Sunday, November 14, 2010

Future thinking makes the present moment a distant concept

Or does the present moment allow future thinking to happen?

I have been enjoying the process of learning so much lately that it has influenced the way in which I am thinking about my future. The thought of settling into a career when there is so much more to learn feels so limiting. So, my current and present state of enjoyment of school has led to my thinking and planning of applying for PhD programs in clinical psychology. With this exciting future thinking it has been a struggle to remain present. I find myself searching graduate programs, summer internships, etc far too often instead of doing my current schoolwork. Where is the balance? Some of this future thinking is necessary to make it happen, yet sometimes I think I have to stay a bit more present. How much to I try to control my future vs. let it happen?

Well, in any case let me just show you one of the PhD programs I have been thinking about lately. UMass Boston-Clinical Psychology Program

This combines my interest in working with children with my interest in cultural diversity and the Spanish language. Also, one of the faculty advisers is researching mindfulness-based therapies on individuals with anxiety. That is exactly what I am currently hoping to research and practice. Very exciting! When I find something like this can you blame me for struggling to stay in the present moment?

A semi-conclusion that I have come to is that I must remain in the present moment to make the future happen. For example, to get into this PhD program I must stay in the present moment in working on my assignments so that I receive the grades needed to get into this program.

Let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

U.S. Bound and a lot to catch up on!

Well the time really did seem to slip away from me. I am now back at home in the United States but before I get to that transition there is a bit more to tell about my Central America experience.

Because this post could get very long I will just list the highlights of the last few weeks in Costa Rica:
-We hiked through a volcano called "Rincon de la Vieja". We stopped along a beautiful natural spring waterfall and saw very hot hot springs.
-I ate a lot of "helados" which is a mix between popsicles and ice cream, but its in a plastic bag
-Working with the children in a clean-up project at their school
-Learning from the beautiful children, but having to say goodbye was very sad.

All and all the program in Costa Rica was quite an experience. In general I did not feel as close to the group in Costa Rica as I had felt to the leadership group in Nicaragua. As a group we also had our challenges, which are expected when 20 twenty-somethings live under one roof. But in general I believe that we did a good job as a team getting through these challenges. Looking back I really wish we had had more time teaching and getting to know the schools in which we taught. I think had we had more time we could have made an even bigger impact on the students' lives. However I still believe that the students will look back and remember the time they spent with us. It was very fun because many of the older students had Global Learning the previous years so when we came they would yell "Global Learning is here!" with excitement. So, I think that each year builds off of the other. Global Learning has year-long projects that work in the schools for extended periods of time. The summer programs really support the volunteers growth and development in terms of crossing barriers of culture, nationality, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. And this it did! It is so interesting to see how much these factors impact communication styles and interactions and how important it is to see beyond these differences and to try to get to know people with honesty and curiosity.

After the program was over the leadership team headed back to Nicaragua for a post-training. This border crossing was MUCH easier than the first seeing as I was healthy this time! When we arrived at the house in San Jorge, everybody ran to us with huge hugs and even tears of happiness. It truly felt like I was being greeted by my family. I had missed them so much, somehow I grew so much closer to that group than my group in Costa Rica. I impressed everybody with my Spanish speaking skills which somehow took a huge leap forward in my last week. Also, my good friend said she noticed a huge change in me. She said that I seemed much more relaxed and comfortable, like I was at home. The 4 days in Nicaragua were spent in trainings but also were spent having a lot of fun. The last night we had a bonfire (which was rained out) on the beach of the lake. Then we stayed up all night and at 4:30am walked back to the beach to watch the sunrise right above the two volcanoes. After this began my three days of traveling and relaxing before heading back to the U.S.

First, myself and 7 of the locals went to the beach and spent it frolicking in the waves playing Global Learning games and laughing a lot. My friend's truck also almost got stuck in the sand as the tide came rushing in. After about 30 mins of trying to push it out, some neighbors and men on the beach came to help. Without their help I think we would have been sleeping on the beach that night to wait for the tide to go out. Then I went to my friend's house on Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful lake created by the crater of a volcano. Then we went to her house in Managua, another gorgeous house in the woods. It was a wonderful few days spent with people I truly love. At 5am my two friends dropped me off at the airport and I began my journey back....home!

The plane ride was very interesting for me. I was caught between two very intense emotions-excitement and extreme sadness and loss. One minute I would start crying (I had to control this though not to freak out the person sitting next to me), and the next I would be excited to see my family awaiting me at the airport.

Adjusting back to the Western lifestyle has been somewhat of a challenge. I did not want to move on from the experience. I kept looking at pictures, telling stories, talking to my Nicaraguan friends in Spanish, all of these were ways to pretend I was still there. I did not want to speak English because to me that was a sign that I was no longer in Central America. I felt disgusted by all of the "stuff" we have here in the United States. I also felt very opposed to technology (hence the delayed blog post). I so badly wanted to be back there in that experience, and so for a few days I did not even look around to see the beauty of my life here. Oh also, I did not drive for the first 3 or 4 days of being home (meaning I rarely left my house). However, slowly but surely I did adjust. The more I adjusted the more I could see the wonderful things I have here as well. Right now I am trying to integrate both experiences into my life. I am trying to mesh parts of my Central American self into my United States self, which is much harder than I wish it were. I feel that this experience has changed me in so many ways, but the changes are coming out slowly. The more I adjust to being back here the more I notice the changes.

I left Nicaragua knowing that I needed to go back to that country. I fell in love with it. I made friends that will last a lifetime. In a strange way part of my heart is still there. So, when I came back here I instantly started looking at plane flights during my winter break. As if it was a sign the flights were extremely cheap during the exact time I wanted to go. So, very uncharacteristic of me, I bought them! I am so excited to see my friends again, be in the country, and see parts of it I wasn't able to see during the program for 9 days in January. Even better I will get to share it with a good friend from school who wanted to join me to backpack around!

So, that concludes (kind of) my experience in Central America this summer. There are so many stories I had to leave out for space sake in this blog so please ask me (I love talking about it). Also, stay tuned for my next blog: Chile and Argentina Spring 2011.

Thank you all for your support!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where does the time go?

Wow! It has been forever since I have written.

So, some days I have wondered where did the time here go, while others the time just doesn´t seem to move quick enough.

We are almost at the end of the program with only two days left. Today was our last day teaching and on Saturday we will be doing a clean up project with the students at their school. It has been a wonderful learning experience in every aspect. It has been filled with challenges as well as opportunities. I will try to describe highlights so far.

Working with the children has been fantastic. Absolutely exhausting but fantastic. The first week of the program we learned all of the lessons and worked on putting together the materials needed for the lessons. The following week we began teaching. The lessons included Adaptation, Literature and Comprehension, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Music, English, Basic Japanese using art, Leadership, How to Thrive, and I believe that is it. Teaching definitely posed its challenges but it has been so rewarding. We taught at four different schools, three days for each. We teach in pairs usually one local with one foreigner. Typically we break up a large class into small groups of 2-4 students in each group. In such a small group it is very easy to teach student-centered education and truly be able to cater the lessons to the needs of the students. The teachers hand their classrooms over to us and we lead for the 1-2 hour class period.

It is so hard to fall in love with the children and then leave after just 3 days. Typically, the children would give us a hard time during the first day and then by the second they would remember most of our names and beg for us to teach them again! On the first day of teaching one class one of the students in my group was very challenging. He would leave the circle, refuse to do what we were asking, distract other students, etc. Yet, with patience and flexibility by the end he was participating in the lesson. Then, the next day when we came back he ran up to me and gave me a giant hug and said, ¨Liza Liza will you teach my class today?¨ (in Spanish) When I told him I was teaching a different classroom he proceeded to hand onto my hand and walk me to his classroom announcing, Ït´s ok you can teach my class again just follow me¨. That was the best feeling to know that while he initially did not like the class, by the end he was begging for more. I have so many stories about the children but I will just have to tell more stories in person. In conclusion, each and every student has taught me so much and they have truly filled my heart with joy even amongst difficulties.

I think for time´s sake I will have to leave the descriptions of Costa Rica and the fieldtrips as well as group dynamics for a different post. By the way, in 10 days I will be back home!

Miss you all so much!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The new team has arrived!! (I am offically a leader)

Well, it has sure been an exciting week! All of that hard work and prep has definitely paid off. Last Saturday the Costa Rica team arrived and that is when my role as a leader offically began. For the past week we have been training the new volunteers about how to teach in the schools and how to live most effectively in a community together. We have had to give the new volunteers all of the information we learned over 3 weeks, but this time in one week. Lets just say it has been a bit tiring. It has also been completely worth it!

I really enjoy being a leader on the team. My role as a support person is to be the eyes and ears for the coordinator (who often does not have enough time to actually be with the volunteers). So far I am 100% this. I listen to what the volunteers say during their free time and if its necesary report back to the coordinator. For example if I hear people saying the way that the material was presented in the morning meeting was very distracting, I suggest to the coordinator to change the way she presents the material next time. Being a leader also means that I really have to put myself aside and truly care for the group and the group´s sentiments, instead of my own. For example, if I feel tired or bored I have to make sure I look the contrary. But in this action, I also have to make myself feel alert and positive so in a sense I trick myself into actually feeling this way! Its pretty cool. I am also really exercising my ability to be patient, and its been a little bit hard at times. Yet, through these challenges I know that I am learning more than I ever have in my life.

On a separate note, tomorrow we are going on a trip to a beach named Playa Hermosa (Beautiful beach). I sure hope it lives up to its title! I am so excited, I need that kind of break more than words can express! Then on Monday we begin teaching! I could not be more excited. This is what I have been waiting for for months.

Because of time I am going to highlight a few other exciting and fun things about being in Costa Rica with the new team:
-Our neighbor sells chocobananas...chocolate covered frozen bananas and you can get coconut and condensed milk on them too!
-I drank coconut water out of a coconut yesterday´-The food here is delicious!
-I have only 1 roommate instead of 4, and I love her!
-Laundry Machines
-the team is amazing, its been one week and it already feels like a family

Ok that´s it for now. Miss you all SO MUCH!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Costa Rica Livin´!

Hellooo Everyone!

So first I would like to apologize. As you probably have seen the past few posts of mine have had many typos and I´m so sorry for that. During this program we have a lot of work and only about a half hour of free time a day so I write these posts very quickly and have not yet had time to proof read them. Ideally I would really like to proof read them but if I did, they would never get posted. Also, the keyboards are very different here so some of my typos are because of that. Anyways, hopefully they don´t get too much in the way of understanding and know that I will try to edit whenever I have the time.

First of all let me just explain a bit about the past few days. On July 2nd we crossed the border to Costa Rica to spend the weekend with the Nicaraguan leadership for the last time for a month. Sadly, on the morning of the 2nd I woke up really sick. I had a fever and a nasty stomach ache. I kept hoping that I would feel better but I only felt worse. I had a fever of 104 degrees while we had to walk a mile across the border carrying all of our bags. Luckily, the team carried most of my bags. But as you can imagine I felt like every ligament in my body was going to fall off. Let´s just say it was miserable. Then, we had a 2 hour fast and rainy bus ride to Liberia, Costa Rica. After medicine my fever only got higher. I was a little bit scared. But finally we arrived at the house we were staying in Liberia, Costa Rica. Marcela, Jana (the founder of the program)´s good friend and former GL volunteer, kindly let 12 of us stay at her house for 3 nights. This was such a comfort to me because it was furnished, there were no bugs, and and it was much cooler than in Nicaragua. I lot of funny, yet too personal of stories to put up here, about traveling while being so sick so maybe I´ll tell you at a different time.

Immediately when I arrived there she took me to the hospital. I have to say I was so delirious from my fever I do not remember much of this trip. I was told that there is a lot of animosity between Costa Ricans (Ticos) and Nicaraguans (Nicas). I was curious to see how much of this I would actually experience. And I saw it right away at the hospital. When I told the doctor that I had just come from spending time in Nicaragua immediately she made a disgusted face and said, "Oh. That explains your sickness. Nicaragua is full of germs and very dirty. Everyone gets sick when they go there". This is completely not true. Yes, it is flu season and a lot is going around, but its flu season in Costa Rica too. Also, supposedly the water is not drinkable in Nicaragua but a lot of the US volunteers were drinking it and were fine. So, it is clear to me that this was racism and not reality.

Sadly, there was a party to celebrate Global Learning´s 13th anniversity on Saturday night and I was too sick to attend! This was very sad for a couple of reasons, I would get to meet a lot of the founding team members and develop a stronger spirit for Global Learning. Another reason is because it was my last night with the Nicaraguan team. Luckily the next day I woke up feeling much better and got to say my goodbyes to everyone. Also, I will get to see them again at the end of the program when I go back to Nicaragua for the post-training. It was very sad for them to leave though. It literally felt like I was saying goodbye to part of my family. The rest of the day I felt a strange feeling of homesickness. Both for Nicragua the coutnry, and the people on the team. Even now I imagine I am hearing their voices. It is amazing how clsoe you can become to people in a such a short time. I made friendships that I know will last a lifetime and I cherish them so much. But, I am lightened to know that I will see them again in a month!

So, many times I have alluded to the fact that I have a lot of "work". So in this post I will try to actually elaborate on this work and what it has entailed. July 4th concluded our training period. Our training period included lots and lots of meetings. We focused on teaching pedagogy, multicultural training, children´s learning types, etc. We also were trained on how to leada group of volunteers since we are the leaders. We have to give the volunteers almost all of the training we received in one week instead of 3, so we have to know the material very well. Also, because this a growing and developing program we document all that we do so that it can be replicated in future years. So, a lot of our time is spent documenting as well. So, a typical day during training looked like this:

8:30 breakfast
9:30 cleaning
10:30-12:30 meeting
12:30-1:30 lunch
1:30-2:15 personal time
2:15-5:30 meeting
5:30-7:30 dinner
7:30-9:30 meeting
10:00 bedtime

I have learned SO much. So much about teaching, living with a large group in small spaces, leading, cleaning, how to delegate, how to stay positive in difficult situations, how to motivate children, how to work with an international group of individuals, and SO much more! And I think I feel ready.

So now, we have 4 days until the volunteers arrive and we have So much more work to do. We have to contact the schools and work with the teachers and pricipals to discuss the lessons and the times and dates that we should come in to teach. Prepare the in-coming volunteers, document, make visuals, set up the university (where we will be staying), make the lessons, plan the program weeks, etc. So that is the work that I will be doing until they arrive.

As of now we are staying in a cute little hostel called Posado del Tope in Liberia, Costa Rica. It very very nice! Ooops, I am running out of time so that is all I will tell for today.

I still miss you all a lot! Next post I will tell you more about Costa Rica, but I can tell I love it already!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nicaragua: My New Home (heading into week 3)

Hello everyone!!

WEll, there is so much to tell. Ultimately I am great! Sadly, I don´t have very much time at the internet soI am going to try to outline the events that stand out most in my mind in an almost list form.

The people here continue to be amazing. I am developing really deep, strong friendships with every single person on the leadership team. I have both improved with my spanish skills and developed stronger nonverbal communication tactics to communicate with the local leaders. Sometimes it is still hard because I find myself wanting to say so much more than I am able to say, but most of the time we find a way to get it all out. The founder of Global Learning arrived on Thursday and she is just amazing. Her positive energy, motivation, and passion is so inspiring. She has creating an amazing program that brings together such amazing, loving, caring human beings together to cross social, economic and racial boundaries and form true human relationships.

Yesterday, we celebrated Jana (the founder)´s Birthday by going to the beach nearby. Now this beach is a huge touristy area known for its beauty. Well, due to the weather recently this has changed. The rain and winds has brought in a lot of trash coming in from the waves, so this once beautiful beach was covered in trash yesterday. But, we still had fun! I went swimming right before its started to downpour and a wave took my flip flop. Luckily however I found another flip washed up on the shore that fit my foot perfectly! We tried to wait out the rain but it did not stop so we headed home for a Without Talent Show.

One thing very unique about this program is that while we work extremely hard, we all laugh so much. In fact, I do not think that I have laughed this much is so long. I have found such a family here, both in the country itself and the team I have been working with. In the beginning I was dreaming of the days in Costa Rica when I would have 1 roommate instead of 3 in a larger room. Where we would have washing machines, 4 showers, running water, and all of the other things I thought were ¨necesities¨to actually be able to relax. Now, as my days in Nicaragua are coming to an end, these things no longer mean much to me. I have found that none of these extra ¨comforts¨are actually comforts and that in fact I can be relaxed, happy, content, comfortable, healthy, without any of these things. The thought of heading to Costa Rica on Friday, while it still excites me, also makes me very sad because I feel as if I am leaving another home and another family. But, I know that I find yet another one awaiting me in Costa Rica.

So, you can think of me covered in sweat, covered in dirt, covered in bug bites, and laughing so hard surrounded by amazing people in a wonderful country. I feel so lucky to be here but also have the amazing support I have at home.

Thank you all. I miss everyone but will see you very soon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I´m HERE!!!

So, I made it here safe on the 15th! I am going to give a brief description of my warm welcoming and then describe the past few days. When I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua at the airport, the other leades were there waiting for me right outside of customs with a sign with my name on it! After another girl on my flight arrived we left for a bus to take us to San Jorge, Nicaragua (2.5 hours away). On the bus there were 4 volunteers from the U.S. and two from Nicaragua. So, to get to know each other we spoke both English and Spanish. When we finally arrived at the house there were more volunteers waiting for us. They all greeted us with hugs even though we had never met before, I could tell it was the right program for me!

There are about 15 of us living in a small house right now. We make up the leadership team for the programs in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica. About half of the volunteers are local, and half are from the U.S. So, everything we do is biligual, but the local people try to speak English and people like me try to speak Spanish as much as possible. I can tell already that my Spanish is improving because even when I am typing up this post, I am thinking in Spanish (or Spanglish I can't tell)and having to translate.

The house that we live in is very small in comparison to the houses in the U.S. There are four small bedrooms so there are about 3 or 4 people living in each room. There is one bathroom. We cook all of our meals in the small kitchen in the house, and spend most of our meetings on our patio. But, I am already learning that we do not need nearly as much as we think we need to survive in the States!

The town that we live in feel very safe. But, I definitely had and am still having culture shock. Some of the houses do not have floors, they are only dirt. Some of the houses do not have doors or windows. I woke up one morning to our neighbor slaughtering a pig (the pig was screaming). Chickens run through our yard and there are horses at our neighbors houses. Children use horse and carriages to get around. I could keepgoing, but it is very different! And, I{m loving it.

Because I am at theleadership training our days have been filled with meetings, but they are always fun! We dance a lot and tonight one of the locals are going to give us salsa and bachata lessons. Yesterday we went to Ometepe. It is the lake of Nicaragua (the second largest lake in North America I believe) and saw two tall volcanos.

Uh oh, I have to go, its time for dinner! I will write more later!

I am having a great time but miss you all SO MUCH!!!