Saturday, April 19, 2008

It´s so hot...thats all I can think about

So today is easily 100 degrees outside and I try and find any excuse to go inside an air conditioned building like the cell phone or ice cream store. Volunteers in Chinandega all have the same issue, we drink gallons of water each day and only end up peeing maybe twice because we sweat the rest of it out. Sleeping with a fan at night is a must and electricity shortages are frequent here so when my fan turns off I want to hit someone haha. It doesn´t get much cooler at night but April is the hottest month and then comes the rainy season which I hear isn´t that much better. It takes away a lot of the dust but then it´s still pretty hot so things just mold. Thank goodness I have the river nearby for those hot unbearable days.

I have a bunch of volunteers who live nearby (although with roads and bus routes it takes awhile to travel) but we have already gotten together a bunch. Next satuday we are all going to the beach to enjoy the annual seafood festival...although I don´t eat seafood I´m sure it´ll be tons of fun and I´m sure they will still be selling my favorite dish gallo pinto, just beans and rice mixed together. A lot of people have asked what I eat here and it´s basically the same just less ketchup and more beans.

I can´t believe I´m starting my fourth week in site. There are definetly moments where I´m not sure the day will end but when I look back at the past weeks and even training it is almost a blur. Everyday I go to the Health Center which is close to my house. It´s really small with about 4 rooms and about 10 nurses and 3 doctors. The director of the health center is 23 and already a doctor which makes you wonder about the education system here. I have given 8 presentations so far and some were better than others. Kids here are not used to being disciplined which is obvious if you enter any classroom here. Every thirty seconds the teacher yells at them to shut up which might or might not work for the moment. So, I had to make a bunch of rules for my youth group and taught them about raising hands and taking turns talking so we will see if this helps at all. However the highlight of all my presentations and the one I´m most proud of was in a nearby community with about 40 people on the theme of domestic violence. You can imagine how timid the people here in rural areas can be especially on topics such as this but thats why it makes me want to talk about it more. I coordinated it with a local police officer and local health promoter and it lasted for more than 2 hours with an amazing discussion about the laws that protect Nica´s from DV and what they can do it such a case.

I have a bunch of different youth groups, some still being formed, in the outlying communities and basically we have a meeting once a week and touch on different health topics. So far we have discussed HIV/AIDS, STD´s, DV, and self esteem. The lack of importance put on time, lack of resources, and even just knowledge makes for a difficult job but then once in awhile you realize someone is really grasping the concept and it makes the day a lot better. I am still getting accustomed to my site and finding my way around (which isn´t too hard since its set up in a grid of 4 streets). I´m already so bad with remembering names but thats the benefit of a smaller town, less people to remember! I love the kids in my community although I´m not sure how many know my name since they mostly call me "gringa" or "chelita."

Gotta run before the bus passes...and buying some water on the way so I don´t pass out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March already??

I didn´t even realize it was March already until someone reminded me that my bday was this month! This past week has been pretty intense in training and although I am loving it I am ready to move into my new site which I will describe in just a bit.

This blog is harder to keep updated than I thought just because I learn and experience so much each day, so I´m going to try and summarize what has been happening these past couple of weeks!

We have been having classes daily and I just took my midterm exam and moved up a level in my spanish. I think I definetly learn much more vocabulary and grammer outside of class speaking with my family and neighbors. Although they don´t correct me as often as my teacher would, I learn how they really speak and learn the slang instead of learning book spanish. Nica is FULL of slang and they have like 20 words just to describe one thing.

We have also been receiving tons of presentations of different topics that we can use in our sites. The ones that have appealed to me the most are the HIV/AIDS, adolescent pregnancies, domestic voilence and nutrition presentations. I´m so excited because soy production is pretty well known here in Nica so when I get to my site I might work with that as well.

One of the most exciting trips I have been on is going to see a volcano in Masaya. We went right up to the top and got to look down into the hole. There was smoke everywhere and a really strong sulfur smell. I took tons of pictures and will try and upload them onto Photoworks soon! Nicaragua is known as the land of lakes and volcanoes and so far I have seen lake Granada and tons of volcanoes. Andrew´s host family took the 4 of us in my training town to see Granada which is a beautiful and pretty famous city here in Nica. It was beautiful with tons of brightly colored old colonial buildings and the lake was gorgeous. I has a city center with a huge cathedral and food and entertainment. Usually the entertainment consists of little Nica kids walking around with huge puppets called Gigantonas and singing. Lake Granada is the biggest lake in all of central america and it almost looks like an ocean just because you can´t see land in the distance. It has tons of little islands with spider monkeys, mango trees, and amazing houses that are ¨so expensive¨at $150,000.

So last week my whole training group took a trip to the north to the department of Chinandega to recieve AIDS presentations since it is AIDS week here and Chinandega has the highest rates of the virus in the country. It was an exhausting trip because we got little sleep and we were constantly moving around. We got to watch one volunteer who has been here for a year give an AIDS presentation in conjuction with a pool tournament. It was amazing...basically about 20 men (women aren´t really allowed in pool halls here) signed up to compete and in between each game they had to listen to a small presenation about AIDS that the vol gave. At the end of the tournament it was down to 2 people and the person who got the most questions correct about AIDS won a sum of money and won the tournament. I like the idea just because it is a way to educate the people while letting them have a lot of fun and in the end winning something for their participation. We also got to go to the beach which was great because at that point I couldn´t take anymore sitting down taking notes. I swam out pretty far with a couple other volunteers and at one point I looked back to the shore and the people looked like ants and then I figured I might be in trouble and started to swim back in which took me at least 15 minutes with tons of muscle work ha.

Soooo the most exciting part of all is that I found out my site and I received a description of the site with its history. My town is called Santo Tomas del Norte and it is in the northwest department of Chinandega. The municipality has about 7,617 people but my town only has about 800. It is about 5 hours from Managua and 4 from the Pacific ocean. Santo Tomas is one of the poorest municipalities in the country due to war and natural disasters. (Now I´ll just copy out of my book since it says it best and I have never been). Due to its mountainous terrain, Santo Tomas was a key battleground during the 80´s Contra War. The land is not very suitable for agriculture and deforestation has caused the topsoil to be washed away by rain. The municipality has tropical climate characterized by 6 months of rain and 6 months of dry season. 61% of the population owns shallow wells, which makes propogation of disease common.

In the 1960´s, most of Santo Tomas´inhabitants were employed in the cotton, sugarcane and banana industries. The capital production allowed the region to prosper. However, when the prices of those products fell down in the 80´s many inhabitants became unemployed. Poeple became ill due to poor environmental practices. The ill effects of abusive pesticide use are still noticeable today. Due to the high unemployment rate, many people from Santo Tomas have moved to other countries looking for better job opportunities. After the war, El Nino caused both hurricanes and droughts which lead to further property damage.

Basic public health coverage exists and medical personnel are generally available to provide prescriptions and some basic medicines. The most common ailments are diarrhea and respiratory problems. While 65% of families have latrines, 35% don´t have the means to deal with human waste.

Santo Tomas del Norte has some basic services such as electricity and telephone service. Two community wells provide water to the urban population.

Okay so that´s part of the description I have of my town. The volunteer there now who will be finishing her 2 years in march when I swear in has told me its a wonderful town and she has accomplished a lot of work there. Oh there is also a river about 10 minutes from my town and on the other side of the river is Honduras.

I´m so ready to start working but I´m going to miss my host family here in Carazo so much. It´s only a 5 hour trip so I plan to come back for holidays when I´m not able to make it back to the states. Bueno, I gotta run home for lunch. Love you all, besos y abrazos!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

3 weeks in Nica

I guess I have been running on the ¨Nica hour¨because it has been awhile since I have written on here! The change of the pace of life in addition to the electricity shutting off every once in awhile has also kept me from writing and after almost 3 weeks here there is so much to say.

For those who don´t know yet, I am working with Peace Corps in the Health sector. So far I am still an aspirante, or trainee, and have to pass the 11 week training course before actually becoming a volunteer. My group of 19 has been split up based on language ability into smaller groups in different communities. I live in a tranquil, small but relatively modern town (not allowed to say the name) which is about 45 kilometros south of Managua. In my training group are Rachel (27), Shaun (32) and Andrew (23). We have class 6 days a week with Gloria, our Nica teacher who pretends she doesn´t speak English but I KNOW she does because she laughs when we say something in English sometimes haha. Classes are pretty informal but really helpful. So far we have been having them in Andrews backyard with his 2 parrots and 10 chickens and a huge whitboard. His mom is so sweet and brings us pineapple once in awhile. 2 times a week all 19 of us meet up in Managua for an all day class which is on technical training in our health field. I must say I feel lucky because we have such an amazing group of diverse people and always have a good time.

So far I haven´t gotten sick but a couple of the other vols have. Diarrhea is the biggest problem here and the Nica´s even have a gesture for it so you don´t need to use words to tell others what is ailing you. My host family is awesome and have already told me they are coming to visit me and help set up my house whenever PC moves me to my permanent site. My host mom Zelma cooks a lot of my meals with soy and one of my host brothers is vegetarian too...woohoo!

Yesturday Andrew, Shaun and I played an intense game of soccer with some of the kids from Dolores. I hope to learn some foot tricks from some of the Nica boys. Shauns little brother who is only 11 years old is a Ronaldino in the making, its crazy. Yesturday was also a fiesta patronal so the streets were ¨alboroto¨ which I found out means filled to the max with people. There was traditional dancing, tons of people holding statues, and of course tons of music and drinking in the streets. It was really fun...except when I realized I was pretty sunburnt. The sun here is so strong but the air is cool and breezy so it tricks you really easily!

My host mom is taking me today to another town to visit some friends there and eat lunch so I have to run. Tomorrow is the 2nd week of classes and another fun week in Nica...stay tuned!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Almost time!

After graduating from James Madison University (the best school ever), I ultimately decided I wanted to join the Peace Corps. Honing my spanish language skills, living abroad, working in the health field, and meeting incredible people were just a couple reasons PC appealed to me. I was hoping to serve in a country where I had never been before, so I was really excited to find I would be going to Nicaragua. I will be working as a Community Health Promoter in conjunction with the Nicaraguan Health Ministry. More details on the job to come...

This past summer I was in Honduras and had an amazing time so I figured Nicaragua, which borders Honduras, would be just as impressive. I hope that within the next 2 years I will receive tons of letters and hopefully visits because I am going to miss you all so much. I can't wait for the ride to begin...