She’s feelin’ 22

On Tuesday, after 6 hours of Spanish classes and our hourlong community English class, we celebrated our first birthday in this little Nica town. 

Maddie just turned 22!

We went to a restaurant in town and got drinks and dessert. The total for 5 people (3 beers, 2 cocktails, 2 refrescos, and 3 orders of buñuelos) was C$375, which is about $13. For Nicaragua, that’s pretty steep, but I think this is the nicest restaurant in town, and my refresco y buñuelos were muy delicioso.

pitaya, the birthday girl, buñuelos, and three of my amigos

(Not pictured from our training squad: Amanda and me, because we were on the other side of the table, and also because I was taking the picture.)

It was a fun time, but it was also a Tuesday in the middle of training, so now it’s back to the crazy, exhausting grind.

Thoughts on Class #2

I taught my second class today, and I feel like it went well! At the beginning of the class, my counterpart teacher gave a review of the material (in Spanish). After that, I gave a tiny bit more review (in English) and wrote the basic info about the future tense, and wrote some sample sentences for reference.

Then we did a relay race!

I taped sentences to the board, and a person from each team had to go get one, read the question on the paper, and write their answer and show it to me. Then the next person from the team repeated the process.

My kids were awesome, and (I think) they all answered at least one question. They’d help each other, and I know in at least one case, one girl from the team was writing everyone’s sentences. Honestly though, I am counting it as a win, because the class was engaged and mostly participating, and there’s only so much you can do with 45 students.

The objective that my coteacher gave me was for the students to write the future tense, and I thought my activity was perfect, but afterwards, he asked, “what do you think is more important: writing or speaking?” and later he said, “next time, have each student speak the sentences aloud. They have trouble with pronunciation. Sometimes they say ‘school’ like ‘eh-scool’ and this is not okay.” 

My thoughts were as follows: 

  1. The objective for today was to write, so I focused on student writing.
  2. I don’t have time to nitpick pronunciation. If I can understand the words they’re saying, that is what matters. I don’t expect them to speak like they were raised in the Midwest U.S.

I understand the value of having a native English speaker in a TEFL classroom, but I still don’t think I need to put so much emphasis on pronunciation. I want to make sure they actually understand what they’re reading, writing, and saying. 

I have to teach at least 3 more classes with this teacher, but I’m sure I’ll end up teaching more. He is very by-the-book, and I try to bring some spice to class, but there’s only so much I can do.

Here’s a photo of the dialogue that I’m to teach on Thursday. I think it’s hilarious.

Sin espejos

You know what’s a little weird? Living in a house without mirrors.

My host family may have mirrors in their bedrooms, but there aren’t any in my room or the shared parts of the house (not even over the sink in the bathroom!) I like to think I’m not vain, but I do look at my reflection every time I walk by a mirror, window, etc, so this has been interesting (FYI, the majority of the windows here don’t have glass, so…)

Anyway, I have mirrors in my makeup palettes, but I never wear makeup here, so I’ll sometimes literally go days without knowing what my face looks like. 

There’s also no scale here. I’ve never been one to diet or watch my weight or try to change my weight in any way, but I do step on a scale any time I’m in the room with one. I’m not sure why. Curiosity?

Lately, about 90% of my diet has been carbs, and I’ve started to feel like maybe I’ve gained a little fat or lost some muscle definition. But without a scale of a mirror, I have no real way of knowing. All I have is one terrible angle of my stomach.

It doesn’t matter if I gain weight or if my abs go away, really, but it has been a little disorienting to have absolutely no idea what I look like from day to day.

I don’t plan on exercising during training, because I’d have to run at 6 a.m. and then give up my morning wifi time, and also I’m lazy. Maybe once I get placed in my actual site, I’ll get a good routine going. And maybe I’ll invest in a mirror? 

Sueños de su Risa

Last night, I dreamt about Dad. It’s certainly not the first dream about him; for about two months after he died, he made appearances in my dreams almost nightly. For a week leading up to his birthday, I had a lot of anxiety and a lot of dreams.

I think this is the first one I’ve had since I’ve been in Nicaragua. In the dream, I was sitting in a big backyard watching a home video with a bunch of people, and suddenly, unexpectedly, I saw Dad projected onto the wall, and I heard his laugh. I ran back to Jasmine, who was sitting a few rows behind me, and I smacked her, yelling, “Did you hear Dad’s laugh? Dad just laughed!”

In my dreams, he is always sick, dying, or dead. Never, even in my subconscious mind, do I get a moment of feeling like everything is okay.

I miss the sound of trains. When I was younger and Dad worked for the railroad, I used to see a train and imagine that it was his train, that he’d see me and smile and wave as he passed.

When I got older and understood where his route was (nowhere near me) I still felt that connection. Every train had the potential to be Dad’s train.

I’d hear them as I fell asleep, and I’d feel like he was nearby. Even when he retired, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and hear a train over a mile away, and I’d feel like he was thinking of me.

It’s been seven months since he died, and I still feel that way. His presence feels strongest when trains pass, and especially at night, they comfort me.

There are no trains here.

When I hiked to the laguna, someone told me that there used to be trains—passenger trains—but one derailed and fell into the laguna, killing hundreds (or thousands) of people.

Anyway, I miss the trains, and I miss his laugh. I don’t remember the last time I heard him laugh. I catalogued lots of “lasts” but somehow I lost that one.

La memoria ha huido.

First class

Y’ALL. I just taught my first class with almost no preparation (because between Spanish homework, sleeping, and reading for various Peace Corps training, there’s hardly any time for lesson plans. 

I was so nervous, and I’d barely done any planning with my co-teacher (the band was playing right outside the door the whole time, and the profe spoke 95% in Spanish.)

One of the Peace Corps Spanish language staff attended my class, and afterward she asked me if I had teaching experience, and she was shocked when I said I didn’t. I told her I was nervous, but she said she couldn’t tell.

I think all of my male students have crushes on me. At the end of class, they asked if I’m married, how old I am, if I have a boyfriend, and if I am on Facebook.

The girls were obsessed with my eyes (and hair, once I took it out of the bun.) They also gave me a paper fan and thank God because I was sweating through my shirt in front of that class.

It’s 9th grade, so their English is far from fluent, but they were a good and attentive class. I taught mostly in English but explained some sentences and concepts in Spanish. I’m so glad the first class is over with, because now I know roughly what to expect for the next few months. In November, I’ll be placed at my official site with new teachers, but for training I’m feeling decent (thank god, because last night I was feeling hella overwhelmed.)

Tonight, my training group is starting a community English class, so the day is far from over. I’ll keep you posted!

Dificultad: alta 

This morning at 6:30, I went on a hike with Caley and her host family. I didn’t exactly know it would be a hike beforehand; I just knew we’d be walking to the laguna. All I knew was that our whole trip (getting there, swimming for a bit, and getting back home) would take about 3 hours.

Anyway, I was excited, because it’s my first full weekend here and I didn’t have any plans. When we got to the entrance point for the hike, we saw this sign, and we kind of chuckled because it said “Difficulty: high.”

Anyway, we started the hike and quickly realized that it was pretty steep, and I remember thinking “this trip back up may actually kill me.”

It probably took about 40 minutes to get down to the laguna. We swam for a while and the water was FANTASTIC. The temperature was perfect, and I probably could have stayed there all day.

As we were leaving, Caley’s host brother-in-law asked if we wanted to take the bus or climb back up. I suggested subir. (Sorry, Caley. It’s possible that I made the wrong choice.

The hike back up was brutal. I’d worn a long-sleeved, dri-fit shirt (mistake #1, but I’m trying to avoid showing much skin until I’ve integrated in the community a little more) that I had to take off within the first few minutes. So I hiked in my swimsuit and shorts.

It’s about 4 kilometers down and 4 back up. That doesn’t seem like much, but the incline was brutal. I couldn’t tell if my hair was drenched from swimming or from sudor (spoiler alert: SO MUCH SWEAT.) But thank God for sweat, because when the wind picked up, it felt like heaven.

When we got to the top, I felt like we’d accomplished a Herculean task. But then we had to walk even more to get to Caterina to get something to drink and find a mototaxi. My bottle of orange soda cost like $1.50, which is an absurdly high price, but we were in a tourist trap and I would have died without it, so I paid.

By noon, when I got back to the park, I’d walked over 7 miles and climbed the equivalent of 121 flights of stairs. 

I’m exhausted and hungry (did I mention that I forgot to grab my water bottle on the way out of my house? I did this hike with only two small sips of Caley’s water to sustain me. How am I alive?)
All that said, I’m glad I did this, I’d recommend it to a friend, and I’d do it again (but with a tank top and some agua.) 5/5 stars.


Some random notes

  • Everyone keeps asking me if I have a boyfriend. Lol y’all think I’d be here if I did? I mean, they split up maridos during training, so maybe they just think I have a boyfriend in another town near here? But when I tell them I’m single they’re like, “BUT YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL!” and I’m like “lol I know but that doesn’t help me.”
  • My abuelita also asked if Jasmine has a boyfriend and was shocked when I said no. On one hand, I don’t feel any particular need to justify why I’m hella single at 25, but on the other hand I need to practice my Spanish, so I talked about it for a while. I don’t have the vocabulary to explain well but I tried.
  • On the note of married people: we have one married couple in Nica 68, in the environment group. We were all reunited today for diarrhea training and we were so excited to see each other (mind you, we’ve all known each other a grand total of one week, but we miss each other like crazy.) I swear to God I almost teared up when the maridos were reunited for the first time since they’ve been apart. I didn’t even cry when I left my own family.
  • Did I tell you that a bird pooped on me at the park the other day? TWICE? That’s the third time I’ve been pooped on by a bird in my life. Also the third time since May. (5 seconds after leaving the Beyoncé concert. How rude.)
  • I just had my first experience with a water outage. I’ve been lucky enough to be in a house with running water, but it isn’t always reliable, so they have barrels of water so you can do bucket showers and wash your hands even when the tap water isn’t working.

Keep the comments coming! I love reading them. Feel free to ask me questions or give suggestions on what I should write about. I’ve just been flying by the seat of my pants.

The Squirrel Tale

During my last semester of grad school, I was walking to class and saw a squirrel running past me—and it had no tail. At first, I thought that it was a figment of my imagination, because surely squirrel tails don’t just fall off? But a minute later I found the tail.

I did what any reasonable person would do in this situation: I picked it up, called my resident squirrel expert (let’s raise a glass to Daddy Mike, a man of many talents, and the reason my blog domain is Queen Jadea.)

Anyway, I asked Dad if he had any need for a squirrel tail (he often uses roadkill fur and feathers for tying flies for fly fishing.) Of course, he already had a squirrel tail (I mean, why wouldn’t he already have one?)

So I kept it in my backpack and went to class.

Fast-forward 2.5 years. I’m in Houston doing an icebreaker with other Peace Corps trainees, and we’re all discussing the weirdest thing that we packed.

It’s my turn, so I tell everyone that I have a 5-lb stash of Sour Patch Kids (because why wouldn’t I?) Later that night, it hit me: I still have a damn squirrel tail in my backpack. The backpack that I brought as my carry-on.

Fast-forward to today (10 days after Houston.)

Somehow, while we’re doing homework for Spanish class, this story came up (because…?)

Maddie is screaming.

Adrian is saying, “no no no no Jade I don’t like where this story is going.”

Everyone asks, “where is it?” (Answer: in this room with us.) 

“How did you get it through Customs?” (*shrug*)

“It’s rotting, right?” (Nope.)

“Oh my God, you have it in a plastic bag or something, right?” (Absolutely not.)

And FINALLY: “Can we see it? I kind of want to see it.” (Happy to oblige 😊😀😇)

Maddie and Adrian are horrified
tl;dr – I showed my friends my squirrel tail, scarred them for life, and put it back in my backpack where I’m sure it will stay for the next 27 months.

El fin.