Friday, March 28, 2008

Things I miss

This is Kory.  Things I miss:

bare feet, painting, "pizza-in-the-park" (lunch with friends), kitchen sinks, cold drinks, cold anything, cooking, baking bread, water fights, kayaking, hot showers, showers, running water, movies on the couch, domestic dogs, reading, driving, being unpacked ever, carpet (never thought I'd say that), communication, garbage cans, littering fines, swamp coolers, talking about stuff that matters (besides the weather and semana santa of course), being clean, grass, a clear separation between inside and outside, listening to music at sub-atomic levels, tap water, three-inch sewage pipes, and game nights. 

WE MADE IT!! We are REAL volunteers now!

Well, Semana Santa (holy week) passed without much event. We attended a procession each day. Let me describe this. We followed a unattractive statue of Christ around the streets at Nica pace. This pace is slightly slower than an amble. Depending on the day, he was doing different things: blindfolded, holding the cross, in the coffin and finally sunday was resurrected and flanked by angels. My sisters secret boyfriend was one of the chosen few who carried the statue. It was quite interesting. Saturday night the youth in the town made this "carpet" in the street out of sawdust and made designs in it with different colors, including a picture of the pope. Then that night.. the night of the crucifixion, they carried the statue around in a glass coffin with lights on it and a generator following behind along with a brass band playing the soggiest music you have ever heard. It was hardly sad. But the cool part was that they walked it across the carpet and it was a big moment. Other than this excitement we did absolutely nothing but chill with my family. They made this desert (almibar) out of whole mangos, jocotes (a little round fruit), cashew fruit, pina and other surprise fruits all boiled together with a couple huge bricks of pure cane sugar. Its extremely "rico".. as many things are.. including plane white rice according to Nicas. We made dinner for our families as well this weekend. We made pesto creme sauce and pasta for my family, but we didnt have olive oil, nuts, cheese ... or really anything else one makes pesto with except some sad looking basil (almahaca) that was intended to be used as a home remedy for something like cough or congestion or bewitching. So my family said it was a bit "simple". This is not a good thing. When nicas say this... it means it kindof sucks. My grandma later used the rest of my basil for a "cure" for her extremely bad cough and claimed that it really worked but this was only because she REALLY did not want to go to the doctor. We had better success with Korys family. We made french toast with a banana/syrup topping. We did this while the two kids were slowly but surely torturing two kittens nearly to death and trying to put their fingers in the bowls. But it was a success. Kory says he did a service to all of their future volunteers. He knows this because he was blessed enough to get crepes every once in a while.. a recipe that Dona Claudia learned from a past volunteer. 
Moving on... We came to Managua and finished up training. It felt so good yesterday to know that it was our last day stuffed with lectures. We met with the US Ambassador and USAID for some "briefitos". But finally we were done! Kory even raised another level of spanish which put us both at Intermediate Mid. 
We are staying at a cute little hotel in managua near the office that has a little pool. Today we got all decked out in dresses, guayaberas and what have you, mounted the bus and went to the nicest hotel in Nicaragua for our ceremony. Our families were there waiting for us and it was good to see them for one more time. The ambassador came, along with the official from the ministry of health and the media. We sang the Nicaraguan national anthem (see the video.. hehe) and the american one. We had to say two oaths. One is a promise of service and the other one is the official peace corps oath complete with the promise to defend the united states at all costs.. which is so cute because we are in the Cuerpo de Paz. 
Tonight we are enjoying the pool and the nearby clubs and restaurants that are waaaay out of our budget. We spent about $20 on dinner and almost shat ourselves. It was a huuuge splurge. This is nearly 1/6 of our monthly budget. They unfortunately wouldn't take my regular debit card, and we had to use our Cordoba account. Sad. It was important that we eat there though, because I'm having problems with my movements and needed some serious fiber. So we went to this restaurant that makes whole wheat bread and loaded up. Well. Im just sharing with you all what life is like. And.. as usual in my life.. bowel movements are always a topic of discussion, but probably more so. 
So now that we are REAL volunteers, we can live together for the rest of our service! We will be going to Matagalpa on sunday for good. We cant leave our site or have visitors for three months. This may be the hardest thing we have done yet, which is saying a lot. This will really put our spanish at the forefront of things. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Our last week in Carazo

Well, our site visit to Matagalpa was great. We got to our site early last morning and fell in love with it, immediately. It sits on top of a mountain and is surrounded As you can see, by jungle. There are several cloud forests located nearby and it itself is part of a cloud forest. The town is quite a bustling little place of about 10 thousand people, but there are all kinds of rural communities near that we will be working in as well. We spend the entire week with our colleges. That is to say the nicaraguan counterparts we will be working with. One from the local health center, one from the casa materna and one from Save the Children. We will inevitably have other people to work with from other NGO´s as well, but this is plenty to start off with. There are many opportunities for work in our community. This is a picture of some of the women at the casa materna who were listening to a charla about family planning.

We met with an english class that we will be teaching, and a youth group as well. We stayed with the family that we are required to live with for the first six weeks. We are not very happy to have to do this, but it is the policy. The good thing is that we are taking over this site from another health volunteer who is leaving. She has a house there and all the things in it that we can take over. These are some picures of the house. It is quite cute and in a cute little neighborhood. It needs some heather and kory style love, (paint and clorox) but it will be a good place for us. This is a picture of our future street, our house is on the left a ways down the path.This is our house (left) , grey. Yes. But homey and ours. And I must say that it is pretty safe. (T, I know what you are thinking.. and yes its safe for nicaragua.)
This is the backyard, full of banana and or plantain trees. Room for a garden I hope, amoungst the pools of dirty water gathering there.

So here we are finishing up in Carazo with our youth groups here and all the peace corps odds and ends. Learning VOS form and brushing up on subjunctive in spanish and getting ready for our final spanish proficiency exams next week. I included this sweet skinny cow picture because these poor skinny cows are all over, even in Managua, hauling suger cane or wood or what have you. Being poked and whipped and living the life of burden. Sad.

This is Korys youth group and the fabulous project they finished the other day. THis is a mural about being healthy at a grade school. Pretty dang sweet!

Well. We are in the midst of semana sant. And as many of you know, this is a very exciting time for me. I have always wanted to be part of it. The problem is I cant see the forest for the trees right now because we are sooooo busy. I hope I can relax and see some of the festivities. There are processions every day. Religous movies on tv, and special foods galore. I think this bigger than Christmas here. The kids get the whole week off of school. If I have time, I will write more about what we saw and did after the week is over.

We have a new mailing address, so from now on, please send ALL MAIL TO THIS ADDRESS!

Monja Heather McKinnon or Monje Kory Fluckiger

Apartido Postal 58

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Central America

Remember to send it in PAdded envelopes only, and smothered in religious (catholic) propoganda. Well. Signing off. Love heather

Saturday, March 1, 2008

MATAGALPA, NICARAGUA... Here we come!!!

We recieved our site assignment yesterday and it looks like we were fortunate enought to get our second choice for sites!

We will be living in the beautiful Department of Matagalpa! Beautiful mountains, coffee everwhere, and cloud forests with all kinds of wild life and exotic flowers! There are several Nature reserves very near. We will be living about 4 hours outside of Managua and our site is a medium sized community with about 10,000 people living in the city, but 60,000 people in the municipio. We will be working with all the little towns in the municipio as well. Our town has potable water and electricity! YEAH! It also has great vegetables because it is in a cooler climate!

As for our jobs there, We will be parntnered with MINSA (Ministry of Health) and will work with the following NGO´s as well-
  • Save the Children just opened an office and has a work plan to stay for at least 5 and up to 15 years. They work on projects for the protection of children’s rights (especially important during coffee cutting season), assistance to teachers in the schools, and partly work in coordination with the dept. of community health at the health center and their work in PROCOSAN.
  • CARE: Although the nearest office is located in Matagalpa, they work really closely with the health center. Their work is primarily in the support of training brigadistas. Agustin Diaz Suazo coordinates the training. Although the organization is still present, there are plans for the organization to leave very soon and work in a different municipality. There are discussions of passing off their responsibilities to Save the Children. No doubt support from these organizations will go through some readjustments during your service.
  • Casa Materna: The objective with casas maternas is to provide refuge to women from the campo who are in their final weeks of a high-risk pregnancy. They stay in until it is time to deliver at the health center with doctors and nurses instead of a partera, far away from emergency medical services, in case the need should arrive. They receive check-ups at the health center and receive educational charlas from the PCV. Its an incredibly important resource for women to ensure the health and safety of them and their babies.
  • Arco Iris: A small NGO from the States with an excellent reputation for good work in the community. They have a couple of different sectors in which they work. They give a lot of scholarships out to kids in the rural communities to be able to go to high school. They also support several comedores infantiles and family gardens. They also have a public health department where they conduct several capacitaciones to brigadistas and community leaders. They also employ two doctors who see attend to patients in the office and also go on salidas to the communities as well. There are many opportunities for lending support to this NGO.
  • Red de Brigadistas: Composed of health volunteers from their communities and are responsible for being the link between MINSA and the members of that community by making referrals and occupying casas bases. An incredibly important and sustainable resource. There is also an association made up of about 5 or 6 brigadistas who are very active, experienced, and who have leadership experience.
  • Accion Medica: This is the only organization in the municipality that has information on HIV/AIDS in. They are supposed to be planning activities for this year on promotion of AIDS education and condom usage and promotion.
Other things we will be doing -
-Training in the health center and casas maternas with pregnant ladies, about family planning, sexual health, breastfeeding, nutrition, self esteem or anything else we feel like,
-Rural outreach program under these same topics
-Working with rural vacination programs
-Providing house visits in rural communities,
-Assist with baby weighing programs and nutritional counseling for mothers
-PRoviding sexual health education to schools
-Form and train youth groups in health promotion
-Working with radio station and television stations to provide health education spots
-Teaching english to english teachers in the highschools
-Supporting MINSA with computer applications, technical reports and managing databases

Heather may also have the opportunity with an institution for recovering substance abusers in doing mental health, sports therapy, water sanitation, hygene and family gardens or agriculture.

We may also be following up on a grant to build a library in one of the smaller towns nearby, that the current volunteer started.

We will be visiting our site next saturday and can give some more specifics and photos. WE are very excited to be living in this site (even though we have never been there).

On a lighter note, I found this sweet spanish book at the office that tells us how to say all kinds of bad stuff. Some of it is pretty useful like, you have a booger in your nose, or, you have breath like a dragon, or ewe! (Guacala!)

I made this little video (if it freaking uploads before I post this blog) on a microbus, which is the standard form of transportation in between smaller towns.

Its taking a super long time, so if its not here, you may not get to see it. sorry.

HIV-AIDS Week in Chinendega

We just returned from HIV-AIDS week in Managua and Chinendega (a department near the Honduran border where there is a higher incidence of HIV). It was a good time but it was exhausting. We stayed in Managua the first night and had presentations from different NGOs that work with irradicating discrimination or working with youth on the topic of HIV. We talked about different ways to share this information with the community and how to present it to different age groups. That night we stayed in a training center and there were ants crawling all over us all night. Kory woke up with a puffy eyelid because of a mosquito bite. Kory reports it to be his worst night yet in nicaragua. The next day we rode the comfortable peace corps bus the 2 1/2 hours to hot Chinendega. We went to a couple towns and did some learning sessions and then we went to the ocean. We swam and swam! It was fabulous! Unfortunatley for you all, we were having too much fun to take any pictures. We slept in a hotel that night after having pizza for dinner.. dang. it doesnt get any better than that! The next day our group gave charlas on HIV at a health center, schools (7th and 8th grades) and at a nicaraguan navel base to a bunch of marines! Now that was funny! We have this icebreaker where you write down words like penis, or vagina and get them to write all the slang words for it that they know. We do this becuase they are so embarrased to talk about stuff like this and we have to get them to if we are going to have any real discussion about HIV. Anyway, they were still embarrased. But they loosened up a bit by the end when they were all puting condomes on plantains!