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!