Sunday, August 31, 2008

And now it´s September!

Wow! I have been in Nicaragua for almost 8 months now and I still love the country.

Right now I am preparing for my 3rd workshop in the last 3 weeks and my stress level is extremely high. If I didn´t have some really amazing friends here that support me 100% I would definitely be going nuts. Because of the workshops I have worked nearly every day for the last 2 months and I am really looking forward to a couple of vacations in September - one here in the country and possibly another in the United States. After this week things should become less hectic (I hope!) because I don´t have another workshop until the end of October.

My fiance and I are still together and we love each other a lot but we are both discovering that cross cultural relationships can be extremely difficult.
Plans for a wedding have been postponed because of all of my work with the Peace Corps and because we don´t get to see each other very often.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I can´t believe it´s May!

I normally don´t have any free time, but the university is closed for the next few days because of a transportation strike and there isn´t a guarantee that I will have classes at the high school either since the teacher that I work with lives in another town. If you want more information on the strike, you can search for Nicaragua Transportation Strike on the internet and find the latest information.

I have been working at night at the high school because I enjoy working with the teacher and there are fewer students (usually only 30-35 instead of 45+). Since the high school is near where I live, there aren´t any problems with walking in the street at night and the area is safe.

I have continued working at the university with English teachers (or future English teachers) and with Sustainable Tourism students. I love the teachers group because it gives me a chance to talk with colleagues who speak English fluently. They have helped me adapt to Nicaraguan culture and learn about the school system here at the public and private high schools and the university levels. The tourism students are also fun to work with because I can combine my experience working all of those years at Marriott and my passion for teaching English. Right now we are working with several local tourist attractions to translate documents from Spanish to English to broaden the range of tourists that can be catered to.

In my private life, everything is going great. I am still with the great guy I mentioned in my February blog and we plan to stay together for a long time into the future. I am very close with his family as well and I spend most of my time between classes talking with his grandmother or his daughter. Every two weeks, I also visit the family that I lived with in May and June last year.

I can´t think of more to write right now...I´ll send the links for my pictures in an e-mail.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ready to go...

I guess that I got a bit ahead of myself in the last e-mail. I didn't realize that organizing 1500 students into classes of 50 each in order of age was all done (essentially) by 4 people. Needless to say, the first week at the high school was chaotic with students in the wrong grades or at the wrong time of day and teachers with more than one class at the same time. Now, things are smoothed out and it looks like I'll be observing the classes that I'll be working with until the end of first semester in June. Next week, I'll probably begin co-teaching with the two teachers that I'll be working with.

In the meantime, since I haven't been teaching/working much at the high school (just observing a few classes) I have been working with a Canadian woman who is giving classes to 6 university teachers from all subject areas and 10+ high school English teachers. The classes are primarily designed to improve pronunciation and to give the teachers a chance to converse in English.

Outside of work...I have found a true friend in my host sister and we spend evenings chatting or watching telenovelas. My host family also introduced me to a single, trustworthy, male neighbor and he asked me out the next time we met (and I accepted). We'll see what the future has in store.

I don't have any pictures of my site yet...My camera is on loan right now, but when I get it back I promise that I'll make an effort to upload a few pictures of the city that I live in.

My hour is up at the internet cafe...I'll write more when I have access again.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Time to Work!

After having 3 weeks to relax and read (in English and Spanish), I went to work this week. The Ministry of Education provided training sessions for all of the teachers across the country. Conveniently, the teachers in my "state" met across the street from my house at the high school where I will be working. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet most of the English teachers that I will be working with for the next 2 years and to renew my contact with the teachers that I worked with in May and June last year.

Next Monday is the first day of school here and even though I don't know my exact schedule yet, I do know that I'll be working primarily in the mornings at the high school. In the afternoons, I'll be working with the university to provide free English conversation classes to high school students, college professors and high school teachers. This is probably the part of my job that I am most looking forward to because I'll have classes of only 20-25 students in contrast to the 50+ that I'll have in my classes at the high school. Eventually the University would like to expand the program to provide workshops for University professors...but I'm going to wait until I have everything else under control before offering any additional assistance.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I´m Here!

Here = Nicaragua :)

I made it safe and sound to Nica on Saturday (no mechanical problems this time). The Peace Corps set me up in a nice hotel (hot water, a/c, comfy bed) only a 1 block from the office here. I spend most of the weekend on my own reading and walking to and from the supermarket (the only place I had enough money to eat at). Today I signed all of the important documents for my bank account and I swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer. Tomorrow I should be moving in with my new host family and I´ll probably meet with my counterpart (the English teacher I´ll be working with for the next two years). I´m sure I´ll spend the rest of the week settling in and refamiliarizing myself with my site. Next week the real work begins with a 3 day conference with my counterpart in Managua.

Still enjoying the warm weather.

Friday, January 4, 2008

What It's All About

My mom just had me read an article by John Gardner about the secret to happiness in life is not money or luck, but a desire to learn at all stages of life. Sometimes we meet with sucess and others failure, but the key is to take the knowledge that we gain and apply it for future use. For me, that is what the Peace Corps is all about, being able to use what I have learned as a student and teacher and being able to apply that knowledge to help out other teachers and students in need (the best part is that I will be learning some things right with them). I am realistic enought to know that I'm not going to reform the English educational system in Nicaragua, but I am optimistic that I can make a difference in the curriculum and instruction at the high schools that I'll be working with directly. I know that it will not be easy, especially since the students in Nicaragua and the United States are similar in that they both have difficulty looking 3 or 4 years into the future and seeing what a difference knowing a foreign language can make in their chosen career field. I am looking forward to learning a lot over the next 2 years and hopefully coming closer to a decision about what to do after the Peace Corps. I'll keep you posted along the way.

If you want to read the article, it is titled "The Road to Self-Renewal" and was written by John W. Gardner. It can be downloaded in pdf format from

Back to Nicaragua!

Right now I'm supposed to be in 85 degree, sunny weather gloating about all of you poor folks back in snowy, freezing Nebraska...but instead I have the opportunity to be here for a few more hours absorbing the bone-chilling cold.

I found out on Monday (12-31) that I am supposed to be in Managua by Monday 1-7. My flight out was this morning from Eppley to Atlanta and into Managua. But, after arriving at the airport at 3:30 am, waiting for 2 hours to board, and getting on the plane it was determined that there was a mechanical issue onboard the aircraft and that we had to get off the plane. Initially, there was a chance that the problem would be fixed and we would only have a delayed flight, but luck was not on my side and the plane never left Omaha. After I waited until 8:15 to talk with the Peace Corps travel agency and I was finally able to get up to the airline counter, it became apparent that there was no way to get to Managua before dark today. So, tomorrow the whole adventure begins again with the same 5:40 flight to Atlanta and then on to Managua - hopefully with a functional plane this time. The only advantage is that I was able to convince the airline to hold my 90 pounds of luggage (2 suitcases) so that I didn't have to haul it home and back again.

The extra time gave me a chance to get some sleep (I've only had a couple of hours over the past few days) and clean the trash out of my car so it can be sold.

I'll update everybody once I land safely and have a chance to use the internet.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Habla español?

The Spanish teacher at the high school in Blair has been ill since September, so I have been teaching full time since the beginning of October. I have little free time between planning lessons and grading papers.

I was planning to go back to Nicaragua in November, but since the school year ended there last week, I am not missing any classes by staying here until the end of the semester. I should be going back in January to attend a training session with my peers and reunite with the teachers that I'll be working with.

As far as I know, I have been medically cleared for my return so there shouldn't be any further postponements.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Substitute teacher + dog walker

I have now been off of the Effexor for 5 weeks and everything is great. I suffered from few withdrawal symptoms.

I have talked with the Peace Corps and if I continue to be stable then I may be able to go back in mid or late November. Hopefully before the first blizzard here.

I have been substitute teaching at least 2 days per week with District 66 and Blair. I have also been house-sitting and dog walking for Woody's Pet Watch whenever they need help and I'm not teaching.

Nothing else new so far.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Everything is still fantastic

I am now in week 4/5 of the Effexor decrease. I have not had any new problems arise due to withdrawal, which is great. My psychiatrist seems to think that this means that I won't suffer from any of the nasty symptoms that I wrote about in my last blog and that I should be able to remain (prescription) drug free.

I have spent most of my time this last month reading. For those of you whom are interested in spirituality and self-discovery, the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is amazing. I would recommend starting with The Alchemist. I have not (sigh) read the new Harry Potter book yet because I am waiting until I am earning money substitute teaching before I make any more purchases.

Also, thanks to my loving parents, I have the pleasure of spending 1.5 to 2 hours each day in our garden. I love the vegetables, but not the work. If anybody wants to see pictures (of the garden, not me working in it), then follow the link to my Sony pictures website and look at the Flora and Fauna album.

That's all for now,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Back in the US...

For those of you that I haven't been able to see...I am back in good old Blair, Nebraska. I am currently medically separated from the Peace Corps because I am being weaned off of Effexor. Supposedly, there can be some very nasty withdrawal symptoms towards the end of the process (brain shocks, insomnia, drastic weight gain/loss, headaches, and so on). I haven't had any problems yet in week 2 of 5. I'm going to try and stay off anti-anxiety medications because of the side effects (it seems they're almost all as problematic as Effexor) and try some herbal remedies that my mom's doctor recommends. According to the Peace Corps medical office in Washington D.C., I'll be able to return to Nicaragua once I have been stable (i.e. no anxiety attacks) for 2 months - that should be in October/November (hopefully before it snows). Since I have free internet access now (at least I don't pay for it), I am going to try to update my pictures on the web so that everybody can see the family that I lived with, my house, and some of my friends. Feel free to e-mail me with questions.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Crazy Busy!

I have been crazy busy planning a teaching workshop for the schools that we work with, but all of the hard work payed off and the conference was a success. I have still been working with the local high school once a week and watching the other trainees in my town teach once or twice each week.

Our youth group is going much better. We gave a talk about the Peace Corps a couple of weeks ago and things went fantastic. Next week we are giving a talk about AIDS (what it is and how to prevent it). The majority of our group members are boys and they are sooooo awesome. They even made us a cake last week. Our "project" was to plant trees which went perfectly. The mayor's office had a reforestation project planned, so they donated 100 trees and our group went and planted on two afternoons.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Still loving it!

Even though I have been really busy, I've been having a great time. My colleagues and I observed afternoon classes last week at the High School here and the English teacher is fantastic. She actually only works at the high school part time and teaches at two local universities in the afternoons/evenings and on weekends. She can speak English with only a little difficulty and she uses a lot of interactive techniques in her classroom already, so we aren't going to catch the students completely off guard when we start playing games and having them work in pairs. Two people in my training group co-taught their first classes yesterday and today; another person and I will co-teach on Monday and Tuesday afternoon next week. I am really excited to plan with the professor on Sunday and teach with her next week.

We only received approval yesterday to work with the morning teacher. We are planning to observe her later this week or early next week. We met her when we visited the school last week and she is really excited that Peace Corps is working with the high school here.

Our first Youth Group function did not go very smoothly. The youth didn't show up on time and not many came.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

First Entry from Nicaragua

My schedule here is crazy! I have class from 8 to noon and from 1 to 4 in the afternoon Monday through Friday with three other girls in the English training program. Last Saturday we had a "special" 3 hour class to introduce us to our site. We will have class 6 days most weeks because we have specific training sessions on Saturdays or we visit current volunteers to see what work they do on a daily basis. Tomorrow is our first field trip - we get to go to the Ecological Museum in Diriamba in the afternoon. Somehow, language training is going to be incorporated...

My family is very welcoming and my living quarters are extremely comfortable. I have my own private bedroom with a lock (Peace Corps regulations demand this much), but I also have my own bathroom and toilet - indoors. We have electricity, running (cold) water, and a large living room area. My family also owns a small store which sells candies, bread, oil (for cooking), and other daily necessities.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Reflection on Managua and Training Family

My host family is a husband, wife, and their two sons and their daughter. That's pretty much all that I know about them right now. Managua has been fantastic, but we have been training in a hotel all three days. We did a quick drive through of the city yesterday and the main features that stand out (from being at a lookout point) are the large number of trees and (to steal my friend Gary's comment) the lack of noise. I'll post another blog next week when I have a chance to go to a neighboring town to buy secondhand clothes and find an internet café.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Pic of Stan the Gnome

This is Stan "the non-man" gnome in the window of our hotel room on Monday afternoon.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Day 1 - All Done!

Wow! Today has been REALLY long, but my adrenaline is still on high alert so I'm not able to sleep (trust me, I tried for an hour). Here is the run down for how today went. Up at 3 am to shower and finish packing and take some last minute photos (always the procrastinator). Next, running around the house to find out where I placed my e-ticket and (when I couldn't find it) printing off my itinerary from SATO Travel (which it turns out I didn't even need). I rearranged my luggage in the car so that I checked my small suitcase and carried my laptop on in my backpack. We arrived at the airport just after 5:10 am for my 6:10 am flight to Washington, D.C.

I had the fantastic opportunity to stand in line for 20 minutes while waiting to check my luggage. Then, I had to say good-bye to the 'rents, which was really sad. I made it through security without any hitches and only had to wait a short while before boarding. I actually got lucky because I missed the boarding call and looked up to see people loading onto the plane! I still wasn't the last one to arrive though. Since it was so early, the person I was sitting next to slept the whole flight (without snoring) and I listened to music while I dozed. On arriving in D.C. I discovered that Megan - the other volunteer from Omaha - had been sitting only one seat away from me. We started chatting, waited for our luggage together, and shared a shuttle ride to the hotel (the traffic was crazy, I glad we didn't have to drive).

When we arrived at the hotel around 10:30, our rooms were ready so we checked in for a little R and R before registration at 1:30. I quickly snapped a picture of the roaming gnome since my roommate hadn't arrived yet and I hadn't had a chance to disorganize the living space (yet). I also had to use the hotel business center to print off the deferrment papers for my loans since they were sitting on the dining room table (not much help to me). It was a huge, semi-expensive hassle because the computer froze the first time I tried to print the information and I had to jump through hoops to get it to print after talking with the tech guy over the phone. But, alls well that ends well, and I printed and signed everything. Then, Megan and I went to lunch at the restaurant only 1 block from our hotel. I had a delicious chicken, onion, red pepper, tomato sauce Mega Sandwich - which only cost me $7. I could only eat half my sandwich, but I took the rest back to the hotel for a snack or supper.

My roomy had arrived when I came back to my room. Her name is Irene and she is 70 years old! Crazy! She is extremely intelligent and gave up her successful law practice in San Antonio to come train English teachers with the Peace Corps. She sold all her possessions (house, car, belongings) except for the 3 suitcases that she brought with her. She didn't realize that we were supposed to go register at 1:30 and that we needed to eat first, so I gave her the rest of my sandwich so that we could go down on time. I didn't have any problems with registration and both of my passports came through (yippee). Unfortunately, Irene's passport hasn't arrived as of yet, so there is a chance that she may not be going to Nicaragua with us. The passport authorities even have her personal passport, so she may be landlocked here in the United States with no job and no home for an indefinite period of time! I am so glad that everything went smoothly for me.

After registration, we had our first "training" session. It was more of a familiarization with each other and with the Peace Corps as a whole. The best part was the opportunity to meet the Nicaraguan Embassador who came and spoke with us for about an hour (I think, I don't have a watch and no cell phone my sense of time is a bit skewed). We did a few more introduction activities after the question and answer session with the ambassador and then we were free for the rest of the evening (7 pm on).

Irene and I settled for a simple dinner and went to the Safeway next to our hotel and bought salads, crackers, cheese, and juice. I spend the rest of the evening studying Nicaraguan slang and reading up our plan of action once we arrive in Managua on Wednesday. (It looks like we'll be spending 3 days together as a group and then we'll be split into smaller batches of 3-4 people per village. We may or may not have internet access once we arrive, but I'll try to post something as soon as I can.

On a sad note, there was a big fire up the street from our hotel today. Trucks were driving by all afternoon and evening trying to get enough fire-fighters on the scene to stop the blaze and prevent it from spreading. I just did some research and it turns out it was the Georgetown Neighborhood Library, the repository for a large portion of the historic documents / paintings pertaining to the Georgetown area. I'll try to take pics tomorrow once the trucks have abandoned the scene.

Now I'm going to try and get a little sleep before training begins at 8:30 am tomorrow. Talk to you soon!

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Dogs!

It's a Boo!

It's a Zoe!
I'm just testing this out to make sure I can handle this...

Woo! My first blog!

I am so excited! I have started packing up all of the clothes that I never wear so that I can donate them next week. My backpack for my laptop arrived today, so that means that I have almost everything that I need. All I need to do are finish my scrapbooks (starting them might help...) and take the pictures to fill them up! That's all for now.