Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ladies and Gentlmen of the Jury, I´ve finished my Peace Corps service and proud of it. I finished technically on July 16, 2010. I stayed another month to host 6 of my high school friends who came to celebrate a successful service, and organize an economic study of Nicaragua with 8 students and Professor MacLeod from Ohio Wesleyan University.

I´m currently in Lima, Peru looking for a job, and as soon as I get one, I´ll have a moment to sit down and reflect more fully. Until then, thanks for keeping an eye out for me, and I hope you liked my experiences vicariously as much as I did in person. Love and Peace.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

After an unintentionally extended absence, I feel I should add something before the arrival of the parental duet. being absolutely swamped lately has been great. One of my teams won our regional business competitions and represented two departments in Managua. Two of my students were interviewed on national television, with their well spoken North American Professor (me). I was also interviewed in La Prensa, the widest circulated Nicaraguan daily.

As my second Holiday Season in Nicaragua arrives, I've got to reflect. I've pushed myself emotionally in ways I never thought I could, (in some cases too far) but learning from every step of the way. I have been getting worn down lately, to the point of thinking about returning even though I desperately want to stick around and finish my work. I think I've done good sustainable projects with my community, and I've got more lined up.

I'm starting to rebuild a school room in a town two hours north of me, a project which will include weekly environmental lectures. I'll be working in two schools next year with four teachers, and I'm studying for my GMATs. I still have seven months left to prove to myself and my community that I am as self-motivated and effective Peace Corps employee as I think I am.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

After almost a year teaching business classes in rural Yalí, Nicaragua, I´ve found an emotional payoff. Each group of public school fourth and fifth year students spent the last couple of months organizing a creative business plan and presentation. The Institute and I organized a town fair for the competition. All students had to present their business to a panel of judges which passed around from booth to booth. There were hours of dancing, food, music and prizes. It was widely considered a success by the town, all of the NGOs, and government organizations were there to encourage the students daring efforts into the competitive world of business. Unfortunately, none of the students or parents were pleased with the competition evaluatinos and I was forced to leave for the night to let everything cool down. I thought it went well.

Our three best groups went on to compete in the regional competitions. A honey consortium, coffee packers, and a group of painters presented their business plan in front of a panel of primarily Peace Corps volunteer judges. The painters won it all! They are the one group chosen to represent the two-department regional competition. I thought my work with the business class was winding down, but it looks like it might just be getting started. They are phenominal artists, especially considering the meager resources, and scarce encouragement.

I´ve also decided to study for my GMATs, which my parents have been so kind as to finance. While hitching a ride down to pick up my books this morning, my driver and I ran across a man who had just fallen from his motorcycle. We carried him and his bike to the side of the road, to let increasing traffic pass. We got him in the back of the truck, and rushed him to the hospital. His wounds weren´t bad, but his leg was absolutely shattered, twisted in a devilish angle. Turned out the post office was closed anyway, and I spent the rest of the morning getting back to Yalí. Adventurous morning, no?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I´m currently watching some of my fifth year students reenacting some of Nicaraguan folklore in our computer lab/auditorium/biggest room we have. The kids are speaking really campesino (farmer) and have chickens and dogs. This has got to be one of the funniest specticals I´ve seen, which is good.

I´ve realized that I´m getting really sick of my host family. I´ve never lived in an environment that was so negative. If I were to write a book about them, it would be called, La Quinta Perdida. They live in their cumulative losses, and can´t seem to recover. I´m too poor to move out (which would necesitate a bed, posibly a fridge and a stove). I now know what its like to be poor and stuck. It´s like having a bad lease, a job that doesn´t pay, and a bad roommate all at the same time. I was hoping I would never do this, but countdown: ten months.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I finally finished my proposal for a project I´ve been working on for about three months. The Mayor´s Office, and a small community two hours north of my town and I are working to rebuild a once-dirt floored, open aired class room. The walls, and most of the corrugated zinc roof is up. Still, there is no floor, gaping holes in the corrugation, no windows, doors, or floors, much less chalk boards. Hopefully USAID will help us out with paying for all the rest.

Between getting that application in and working towards the first annual business competition, I´ve been quite busy. This October 2nd, all of my four classes of high school students will gather in the park to compete for the best business innovation and planificaiton. They have spent the better part of the year working on creative businesses that fill specific needs pertaining to the community. We´ve spent the last month writing the business plans. I´m actually quite proud of the majority, and can´t wait for the regional competition.

This week was also Central America´s 188th year of liberty from Spain (September 15th). There were a lot of college age kids and recent grads around hanging out at the pool, and staying out until all hours of the night. Except for the fact that I live with small children and have to be extremely quite entering at early hours of the morning, I almost felt like I too was back in college. Except that my host brother playfully pointed a gun to my face the following morning interacting what would have gone down had I not been me. The gun fight in the mountains last night that kept me up until 5 in the morning didn´t help to calm my nerves. No one else has mentioned it, but it was the first time I had ever heard anything like that. Ever.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I hadn´t remembered for a while how different here is from there until I saw some of my sister´s reactions to Nicaragua. She took pictures of things I consider normal here, and somethings that weren´t shocking in a good or bad way. But even the roadside stands are of particular interest, and the bare-dirt floors, and the weak hand shakes. I´ll try better next time to warn and prepare. But to any visitors, expect things to be different.

I am really happy, though, that there is now one person who can prove that I was here, that I do work, that I really live in Nicaragua. Excuse my desire for validation. I´m not sure so many people remember I exist, including myself. And there is certaily no one but myself and my boss, and one or two other volunteers who know exaclty what I do. My host family doesn´t even care to ask.

After a marvellous visit by the Bean (whose bank account we drained--sorry!) I found myself drowning in responsibility. Living with the paranoia that things won´t be done the way I want them to be done, I find it hard to delegate. This means that if I´m not around, nothing gets done. When I got back, my director was angry, my classes were behind, and I had missed my deadline for my grant through USAID. I forgot to mention that I had a mysterious illness the week before the Bean arrived, and was incapable of getting anything done; there went my month.

Since then, I haven´t had reason to leave Yalí. I´m trying to get everything back on track before I have to justify it to my bosses during an in-service-training this weekend. That doesn´t mean I haven´t had time to enjoy myself, though. This weekend, the boys and I built a mini-mini-golf course in the front patio. We made flags and everything, and used a baseball and bat. There were more than a few hole-in-ones. Afterwards we all sat down to listen to Vivaldi´s Four Seasons and I read East of the Sun and West of the Moon--all thanks to Lena and her intellectual goody bag.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I never did extrapolate on my adventure to Colombia, an inability I attribute to extreme culture shock. Imagine if I had gone back home. My trip was great and even more meaningful because I got to see Rabe and because it will be my only out of country vacation for my two years in the Peace Corps. On arrival, there were some initial errands that had to be attended to , my favorite of which involved being pinched, pricked, and winked in a two minutes flat. I had to convince the Red Cross at the airport to give me a free yellow fever shot AND change the date to a week before. Thank God they were all girls, and I could charm them with my passable though accented Spanish, oh yeah, and blue eyes. Although to keep quiet in front of the boss, one of the ladies did pinch me, shortly before giving me the shot.

After said incident we were free to wander the streets of Bogotá. We site-saw during the day and hung out at Chris´s apartment listening to salsa music with his girlfriend Lorena at night. It is a beautiful city of 8-10 million people. Latin American cities have a knack for being ¨Big, but to an Uncertain Degree.¨ The huge metropolitan plain at 2640 meters above sea level bunches up into a cluster of skyscrapers before slamming headlong into impecably forested moutains which dwarf the city. The cordillera is gently crowned by a monastery on one side and a Mother Mary on the other.

Perhaps after being in Nicaragua for a year, any city could have brought me to tears. Saying that, the city is World Class, with restaurants of every style, ornate parks competing for space with Blackberry festooned suits, and enough museums that we had to cut not a few visits short. My next trip there will theoretically not be so rushed. It may be slightly more dangerous than Nicaragua, but it is a city; Jekel and Hyde in full gear.

Still enamored by both sides, I made the return trip. I had bought a flight out of San Jose, Costa Rica for half the price as a Managua ticket. Although, my lack of fine-tuned planning nearly put me on the streets on my way there and back. Leaving Nicaragua I hadn´t thought about where I was going to stay until I was on the bus to San Jose. I wandered the rainy streets long past sunset looking for any hostel with room. My return trip was marginally smoother, despite the fact that I hadn´t anticipated staying there another night. To my chagrin (though not surprise) the bus I intended taking home doesn´t run this year. Sorry.

This amongst other hang ups made my return trip lonely, sad, and inspiration for my last blog post. Bogotá is a beautiful, metropolitan hub, finely cultured, and stacked with gorgeous people. My flight to San Jose reminded me I was going back to Central America by sitting me next to an older lady who kept staring at me and invited me several times to stay the night at her house through sparsely teethed cackles. Crossing into Nicaragua was worse. Everyone seemed to have poorly capped teeth, words were increasingly swallowed, women stopped shaving there legs, people were generally less hygenic and in worse shape for their age, and trash was indsicriminantly tossed from any window.

But I suppose that is why I´m here. Less to shave peoples´ legs than to help plant the seeds of wealth building, and global integration (to a point). In a backwater country, breaking cultural barriers to market entry might be difficult, but that´s why I took this job in the first place.