Sunday, May 30, 2010

Come on in!

As promised, I bring you a picture tour of the inside of my house.

Here is Sergio, hanging out at the back door of my house, asking you to enter!

This is the main room of my house and the view you have as soon as you enter from the back door. I almost never use the front door, which you see behind my rocking chairs, unless I'm coming home late at night and don't want to disturb the family by opening the squeaky gate. And since I very infrequently stay out late in Palacaguina, that door hasn't been used in months.

The rocking chairs are my very comfortable sitting area. There is a third chair in the background that is injured and I intend to get it repaired but haven't quite gotten around to it yet. The back corner, where you can see boxes and things, has become my place to put stuff when I don't have a spot for it. I should do something about that.

This is looking at the back door from inside. This is my kitchen. You can also see Sergio, still hanging out in the background.

Here is my table with my stove top. It is simple with 3 burners and hooks up to that green gas tank. I have to manually light the burners with a match but it works very well and I occasionally cook up quite the delicious feast.

This is the other half of my kitchen. Next to my refrigerator is a little dish drain thing that contains all of the dishes I own. All of my dry food is in the plastic container and the orange bucket on the table, so that little animals don't eat my stuff. You can see to the right the doorway that leads in to my room.

And here is my room! This is the view from the doorway. My completely stuffed and unorganized bookshelf, lots of pictures on the wall including 12 black and white NYC prints from a calendar, and my "desk" - ie the table with my computer and lots of books. It serves as both my desk and my kitchen table.

Most of my belongings are jammed into that giant wardrobe type thing. Bottom two shelves are clothes and the top two are toiletries and any other random things I couldn't find a place for. Then there is my "closet", which is actually great so I can hang up some stuff and then use the top of it as an extra shelf for more clothes and the bottom serves as a shoe rack. Back in the corner are my suitcases and my ever expanding sack of dirty clothes.

My bed! I love my bed here. It is big and super comfortable and I feel nice and safe underneath my mosquito net. And, as you can see, I have a nice little bed for any visitors to sleep on! So come to Nicaragua! Also present, of course, is my trusty fan. Can't live without that.

That's all of my house, but here is a shot of my ceiling. You can't see it that well but it is kinda like tiles, which makes it nice and cool in my house during the day, but unfortunately also lets rain and dirt fall through. The wall you see is what separates the main room from my bedroom and, like walls in most Nicaraguan houses, it doesn't go all the way up the ceiling. The red thing hanging from the beam is to keep bats away. I don't really know how it works but I definitely plan on keeping it there.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of my house. Come down to Nicaragua to see it person!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My House

I have reached the point where I am so comfortable with my life here that it no longer occurs to me how different things are. And then sometimes, when I talk to people from home, I realize that nobody really has a firm picture in their heads of what my life is actually like here.

You are about to embark on a photo tour of my house. Being able to visualize my living situation will give you a big peak into my life. (Note: There will be no pictures of the inside of my house quite yet. I am currently reorganizing things and that will be my next post.)

This is my house! It looks pretty rustic, huh? I almost never go through the front door. Only sometimes if I'm coming home late at night and I don't want to disturb the family by opening the squeaky gate.

This is the squeaky gate that I usually go through to get to my house. You can see my house in the background. The building that is to the left of the gate is the house where everyone else lives. I refer to it as my aunt's house.

This is the view of my house from within the front gate. I don't really know what the stuff is that's on the ground there in the front. Ok, well I know that it's blocks of adobe, which is like dirt blocks to build a new room with. They just appeared yesterday. Apparently they are going to build a new room on the back of my aunt's house. But that's my house back there, with the window that leads in to the main room.

This is my back little patio area. I frequently sit at the table and read and drink coffee and just relax. The door on the left is the little bedroom that I used to live in and now Maria lives there. The door on the right is the door that I always use to enter my house. It leads in to the main room of my house (there are only 2 rooms - my bedroom and the main room).

This is a typical view from my window. I love keeping my window open and just listening to the sounds of the boys playing. This is an impromptu game of soccer that started one afternoon. Sometimes the ball comes flying through my open window. That's my aunt's house that you see in the background.

Down a few steps from the back of my patio, you can find this area. This is where Doggy usually hangs out. This is the washing area, or my lavendera. I wash all of my clothes here. And you can also see my shower.

Inside my shower. I'm lucky because there is pretty consistent running water in my town, so most days I am able to take an actual shower. However, if I need to shower and there is no running water, we keep those buckets filled so I can bucket shower nice and quickly.

Just down behind the shower and washing area is the rest of my backyard, which includes the clothes line where I hang my freshly hand-washed clothing to dry, and my latrine.

An inside peak of the mysterious latrine. It's really not that bad, except that the recent rain we have gotten has led to lots of bugs everywhere, including the latrine. But don't worry. I spray it with Raid most days and that keeps it under control. It doesn't even smell that bad but sometimes I spray some french vanilla air freshener in it anyway.

So there you go! I hope you enjoyed seeing pictures of where I live. I absolutely love my living situation and know I'm lucky to have found such a caring family who I can trust completely. Sometimes Maria has to yell at me for forgetting to lock my door. But I feel completely safe here and have privacy and independence.

Let me know what you think and how it compares to what you imagined.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Acero Vegetal

These beautiful vases made of bamboo are the work of a group of students from the Insitituto Nacional de Palacaguina. They have worked so incredible hard on forming their own small business and actually making it profitable. They won both the local and regional competitions and this past Thursday I had the honor of taking them to Managua to compete in the national competition.

The first hour of the day was a product fair and each of the 11 groups that were competing (all regional champions) had a table to display and sell their product. The girl in the front is Mary and then in the back, from left to right, is Carlos, Junieth, me, Wendy, Helen, and Nidia Karolina. We had a lot of fun driving through Managua on the way to the competition, especially since two of the kids had never been to the city before.

Here they are showing their vases to Robert Callahan, US Ambasador to Nicaragua. It was adorable seeing how nervous and excited they were to talk to him and I was very impressed with how professional they remained.

After selling several vases, we moved in to the auditorium and the presentations began. Each group had 7 minutes to present their business plan using a power point presentation and then the judges could ask them questions for 3 more minutes. My girls did an excellent job and I was too nervous to take pictures of anything until after we ate and they gave out the prizes.

We sat together, nervously hoping for the best but prepared to take away only the amazing experience, when they announced third place...

And they won! Here they are on stage accepting the plaque and prize money for finishing in third place. That is third place out of all 600 plus small businesses created among students throughout the country through the class La Empresa Creativa.

Francis Evelia, the teacher I co-teach the class with, and I were just as excited as the students. Francis has worked with this class for four years now and this was her first time taking a team to the national competition and I was so excited for her. In addition to being my counterpart, she is also my closest friend in town and I was proud to be sharing this honor with her.

We took many more pictures on the long bus ride home and the kids laughed and pretended to interview themselves and it was just a good time all around.

The next night we met at Karolina's house to take more pictures with the plaque. This is such an amazing group of students and I feel like I have learned just as much from them as they may have learned from me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Independence Day

September 14th and 15th (yeah I know, I'm a little bit behind on updating but at least I'm doing it now) are giant national holidays to celebrate the Battle of San Jacinto and Central American Independence Day. This involves lots of parades, drums, firecrackers, and no school for a whole week. But it's a lot of fun.

Rosa Estella

About three weeks ago, a new baby arrived in my Nicaraguan home. This little girl is named Rosa Estella and, although she cries frequently and I can always hear it from my room since Nicaraguan walls tend not to meet the ceilings, I truly adore her.

I'm definitely not a baby person. Even though I have lots of cousins and always enjoyed holding them, I don't think I ever really had much experience with very little babies. And at first everyone was asking my why I didn't want to chinear (hold) the baby. But now, whenever I'm home and I hear crying, I wander in. It's amazing that she has gotten to know me and as soon as I pick her up, she stops crying.

Her story is long and complicated and already involves being abandoned by her mother, but I know that she has a nice home now. It's so odd to think that she will be walking around by the time I leave.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My New Best Friend

I would like to take a moment to introduce everyone to my new best friend in Nicaragua.

This is Cristian. He is 3 years old and I spend the majority of my free time with him nowadays. Mostly he wanders around my room, asks me what every single item is used for, looks at my pictures, plays with my ipod and computer, and is all around adorable. He now knows the names of my brothers, my dog, and my friends who are featured frequently in pictures (although he does get confused sometimes and as a default refers to all of my friends as Jenny, even my site mate, who is called Lilia).

Whenever I find myself out of town for a day or two, I look forward to coming home because I know, as soon as I open the squeaky gate to my patio, Cristian will come running forward, calling my name and asking me where I was. He may be one of the main reasons I have lost some of my initial desire to find a house to rent. I am pretty comfortable with my host family and know I would miss his constant companionship.

Whenever we have nothing to do, I quiz him on colors or numbers. Counting still frustrates him a lot, but he sure knows his colors. I want to teach him the alphabet, but think I have to wait a little longer. His attention wanders as soon as I get to obviously teachy. I wish that I had good children's books to read him and coloring books with big thick crayons to create works of art. Unfortunately, these things are hard to come by in small town Nicaragua. And when you do find them, they are rather expensive.

So here is my request from you all back at home. Send me things for Cristian! Anything a little boy would like in the states, he would like here. If you can find some cute children's books in Spanish, send those my way! Simple coloring books with numbers and colors. Little cars. In the picture above he has a Dora the Explorer bubble whistle that Sandy and Liz sent me and I don't think I've ever seen a child more exciting than when I showed it to him. Theresa sent me an awesome Harry Potter musical Halloween card, and he walked around with it all day, opening it for every new person to show them how it plays music. He killed the card by the end of the day and I didn't even care because it was adorable seeing how fascinated he was.

The other night we had a bit of a scare. Cristian and Sergio, his 7 year old brother, were playing in the street and somehow the top of a glass Coke bottle hit Cristian in the head. The next door neighbor carried a screaming Critian in to our patio and I thought I might throw up from all the blood covering this little boys face. He cried and cried and we cleaned the cut and walked him to the health center and he very bravely got 3 stitches, only crying once more when they gave him the shot of pain killer. He now thinkgs he looks cool with his giant bandaid on his forehead and if you ask him about what happened, he only talks about getting a shot.

Whenever I have a bad day, I know I can come home and sit down with Cristian and automatically feel a little bit better.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Maria Reina

I think I have officially fallen in love with Palacag├╝ina. I know it’s only three weeks in and I’m sure problems will arise and our relationship will be far from perfect, but I have no doubts about being commited to this beautiful and sleepy mountain village for the next two years. This past Saturday was our fiestas patronales and the town transformed into a joyous and bustling party town.

Friday was a product fair in the park. Every class of 4th and 5th year students was responsible for a different typical Nicaraguan food. In addition to all of that, there were local coffee cooperatives, artisans, and performers. Everything in town was closed that day other than the fair (including the school, which I can rant about but am trying to be positive and not worry myself about classes being canceled at least two Fridays every month). It was an amazing feeling walking through the booths and hearing all the students call out to me to try their food. I also feel very well versed in most food now. I tried Pozol, Atol, Runpopo, Muntuca, Chicha, and by midday I thought I might burst.

I was amused by the booth that featured chickens and pigs. Walking down the street any typical day in town you come across chickens and pigs and other animals yet many people stopped to take pictures of the pigs in the pen. Including me.

This is Maria, my best friend in town, with Cristian, the most adorable little three year old I have ever met. I spend the day walking around the fair with them as Cristian begged to touch and try everything.

I definitely came to this town at the right time.