All Systems Go

I’ve got a unique situation at the moment: I get to enter a site to establish myself and design my work with the benefit of all I’ve learned in the past year and a half. It was hard to leave the community where I had slowly constructed my life for so long and had many wonderful relationships, but change, in addition to being painful, presents lots of new opportunities. Compared to my first community arrival in November of 2010, everything seems incredibly smooth. My Spanish is at a high level, I am familiar with the education system, I have learned a lot about the culture and expectations here, and I am a much better teacher. I feel kind of like a Peace Corps ninja here because I’m very adept at the social and professional aspects of my work. It’s a great feeling.

I’m not supposed to divulge the name of my site in a public forum for security reasons which I am now intimately acquainted with. Still, I feel comfortable saying that I am in a site even further south than the Island of Ometepe, where I was previously. I am very near the border with Costa Rica and the city is relatively large. The population must be about 20,000 people or so and it’s much more developed than my previous community. The first clues were the paved roads and glass windows. Also, lots of families have television with satellite dishes, there are great public spaces, and an indoor football field. The streets are lit at night (when the power’s not out) and I have yet to enter a house with a dirt floor. Most people have fans and some buildings even have air conditioning, something that just wasn’t available in my earlier community. I’m not sure how indicative this anecdote is of economic wellbeing, but within three days of arriving here I had already come across money lying on the ground on two separate occasions, increasing my monthly income from $250 to $254. I have never seen as much as a nickel’s worth lying around before coming here. Finding the money could be completely random, but it does fit with the other evidence that I have observed. We don’t often think about the economic diversity within a poor country, just like Nicaraguans are shocked to hear that there are poor people in rich countries like the US, so I think this new experience will give me more perspective on Nicaragua as a whole and I’ll try to share that with you all as well.

View from an old fort in my site overlooking the ‘downtown’ area.

I’m staying with a very nice host family composed of a mom(Jessica), dad(Henry), and three children(Jason, 16, Maria, 14, and Steven, 11). I have yet to meet Maria because she studies in a private school in Managua. There are also two noisy and quarrelsome parakeets and a very emotionally needy dog named ‘Negra.’ The house is very nice, with ceramic tile floor, a flat screen TV, WiFi, and full-fledged couches in the living room. Jessica runs a small clothing store and convenience store out of the front of the house and Henry is a pediatrician and a forensic specialist working at the justice department. Jason is in his first year of college and is studying international relations, just like me! He also speaks very good English and loves to practice with me. Steven is a real cutie, with his baby-pudge belly still and a fervent love of and real talent for soccer.

In my previous site I worked mainly by planning and teaching high school classes with three local English teachers and then spent most evenings giving community English classes. My work here will be similar, but my focus will be slightly different. Because I only have 6 months remaining in my service, my ability to effect meaningful change in my community is limited. I will still be working to support the English teachers and the community, but additionally I will be identifying counterparts for future English volunteers who can spend the full two years here. I am the first English volunteer that Peace Corps has sent to the region, so I’m here in part to blaze a trail and set the community up for future success. I am currently meeting with four English teachers at the local public high school and will be supporting them during weekday mornings, evenings, and on Saturdays. In addition I will be supporting the local private university in their English program. I’m not sure what shape this university work will take yet, but for now I’ll help out with their every-second-weekend classes and I’m already helping to plan and teach an intensive two-week course beginning next week. Plenty of work to keep me busy even without teaching community classes.

These are the basic details of my new site. I’m still settling in, having been here for exactly a week now, so I’ll look around for new and interesting topics to post about in the coming weeks. If you have any questions or topics to suggest, I would love to hear them!

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Elaine Stecker-Kochanski on May 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    It sounds good Andrew. Quite different also from the areas I saw in Nicaragua. Elaine

    Reply

  2. Posted by Allie on May 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    You adjust to new situations so effortlessly. Sounds like you’ve landed in a good place, and I’m so glad to hear that you’re living with nice people and staying busy. With the plans they have for you, I could actually see you effecting quite a bit of change for future English volunteers in the region in the next 6 months! Stay positive, and as always I look forward to more updates. 🙂

    Hugs,
    – Allie

    P.S. I am now contemplating calling you “Peace Corps Ninja” from here on out.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Michael Martin on May 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Peace Corp Ninja! 🙂 Really glad the transition went smoothly.

    Reply

  4. I’m with Al! Ninja 🙂 I’m so glad to hear the transition went smoothly, though I can’t say I’m surprised. Future volunteers will truly be lucky to have you here for the next six months. Not only do I envision you “blazing a trail,” but you will also provide such a wonderful first example of an American PC volunteer for this community, I would imagine future volunteers will be welcomed with you in mind. Thinking of you!

    Reply

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