Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nicaraguan Thanksgiving

This week, I continue to steal blog posts from my fellow PDs. Here you'll find Fiona's most recent blog about our Thanksgiving here in Managua, which actually was quite successful. Enjoy!

Despite being in a foreign country where people don't really know what Thanksgiving is, we had a great Thanksgiving here at the Manna house! Each person in the house contributed by cooking at least one dish, and our spread was impressive - the only big item missing was sweet potatoes, which sadly don't exist in this country. Our meal included turkey, stuffing, squash risotto, cornbread, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, beets, apple pie, and chocolate pie. It was all delicious, and I particularly liked that every person made something.

We converted our office table into a dinner table, and it was the first time we've all sat around one table and eaten together. Props to my housemates for some great decorating, both of the table and of ourselves...we had pilgrim and indian costumes. See the picture above to realize how awesome we are. Spending time eating together, playing a game, and watching a movie made for an amazing Thanksgiving. :-)

There are many, many things I am thankful for this year...far more than I could ever list in this blog entry. But, here's a sampling of things, big and small, which I am particularly thankful for this year.
  • Communities, both here in Nicaragua and back in the US. In particular: the communities I have the privilege to serve in here, my housemates, and the young adult community at St. Clares back at home.
  • My Spanish being good enough to communicate what I want to, most of the time.
  • Bug spray. (things I am NOT thankful for: the crazy number of mosquitos)
  • The fact that the weather is a bit cooler nowadays, at least in the evenings, and that it's not raining all the time.
  • Hugs.
  • All the freedoms and opportunities that I've been given in my life in the US: education, a well-paying job, a fair political system, safety, etc.
  • Friends who constantly challenge me to grow, support me, and hold me to a higher standard.
  • Public transportation that allows me to explore this beautiful country.
  • Open doors and welcoming smiles.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home Stays

This week, Jesse has shared his recent home stay experience. Here in Managua, we each do one four-night home stay in the community to expand relationships with students and community members. Enjoy!

Last week half of our group did homestays for four nights with different families in Cedro Galan. When we initially talked about doing homestays again I wasn’t particularly excited, although I really should have been. I wasn’t dreading it by any means but I didn’t really feel like I was going to accomplish much by doing it and it meant some inconveniences in terms of using internet, getting work done, and washing clothes among other things. However, this quickly changed after I decided who I wanted to do my homestay with. After some encouragement from Sam I decided to ask Samuel, a fourteen year old boy who sometimes comes to a couple of our programs, if he thought his parents would be okay with me doing my homestay there. Despite the awkward nature of asking someone I had never met if I could stay at their house for a few nights, the conversation with his parents went well and they said that they would be glad to host me. My attitude about staying in the community quickly changed and I became excited to stay with Samuel and his family.

Samuel is an extremely intelligent kid with so much potential. However, he has had some trouble at school in the past and is currently taking the year off. Because of this he has a lot of free time and spends it with older guys who seem to be anything but a good influence on him. He is also very susceptible to this influence because he lacks the self confidence necessary to make his own decisions and be his own person. Upon leaving, some of last year’s PD’s told me to watch out for Samuel and said that he was on the edge and could either become one of the “guys on the corner” or could actually realize his potential and become a productive, contributing member of society. The prospect of staying with Samuel and the opportunity to potentially be a positive role model for him was very exciting for me. I felt as if I was actually trying to accomplish something during my week at their house.

In short, my stay with the Davila family was great. Samuel’s mom, Doña Norma, is one of the sweetest people I’ve met. She is also a fantastic cook which certainly made my homestay even more pleasant. Although Samuel’s dad wasn’t around very often during the week due to his demanding job as a security guard I did get to meet him and spend a short amount of time with him and he too is a very quiet but welcoming man. They run a “venta,” or little store, out of their home that Doña Norma usually tends but that Samuel assists with. Each evening after dinner Samuel and I would watch the news at 7:00 and then an episode of House, one of Samuel’s favorite shows, at 8:00 before going to bed. One day it rained all day and we weren’t able to leave the house at all so we just sat and talked for hours. We talked about a variety of subjects including school, nature, food, sports, and science. In all, it was a fantastic week.

I feel like I was really able to connect with Samuel throughout my week at his house. I don’t maintain any illusions that I will be the determining factor that causes Samuel to go more consistently to our programs, do better in school when he returns in February, and become a successful member of the community here. However, I do think that my stay there did some good. It at least laid a stronger foundation for a relationship that I hope to maintain and expand upon. Hopefully our friendship will grow throughout my remaining time here and I can continue to provide an extra little push that could help him take a step or two in the right direction. And at the very least, we both had a great time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Presidential Elections

With United States presidential elections one year away, voters and candidates are already keeping a keen eye on the evolution of the presidential race. Few Americans are aware, however, that Nicaraguan’s presidential election is right around the corner—this coming Sunday, to be exact! Incumbent Daniel Ortega is a founding member of the ruling FSLN party (Sandinista National Liberation Front), and has amended the constitution to run for a third term. The FSLN is the socialist party that came to power after the Sandinista evolution of the 1970s, during which time Ortega served his first term as president.

Ortega’s opposition is divided between four candidates, two of which are supported by the majority of remaining voters. Fabio Gadea represents the PLI party, the right wing independent party that has merged with the more liberal MRS party to form an opposition coalition to the FSLN. Arnoldo Aleman is the candidate of the right wing PLN party, and previously served as one of the nation’s two PLN presidents in the 1990s.

While anticipation of the November 6th election was already apparent when we arrived in July, campaigning has now reached an all time high. Last Wednesday, we were puzzled by low attendance in our kids’ classes before learning that the FSLN had bussed all children in our area to a Managua amusement park. Sandinista rallies took place all weekend, with Ortega supporters proudly sporting t-shirts with Ortega’s youth slogan “Amor, paz, y vida,” while hanging posters throughout the community. Opposition supporters were out in full force as well, holding rallies of their own in Managua and paying door-to-door visits to garner support for the PLN and PLI. While cheering for Jesse during his Saturday soccer game, a red dog reminiscent of Clifford kept us company. We quickly deduced that the PLN had hosted a rally near the soccer field that morning, during which they opted to dye our furry friend a bright shade of PLN red.

For more information on the Nicaraguan presidential elections, we recommend the following article in Nicaragua Dispatch, an English language online Nicaraguan newspaper: