Here’s a video from Sunday when we went to Apoyo to learn how to play the marimba.
Here’s a video from Sunday when we went to Apoyo to learn how to play the marimba.
Today we had our first day at the Diria National Institute teaching the students. It was an interesting day, because the kids there didn’t know any English at all, and we didn’t know very much Spanish. There was a lot of miming to get our points across. It was interesting to see how different their school life is from ours. Their classes all ended when the lesson was finished (around an hour), instead of an exact time like The Study. Although it was extremely nerve wracking to be teaching them, it was also very fun. They were extremely enthusiastic, and very forgiving about our jumble of Spanish. We ended up having a very fun class. All in all, it was an amazing experience.
Today was the best day yet in my opinion. First, I was mesmerized by the beautiful dresses the girls wore for the traditional Nicaraguan dances they presented during the assembly. We asked them later (in Spanish!) and it takes them about 45 minutes to do their hair & makeup for those dances. Then after lunch at the Perez’s, we taught our lessons at the Diria National Institute. I was so nervous about this day as a general and specifically to start teaching but I had no reason to be. Our teaching group started with two ice-breaker games (POW & Ninja) which they really enjoyed. We then started with Emily’s lesson which was on jobs and they were so much better at English than I had expected. My buddy’s favourite class in school is actually English and she even takes extra lessons outside of school. After today I realized how much laughing together with people you just met breaks the ice and brings you closer even without necessarily talking.
I woke up this morning nervous to meet the students at the Diria Institute. I feared that the language barrier would be an unsurmountable obstacle. However, I was quickly proven wrong upon meeting everyone. My buddy was kind and made an effort to adapt to my ability to speak Spanish. We managed to have an entire conversation with hand gestures and broken sentences. Teaching our first class was a rollercoaster of emotions. We entered the classroom in a bundle of nerves and awkwardly stood in front of the class while fourteen pairs of eyes analyzed us. We started the class by playing POW as an ice breaker game and everyone got really involved in playing. Laughter filled the room as students approached the white board to attempt answering questions in english about colours in my teaching group’s interpretation of jeopardy. I was surprised at how interested and involved the students were in our lesson and I was shocked at how much I learned about each individual student and their personalities in an hour, despite the fact that we did not speak the same language.
Throughout our first four days in Nicaragua, I was able to experience a culture and lifestyle that was so rich and amazing to observe. One of the things that struck me the most was the sense of community instilled within the population. Everyone is smiling and laughing and has so much kindness towards each other. They are all so grateful for what they have and are so proud of everything they do. Many locals lucky enough to have a job are so passionate about what they do and are so happy to teach us about their trade. The entire population has an enormous respect for one another and for their families and that struck me since it is very different than the community life we experience in Montreal. However, contrary to how we live, they do not have as much as we do, yet they still manage to live fulfilled and happy lives. This has inspired me to be more appreciative of what we have and to embrace every moment.
For almost two years, through pictures, Powerpoints and video presentations narrated by Ms. Liogas, I’ve heard about this incredible Nicaragua project of ours and naïvely thought I knew what to expect on this journey but boy, was I ever wrong! What doesn’t translate through the projector is the sensory overload one feels when at The Diria Institute. When walking off the bus, the first thing that hits you is the immediate attention we’re given from all the students. It was recess when we arrived and the students filed into the main square where we were going to present the donations. They were trying to catch a glimpse of the new group of Study Students. There is the constant smell of smoke from patches along the road of wood cinders or burned garbage. The tin roof above omits intense heat but is in such a bright, open area that it allows for the wind to provide us with some relief. For myself, I felt my heart tugged in all different directions. One minute the little girl from the church service the day before runs over to give us a hug and to say how happy she is to see us at her school, and that she’s been waiting for us for months, the next minute we’re walking into a scholarship winner’s home and seeing a level of poverty none of us were able to imagine. The floor was packed dirt. Just to get to it we had to walk through what seemed like a hallway in a house of tin cards. This path lead us to a small open area, half covered by a patched tin roof, and a few walls. This teenage girl shares a sleeping space about the size of a double bed with her 4 brothers. The actual “bed” was more like mismatched pieces of soiled mattress and covers patched onto some wooden pallets. One of the sweetest and saddest parts was bringing in the bag of groceries to her family. Her 5 year old brother, the same age as my son, almost immediately began taking out all of the groceries and laying them out on the rusted tin sheet they use as a counter. He must have been so hungry to have done this, and what’s even harder to process is the wafting smell of fresh bread from the bread factory nearby. How difficult it must be not only for that little boy, but for all of them to have to smell the baking without ever having the means to purchase it. This is what drives this project. Groceries are such a short term help. The hope that with an education, this young girl can raise up her family from the depths of poverty it is in now. I get it now, Ms. Liogas.
And finally, a sign in the restaurant we saw at dinner.
This morning we visited the church in Diria. Before the mass started, Emily and I met some kids in the park beside the church. We had little toys to give out to the children. They were knit dolls and when we handed them out, the four little who had approached us kids were so happy. It was absolutely heartwarming to see how much these gifts meant to them. We then had a few moments to play games with them in the park. They were such sweet, funny kids who would laugh at almost any face we made. When I asked if I could take pictures of them, they were ecstatic. They all wanted to be in the pictures together and they were even more excited when I showed them the pictures we had taken together. It was really nice to see how such a small gesture can go a long way. I am so happy to have met those 4 kids today because it was nice to see that even though they didn’t speak any English, and we don’t speak much Spanish, we were still all able to have fun and communicate in other ways.
Today we drove to a beautiful, gazebo-type building, surrounded by a breathtaking view. This is where we decorated the room for our luncheon with the past and present scholarship recipients and their families. Putting a face to the names we’ve been hearing about for so long and finally meeting them was beyond rewarding. Having the chance to speak with them about their lives, their families and their experiences as women studying in a male-dominated university was really eye-opening. Emily, Lily and I were paired with Belkis, who we quickly bonded with over our love for Disney Channel, Hannah Montana and One Direction. It was really heartwarming being able to just talk to one another and see how they are like us in many ways. They were all so kind and bright and you could tell how passionate they each were about their individual fields, not to mention how much they wanted to share their knowledge with us. I am honoured to have been able to meet them and can’t wait to keep hearing about their success in life.
This morning’s event was attending a traditional Sunday mass in Diria. At first, to be honest, I was not the most excited camper as I am not one who goes to church, but also the thought of not understanding anything for an hour straight was not too motivating. However, right as we walked into this church (a really beautiful one might I add) there was music, plenty of locals, and all in such a positive vibe that it was hard to not be engaged. It was so interesting to see how religion plays such a huge role in these people’s lives, and how no matter what, they can all count on coming together and rejoicing for that hour on Sundays. During the service, the priest was entertaining the children (which was quite amusing for all of us), the people were so nice by simply smiling at us (as we were clearly not regulars), and even though I did not understand most of what was being said, I can say with full honesty that I 110% enjoyed myself, and am so grateful to have had that glimpse into the lives of these Nicaraguan people.
One of the many things we did today was visiting a village that specializes in pottery. To learn more about the pottery industry, we visited Elsa who welcomed all 23 of us in her home. She told us that before starting her own pottery business, she worked with a group of other talented women. They sold their work to a middle man who then sold it for much more money than Elsa was being paid. She and the other women were being taken advantage of. One day, there was a group of American women who helped show her that she could sell her pottery directly and earn her rightful share of money, instead of the middle party making all the profit. She listened to the Americans and started her own business. With this, she was able to send her five children to university. Her oldest daughter is now a professor at a university. She showed us how to make pottery, and it turned out to be actually quite hard. Overall, meeting Elsa and hearing her inspirational story will stay with me forever.
Aujourd’hui, pour notre première journée du voyage, nous sommes allées au marché local à Granada. À cause des rues chaotiques, nous devions marcher une en arrière de l’autre, et Dr. Perez nous expliquait en détail ce qu’on voyait. En entrant, il y avait des gens qui vendaient des fruits et des légumes pleins de mouches et même qu’il y en avait avec de la moisissure. De plus, il y avait des femmes qui vendaient des brassières dans les rues. Ensuite, on a passé devant une grande section de vêtements et après la section des viandes. Il y avait une odeur très forte et tout ce qu’on voyait était très traumatisant: des têtes de cochons pendaient du plafond, les gens coupaient la viande sur des morceaux de cartons et il y avait aussi des mouches qui survolaient tous les morceaux. Il y avait même des jeunes ados qui coupaient les morceaux de viande, sans gants et ce n’était vraiment pas hygiénique. Cela m’a vraiment marqué car nous ne voyons pas ce genre de marché à Montréal.
One of our stops today was the hammock shop. From the outside it is a simple café, but it was so much more. As you enter the room, your first see this multicoloured hammock which seemed to extend for miles. Two bunnies, a cat and blenders powered by bicycles stood near the small jungle in the middle of the room, separating the café from the hammock shop. The man asked us to sit down so he could explain the backstory behind this business. He first described it as a special place, one that held a special place in his heart. 27% of the people in Nicaragua do not have jobs due to disabilities. He saw this as an issue that needed to be addressed and took immediate action. This man went on to explain how he created an industry for people who were deaf and blind without jobs. He was clueless in the field of hammock making, but the first couple tourists didn’t seem to mind the quality of the product due to the momentous destination of the profit. All of the money made goes to the education of these workers. They started off amateurs and now ship their hammocks to 37 countries. What was more inspiring was the way this man spoke. He wasn’t giving a generic speech made for tourists, he was speaking from the bottom of his heart. Beaming with pride, he told us about how they made a hammock for Pope Francis. The smile on his face as he got to share this safe-haven was something I will never forget. As I listened to him and his stories, I immediately knew what I wanted to accomplish in life. I want to be as passionate and as dedicated to a cause as he his. I want to wake up in the morning, thinking about how happy I am to start my day and change a life.
Today we had the chance to visit the cigar factory. It was a very interesting experience because not only did we learn about the history of cigars and the significance of them in their culture, we actually got the chance to make one ourselves. We learnt about the different types tobacco, how to roll them and about the process of making them. We also visited a church and climbed to the top, where we were able to see the whole city from above. We learnt about their architecture and discussed about the significance of the buildings we could see. The view was breathtaking and it got me excited to learn more about their culture.
Today, as we were walking, we passed by many homes and shops. The buildings each have very vibrant colours. As we walked by, we saw children helping their parents in the shops. The children’s ages ranged from 4-12 years old. It was shocking to see children so young helping out. The courtyard of these homes didn’t have any grass with a lot of garbage lying around. We are so lucky in Montreal to have clean backyards. Also, the most marking experience of the day was the state of the many animals in Granada. There was a large amount of stray dogs. The dogs were very malnourished and they looked very tired. As we walked around, many dogs were lying down and looked extremely sad. This hit really close to heart as I love dogs and to see so many abandoned on the streets was a real shock. In Montreal, we have multiple services such as the SPCA to help abandoned animals get the care they need and the nutrition required to be happy and healthy. I realized that I am extremely grateful for all the wonderful services Montreal offers for animals and how conscientious our society is about animal safety.
Just a quick posting. We made it to Nicaragua. Had a wonderful dinner. More tomorrow after our first full day of sightseeing.