Adiós to Orientation Week
Here goes my first blogging experience! Our first week here in León has felt a little like a vacation. We’ve had some amazing experiences so far, especially when volcanoes are involved. The first day we were here we got off the plane, went to a restaurant with an incredible view of a valley near the town of Masaya, and visited the Masaya volcano, complete with green parakeets that have adapted to the sulfuric gases. We went to a beautiful beach and watched the sunset. This past Saturday we climbed up another volcano called Cerro Negro. The crater we visited at the top was filled with different types of volcanic rock that were a mixture of red, white, yellow, green, and black. To get back down we sat on sand boards and scooted our way down. It was intimidating at first to be at the top of the rim looking down the side of the volcano and not being able to see where we were going to be descending. I found out pretty quickly that it is actually a lot easier to stop in sand than I had originally thought as I kept burying my board under sand until I got the hang of it. We brought a few members of a local family with us who have a weaving shop where they make blankets and other textiles using non-electric machines and fields of fruit trees.
Like all new experiences, there have been awkward moments and moments of uncertainty, but the people I have met so far have been amazing at helping me through them. I am staying with the family of Don Orlando and Doña Isabel, who have been connected to Project Gettysburg–León (PGL) almost since its formation more than 20 years ago, and they are teachers. Other family members include their three children who are all in their twenties: Orlando Jr. (works as a doctor and continues to study to have a specialization in pathology), Gabriella (works in Matagalpa with a coffee cooperative), and Bernardo (studying to work in pharmaceuticals and teaches salsa) who are all in their twenties and Isabel’s sister Coni. All together they are very busy and very involved family. Thanks to our PGL coordinator, Aaron, we have been talking to a lot of people who live in León. My favorites so far have been a smoothie shop owner and a group of nuns who run a community housing center for the elderly. It is really neat to be able to go into a store or a cafe and be able to have long conversations that are meaningful and informative with the people who run them. This coming week we start working with an organization for disadvantaged youths called Las Tías and a preschool called Monte Horet that is just opened in February 2013.
As we’ve been going through the week, we’ve talked about how organizations were formed and how PGL became involved with them while also exploring the problems of poverty and lack of education. The preschool we’re going to be working with, Monte Horet, is not being provided any government funding yet because they only have 13 students instead of the required 20. The community teacher there is a wonderfully dedicated woman named Veronica who is hardly paid for her hard work due to the lack of resources. There are a lot of small children and older adults who beg for money on the streets for various reasons. The public transportation system seems to consist of taxis and over-packed school buses or large vans. Many people don’t seem to have cars so they have to rely on neighbors who have them or hitchhike to get a ride. This makes it difficult to travel between cities or from rural to urban areas. Within the city motorcycles and bicycles are the most popular. Good nutritional skills, like eating balanced meals with fruits and vegetables, are often not taught in the schools. Chips and donuts were popular snacks when we visited the preschool despite being in an area that is filled with easy-to-grow mango, papaya, and banana trees.
I’m having an excellent time so far with a lot more learning and branching out to come. I am excited, and a little nervous, to start going to our work sites this week and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here!
Stay tuned because our adventures are only beginning!
Mary and I managed to create this segment of a blanket at the Weaving Cooperative. I really enjoyed being able to participate in the process and the family who ran the workshop were very helpful and friendly.
Amazing sunset at the beach.