Monte Horet: A Journey

Hello to everyone from Leon! I can’t believe it’s already almost the last week! Most of this post was written on July 2nd, but I’ve noticed that if I get interrupted when I’m writing my posts it’s hard to go back and finish. I’ve been doing just that recently though so keep an eye out for some more posts about Las Tías and English classes in Goyena along with what else I’ve been up to.

My the weeks are flying by! I promised a worksite update so here it goes. 🙂 My first two weeks, I felt pretty confused about what I would be able to do at the sites. At the preschool Mary and I have been going to, Monte Horet, there have been some struggles for me, but also some really great moments. The first trial was being able to find the school. It is located in what is called a reparto here, which are basically towns that sprung up on the edge of Leon after families built temporary and then permanent houses on other people’s land. Eventually the government usually recognizes the settlement as a town in order to put in utilities. While this method is useful for people without sufficient funds for property to have a place to live, there’s also the fact that they’re encroaching on other farmers’ fields and yards and some people just do it to avoid paying for land. The walk takes me about 20 minutes filled with people staring at me curiously. It’s also very common here for the men to call things out to women in the form of catcalls. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been said goodbye to (I think this is because here they say “Adios” for hello and goodbye while the most common translation to English of adios is goodbye) or gotten exclamations of “hay una gringa” (basically saying “hey look there’s a female foreigner”) from groups of students on my walks. What bothers me more is when I get “I love you,” “I want you,” “Pretty girl (in Spanish)” and I think to myself that they don’t even know me and from the things they say it comes across as if all they care about is what I look like. Needless to say the words just seem empty and I’m glad when someone of either sex greets me in the traditional, respectful Nicaraguan way of saying adios or buenas and then wishing that things go well for me as I go about my day. Minus the cat callers people here are pretty polite and friendly. I’ve also had the experience of being called an “Usted” which is a formal form of you usually reserved for colleagues or elders or people you have respect for or don’t know very well yet. Children use it the most with me, but there are adults older than me that use it too which is neat. There’s also the “vos” tense that still confuses me. According to Spanish guides I’ve read “vos” is more informal than “tú,” but according to my host brother it’s a variation of “Usted” so it seems to have more cultural nuances than I thought. In Cusco most people just used “tú” for everyone so navigating the different forms here has been a challenge at times. As time goes on I’ve received less attention on my way to the preschool since I pass the same houses every other day.

The school itself is new and the building is pretty big, but there aren’t a lot of supplies yet outside of what the delegations from Gettysburg have brought. Some of the delegations built sturdy tables for the classroom. Getting the community involved with the school has been a problem for PGL so we’ve been working on having events to pull more people in that are not just the parents of the students. This week we’re having a day for the community to come and clean brush out of the school yard and to plants some flowers and maybe some fruit trees. There are usually only 5-7 students at the school every day so we’ve also been working with the teacher to try and increase the attendance levels consistently. Mary came up with an awesome game to find and pick up trash in the yard and the kids are becoming a little more conscientious about where they’re putting their trash. There kids seem a bit more focused now than when we came too which is nice. They’ve also been using words like “gracias” and “por favor” when asking for things more and more without us prompting them. The teacher, Veronica, is doing a really good job incorporating new techniques and strengthening ones she already had.

Update on the Clean-Up Day:
We ended up having the clean-up day on the 4th of July, which was interesting because it was just like every other day for everyone else. The event had mixed results overall. About 8-10 volunteers from the community came to help so that was positive. We picked up the giant brush pile in the middle of the school yard and some of the community members had machetes cutting weeds that we later picked up and took to the trash pile. Aaron also brought three trees to plant that will hopefully provide more shade and some fruit in a few years. It was a little disappointing for us that the families didn’t bring more plants from their houses since there are so many plants at every house. Most of the people who came were directly connected to the school either having kids going to school there or being related to Veronica. While it’s great that a lot of the parents are staying involved, we had been hoping to have other community members come. The whole time we were working there was a family right across the street that were just sitting and watching. When I invited them over they just gave a vague answer that they might be over later to help and they told me they didn’t have any plants. It will definitely be a continuing process to keep reaching out to the community. Despite the lacking enthusiasm for cleaning from some of the adults, the kids seemed happy to have more space to run around and play soccer so I’d call the day a success for them.

Thanks for reading!
Nicole Dibble