Monday, June 21, 2010

Days 8-11

We all got up early today to watch the US play Slovenia this morning at a café down the road called Esperanza (like everything else down here). I won't go into detail about the game, it was a disappointing showing by the Yanks that ended in a 2-2 draw. The horrible officiating didn't help us out at all, though, especially when we were robbed of the game-winning goal just before stoppage time due to an extremely vague call (we weren't sure if it was an offside or a foul; apparently FIFA will issue an explanation sometime this week). Anyhow, after the game we came back to the house, where I proceeded to sleep through a majority of the day. Later that night, we went over to see a movie at the Gallerias, a very nice mall across town. Some people saw Robin Hood, a couple of the girls saw Sex & the City 2, but me and Kelly saw the A-Team, which was surprisingly good. Lots of ridiculous American action movie stuff that got us all gringo-ed up. Plus Jessica Biel was in it, which never hurts. After the movie, we hung out and had a drink at the house before hitting the sack.

This morning we set up a venta (sale) at Farito for the Cedro community. We got up around 6:30 and started loading the micro with suitcases full of clothing donations. After driving down and setting up, the gates opened at 8 am. We tried to keep stuff structured--Anina, Amira, and Hemby manned the gate and let in 10 people at a time. Each group of ten was given 10 minutes inside and limited to buying 10 items (although they were allowed to get in the back of the extremely long line and go again if they wanted to). We sold items for 5, 10, and 15 cords apiece (which is about 25, 50, and 75 cents, respectively), which is much lower than market prices down here, but enough to make a bit of money to recycle back into manna programs. In total we made about 400 dollars between 8 am and noon. After the venta, we went back to the house for another much-needed siesta. That night, after a lovely dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches (which seems to be our go-to meal when our cook Elena isnt around), we went to a place Ian likes called Mio Mi Gato, a bar near the Gallerias. It was really nice, and a great atmosphere, but after our first round of drinks we decided to look for a place that had cheaper drinks and a dance floor. We ended up in the Gallerias at a bar called Reef. Originally the bouncer at the door tried to charge us a $4 cover, but after we turned to leave he said we didn't have to pay (I'm thinking that the fact that we had like 10 pretty white girls with us didn't hurt). We stayed for a few rounds there (I had my first Nicaraguan Long Island, which proved to be pretty good) and later on this band took the stage. They were pretty good actually, and me and Ian enjoyed critiquing them for a bit. After the place got a bit crowded over with Nicaraguan hipster-indie types (which are an interesting sight), and our group got its fair share of tipsy, the PDs (who don't drink when they take vols out) drove us home. I came in, washed up a bit, and went to bed.

We slept in a bit in the morning, and then left around 11 for Laguna de Apoyo, a volcanic crater lake near Masaya. We went to this great little restaurant that sits over the lake and has a big 12 or 15-foot jump into the water, the same place that we went to with the Georgia group over spring break. We spent the day reading, swimming, and eating good food. After the drive back to Managua, we had a meeting to select what programs we would be working with over the next three weeks. I'll be leading the Advanced English class, as well as working with the men's soccer program, the Elementary English class, the kid's baseball program, and of course NicAyuda (the program UGA worked with over spring break that helps fund pre-primary education in Managua). It's not as much as it sounds like, and I'm really looking forward to digging in down here. It'll be good to make a personal contribution. After the meeting, I enjoyed a lovely sandwich courtesy of Kelly, followed by some West Wing with Alexandria (which has quickly become an everyday routine) and then bed.

Woke up for the Monday morning meeting at 10. Spent this afternoon blogging, West Wing-ing, and going for a short jog. My first class is at 5 today, it's the Elementary class that Hemby teaches. There are some of my favorite people from Cedro in the class; it should be tons of fun! More updates to come as I try out my programs this week.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Days 6 & 7

So after sleeping in a bit, we went and walked around Cedro Galan with Anina, one of the PDs, who introduced us to some people in the community. We ended up watching the last couple minutes of the South Africa-Uruguay game with a woman named Laura. RSA lost 3-0, which was disappointing. It was an especially rough day for Laura, who has been following Spain, who lost 1-0 this Switzerland. Ouch. After that, we went back to El Farito (the facility that Manna uses in Cedro) and helped Anina with her kids' English class. After Anina's class we stayed for Hemby's adult elementary English class, who was taking a test. I sat at a table with Laura, her little daughter Laurita, and two other girls we had met earlier in Cedro, Juana and her younger sister Idalia. I basically just made sure that they didn't cheat on the test. That night, we came home for dinner and later on decided to make a run to Pop's (an ice cream place down the road and a PD favorite) and the Stop & Go (the convenient store next to Pop's, notorious for having imported American goodies). After Pop's, we hung out in the poolhouse and had a few drinks. I really like nights down here; they're usually pretty relaxed, filled with good conversations and good people. But after a couple hours of hanging out, I started to get a headache. Deciding to try and be responsible, I stopped after two beers and headed for bed. Once I laid down though, I started getting really nauseous and retreated to the bathroom. After some...digestive issues, I tried going back to bed, but resigned myself to my inevitable fate and ran back to the bathroom at about 1 am and proceeded to puke my guts out. It was pretty miserable, but afterwards I felt a bit better and managed to fall asleep.

I woke up today feeling a lot better. I think that last night was food poisoning because Hemby got sick last night too. Bummer. Anyhow, the girls all went to Chureca this morning, so Kelly took me and the rest of the boys (we've collected been dubbed "Team Man") to a coffee shop where we hung out and got on the (more cooperative) internet. We then had the brilliant idea of going to McDonald's, which proved immensely satisfying. It was, sadly, good to have some greasy, nasty American food in my stomach. We then returned home so that the people who stayed home on Tuesday could go to the Land and teach with Kelly. Left with not much to do, I passed out on the couch for a couple hours and woke up to rain around 3. Men's soccer, which I've been looking forward to all week, is at 3:30 on Thursdays. We drove around to see if people were out and wanted to play through the weather, but, alas, no one wanted to juegar. Nicaraguans hate rain for some reason. Oh well. Later on, we went to teach advanced English with Kelly, which was great. I love that class; I definitely want to teach it while I'm here. After we got home from teaching, we had a quick dinner and headed to a restaurant in Nejapas to watch the end of the NBA finals game. Lakers won...who cares. The rest of the night was spent enjoying some 20 cord Toñas and singing along to K'naan just a bit too loud. Now we're back home. Time for a little West Wing and a whole lot of sleep. USA v. Slovenia at 8:00 am tomorrow! The Yanks are coming!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Days 2-5

Sorry for not posting, it's been a busy few days!

Friday night:
After a long day, I went on the last airport run with Ian and we picked up my bag along with the last five volunteers. We went home, settled in, and spent a little time just talking and getting to know each other before going to sleep. For future reference, the names of the other volunteers are Courtney, Alexandria, Kaylee, Molly, Jessica, Kira, Sean, Adam, and Paul. The last vol, Rich, flew in on Saturday while we were in León.

So around 8:30, Adam (the PD, not the vol) drove us to the Managua bus terminal so that we could find a bus to León. Finding a bus here essentially means getting in a random, privately-owned microbus and haggling a price with the owner/driver. Rather sketchy, and I definitely wouldn't recommend trying it unless you speak Spanish really well (which I don't). We got to León a little over an hour later and checked into the hostel we were staying in, one called Bigfoot. After putting some deposits down for locks and putting up our stuff, we walked across the road to a bar called Via Via and got a table to eat and watch the US-England World Cup match. I have to say, despite a poor showing in the first 10 or 15 minutes, I was impressed with the Americans' performance. Not a bad showing at all. When Green let the ball through to allow the American goal, we all went insane, jumping up and screaming and running around. The Nicaraguans were amused. After the match finished 1-1, we wrapped up lunch (mediocre food, not surprising) and set out to walk around the city. We saw some cool churches (one was built in 1784 which is really old for here) and then walked through some tourist-y shops and stands in the main city square. I resisted the urge to spend money on useless crap. We headed back to the hostel and got cleaned up for dinner. While hanging in the lobby, we saw a couple people playing a jumbo-sized game of Jenga (the blocks were huge and they played in the middle of the floor) and got talked into joining in. We ended up making friends with Marcus, and Englishman from outside Nottingham, and his two friends from New Zealand whose names I never quite caught. Without any real destination for dinner, we walked out to find a place and ended up at this Italian/Mediterranean kind of place. I played it safe (although mostly I was just trying to play it inexpensive) and got a nice little pizza margherita after me and Molly split some papas fritas belges (their fries down here are great: all Belgian-style, thick and hand-cut). We then headed back to the hostel and grabbed some drinks in the bar. After a drink or two Marcus convinced me to go across the street to Via Via with him, the two New Zealanders, and another English girl named Rose. Of course (for those of you who know me well), my accent was out in full force, which they found terribly amusing. We stayed at Via Via talking, laughing, and drinking until last call (which was at midnight, sadly) at which time they went out to go dancing and I went back to the hostel and promptly passed out.

So after a somewhat slow wakeup, we grabbed a quick breakfast and hopped on a bus to drive out to Cerro Negro, the world's most active cinder cone volcano. Bigfoot hostel hosts these trips to go out to Cerro Negro and go "volcano boarding," which is essentially throwing yourself down the side of an active volcano on a piece of plywood. We drove out to the volcano, accompanied by a nice Canadian couple and two of our other English friends from the hostel named George and the notorious Tom (who was affectionately nicknamed "sex on a stick" by the girls...see the pictures and you'll know why). After a 45 minute hike up the mountain carrying all of our gear (a jumpsuit and a "volcano board"), we stood on the summit and looked down over the run. It was absolutely terrifying...the first half of the run was at like a 50 degree angle, and the second half was around a 41 degree grade. From the top, you couldn't even see the second half, it just lipped off so that it looked like a cliff. I ended up getting in line to go third with Kelly (they sent us two at a time to set up a little race). I got going pretty fast at first but then about halfway down the first part of the run I couldn't get my board to go fast anymore and it kept going crooked on me. Once I (finally) got to the bottom of the run, I looked underneath the board and figured out that I broke the plastic sheet on the bottom of the board that made it go. Bummer. Fortunately, the guides had a cooler of fresh cold beers waiting for us to drown my sorrows. After the ride back to the hostel, we got some mojitos at the bar and packed our stuff. The ride back went fast seeing as how I passed out for most of it. Sunday night was spent relaxing and eating grilled cheese with everyone at the house. After some good man time bonding in the yoga room, we hit the sack.

The morning started around 9 when we got up and had breakfast, then all got together for our Monday morning meeting, which is a weekly thing at the Manna house. We met Amira, the Nicaragua Director for Manna, and went over how programs work. After a quick tour of the city, we (me, Paul, Alexandria, Courtney, and Kira) drove out to the Land, a huge complex owned by Holly and Kathy August, to do our homework help hour. I saw Diana, a girl I met last time I was down here, and we spent most of the time playing games because she didn't have any homework. After that, we watched Leah and Jan Margaret teach their elementary English class. I tried my best, but I definitely am not cut out to play any role in primary education. I don't have the patience for it. After programs, we came home for dinner. We went on an Onion run (the grocery store is called La Unión = the Onion) for snacks and drinks around 9 and then spent the rest of the night in the poolhouse playing guitar, listening to music, and bonding. Good times.

Today we woke up at 8 and ate breakfast before me, Sean, Rich, Adam, Paul, and Ian went to La Chureca, the community inside the Managua city dump (which is the largest open air dump in Central America). We walked around the community a bit before going to Colegio Christiano la Esperanza, the local school where we know the Assistant Director, Norman, from NicAyuda (the nonprofit that UGA Manna worked with on Spring Break). Norman said that last year they had 30 students go to secondary school, which is good progress since anyone who goes to secondary from Chureca has to have a scholarship to do it. Then we went back to the clinic, Casa Base de Salud, and Juntos Contigo, another nonprofit that Manna works with in Chureca. We joined in a quick impromptu soccer match outside of Juntos, and then piled back in the micro to go home and eat lunch. After some food, we had downtime until about 5, when we left to observe two of the beginning and intermediate classes. They were fun, but it's very difficult for me to teach when I don't speak Spanish. I'm excited to go back to the advanced English class on Thursday, because that's where I feel like I can make the best contribution. All in all, I'm really exciting for this month; I'm hoping to specialize in advanced English, boy's soccer, and also help out with NicAyuda when I can. Stay tuned for more updates!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 1

So I made it to the airport on time last night (thanks in part to my dad taking me through the Platinum Medallion line at Delta, which was wicked fast and easy). After about an hour delay from storms over Atlanta, we took off and landed in Managua about a half hour later than scheduled. Much to my dismay, my bag never showed up at baggage claim. I saw Hemby and Jan (the two Manna PDs who picked me up at the airport) waiting for me on the other side of a glass wall, and managed to make ridiculous gestures and let them know what happened. I realized that I was going to have to go to lost baggage and try to figure this out, which normally I'd be fine with if I spoke the language. At that moment my three years of Latin and two years of French didn't do me any good; I was officially the stupid tourist who only speaks English. I lucked out at the counter and got a woman who spoke decent English, and was very understanding (as I constantly apologized for next speaking Spanish and made ridiculously irrelevant comments about how I can speak a second language in order to prove that I wasn't an ignorant gringo). When she asked for my address in Managua, I had to go back to where Hemby was waiting and write on a piece of paper (using a pen that I asked for in a broken Franco-Spanglish hybrid) to ask him. We communicated by writing on paper and holding it up to the glass until I had everything, at which point I went back to the desk and finished up the paperwork. Hemby and Jan drove me back to the Manna House; it's good to be back here. I really am looking forward to this next month down here. I watched an episode of West Wing with Jan and Kelly, read my book for a bit, and hit the sack around 12:30.

This morning I woke up (rather violently, thanks to Ian, one of the PDs down here) around 8:30. We sat around with a little breakfast and then headed down to 13.5 (a place named for the kilometer marker closest to it, where our friend Karen lives) to watch the World Cup opener of South Africa and Mexico. They drew 1-1, which is pretty respectable considering the matchup. Well done, Boks.

For now I'm just relaxing; eventually here we're going to go on some airport runs and pick up the other volunteers for my session and hopefully get my bag sorted out. Tomorrow morning we're going to Leòn to go volcanoboarding and then hit the town at night!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 0

So after saying a quick goodbye to Elizabeth before her classes, I'm still in bed at home. My flight is at 5:45, which sounds like a long way away until you consider the fact that I have yet to pack a single thing. So without further ado, I'm going to excuse myself and buy things/pack frantically for a few hours and then go to Central America. I'll post something tomorrow from Managua!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day -2 (or something like that)

So Athens in the summer is great; it's honestly just what I needed after my gloriously predictable run at the sophomore slump. Lots of relaxing on the porch with a sweet tea or other beverage, lots of guitar and soccer and work. But there's also a lot of mind-numbing boredom and not that much to really do aside from the normal routine. Elizabeth left last week for Buenos Aires, and her being down there has only made me want to get out of here more. I'm basically sitting on my hands waiting to get back to Managua. I'm excited to get back down there and do something worthwhile, to spend time with the PDs I met over spring break and meet a whole new crop of Manna volunteers from all over the US. For now, I'm just waiting.