Calif.Nationally, 26.7 percent of adults in 2006 said they had volunteered in the previous year.

That compares with 28.8 percent in 2005 and 20.4 percent in 1989. More than one-third of the people who volunteered in 2005 stopped in 2006.

"Volunteering has a leaky bucket," said Robert Grimm, an author of the report. "Many times people drop out because the activities are not challenging enough or they're not substantial enough.

"In Minneapolis, Weber said his organization works hard to make sure activities are well organized, meaningful to the community and rewarding to volunteers. "The person goes away saying, `I feel good, I made a difference today,'" Weber said.

The study said several demographic and social factors appear to contribute to higher volunteer rates:
_Short commutes to work, which provide more time to volunteer.
_Home ownership, which promotes attachment to the community.
_High education levels, which increase civic involvement.
_High concentrations of nonprofit organizations providing opportunities to volunteer.

Volunteering can have a "positive, substantial impact on the life of a youth" or it can help an older person remain at home instead of moving into a nursing home, said Grimm, director of research and policy development for the federal agency.

"Volunteering is not something that's just nice to do, it's necessary to solve important community problems," he said. Les Kuivanen of Minneapolis volunteers at an elementary school with other retirees from the manufacturing company Honeywell International. The retired engineer said volunteering is more rewarding when the activity matches his skills.

Kuivanen and other retirees teach students about electricity and magnetism. He said it is important for young students to learn about science and technology, maybe drawing interest in a future career choice.

"I wanted to volunteer because I wanted give back," Kuivanen said. "It's fun to golf and fish and hunt, and I do all that. But I wanted to do something that I thought was needed, to help others."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Se fue Ernie...y la luz y agua tambien!

Ernie is gone! Now we are here with 2 sitemates that were not here when we got here which means....we are the next to leave (unless someone goes home early, of course)!

In the spirit of Ernie leaving, I would like to tell a story about Ernie. One time, he was on a bus. He was kind of tired so he yawned a really big Ernie yawn. The woman in front of him happened to sneeze in this exact instant, amazing I know, and the liquid from her sneeze went right into Ernie´s mouth. Disgusting. Maybe it was cause he yawns like this:

Anyways, bye Ernie! We´ll miss you.

In other news, the electricity and water have been going out like crazy! It is insanity to know tht you live right next to a big ocean and you don´t have water. Every day we lose power at 7 a.m. and it comes back around 2 p.m. The water goes with the electricity and comes back around 5 p.m. This is our current shedule, but who knows when it will change. In Chinandega, each sector is on its own time schedule, so sometimes you can walk around the city of find a cyber or a photocopier with power.

The whole country is facing this crisis. It stinks. How can you get done what you need to get done? You have to plan ahead, which I´m not that great at. And last week we have virtually no water all week. Thats not good when you don´t store water, as we didn´t because we almost always have running water. Nobody knows when this insanity will stop, but its all over the front of the newspaper and everyones talking about it. Some people say in August things will go back to normal, but this is Nicaragua so when they say August that means...October, maybe.

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes! 27 sounds so old.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Teacher´s Day!

Last Friday we had a celebration at both of our schools in honor Teacher´s Day, which seems to be a holiday only in Nicaragua (although it should be everywhere). When we both got home we discussed our experience and realized that they were a little different. At Jenny´s school the celebration was pretty typical, dancing etc., but not that many students showed up and it was fairly underwhelming. Whereas at my school the students really seemed to get into it. I got there a little after it had started and one of my counterpart showed me where all the teachers were sitting, right in front of the stage in a few rows of chairs surrounded by the students. So, not thinking about it I grabbed a seat in the front row, which was surprisingly empty.... We had a student MC who announced the different acts from the different classes, you know the usual folkloric dances and poems.

Then, on to the reggaeton! The next, ooh, 8 dances were mainly different choreographed reggaeton dances with a little salsa mixed in. For those who don´t know reggaeton is a newer genre of rap music(a combination of raggae roots and rap), more or less, and is HUGE here Latin countries.
Best part for the students was when they would come off the stage into the area where the teachers were sitting and dance in front/with/for the teachers as the sat there. A little embarassing... I tried to occupy myself with as many things as possible, i.e. my camera and my glass of pop so as to not get dragged into anything more embarassing. I also enjoyed the fact that after one of the songs where the girls came and dance in front of the teachers I looked back at my counterpart who was sitting in the backrow (obviously) and says to me ,"You nervous?" with a smile.

After the celebration ( called an acto in Spanish) there was food for the teachers, pelguey, which is some sort of goat/sheep combination that my school always cooks for important events. I had it at a different event at my school and its good, but I was too hungry so I skipped it this time. But in the end I got to go home with a gift from the students and they had a lot of fun.
On top of that earlier this week both of our community class that we have at a place called the Telecentro gave us presents for Teacher´s Day. We each got traditional Nicaragua shirts which were really cool and which we were not expecting.
Jenny with my class. Our Telecentro classes had a ¨field trip¨ to the park to get to know each other a little bit better. After class, they presented the presents. I was at home planning, but they came by our house to present me with the shirt after class.

Service Rocks!

I have been thinking a lot about volunteering lately, and why some people feel it is part of their duty to give to others, volunteer, or have a socially conscious job, while others don´t. Anyways, I feel very strongly about service, and a life of service at that, so I wrote this article for our quarterly publication. I´ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Not much else to do when theres not electricity at night. Jenny

“Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy, Jr.

·Do you love the volunteer life style and the high it gives you?
·Do you feel like you need another year to “figure things out”?
·Do you enjoy measuring life in increments of 1-4 years (i.e. College: 4 years, Peace Corps: 2 years, Grad School:15 months)?
·Are you going to really miss being part of a community when you leave?
·Before you left, did anyone ask you “Why are you leaving when there’s so much to be done here?” and you thought….good point?

If you answered yes or maybe to any of these questions, READ ON!

Before joining the Peace Corps, I served for 2 years in AmeriCorps, which has been called the “domestic Peace Corps”. Much like the Peace Corps, you dedicate a length of time (couple months to one year) to volunteer in a specific project in a specific community for a living stipend. However, unlike the PC, you get to choose the program AND the community with whom you work (in most programs). You also get an education award (approx. $4,750) that can be directly applied to most loans or tuition at most universities.

I joined City of Lakes AmeriCorps in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There, I co-taught in a middle school, taught after school classes, recruited and trained volunteers, went to many group retreats, coordinated a summer youth leadership group, facilitated many service learning projects, was a big sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters, filled out reports, made life long friends, met my husband!, affected at least 1.8 peoples lives, volunteered my time, energy, and knowledge to give an extra hand, and felt good about myself for the first time in my life.
I also learned a lot. I learned about my community, how to be a productive member of society, how to talk about diversity, how to give countless life skills classes, how to see myself as a leader, how to work in a group, how to lead trainings, how to do one million icebreakers, name games, teambuilding activities, and energizers, and most importantly I learned a lot about myself.

When people have found out that Jeff and I did AmeriCorps, they are usually interested and some have expressed interest in joining when they get back to the states. I have been asked “Would AmeriCorps be a disappointment after doing the Peace Corps?” more than once, and we always answered “Ya, it probably would”. But after spending more time in the Peace Corps, I’ve thought a lot about my answer and have changed my mind. They are two very different and separate experiences. When I joined the Peace Corps, I thought I was taking a step up. I now realize that what I did was take a step sideways. I feel that while we offer a lot to the communities that we are working in, what I have learned in both programs is what is truly valuable to me and will stay with me for the rest of my life, and they are very different.

In Peace Corps I learned…
“Life is calling, how far will you go”
That when I swore in we got a cute little Peace Corps pin.
The difference between llegar and venir and that you really shouldn’t use venir when you are at your neighbor’s house and you are talking about your students coming over to YOUR house. That’s a time for llegar. Move 5 steps to the right, okay cool, NOW you can use venir.
How to make tostones, gallo pinto, and my own spaghetti sauce. Also to cook when I have running water, and to eat out when I don’t.
How to sneak in a life skills charla to any youth gathering. Oh, and what in the world a charla is.
How to live on $250 in a developing nation.
How to work with very driven, motivated, and goal-oriented Peace Corps volunteers. Also how to work with Nicaraguans in their country.
The importance of free food.
Volunteers will always break rules (i.e. NOT wearing a bike helmet).
The words to countless Mana and bus songs.
To NOT say yes to everything right away otherwise I might burn out, and I’ve got 2 years!

In AmeriCorps I learned…
“Getting things done for America”
That when we swore in we got a hooded sweatshirt, a t-shirt AND a cute little AmeriCorps pin.
That I am a Southwest, which means that when I work in a group I want everyone to come out happy (the process is what counts!) but I also like our work to be orderly and organized.
To NEVER bring hummus, veggies and pita bread to a potluck otherwise all we will have to eat is hummus, veggies and pita bread.
That HAVING a youth group(after school class) is the important thing, no matter what the topic is (knitting anyone?), because most youth mischief happens during the hours of 3-6 p.m. (in the U.S.)
How to live on $640 in a developed nation.
How to work with very free flowing, open thinking, and concerned AmeriCorps volunteers. Also, how to work with and develop youth leaders.
The importance of free food.
Volunteers will always break rules (i.e. driving students home from activities).
That Jeff knows the entire “Freedom Medley” and enjoyed singing it daily.
To say YES to everything because I have to finish my 1500 hours, and I only have 1 year!

AmeriCorps might not be right for everyone. However, I think that as RPCVs we should keep volunteering when we return to the states, or wherever it is that we end up. There’s so much work to be done and luckily, there are so many different ways to give: twice a week, once a month, once a year. Choose one! You’ll feel better about yourself, keep in touch with humanity, get to share your knowledge with others, and learn new things. Just make sure you choose the one that’s right for you. Here are some links, though I realize that they are biased with what I enjoy, there are so many more important and amazing organizations out there. Good luck and “keep on keepin on”! Peace.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Did you know....?

A lot of famous people were in the Peace Corps. Even some who you wouldn´t expect:
(thanks Jasmine´s dad)

Joanie Laurer left home at age 16, and went to Spain under ascholarship with the United Nations. By 1987, she had graduated highschool in Spain. She spent the next five years at the University ofTampa and graduated in 1992 with a double major in Spanish Literature. Subsequently, she joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to CostaRica to teach literacy. After college, Laurer began to regularly enter fitness competitions.

In 1996, Laurer competed in the New York City regional of the FitnessAmerica Pageant. Laurer met World Wrestling Federation employees Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a bar in 1997. Struck by her appearance, they helped herget into the WWF. She made her WWF debut on February 16 at In YourHouse choking Marlena. Her original role in the company was as Chyna, the laconic bodyguard of Triple H and later D-Generation X. She oftengot physically involved in Triple H's matches during his feuds withGoldust, Mankind, Owen Hart, and The Rock by executing a low-blow (anuppercut to the crotch). At WWF No Way Out of Texas in 1998, shebecame the first woman to be stunned by Stone Cold Steve Austin.