Friday, June 22, 2007
I have really been enjoying my time at school lately, and it is getting so much easier and more natural to be there. I think that when the kids first met me my newness was distracting, but now they are getting used to me. They know my name- for the most part, anyway- and I'll respond to Liola and Biola. It's close enough. I'm starting to know them more, too, and I love it how now I can pick up on their moods. Although now that I am less scary they are more comfortable asking me for attention, and I just feel spread too thin, especially when the pre-school teacher steps out of class. On Friday everyone was cranky and drained. Myself definitely included. Kids were crying, knees were scraped, catty arguments over who was sitting next to who. I gave up trying to make it through Peter Pan, and we all just hit the swingset at the end of the day. It's a pretty surefire remedy for preschooler anxieties.
On the tourist front, I went to San Juan del Sur last weekend. I had heard mostly terrible things about San Juan del Sur, so my expectations were pretty low. Yes, it is touristy, and yes, they speak to you in English, and yes there were moments when I felt like I could blink my eyes shut, open them, and realize that that I was actually in San Diego. But I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the town, and it felt good to spend a little time with the Pacific again. I'm from California- it is my ocean, and I have to love it whether it is secluded and scenic or littered with empty Tona beer bottles and tacky seafront bars.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The weekend before last, I went on my first weekend trip. Using my time off to travel and explore Nicaragua is going to be one of the best parts about being here.
We went to Leon, which is a city further north that is about the same size as Granada, although the feel of the place was a little different. You can still spot political murals painted on the walls of buildings throughout the city, it is a little bit hotter and dirtier, and there are more major American chains. We found a Payless Shoe store and a Radio Shack within walking distance of our hostel, and we also ventured into an enormous and very well air conditioned supermarket that had the potential to keep us entertained for quite awhile.
We used our first afternoon to take care of standard tourist business i.e. churches, museums, walking around the park. As soon as we walked into the central plaza, I recognized the main Cathedral. I had a photograph of it set as my computer's desktop background when I was trying to save up and make plans for this trip. The church was pretty stunning inside, and we all wandered around it trying to take it all in. I had trouble resisting the urge to take pictures inside, because there were a good number of people there praying. I always feel a little guilty when I am just standing inside a church for the sake of appreciating it as a place, when all of the people around me are appreciating it as something holy. They're used to it, I know, but I hate knowing the I am the 60th Gringo that has just flatly stood there beside them taking in the scenery.
We also managed to visit a couple of museums that day, one art museum and the Ruben Dario museum. The Ortiz art museum was recommended by everyone that I talked to about Leon, and it is pretty gorgeous. You start out with a bunch of old colonial portraits and then you move onto more modern art; abstractions of the scenery here, a few Diego Rivera sketches, and I remember one painting with poetry about snowflakes and shivering scrawled across the canvas.
On Sunday, we visited the museum of Myths and Folklore, which has been set up in an old prison. Paintings of inmates and torture have been put up on the walls behind scenes of traditional Nicaraguan celebrations and ceremonies. The concept is nice, acknowledging both the positive and the negative of Nicaraguan history and culture and reconciling the two.
Sunday was the main event of our trip, though: volcano boarding. This is something that our hostel started doing a couple of years ago, and it involves getting on a little sled, wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and goggles, and sliding down a very steep slope made of black volcanic rock. It was like sledding on steep gravel. I was so freaked out at the start, that I just hit the breaks (meaning I dragged my feet) and then I was burried in a pile of rocks about 20 feet down the slope. I had to dig myself out, and by the time I finished doing that I decided that if I was going to do this I may as well just let go and trust the I can balance. So, I tried to push off again and did, eventually make it down.
I also really liked the hike up the volcano beforehand, and you can dig into the earth and feel the heat. We climbed down into a crater and then crawled back out. You could smell the sulfur and it was so steep that you are basically hands and knees on your way back up.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
I forgot how difficult counting to ten can be. And identifying colors, telling red from green. Tough stuff.
I had my first real day at preschool on Monday. What with all of the rain last week very few kids showed up, and so the last few days were a very mellow, toned down introduction to what I am going to be doing here. I am a little bit overwhelmed. I never expected to be a fantastic teacher, and I don't think of myself as someone who is good with kids. I expected it to be hard and anticipated the frustrations, but in the day to day it is difficult to keep perspective. My Spanish is so limited, and I don't know how to begin to help kids that have really severe learning and behavioral issues. I recognize that, as a volunteer, I am only one part of a larger project. Beyond that, I am only one tiny piece of a bigger system. I'm not completely discouraged in any sense of the word, just wading through all of the anxieties and the hard stuff that is still to come. Maybe I am realizing just what I have gotten myself into, for better and for worse.
In other news, I had my first venture into Managua on Saturday night. Managua seems to be nobody's favorite city, but I am interested in exploring it and getting to know the place a little bit. A big group of volunteers decided to go see Sean Paul in concert and there was an extra ticket. It was cheap enough, and I couldn't resist the novelty of the whole event. We took the bus into the city, and I met these two kids from El Salvador living in Managua on the way. The little girl eyed me for a good ten minutes before she mustered up the courage for a 'Hello.' Pretty adorable. She was thoroughly entertained by our little group scattered throughout the bus.
The concert took place about three hours after it was supposed to start in a big lot adjacent to a casino. This Sean Paul guy is quite full of himself. We had to yell his name so many times before he finally strutted on stage. Not that I could actually see anything, mind you. 'Ladies, ladies, ladies' he would croon between basically every song. He also renamed the city 'Womanagua.' Clever, Sean Paul. It was a good time, though. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, especially after the crowd managed to push down the fence separating our section from the one in front of us. We could just strolled right on over it. Throughout most of the concert, we had this buffer zone between us and the rest of the crowd. It looked like everyone wanted to keep some distance from the silly awkward gringos, with the exception of the random guy that would just dance up to us.
Time for school.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
I'm writing this from a place called Cafemail, an internet cafe right off of Parque Central. At any given time there are three other volunteers here, and you can hear motown or extroardinarily sappy slow Latin rock songs are playing in the background. I can hear birds and traffic outside and, lately, buckets and buckets of rain pounding against the pavement. I've been in Granada since Sunday, so the end of my first week is fast approaching, and I haven't even written a real entry. I'm not sure where to start, but I guess I should explain what I'm doing here.
The organization is called La Esperanza Granada, and it was founded by a Nicaraguan and a couple of backpackers who decided that they could help out the local schools. The idea is that we work with the school system, and provide one on one tutoring to students in classes. I'm at a school in a town on the outskirts of Granada in a town called La Prusia. I'm going to be with the pre-schoolers, and the other volunteers at the school are amazing with the kids.
I haven't had a full day of school, yet. The rain has prevented most kids from going to class. When you have to trek an hour through the mud, and you don't really have a change of clothes or a good place to dry off, most kids end up staying home. Attendance is pretty spotty anyway. It's amazing who does show up. There is one girl with cerebral palsy whose mother carries her on her back an hour to and from school who braves the rain, and one tiny tiny boy showed up on the top of horse. School was canceled, though, so we went home. Mother's day celebrations where on Monday. These involved dance competitions with the moms who were coaxed into performing for the whole school. The competitions turned into blasting reaggaeton, and two moms, no joke, grinding up against each other- that was my introduction to the school at La Prusia.
Today will be my first attempt to take the bus by myself. Basically, you head down to the bus station, which is on a corner by the market, and you push past these guys that actually grab you to try to get you to ride the buses that they work on. They are privately owned, and so they have some incentive to try to get your 5 cords (that's about 30 cents). Anyway, you have to push past them and shove onto the most crowded bus, because that's the one that is leaving first. If you are lucky you get a party bus. Those blast music down the street, starting at 6 in the morning, and frequently drive past our house. After about a ten minute ride, you get off by an a police station, and walk up a path which gets pretty mucky in the rain, and up to the school.
What else...Wednesday was a beautiful day. After a meeting to plan parties for international children's day, we had the day off for the official mother's day holiday. We walked up to this lagoon, Laguna Apoyo, which was made out of the inside of an old volcano. There is a touristy side also, where Nicas sit around drinking beer, but we hiked up this secluded path, through La Prusia actually. It was gorgeous, and I felt so grateful to be here. We swam out into the lagoon and floated on driftwood. Some of the volunteers played cricket on the beach with sticks, and we headed back when it got dark. The buses stopped running, so we ended up getting a ride with a Canadian couple living down here, and the woman handed us her card. Apparently, she's the ambassador to Nicaragua from Canada. Or so the card said. Crazy.
There's a lot of expats around here. They own a fair share of restaurants, hotels, bars, etc. There's a man named Jimmy that owns a bar called Jimmy Three Fingers, basically living out some kind of fantasy of his. Every night he sits at the bar with his guitar and plays Van Morrison and Johnny Cash, makes himself the star of his own show.
Random place to stop, but I have to go to school now.
I am loving this so far.