Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hi everybody. Kory again.



We have been in this country for over 9 months now. Almost 10. Sometimes during our time here, we want for Nicaragua to be something else. Someplace else. That is, we want it to be colorful, like Guatemala. But what makes Guatemala colorful are the Maya. The Native people here, Mesquito, live primarily in the two autonomous regions on the atlantic coast, which make up for about half of the land mass of Nicaragua and are restricted areas for Peace Corps volunteers for dangerous drug trafficking and violence. The colors here are hidden, secret colors that are hard to find through the green. Sometimes we want it to be spicier, like Mexico. But it isn´t. The Nicaraguan tongue is more sensitive and their flavors simple to our North American salt, sugar, and MSG overloaded tongues, but decidedly "rico" to theirs. Sometimes we want a strong music culture, like Chile or other South American countries. But we just have to accept marriage of the Regaeton and evangelical preaching-screaming-speaking in tongues at superhuman levels and all hours of the morning, day, and night as a music culture. Sometimes there is no Spanish and English, just communication. Sometimes we are in the Nicaragua that is that strange place away from home and family and things familiar. And sometimes it just is. We just are here and it is what it is.

Money Talks

I thought I would mention a little bit about the money situation here for a Peace Corps volunteer. The currency is the córdoba. There are almost 20 córdobas in a U.S. dollar (19.5). The Nicas usually just call them "pesos", even though they are not. Gringos usually call them "cords." The symbol looks like this ... C$ (or a "c" with a dollar sign within it). We are each paid C$3,600 each month, or about $180. Before you all go running to Western Union to wire us money, let me explain some things. First of all, as we walked to church today we complained about the price we had paid for the bananas we were eating. They were two for a córdoba while in La Dalia they are four for a córdoba. In other words, the bananas at the high price were about 2.5 cents a piece, where they are usually 1.25 cents a piece. Fresh pineapple is on the rise. Now one can expect to pay as much as 10 pesos, or about 50 cents. You see where I´m going with this? An expensive mango might cost C$7 (35 cents) but it is about the size of a cantelope. Rice is now a whopping 10 cords a pound (50 cents) while beans are 9.5 to 12 pesos a pound. We buy tortillas from the neighbor for 5 reales. This means 50 cents in córdobas, or half a córdoba (2.5 cents). The 2 hour bus ride to Matagalpa that we take at least once a week, sometimes more, costs 30 pesos each person, each way ($6 round trip for two). In otherwords, we don´t make Jack here. But we don´t need much either. The rub comes from a $40 pricetage on a bag of cheap hershey bars.

El Gatito

I have conceded to let Heather get a kitten, provided that it is super cute. For those of you who know me and my feelings about pets, I´ll explain. This does not mean that Heather wears the pants in the family. On the contrary, we share the pants (which we may be able to litterally do since I am only a little taller than her and I have lost 30lbs. here on a diet that lacks Doritios and pizza ... mmmmm ... Doritos and pizza...) and if she were wearing the pants we would have had a cat long ago. It´s like this. This is probably the only time that having a cat might actually work out for us. I never liked having a cat around because it leaves hairs in my paints. This is intollerable. Here, however, we live in a cement hut and can hose it out to clean it, and I am not doing much painting really. Also, the pigeons´feathers are a constant bother, raining through the gaps between the wall and ceiling. Furthermore, we have a mouse problem. They love the poison we leave out for them and everything else they can get their filthy little paws on. All of this being said, what it really comes down to is that Heather has a lot of love to give. In the abscence of family and friends I have held a comfortable monopoly on that love for over nine months now, and frankly, I just can´t take it anymore. Her motherly instincts are kicking in and we can´t have a child until we come home. Incidentally, my wife´s happiness means more to me than a lousy pair of proverbial family pants anyway.

The Conductor

The bus driver this morning had only one hand. His other arm terminated in a nub with four little finger starts, his body´s aborted attempt to form a hand. Although it was obvious that it was a developmental problem and not an accident, it reminded me of the woman in April. In April I was translating for a skin doctor who was here with a U.S. airforce medical brigade. A woman came in from the campo for a skin condition. I think it was scabies. She was missing one hand and the other was horribly disfigured. The doctor asked me to ask her if she was born that way or if she had an accident. "La doctora quiere saber si naciste con los manos así o si tuviste un accidente," I asked, trying to be a little warmer than the sub-zero doctors the people here are used to dealing with. "Me machetiaron" she replied. "They machettied me." "They" could be field workers, or her parents, anybody. Judging from her age, it was probably the police or army, or sandinista rebells in the 80´s. The bus driver handled the curves and holes and mud and bridges expertly with his one hand.

The Funny Thing About Gringos

Gringos are a currious creature. They do things that are very unusual. As we all know, it can be very difficult, if not completely awkward, to get a close enough look into a gringo house to properly judge their excentricities and see what can be borrowed. Fortunatley, with this handy guide, you too can experience a gringo house. Gringos don´t seem to open their doors readily to Nicaraguans and therefor it is difficult to ask them for stuff, because as everybody knows, they are here to give stuff away. You can save time and embarassment using the simple manipulative tools in this book. For example, just yesterday, a local woman was able to negociate this tricky endevour by using the following method: 1) Being pregnant. 2) First stating to the husband gringo that she wanted to talk to the wife gringo. 3) When he tried to keep her out by stating that the wife gringo was on the phone and would be out shortly, and asked what she wanted, she simply told him that she just wanted to come in, which threw him off. 4) When the wife gringo came outside, she used her status as pregnant woman to cover some ground. She asked if she could "prestar" or bollow, the latrine. 5) Falling for the pregnancy scam the gringo wife allowed her into her house with her small child. The mysteries of gringo living revealed themselves as she passed to use the toilet. After (pretending) to use the toilet she was able to stay in the house for some time visiting and rubbernecking at all of the oddities before having to leave. You too can experience the wonder!

To Market, to Market

The women in this country, as well as many women from many other under developed countries around the world, have, for lifetimes, carried their wares to market on their heads. These wares have been anything from vegetables, carved wooden crafts, bread, "cosas del orno" or things of the oven (any of various baked things), children, and pig´s heads. This morning, on our way to the bus we passed a woman walking to market. On her head was a wooden rack, about 1 1/2 by 2 meters in size, full of pirated DVD´s. Hey, wares are wares.

Creencias Falsas

The other night we recieved a visit from a neighbor girl. She had come to seek advice about a pregnancy scare. She was late to recieve her one month "anticonceptivo" or contraceptive injection and the Health center would not give her a test to see if she was pregnant right away, nor would they give her the shot, in case she was. She was scared. Her mother threatened to kill her if she was pregnant, as moms will, and her boyfriend lives in a comunity that is an hour bus ride away, in El Tuma. That is not all. Aparently the doctor had filled her head with all kinds of nonsense and myths. Considering that not more than two months ago, a fifteen-year-old who got pregnant went home and tried to abort the baby (abortion is very illegal here, regardless of whether or not the mother´s life is in danger). She drank several cups of household cleaners and died. We were glad that this neighbor girl was wise enough to come over and talk to us to clarify some of the things that her doctor had told her. She turned 15 last week.

Anger ...(not anger, pronounced "ain ´chair")

"Deme una foto!" we heard from a tiny voice a short way behind us. Give me a photo. "Gringos, deme una foto!" The tiny person was waving. "We don´t have a photo."
After this greating on this particular road for the first three months of our service, we decided to learn the kid´s name and teach him ours. His name is Anger (see above). He is about five and a tiny little guy. Now that he knows our names we cannot pass his mother´s stand in the market without a greating that somehow carries across the open intersection of all the roads. We recently took a photo of him (with Flat Stanely,...more on that later). He was very proud to have a photo taken and as soon as we can find somewhere to print it, we will in fact "dele una foto."

Well, I hope you have enjoyed these little vignettes. More photos to come, including: The Nicaraguan Adventures of Flat Stanley; The bamboo cabana on the patio; Sweet and sour sauce; Bamboo carved cooking utinciles and other fun things!

I hope all is well!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hi. This is Kory today. I would first like to say that Heather appologizes for including political commentary on this our friendly blog. We have no intentions of turning this blog into a political forum. I would also like to say that, as intelligent rational human beings, we recognize that being Muslim and being a terrorist have nothing to do with one another. Thank you for understanding. Feel free, however, to comment on any other aspect of your lives. P.S.-we are registered to vote absentee, though it wont caount unless it is very very close.

As for Peace Corps work, we have much to report on for this week. First of all, I gave my highschool students their test on the sexual health series that I have been teaching them (Heather administered hers last week) and my 71 students (roughly twice that size of Heather´s classes) blew her´s out of the water with their scores. I admit that this was largely due to the fact that as my series was a week behind her´s, since we were using the same materials, I had the advantage of correcting and adjusting to our original mistakes. I also did an intensive soccer based review the week before the test. Anyway, we are done with that part for now, but when the new year begins in January, we plan to teach the series again to many more students. (In her defense, Heather and I are returning to her school to do the soccer-based review to make sure that these kids get something out of it.

We harvested some sugarcane from our back yard this week as well. We went back and chopped it down with our machette and then skinned it. (The skinned end in the photo is in my mouth, the part in the foreground is not skinned.) Then you just chew on it. It is so wet and juicy. It just pours sugarwater down your face. Mmm. The next morning I made crepes with pineapple and sugarcane syrup for breakfast.

We had our first radio program with our kiddos. They were so nervous, but they did awesome. It was the first time I have seen any Nicaraguan be on time to anything. And this is a youth group! Since today is the national mental health day, the program was about depression. They were a little short on information but it was their first time. We hardly had to help them at all! It was a great success for us. We´ll see if they can prove successfull under the test of time. Unfortunately, we forgot the camera so there will be no pictures of the radio work until the next show, on the 24th.

We went to a festival at the Highschool for el Día de la Resistencia wherein everybody celebrates the time when the Spanish arrived here and the indiginous peoples said "Hell No!" (basically). There is more to it than that, but that´s all you need to know. So they have a sort of pagent to elect a reina indigina or Indian Queen! The students, one from each class, dress up in costumes they make from natural things, such as coconut bikinis and corn grass skirts, and they have to answer questions and do pagent things. Well, being the esteemed sexual health teacher that I am, I was asked to be one of the prestigous invited judges. I got to judge the Indian Queen pagent! The big bored looking man next to me is the vice mayor of La Dalia. I guess it wasn´t as novel for him.

Here are the "queens" lined up. Some of them have escorts as well. Indian-lookin duders.

This is a picture of our friend Luis, who teaches English at the school, with his "queen." They also build indiginous huts out of natural things, one of which you can see in the background, from which they sell foods and drinks to each other. The eats are also judged. (notice the dog is wearing a coffee bean collar).

Monday, October 6, 2008

What we do besides cook and invent things.....

I thought I would write a little bit about what we do and what projects we are working on just in case you have all been thinking that all we do is cook and invent things and be scared of bugs. Kory and I are in the process of dividing all of our projects. We both have so many ideas and we end up working a lot together which makes autonomy difficult. This is a picture if the division, but it will serve as a way to talk shortly about the projects. I will not specify who will be or is working on each one, only describe it because there are so many. The beauty of this job is that we are left to our own devices. Some suffer in this type of work environment. We love it because we can do things our own way and those of you who know us, know we like our way.

Adolescent Clinic

We are trying to get a space and funding for an adolescent clinic in our health center. This would be a place with a special staff specially trained to deal with youth on issues of sexual and reproductive health. The concern is that sooooooo many kids are sexually active and are getting pregnant because no one has the guts to talk to them about sex. THis would be a safe place they could come to get non judgemental help.

Posters for the Casa Materna

We are working on a national project here, being tired of making charlas with papelografo, only to have them destroyed. We will be developing 10 charlas pertinent to pregnant women and designing them into a vinyl poster that is waterproof, fadeproof and can be roled up and taken to fairs and the country to promote the topics. Each of the 68 casas maternas in the country will have one of each of the 10 topics to hang in thier building and do charlas from. THis will cost upwards of $20,000 so we will be looking to NGO´s for funding.We have already got the support of the casa materna at a national level.
HIV Training at the Army Base
There is an army base near our town with almost 500 men. We are trying to arrange a mass HIV training for them. (Our cuota for training men about HIV is 50 each.... so this would be pretty cool.)
Voz de Salud (Voice of Health)
This is our radio group that we have started. We will be having a bi-weekly radio group with a bunch of kids that we have trained or will train. The kids will be performing the radio show on topics related to health, sexuality and the environment.
Youth Survey
There are about 6 NGO´s working in our town with youth and youth promotores. Not one of them has done a needs assessment or survey of the issues youth face in our municipality. We will be doing a survey of all 3000 youth in the highschools if we can find a computer program capable of analyzing the data better than excell. (Hint if you know any or could send us a copy,... we would reaaaaallly appreciate it). We will also need funding for the copies of the survey.
There are a ton of other ones, that maybe I can elaborate on later, like our youth artist group that is doing murals all over and we are starting another one, the mural kory and I will be doing in the casa materna when the rains stop, the trainings at the health center on HIV counselling, building latrines and doing higene trainings for staff and patients at th health center where currently the patients squat behind the buildings or hold it. .. and no one washes thier hands. Sooooo many... But i know its boring with so little pictures. More pics next time. Enjoy, and dont miss the last entry I did today either. Love heather and kory

Voting time

I wanted to put in a plug for the elections coming up. I want to say that it is IMPERITIVE that americans REALLY know who they are voting for. This is not a time to go on what people tell you or other peoples thoughts. Please take the time to KNOW THE ISSUES. After all, we are not voting for a religion or a race, or an age, we are voting on the issues.. at least I hope we are. I have taken the time to research the issues that can be found on the following links. If I can do this in a foreign, developing country with mediocre access to electricity, then you all who have internet in your homes can too.

PS, Kory and I have decided that if Barak wins the election I will be coming home for thanksgiving as well, if McCain wins... I may not come back ever. I think I will stick it out with Daniel. .. Not to sway your vote or anything.