Week 2 in Site

Well, things are coming together, slowly. Last week had its ups and downs, but I am finding things to focus my time and energy a bit. First I met an American man who is working at the community center just up the road from me, and he’s teaching English to young kids and helping build gardens in front of the building. I’m helping him in small ways in his class on Mon, Wed, and Fri (and learning from his teaching experience) and I’ll be teaching my own class to more advanced students on Tues/Thurs. This will help me start getting my head into teaching, get some practice working with kids and designing lessons, and thinking about how to teach English. I went back to soccer practice two days after rolling my ankle last week and had a good time, but by the third practice I had rolled the same ankle again and am now taking a week off to rest up.

On Saturday I had a full day by both chance and intention. I got up at 4:45 in the morning to catch the 5 AM bus to one of the larger cities on the island. Got into town at 6:50 AM and treated myself to a nice American breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon, home style potatoes and good coffee. Delicious. Read my book and enjoyed my time until the cyber (internet place) opened at 9. Then I got to Skype with Amanda for the first time in a couple weeks, which was wonderful. At about 10:30 I wandered down to the bus stop to figure out how to get back to my town before 2 PM, which is when the high school graduation ceremony started. Unfortunately, I had just missed one of only two buses going all the way to my town that day and the next wouldn’t be arriving there until almost 3. So I hopped on the next bus going in my direction and got off at the stop closest to my town at 12:15. I figured I might be able to walk from there to town before the ceremony started, but if I had some luck I could hop in the back of a pickup or another unexpected bus would come by. I headed out under the midday sun, preparing myself for a long hike. I’m not sure exactly how far I ended up walking, but it was probably close to 7 miles. No luck with my halfhearted attempts at hitchhiking, so I walked through small towns, past resort/hotels, along beaches covered in the high tide, past kids playing ball in the street, past where the paved road ends and only boulders and sand lead me on towards the volcano slowly growing in front of me. I sipped water the whole way and my mind wandered to my surroundings, back to Minnesota, beyond my time in Peace Corps and back as I slowly but surely put the miles behind me. My timing worked out nearly perfectly, though I was running a little late when I came up, grinning, to my house at 1:53 PM. My host mom looked at me and smiled, rolling her eyes and running to get me a bit of food while I jumped in the shower.

I don’t need to tell you that after two hours in nearly 90 degree weather with a backpack and long pants on, I was in need of some serious soap and water. I was out the door in shirt and tie, dress slacks, dress shoes, still chewing some rice and beef, but I made it to the church where they were having a special mass for the students by 2:15. The mass went until almost 3, when practically the whole town followed the two lines of graduating seniors the half mile to the school. As I caught up to my fellow teachers, I was informed that I’d be going up to the table in front of the school with the principle and two other teachers to hand out diplomas. At first I thought that this was some kind of joke, but then they called my name to come sit at the ‘table of honor.’ I was the first to go up, so I awkwardly sat down in front of everyone and tried not to panic. There I was, facing about 100 parents and 100 students all sitting in plastic chairs on the outdoor basketball court with the rest of the town squeezed around them. All I could do was chuckle at how clueless I was at the moment. Luckily, the others at the ‘table of honor’ joined me soon and I followed their lead. We listened to a couple of speeches, the national anthem, then as the names were called we took turns handing out the diplomas to the students, who were escorted by a parent. After the ceremony, they put on some deafeningly loud music, set up plastic tables and chairs all across the court where the ceremony was and we waited around as waiters brought out plates of food and fruit drinks for everyone there. It was an impressive catering feat, and it seemed like many people pitched in by bringing tables and chairs from home. I was just happy to sit down and eat a proper meal. Finally, at about 5:30 we all went home and I laid in bed for an hour, too exhausted to nap or move.

I heard incredibly loud music being blasted a couple of blocks away and knew that the DJ was setting up for the big graduation party that the whole town was invited to that night. I told a couple of people at the graduation that I would go, but I wasn’t super excited about it. I wandered over at 8:30 and watched another outdoor basketball court, this one empty and surrounded by students avoiding actually dancing. Things aren’t so different from back home. The music, DJ and lights were all really excellent, and if I had had a dance partner I might have broken the ice, but I didn’t, so I didn’t. I didn’t spend much time there, and later on I could hear from my room that the power went out a few times during the dance (one difference from the states), and I am told that they didn’t shut down until after 1 AM.

This week I’ll be teaching my classes, reading The Fountainhead (just finished The Vampire Lestat – excellent book), practicing my Spanish, learning about teaching, and trying to strengthen my ankle. Things are looking up.

Piglets being cute across the street from my house.

Funny moment last week: Watching the team play soccer from the sidelines after I rolled my ankle for the second time, I saw the ball get kicked for the nth time over the back of the field into some person’s yard. This time there was a woman in the yard and she yells loudly for all to hear: “Hey! You just killed my chicken over here!” I don’t think that it actually harmed a chicken, though. That must have been her way of trying to scare them into being more careful. Worked, too.

 

Spanish supplement:

I’ve been meaning to incorporate more Spanish into my blog posts, so here’s a start:

 

Vos – In Nicaragua, instead of using ‘tú’ for the second person pronoun, they use ‘vos.’ The present tense grammar is different (and easier) to conjugate. Just take the ‘r’ off the end of the infinitive, add an ‘s’ and make the stress on the last syllable. Thus,

Poder: Vos podés (You can)

Querer: Vos querés (You want)

Hablar: Vos hablás (You talk)

Saber: Vos sabés (You know)

There are some irregulars, like Ser: Vos sos (You are), but mostly they’re standard.

The command form is a bit different too, but also easy. Just drop the ‘r’ and add an emphasis on the last letter. Ta da!

Andate(Leave), Hacelo(Do it), Compralo(Buy it), Salí de aquí(Leave here), Comé la comida(Eat the food), Pasame la pelota(Pass me the ball)

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