One Year & The Slump.

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Sometimes you just need to find a kitten, a kitchen chair, and cry.

There days when I just want to curl up into a ball. Where bed seems like the logical answer and reruns of TV shows are calling my name.

The days where despite running a successful teacher training this morning and seeing good progress with my students, I still lack motivation to invest in my job here.

The days I have to suck down the snarky comments to any and all things culturally different and of frustration.

The days when try as you may to continue eating and drinking normally, you can feel the parasites latching themselves onto your intestinal walls, sucking the weight off you and the life out of you.

There are days when you sick of arguing with your doctors that no, it is not IBS again, but yes, there really are creatures living me. Yes, I’d be happy to do the lab test to prove it.

These are the days I miss my mountains, my coffee shops, my friends and family. I miss walking Greenlake with Annie and lazy evenings on the couch at Drea’s.

The days I miss hot showers and convenience. And Target clearance racks. And being able to decorate a cozy little apartment. Mostly just being in control of my living situation, period.

These are the non-glory-days of the Peace Corps.

They told us when we were first in training that we might hit a ‘one-year slump’. I tucked that info into the back of my mind, but didn’t think about it again until May of this year. In May, I felt like I had hit that ever-mysterious ‘slump’.

It was two weeks of feeling un-motivated. Frustrated. Exhausted. And let’s be honest: these feelings are normal for a PCV, pretty much on a daily basis. But these two weeks were these feelings on crack. Amplified. All-consuming.

Two weeks of questioning what the heck I was doing here and if it was worth it to stay. Two weeks of making myself leave the house everyday, making myself continue going to work, doing my job, investing in relationships. It was hard.

But it passed.

Life got good again.

And then it hit again.

This week marks one year here in my site. One year.

In some ways it seems like it has gone by quickly, in other ways I feel like a turtle, just crawling along inch by inch.

A lot has happened in the last year. Lots of changes. Lots of illnesses. Lots of little victories. Lots of lots.

I love keeping track of numbers, so here is a little count of my life in the past year:

46: books read

4: jigsaw puzzles completed

500+: bus rides

9: parasites I have diagnosed with

4: bacterial infections.

3: rounds of amoebas

3: rounds of food poisoning/random stomach illnesses

600+: students worked with

1: police report filed

3: security incidents reported to Peace Corps

6,000+: photos taken

Maybe it’s just a bad day(s). Maybe it is having been really sick all of the last week. Maybe it is the dreaded slump. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it to be over.

So there we go. Just keeping honest down here in the these parts of Slumpsville, Central America.

On my radar for the coming days: go to the beach, camp on top of a volcano, splurge on some good coffee, and keep on keeping on.

Here’s to letting Nicaragua do its thing in me and being open to it as it comes.

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Wait, So What Exactly Do You Do?

I’ve received this question, in one way or another, so many times over the last year and decided it is time to clear the air. If you have been wondering what my job consists of, read on!

My official title with Peace Corps is Small Business Development & Education Volunteer. A mouthful, I know. What that breaks down to is this: the majority of my time is spent in high school classrooms, co-planning with teachers, working on various programming projects for the Small Business PC Nicaragua program, with in-site side projects filling the rest of my time. 

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By the numbers:

8: classes I attend weekly during the first semester

15: classes I attend weekly during the second semester

5: counterpart teachers I work with

4: schools I work in

300+: students I see in class each week

43: student groups submitting business plans

10: families my site-mate and I are currently building improved ovens with

7: families participating in Personal Financial Education classes I am facilitating

2: student interns I am currently training and working with in a community project

4: side projects I am currently working on outside of the classroom

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About the classroom experience: Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education has a relatively new small business curriculum, Emprendedurismo (Entrepreneurship), that is being implemented and forms the main component of my job. The curriculum is a basic overview of what a creative business idea is, how to write a business plan, and how to find investors in communities. Fifth year students (seniors in high school) are going through this curriculum in their OTV (essentially job-prep) class. I also work with fourth year students (juniors in high school) training teachers on the curriculum and giving classes on vocational preparedness.

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About side projects: While I don’t have tons of time to spend on side projects due to how much I am in the classroom, I find a lot of joy in working on these little babies. Current projects include:

–  Building energy-efficient ovens for 10 families in a rural community

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–  Giving personal financial education classes to those same families

–  Working with two student interns to train them in community development practices, as well as personal financial education & stove building

–  Leading an English Conversation group once a week. Love these folks!

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–  Team Emprende, PC Nicaragua’s Small Business department leadership team. We plan the National Congress & Competition, organize fundraising opportunities such an annual Cocktail Party, and work to improve the Entrepreneurship experience

–  Designing a new database for all of the school contact and counterpart information that the Small Business sector has

– Playing photographer for Peace Corps projects such as the Inside Out Project in Granada, and other events

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So that’s the gist of what my professional life here looks like. A full, but fun life.

Tired yet?!

Thoughts On A Week Gone Awry.

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So, as you might have gathered from previous posts, Colin’s trip did not quite turn out as we had expected. You’ve heard his version, now here’s mine:

Friday

11:30 am – Land in Managua after taking the red-eye from Seattle. Head to the PC office.

2:00 pm – Go to bus station to go back to my site. I get robbed. Get off the bus.

3:00 pm  – Back to the PC office to fill out paperwork and spend the night.

8:00 pm – Colin eats no less than 8 tacos, chips, guacamole, and two drinks for dinner.

Saturday

7:00 am – Try to get Colin out of bed. It’s surfing day!

8:00 am – Give up on the buses and hire a taxi to take us out to the beach.

10:00 am – Arrive at the beach. Meet my fellow PCV friend Sam. Drink fresh juice in our beachfront cabana.

11:00 am – Colin tries his hand at surfing, thanks to Sam. I awkwardly try to float around on my borrowed board and watch the activities.

11:30 ish – I have a funny feeling that something has happened and get out of the water. Go check my cell phone. Three calls and four text messages inform me that there has been a 6.4 earthquake three miles south of us and we are to evacuate ASAP.

11:45 am – After using an air horn and jumping up and down to get Colin and Sam’s attention and get them out of the water, we load into hitched rides in church group vans and drive a few miles inland to a higher spot of land.

12:15 pm – Receive word that the small tsunami has hit and all is well. We get packed and head out.

Afternoon – Head back to my site to rest and settle in. Buy fritanga for dinner and watch Spanish TV with my host family.

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Sunday/Monday/Tuesday

Colin meets my English group, plays soccer with my friends, comes to classes with me, watches some movies and tears through some reading. Peace Corps life = a good amount of downtime.

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Wednesday

3:00 am – Colin wakes up screaming about his head hurting and needing to pee. I tell him to go to the bathroom and get a glass of water. Done.

6:00 am – My alarm goes off. I get up and prep to travel about three hours to another PCV’s rural site to meet their counterparts and take part in a training activity.

6:15 am – I get the brother up. He comes stumbling down the metal stairs in my apartment saying he doesn’t feel well and thinks he might have a fever. I put my hand to his forehead and pull it away immediately after feeling burnt. Literally.

6:17 am – A disposable thermometer (thanks PC med kit!) shows that Colin has a 104 degree fever. Yikes.

6:20 am – After dosing Colin up with drugs and cold rags, I head out, leaving my cell and instructions with my host sister, as well as asking my site mate to go check on him at some point in the morning.

9:30 am – After getting to Managua and spending an hour trying to flag down buses, I give up and go back the hour and a half to site…Colin is asleep, fever still raging.

2:00 pm – I take a sample of Colin’s to the local lab, then head to class in one of my rural sites.

5:00 pm – Return to the lab to get the results. He has a bacteria infection.

5:30 pm – After getting the correct meds and walking home, I find Colin exactly where I left him:

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Thursday

All day: Colin lays in the exact same spot, after sleeping in the exact same spot. Besides getting up to use the bathroom, this is where he stays. He watches a record 10 movies in 48 hours. I spend the day teaching and on the phone with my dad in the States figuring out alternative travel plans for the sickie.

9:00 pm – After a cold shower, more cold rags, and almost 40 hours of the highest dose of Tylenol one can have, his fever breaks. Color this big sister relieved.

Friday

7:00 am – Wake and up take Colin’s temperature for the bazillionth time. Still running a small fever. Ask Dad to call to talk travel plans.

8:00 am – Colin’s noon flight ticket is now cancelled and moved to the following day. I start to feel sick.

9:00 am – Colin and I pack up and go to Managua. I need a break and a hot shower after dealing with diarrhea man for two days!

1:00 pm – I see the doctor because I’m feeling sick. Go to the lab.

Saturday

8:00 am – I go the bank headquarters to get my new bank card. Sweet relief.

10:00 am – Colin and I go to the airport.

11:00 am – Colin is checked-in, lectured by his sister, hugged goodbye, and through security. I find a bathroom.

12:00 pm – I am back in bed at the hotel. Lab results show I got Colin’s infection. Thanks, bro.

11:00 pm – I’m still in bed. Start meds. Get word that Colin made it back safely. Thank goodness.

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So needless to say, this week was not all peaches and cream. But Colin and I still had fun. It was pretty cool and kind of strange to show him a bit of my life here, and it opened up some interesting conversation. I’ll leave you with a few quotes straight from his mouth, observations on Nica life:

“This country is really pretty” (said while standing in one of the dirtiest part of downtown Managua)

“Your host mom is really nice”

There’s something floating in my water” (his own backwash)

“Your apartment is very….basic.”

“Wait, there was another earthquake this morning?”

“They have horses here? I’ll them an Asian can ride a horse!”