Updates in the ever-changing NPH home

Published: August 22nd 2008
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Crazy Meal TimesCrazy Meal TimesCrazy Meal Times

All the food is lined up, ready to go!
The Final Leg of My Journey; or, perhaps just the start… J

It is with joy and praise that I write this next entry. I have successfully made it past the halfway point and am making my final stretch home. I have battled storms, such as Tropical Storm Alma, getting sick my first night and week to Nicaragua and throughout, transportation strikes, sudden absences of directors and doctors and volunteers, boring teacher meetings and interesting masses. We have been through a lot. Living in a third world country is no fabulous life but it a life I chose and am very happy that I did.

Since I last updated, I had just gotten back from Costa Rica and the beautiful beach of Maderas in Nicaragua. I saw the largest hermit crab of my life on that beach. It was beautiful and tranquil. Since then, I have been back on the homeland teaching my little kiddies English.

In The Classroom
I have started a school store for my English students. Each time they are good, I give them a ticket. At the end of each month, they will have the opportunity to shop at my store. For the first
The Juice Is ReadyThe Juice Is ReadyThe Juice Is Ready

The kids race to get the juice, as it is the first to run out! There is not enough to go around.
semester, I had no way of repaying good behavior that wasn’t congratulation, a smile, or a thank you. It is nice to see the kids working hard for their tickets and I am glad that they will be able to have some fun at the store. I was inspired of this idea after visiting NPH Honduras and meeting with their English teachers. However, the kids have stolen tickets from their classmates. I now have a side effect to deal with. For instance, one day the whole bag went missing. I made different tickets, which also went missing. You would think that the notion of stealing what is not yours would have been fixed after the bag went missing the first time, but apparently not. I have some who steal in the classroom, a normal cultural thing at NPH. It is frustrating and it ruins it for all the good students. However, I have to say that I am so happy to work with students who are honest and develop academically. I have one student who has matured into a confident boy who works extremely hard. You know what it took? I continually praised him, taught him how to shake a
My Favorite StudentsMy Favorite StudentsMy Favorite Students

Although we don't have classes, I still manage to have a showing of popular English movies from time to time with these lovely ladies.
hand in a confident manner, acknowledged his presence, and talked to him when he wasn’t acting himself. Knowing success is available to all who choose, I am glad to have witnessed a good change in behavior in Dixon. These are the moments that remind me the reason I am here.

This month, we have been learning prepositions of places. The students have all made small cities. I have made the classroom into an art gallery, as all the projects are now on display. I want to showcase my students’ work and they are very proud of what they have done. The only stressful part was collecting the projects, as I have gotten excuse after excuse as to why they didn’t have it. My favorite one was the day of presentations. In one of my classes, two students of 15 showed up to present. It was a terrible disappointment, but another reminder of how patient you need to be in working with these youth.
I also tried to get back some of the stuff I have lent out to my students, which have included art supplies and movies. I have learned that although I lend these things out, I always

We had to change buses because of bridge construction. Not just us, but all charter buses! Hundreds of people crossed the bridge on foot.
find them with other people. This has happened a lot, even with my most trustworthy students. The concept of sharing is a lot different here. In my culture, when I am lent something, I take the role as the caregiver of the object borrowed. Well, in the case of these kids, who share everything, if you are lent something, it doesn’t stop you from borrowing what is not yours to another person. I have had to track my stuff down from multiple people, who says so and so has it. This is yet another cultural norm I have had to deal with.

We are also heading near tests. My first three tests have all been stressful and I am hoping that the 4th time around, testing will go smooth. I hope to limit the cheaters and ensure a smooth process. So far, it has been going well. No classes have been unexpectedly canceled right before testing either. Just the other day, I heard rumors that the kids may have to work in the bean fields. Our national director has invested thousands of dollars in the production of beans and wants to maintain them. In Nicaragua, it is quite common
Large Hermit CrabsLarge Hermit CrabsLarge Hermit Crabs

These big guys were everywhere in Puerto Viejo.
for kids to miss school to work on the fields for a day or for adults to miss work as well. However, this was all dependent on the rain. If it rained, there would be school…if not, no school. There is no way to plan here! I have found that I am never certain of cancellations of school until the day of. I planned to not go to school anyways, as I was told that secondary kids had no classes rain or no rain. Well, truth be told, I found out that they had school, the next afternoon, after school ended. Just another example of how communication is terrible here. My fever saved me, as I was sick anyways. Working with sick kids, I was bound to get a fever. I lay miserable in my hot room while my fever passed within a day.

Stressful Times before the Birthday Celebration
Sana, our exotic volunteer from Lebanon, received a visitor. Her sister came for a visit to celebrate her little sister’s golden birthday. We went to Moyogalpa ,Granada, and San Juan to party it up.
Before we took off, I agreed to bake a cake and take care of some

Here is how they attack their prey: they blend into the sand. However, they keep their little black pearl eyes out to scope for predators...
things. However, I knew that this would be a battle, as our cook in the bakery burns everything. We have had burnt cakes in the past, but this didn’t stop him from doing it again. After explaining to him that I wanted it turned on low or medium with an extended baking time, he insisted to put it on high for little time. Well, I decided to back down and let this man have his way. I guess if you want to make a man feel good here, you just let him have his way in most decisions, such as what temp to cook a cake, since he has proved successful in the past…yeah right. So, I come back 15 minutes later to a burnt cake with liquid in the middle, just the thing I KNEW would happen. I left, determined to not go back to cook cakes there again. I tried two other ovens, both of which were not working…oh, the life here. I finally succeeded in chopping it in little pieces and putting them in the little toaster oven in the volunteer house.

On my way back, I stopped by the carpentry to find more disappointment. If
Bustling San JoseBustling San JoseBustling San Jose

Memories of Europe came back to me as I was whisked through San Jose in a taxi.
it is one thing here I dislike, it is being talked down by from men. In some third world countries, the man is always going to be superior to a woman, no matter what race she is. I asked about the status of my wooden polls for my flag line. He keeps telling me a day they will be done, and they are NEVER done on the day he says. On top of that, I was made to feel silly for continually asking him. I was done with it. I asked him to finish this job for me now and I would be happy. He did what he needed to do which was to chop off the bad ends from when they all broke in half. I wouldn’t be asking for any more favors from them. Since the incident, I have found another solution. I have been using the stick part from some brooms. I just unscrewed off the brush part and wallah, I got my wooden flag poll.

On a good note, things went fine after the cake and wooden poll incident. We were off on break. For the first time in a long time, I ordered a
Playa UvaPlaya UvaPlaya Uva

This was an example of one of those beaches on a postcard. All complete with an on-coming thunder storm!
very large vegetable fruit and chicken salad. It was amazing!!! Just a quick note: if you ever live here, you will learn to enjoy good food when you have access to it. Besides a short visit to the hospital, everyone in our group was up and running. Selena hit breaking point when we ate in a restaurant that was under construction; I think the fumes got to her a little too much. Our time in Moyogalpa was spent with my friend Erik in Peace Corp, my saving grace for ideas and resources in teaching English. He has battled this job for 2 years on this island, so you can imagine all the lessons he has learned. For some reason, he thought I invited him for my birthday. Perhaps he didn’t get the message that it was Sana’s birthday…but I took his birthday card anyways.
The funniest part of the vacation was riding on the back of a run down chicken truck on our way to the ferry. Us girls hopped on the back of it, hanging on the railing for dear life as it slid down the hills of Moyogalpa in neutral.

Band Camp
I was up and running
Free as BirdsFree as BirdsFree as Birds

We rented bikes on a rainy week day. We passed lush forests and crossed numerous bridges above white rushing water.
with my flag line. After an official announcement, I formed a group that is mostly consistent. The carpenters fixed my poles, which were still small from when they were broken in half the first practice. The wood is a bad quality and there is no money to buy better wood. I would take what I could. But, I have been using the polls from the brooms for a week now and I have the fabrics in place, now complete with the NPH logo. The girls are really excited to be learning a new skill and I am having so much fun teaching something I am very passionate about. Some think it is silly, but I think they are just jealous. J It is so much fun having band camp here in Nicaragua. J The flag girls will perform with the drummers and dancers for the Independence Day in September. I started with a group of 8, which has dwindled down to 2 consistent girls. Out of these two, only one is really serious. It is frustrating to deal with kids stealing flags, saying they want to borrow it which means they want to take it and enjoy the thrill of seeing you chase after them. It is also frustrating to deal with the kids who are not there to practice. I continually have to be patient with the girls in the flag line but come Independence Day, it will be worth it. I now have to track down the tape I ordered a while back. It is arrived; nobody knows where it is…I also have to secure costumes, as this year, the theme is sports. So, life is busy for Michelle in Nicaraguan band camp.

Changes in the House
The kids were back from vacation and so was I. They came back to some changes, which included eating in one space for all meals. Instead of eating in the homes, all the kids eat together, all 200 of them, in one place. Volunteers or their tios and tias serve the food to them. Often, food, utensils, or juice runs out before everyone eats, but at least the kids are all together. Since there is a shortage of plates, some kids have to wait for their brothers and sisters to finish using their plate until they can eat. Instead of peaceful dinner times, we have to battle loud noises from all the children. This change will take some getting used to, personally. I function better in quiet environments, which is why eating times as well as school class time are a challenge for me. However, they are also something I can learn to adapt to.

In the volunteer house, we are saying goodbye to two volunteers who are not finishing their contracted year of service. As always, I am not having an easy time with these goodbyes, as it is like losing a good friend and a consistent presence in your home. In one instance, the healthcare system at NPH was too much to bear, as the nurses aren’t using Karin to her fullest potential. Because they see her as a threat, they put her to work as a maid, cleaning, when she wants to be administering medicine. This is really silly, as she is the only nurse with an education! The Nicaraguan nurses should be working for Karin who should be in charge of the clinic! The kids have had their share of the disappointment, as they dislike going to the clinic to get better. The other nurses often misdiagnose or give incorrect medicines. On top of that,
A Typical ClassroomA Typical ClassroomA Typical Classroom

A dirty chalkboard is common here. Here are some of my former students.
emotionally, they don’t work well with the kids. I understand her situation, but it is unfortunate that other solutions weren’t found or problems talked about before she let it get to her. Now, we are saying goodbye to her, only after 2 months of her arrival. We are also saying goodbye to Georg, the only foreign male presence at the house. He left after 8 months here. In such a chaotic system, nothing is ever consistent here. However, like everything else, it is something I am learning to deal with. Perhaps God is teaching me a lesson in how to deal with goodbyes and changes.

NPH Nicaragua welcomed a couple from Germany around the same time. They are a wonderful example of a man and woman in love and are serving to be like a mom and dad to all the younger volunteers.

On a positive not, it was now time for some visitors. A group from Edina, MN graced us with their presence the end of July. They came adorned with U of M gear and MN Twins Jerseys. There are few moments I feel close to home, but this was one of them. The drummers
Goodbye GeorgGoodbye GeorgGoodbye Georg

I will miss my little brother!!! And his amazing cologne...
and dancers put on a very special welcome. However, it was cut short because the concrete was burning the feet of our barefoot dancers. The dance group had performed at their church when they toured MN in April. Before them, a group from Seattle came. Joe, a former volunteer in 2005, came with a large group from his church. It is nice to see what connections former volunteers make in the states and elsewhere. Volunteers as well as visitors do a lot to help the life of this non -profit.

I played tour guide to a group from Virginia. Being teachers, they helped me in the classroom and donated 2 shopping carts of supplies and prizes for my classroom! On top of that, they gave art workshops to the kids and donated 12 magazines from July and August. I indulged in them, as I learned for the first time of the expansion of the Jollie Pitt twins, the birth of Jessica Alba’s baby girl, and the changes in the TomKat family of Katie and Tom Cruise. It sounds silly, but you have to understand I don’t have a big connection to the outside world here. I hardly have enough
My First Impression...My First Impression...My First Impression...

This is what my room looked like when I arrived mid January to my home for the year...I felt like it was the worst!! It felt like camping and I thought it was ugly. However, over time, it feels like home.
time to surf the Internet, if it even works!

A Journey to Jinotepe
I have since gone to the new property. Sana and I left at 5am Saturday to journey to Jinotepe with three families that could use the time together. The best parts of the trip were riding on donkeys and horses, having a bonfire, cooking food over a fire, trekking the land in plastic boots, and sleeping in the new homes. For the first time, I felt was it was like to be a tia to these kids. I love having my own kids here, as I can spoil them with my love and attention. I now have kids to continually look after and brag about. So, I got a little deeper taste of the life of a tia this weekend and liked it. It was nice to step away from my role as teacher for a bit.

A Marathon in Moyogalpa
Saturday and Sunday were my days to help my Peace Corp friend. A former member had started a marathon event for the island. Since her term, new Peace Corp members to the island help with the event, in partnering with local people and businesses.
Look At It Now!Look At It Now!Look At It Now!

Ann and I have painted and it is beautiful!
Not being an easy battle, Erik was ready to be done with planning. He said if one thing is true, it’s that some people are not very efficient here and his take on foreign policy is no better. Foreign investment is nice, just like partnering with local businesses, but sooner than later, the people start to become dependent on others to get a job done. This is all too true in third world countries like Nicaragua, and was true with this marathon event. Three- hour meetings that should have taken an hour and people not following through were common battles he has had to face.
Heck, the two nurses never showed up the day of the event! This is absurd, as the participants ran in 90- degree weather! I believe the water stops were in place, so that was at least satisfactory. The official start time was 9:45, 45 minutes overdue. Remember, this is normal. Erik and I were in charge of clocking the ending times of the runners. It just got a little hectic when some of them were tied neck and neck. But, the event ended and nobody died. The most inspiring story was to see the only
My roomie, AnnMy roomie, AnnMy roomie, Ann

I love my roommate, Ann. She is a crazy German who I have a lot of fun with.
woman participant finish with good time. I was inspired to see Nicaraguans in good shape! I guess I have seen my share of too many overweight people here so it was comforting to see others who took good care of their bodies.

I am glad to have developed my friendship with Erik. He is one person I can vent to about the life of a teacher here and laugh until I am in tears. He has the special gift of making people feel very comfortable and instilling confidence and laughter into their lives. There are a few other Peace Corp volunteers on the island as teachers who I hope to meet. It is nice to meet others outside the life at NPH that have a common mission here in Nicaragua.

Costa Rica, un otro vez. Pura vida!
Well, it was time to leave, again. My last day on the home front was spent collecting projects that were never completed on the due date. I had a lot of students still sick from the cold that went around, but most late projects were from students who didn’t want to do the work. The whole week was spent playing catch

Out she came!
up with students in my classroom after school hours. I was ready to run away I think!

Sana would be spending her vacation with three of her friends, all from different stages of her life. Laura, a college friend, lived and Costa Rica and would be showing us around her country. Florence met Sana from their time in Ecuador before Nicaragua. I wasn’t going to go, but decided a month ago that it would be good for me. I hadn’t taken any of my vacation days and wanted to use them up. Plus, Costa Rica would be fun.

Although half of the 8 -day vacation was spent in a bus, we had a fun time. We visited the cities of San Jose, Puerto Viejo/Limon, Puntarenas, and Jaco. I separated from the group from the beginning of the trip, as they needed to retrieve some luggage from Managua. We parted at the port and headed to the border by myself. I shared a taxi ride with another volunteer, from Minnesota actually. She was serving in Esteli at a Quaker organization. We Minnesotans are all over!

Once in Rivas, there was no time for lolly- gagging. The only stressful
Concepction Concepction Concepction

Did I forget to mention that the volcano exploded??? Ash and smoke accopanied the sound of thunder as Concepcion did her thing.
part was that I was broke. I had to go to the bank before heading off. From the bank, I ran to the bus station, with success. I battled the poking man and got on the bus as it was leaving. If you ever visit Rivas’s bus station, you will find a man who doesn’t wear a shirt and wears his pants too low. He finds satisfaction in lightly hitting people with his dirty hands. He has also reverted to throwing rocks inside the windows of buses waiting for departure. Since there are no police around, nothing has been done to stop him. One time, I saw a foreign woman hold up her hand as a blockade as he tried to hit her. That did the trick. He stopped hitting people for the next half hour! I ran into him before getting on the bus and was very annoyed. That made him pursue it even more. I was hit five times in the neck with his hands. This was not how I wanted to start my vacation at all! On the short bus ride to the border, I thought about this man. He just needs attention and the only way
In da roomIn da roomIn da room

Ann and I like to have fun in our super cool room.
to get that attention is to hit people. His behavior is backwards, but he is psychologically disturbed. Keep him in your prayers.

I arrived at the border and within an hour, I was on a direct bus to San Jose! In the peak season, your time at the border could take half a day. Since it was August and not a peak time to travel, one hour was all I needed. Once inside, I got in the wrong line to get my passport stamped. The signs are not visible and if a line seems too short to be true, it is probably the wrong line. And, it was indeed the wrong line. The bus to San Jose was fun. I was stuck in the back with a fun Nicaraguan man who became my companion for the ride. When we came across the bridge construction, all passengers unloaded and walked across the bridge. It looked like a bunch of immigrants crossing the border actually…besides our bus, there were 30 more…Once across, we boarded another bus. Oh, the fun of bussing in Central America. There is always something…

Overcoming the San Jose Taxi Drivers…
Once in San Jose’s Coca Cola
Mombacho and ConcepcionMombacho and ConcepcionMombacho and Concepcion

I live on the volcano in the background. This is paradise.
bus station, I was on my own. I had the name of the hostel, but I had to battle the terrible San Jose taxi drivers. I have heard of their tactics and was afraid that I would be just yet another victim of their ways. I arrived in the rain. I got off the bus and with determination in my step, walked to the busiest street. However, along the way, I couldn’t help but admire my surroundings. San Jose does not seem like a third world city at all! Quite opposite, it has got to be one of the richest cities in all of Central America. As I witnessed motos zipping by and admiring old colonial homes, memories of my days in Barcelona came back to me. I felt like I was in an European metropolis! I stopped counting all the chains such as Burger King and Taco Bell. If I needed some good American fast food or some European inspiration ever again, this would be the city to visit again. I attempted to stick out my thumb for a taxi in the pouring rain, but none would stop. Finally, I found their hang out. I finally found a man
Grandes UnoGrandes UnoGrandes Uno

The boys in Grandes Uno love to exert some of their extra energy.
to take me. After telling him to take me to a specific direction multiple times, I was dropped off at another hotel. Taxi drivers will often do this, as they get commission from some hotels. Didn’t he hear that I had reservations elsewhere?

We pulled up to Pangea hostel, recommended by Lonely Planet. From the first walk inside, I knew this would be a fun hostel. Trekking through a maze of almost 50 rooms splattered all over and on multiple levels, I found my dungeon, the furthest back behind an iron door. I met up with Laura and later, Sana and Florence showed up. The night was spent playing tippy cup. Well, I wasn’t playing…I was watching. The night ended when a drunken man and woman had the brilliant idea to do hand stands. The man fell on top of the coffee table, breaking it. It was pretty funny, but I did feel bad for the guy…
The night was not spent entirely on watching people do silly things. I did meet a very nice Indian man with beautiful eyes. We talked about foreign investment and economics in the USA. Did you know that .40 cents of your dollar
Mila and VictorMila and VictorMila and Victor

My students posed in front of the NPH welcome statue, inspired by the Sandino statue in Managua.
goes to the actual organization, while the .60 other cents goes to paying pay- checks?
The next morning, we enjoyed a breakfast on the hostel’s rooftop terrace that overlooked all of San Jose. I also said goodbye to my hostel mate, also a Minnesotan. She was on vacation but had graduated from the U of M. What a small world!

The day was spent battling more lying taxi drivers. We asked to go to a special bus station where buses deport to the Caribbean. Instead, we were taken to a different station. I guess never ask a taxi driver to take you to a station you don’t know the name of. Funny thing was, I had the name of the station in my hand but we decided to trust his knowledge that he knew of a station where buses go that direction… So, we ended up taking two taxi rides to get to where we needed to go. When we finally arrived at Central Station, we were told that the next bus to Puerto Viego/Limon departed in 3 hours…

On the bus, finally, we rode through hilly roads, lush with vegetation. One thing Costa Rica is really good at is displaying its vegetation and national parks. Costa Rica has some of the largest square miles of protected national parks in the world and we were able to witness some of them. We passed waterfalls as we descended from the high mountains of chilly San Jose as well as a cloud forest. Bussing in Costa Rica is a little scary, as the roads are windy and the buses drive fast. On top of that, it was foggy. You couldn’t see too far ahead.

Puerto Viejo is a peaceful town. For the last half hour from Limon, we rode past miles of untouched spoiled Caribbean beach as the sun was setting. The palm trees, ocean, dirt roads, and the hissing of insects served as our visuals and noises as we approached Puerto Viejo. We flagged down a taxi driver to take us to Rocking J’s, also recommended by Lonely Planet. That night, we had options of sleeping in their hammocks or tents. Tenting won over. Although a foreigners hang out, it was definitely a sweet hostel. That night, we enjoyed a dinner on the beach. It was complete with the spotting of a three-toed sloth hanging from the tree
Acting CoolActing CoolActing Cool

My middle schoolers are all about being cool
right outside the restaurant!

We had two days to enjoy this gem of a town on the Caribbean where everything was Pura Vida. It was definitely not the feeling of bustling San Jose…this is where life takes a back seat and there are no worries. It has the feeling of Jamaica, where Caribbean dwellers are here to have a good time. Their motto is no worries. It was a different world from the capital, just as the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua is very different culturally from its Caribbean Coast.

Feeling a need to take in nature and to be ambitious, we rented bicycles the next morning. Since mine was never found, I was given one of the nicest mountain bikes while my companions rode on 1970 orange ones with baskets. All they needed was a transistor radio and they were complete. J We rode about half an hour through lush vegetation on bad roads with a lot of pot -holes in the drizzling rain. Although not good for our eyes, the rain turned everything into an artists green canvas. The pot holes were really fun to dodge...I now have more of an appreciation for cars that have to
Remembering KatherinaRemembering KatherinaRemembering Katherina

I miss Katherina, our German volunteer who ended her service the end of June.
dodge them all the time. We crossed many small bridges over rushing white waters below... We passed numerous beaches, but we wanted to go a little further ahead, out of site of the popular picks. At our rate, I think we could have biked to Panama, which on the map has got to be less than an half hour away by car.
Once at Playa Uva, we found paradise. If you can imagine the beaches that are on postcards ,this was one of them. I felt like Guilligan after finding an exotic beach. I saw many large hermit crabs and lush forests. Unfortunately, the sun was not out, so the normally blue reflection in the water was a gray dark color for us. However, that didn’t spoil our fun. We enjoyed a gourmet lunch in some cabanas further on down the road.

That night, it was lady’s night. We enjoyed a party on the beach complete with free drinks. We met a lot of foreigners that night…including a Wisconsin man studying to become a surgeon. He was in Costa Rica to relax and not think about anything stressful! I happened to find a Portuguese man to talk to that night…When it comes to European men, or men from European descent, I get sucked in. What was a different story from last night battling drunk men who I wasn’t interested it, for the first time in a long time, I found someone interesting to talk to that was really cute! These social exchanges are important, as they are few and far to come by for us volunteers. J
I left my Portuguese man running after me as us ladies left the party to go searching for some late night snacks. We found a shack that sold tacos and other deep fried food run by real Caribbean dwellers. We took the snack to the next party, complete with Caribbean men with dreadlocks dancing in the street.

Our next destination was Puntarenas, where Laura lived. While a senior in college, her parents and her bought a house and decided to settle here. After a vacation to Tamarindo and a study abroad journey in Puntarenas, Laura decided that this is where she wanted to be. Puntarenas is where local Ticans (locals in Costa Rica) go to vacation. It is placed very interestingly geographically, a skinny peninsula within another large peninsula. Puntarenas is
Timbor TamborTimbor TamborTimbor Tambor

In Moyogalpa, the party is at Timbor Tambor.
surrounded by water on three sides and is sheltered from most winds, which means clear, blue water. Once there, it was paradise. However, getting there was no walk in the park…

Our San Jose taxi driver told us that the bridge coming into Puntarenas had collapsed which meant few or no buses. However, he could take us for $80…What a rip off! To make his point matter of fact, he got on his cell phone to “call the bus station” to confirm that this has happened. He got off, saying that there were no buses; what a joke. We asked him to drop us off at the bus station, which he circled to buy more time and money before stopping and at a doubled rate. Indeed, we found out that there were regular buses running into Puntarenas for $3. On top of that, the bus crossed over the bridge that had supposedly collapsed. That man never got on his cell phone…it was all pretend. Nobody was on the other end. Taxi drivers here rip off foreigners, so be prepared!

Once at the Puntarenas mansion, we were fed real food by Aura, her Nicaraguan maid and were lead up
My patioMy patioMy patio

This is what I see every morning as I enjoy my breakfast.
to our estate rooms. They were complete with private bathrooms with HOT WATER. Did I say hot water? Yes I did! There was hot water!!! The best part of that night was basking in the hot water…I hadn’t felt that feeling in almost 8 months since becoming a volunteer in Nicaragua. That night, we met all of Laura’s local friends at the bars and restaurants, many of whom are Nicaraguan. Like Mexicans flock to the states for work, Nicaraguans flock to Costa Rica for a better wage. We said hello to almost every man who walked into the bar. They all came up to our table to introduce themselves. It was quite flattering…but annoying at the same time. But, I have learned to be polite and accept the long talks that are unwelcome at times. After all, greeting beautiful women is just a cultural thing men do here. This particular evening, I was very tired, as we were in the bus all day. Just when we were ready to leave, the same fishermen who came up to introduce themselves wanted to buy us all free drinks. Being polite, we took them. But, it also meant another hour of talking and for me, trying to not fall asleep. To make matters worse, I was battling a bad scratched eye and my eyes ached…

Our time in the Puntarenas mansion was amazing, but we also had more of Costa Rica to explore. After deciding between an all-exclusive five star resort in Tamarindo that was offering a deal or the laid back fishing village of Montezuma, we decided on Montezuma. However, it didn’t matter, as we missed the ferry over the bay. If only a taxi had showed up, we would have been fine. So, plans changed. We decided to go to Jaco, the most popular surfing village in all of Costa Rica. Sometimes when things don’t go as planned, good things can happen.

We got a taxi to the bus station where we killed a bird in mid flight. It didn’t make it across the street in time for our zipping taxi. The worse part was hearing the thud it made on the car…I was terrified, as our windows were open. We were lucky it didn’t go inside!!! I hate birds and that noise stayed with me for the rest of the day.

Two hours later, we were in Jaco. I guess it was meant to be; we made the bus just in time. Although very touristy, like San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, it was nice. I spent most of my time reading Life of Pi, a good theological book. We even had a balcony and a swimming pool. The girls were horseback riding while I stayed back. We enjoyed good food, although high priced even for Costa Rica.

Monday was our travel day back to Nicaragua as I had to work at 7am the next day. We took the first bus out from Jaco to Puntarenas, which didn’t leave until 10am. We collected our luggage in Puntarenas and from there a bus to Barracas and then waited an hour in the hot gravel pit of a bus station until one showed for the border. The most interesting part at that bus station was the spotting of two iguanas. I am so glad we caught that bus, as if we didn’t, I wouldn’t be back to work in time the next day. We pulled into the border at 4:20, about an hour and a half until the ferry left from Nicaragua. We sat up front so that when the bus stopped, we could run out. I walked like a speed demon through the gravel pit neutral zone between the two counties. We battled and pushed our way through customs in a half hour flat!! If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have made it. We were in a taxi leaving to Nicaragua by 5 and made the ferry just minutes before it left. I felt like we were on the amazing race…If we didn’t catch that last ferry, it would mean not leaving that day.

Back home, we plopped on our beds and passed out. It was a long vacation, but a very nice one. I needed another vacation just from the traveling. Reflecting back over the vacation, I enjoyed Costa Rica. Although simply a Nicaragua in disguise and also over priced, I had a good time. Puerto Viejo won as my favorite city for its nature and wildlife. Jaco was my least favorite, as it was all touristy. Personally, I loved the charm of Puerto Viejo. I could have rented a bike there for a week and been occupied.

Back on the island
Since coming back, I have been preparing my students for tests and collecting late projects and battling more stolen tickets. I have been practicing with my flag girls and for the first time, we joined with the drums. It was exciting!
I also met another group from MN, from a church next door to University of St. Thomas. They made a connection with my grandmother, who told me of their arrival. The group brought personal stuff from home as well as donations for my English store. They were very generous. On top of that, they made a very generous contribution to the new property so that we could move faster. It continually amazes me how generous people truly are.

I had witnessed some weird spots on my skin that I wanted to get checked out. Upon hearing that the NPH doctor was in, I waited for him. When he didn’t show up, we drove to his house…he wasn’t there either. It felt like a silly cat and mouse chase. If you are sent to work, you should show up. But, punctuality and credibility are not practiced here. Not knowing when he would ever show up, Liselot and I went into Moyogalpa’s health clinic, which is free. We literally walked in, didn’t sign any papers, talked to the doctor and left with prescriptions. In the USA, there would be so much silly paperwork, long lines, and an overpriced visit. It is interesting that the richest nation cannot afford universal health care but the poor island of Ometepe in Nicaragua can…I found out that I had a few different types of fungus and was given a few crèmes and oral pills, which were relatively cheap. Liselot was given her medicine for free, as the clinic had it in store. In the states, you would be given some sample packets, but nothing for free…
The next day, the NPH doctor never showed up like he said he would…good thing we went to that other clinic…

A Day At The Spa to Treat…Lice!
The next day was lice day! I mean, lice-treating day. All the girls sat on the steps as their friends sprayed a lemon mixture into their hair and put on plastic caps to keep the mixture in. I was helping out but before I knew it, someone was spraying some stuff into my hair. The whole scene was simply chaotic as girls with plastic shower caps were running around while others were looking for lice brushes. It looked like a day at the spa or something…Turns out, I had some lice…eew! Working with kids, I guess I am bound to get whatever they get.

Father Wasson Day
The next weekend, all of NPH celebrated Father Wasson Day. Being the founder of NPH, he is a big deal. Since his death in 2006, NPH celebrates the anniversary of his death with a party. Leading up to the weekend, classes were canceled during the day to pray over his spirit. Wanting to prep my students for the test, I was told that this particular class would need to pray for Father Wasson instead. This sort of thing tells you of an organizations values, and Father Wasson is one of them indeed.

At 2am on a dark Saturday morning, I awoke to drums and singing. It was officially Father Wasson Day. Not having to be up until 5am, I tried to sleep some more. At 4:45am, all the volunteers walked up to the big eating area where 200 kids were singing joyously to a photo of the late Father Wasson. A set up complete with candles and some of Father’s memorable sayings were fixed in the center. To the right, a band with singers and guitars and marimbas were leading the pack. All around me, kids still in their pajamas were singing as well, some still in their curlers! As the service went on, the sun was slowly rising, symbolic I believe. After the early morning vigil, most of the volunteers went to bed. I didn’t wake up until 5pm later that day! At dinner, all the kids sang the happy birthday song to Father and t-shirts with Wasson’s face plastered in the middle were presented to all the kids.

This was definitely an interesting day. Although strange to me in many ways, I can say that I am glad NPH remembers its founder in a real and special way. For me, I found joy in the baptisms. Around 25 kids were officially baptized, standing at the church altar with their Godparents. It was a beautiful site to witness. For the first time, I felt a real spiritual awakening. Going to mass for 8 months here has done little for my spiritual life. However, the baptisms revived my heart in a real way.


29th August 2008

hey michelle, just wanted to leave a short note. it is really a treat to read your blog especially now as i cannot be with you guys anymore. but your blog gives me a good feeling of crazy nph life. thanks for that. manh hung.

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