Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Teacher Workshops

We´ve finally finished! Teacher workshops, all 6 of them, have been completed with only a minor problem in Teustepe when only 4 of the 50 teacher invited showed up. We found out later that somehow the invitation didn´t make it out to all of them and so we ended up inviting random teachers that had shown up to the school that day to work. It was one of the largest turnouts we had! Here are some pictures from the last 2 weeks:

Me at the beginning of the last workshop:

Here we all at the last workshop looking very happy to be done!
Back row: Ben, Jennie, Elliott, Raina
Front row: Ryan, Jocelyn, me

Hanging out during the introduction at the beginning of the workshop in Boaco (Raina, Jocelyn, me, Elliott, and Ben):

The last workshop happened to be in Santa Lucia, Elliott`s site, and quite possibly the most beautiful site in all of the department of Boaco. After the workshop, Ryan, Ben and I stayed an extra night and all 4 of us went on a hike to the top of one of the nearby peaks (Sta Lucia is set in a crater of a very old volcano causing it to be surrounded by rocky peaks). Elliott took this shot of me and Ben once we reached the top:

It was an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day, and we didn´t want to head back down after climbing all that way! Here Ben and I are again hanging out, getting a sunburn:

Of course, we had to play around with the camera for a bit. Here´s Elliott pinching his town making him quite possibly the most powerful person in Santa Lucía:

That´s all I have time for today! I´ll add more once my schedule calms down a bit. School just started a couple of weeks ago, and I´m trying to get my projects up and off the ground. Wish me luck and check back in in a week or so!

Monday, January 15, 2007


Upon return to Nicaragua, I´ve been keeping myself busy by daily readying myself for the teacher workshops that all the volunteers in the department of Boaco (8 of us) will be participating in. However, I took last Saturday off since my host dad´s siblings came over to, well, kill a pig.

It´s tradition here in Nicaragua to kill a pig for whatever celebratory reason be it a birthday, Christmas, graduation, etc. Far from a pig roast, every inch of the pig is used in a variety of ways from making chicharón (fried pig fat) to pig-bone soup. My host family had planned on killing this doomed beast for New Years but decided to wait until the 13th since not every sibling could make it over the holidays. Which meant that I got a fantastic lesson in Nicaraguan cooking with the emphasis on the laborious nacatamale (which were made right in my own kitchen).

As many of you may know, a tamale according to Mexican tradition is a mass of ground up corn stuffed with meat (you choose the animal), wrapped in corn husk, and boiled. The nacatamale is similar in the sense that it is based in ground up corn, wrapped, and boiled, but everything else is quite different.

First of all, the ground up corn is mixed with liquified green pepper, onion, LOTS of garlic, LOTS of manteca (liquid pig fat), and achote (a red seed used for coloring more than flavor). Instead of corn husks, banana leaves are used to wrap the contents. So... you start with a boiled banana leaf (it bends easier), lay it out flat, pile on the ground corn, and then the following ingredients are piled on top: pig ribs, subcutaneous pig fat (optional), potato slices, tomato slice, green pepper, mint leaves, onion slices, and raw rice to soak up the juices. Here are my host mom, Doña Elia, and her niece adding ingredients:
The nacatamale before being wrapped up:

Once all ingredients are on, you wrap it up and tie it with another type of leaf that strips into strong, rope-like pieces to keep water out while boiling:

Then you put all of those handy little meals (we made 70 of them off of one pig), in a large pot of boiling water over fire and cook for 5 hours. Here´s my host mom again in our kitchen boiling banana leaves and preparing the pot for the wrapped nacatamales:

The end result was a hot, artery-clogging meal that they claim is much better the morning after for breakfast since cooking all night gives the flavors a chance to mix more thoroughly.

Other new developments in my house include the family´s dog, Lili (mother of my dog, Nico), slowly turning into a cat. She´s killed 3 mice since I´ve been back! She´s never sure what to do with them after killing them, but makes sure that Nico doesn´t get close to her prize:

I´ll hopefully have some pictures of the teacher workshops up here soon. We are in some danger that the new Sandinista government and all the changes its bringing into the education system will cancel some of the workshops, but we´re moving forward as if all signs say go. Wish us luck and check back in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Getting ready to go back.

Deceiving though the title of this blog page may be, it's the best I could come up with. I actually am more than half-way done with my Peace Corps service. With 11 months to go, I had been out of the United States for 16 months living in rural Nicaragua when I came home to visit for the holidays a couple weeks back. One would think reverse culture shock would've taken its hold, but I actually transitioned back into States-side living a little too well. There were the typical initial shocks: watching people walk out of Starbucks with coffees the size of my head, eating a salad large enough for 3 meals, etc., but once at home, I was more relaxed than I had been in, well, 16 months. As a parting (and very liberating) gesture before I go back to Nicaragua, I donated 11 inches of my hair to Locks of Love (Google it- the link wasn't working for me).
Of course, I had to take the before and after pictures:

Kindly ignore the fact that I look drugged in this picture.

Yay! Look how happy and not-drugged I am!

So in a couple of days I'll be heading back, and though I'm nervous, I'm pretty excited to get back to my host family, my friends, and of course, my dog. I have a number of projects lined up- the first of which will be a collaborative effort with all the volunteers in my department (we're a small group at 8). We'll be giving one teacher workshop in each of our sites to 50 teachers in the area on a variety of topics ranging all the way from First Aid in the classroom (done by a Health volunteer) to creative fundraising and budgeting (done by a Small Business volunteer). By the end of January, we hope to have finished all 8 workshops so that when school starts in February, we're free to start our own projects within our sites.

So enjoy the new website! I hope to have a lot more pictures and maybe even videos to make the words just that more interesting.