On Expectations And Jobs

by Nadia Rosales

From when I first arrived in Nicaragua, I was set in my expectations of what my work would be. I expected to be doing what some would call ‘’busy work’’- an extra helping hand for my organization so they could focus their efforts on bigger projects. Efficiently doing menial labor for the good of a larger community was what I was ready to perform, and I opened my conversations with my bosses and supervisors saying exactly that. I would be working with kids to help them with their homework and help with the after school activities to keep them entertained. I could definitely do that.
Yet, when I entered, I only got a few days of that work. Once my half-days of work wrapped and I began my routine of full shifts, it happened. My boss sat me down and basically told me that my job was to convince the kids that reading was good.

Reading Corner time with the kids!

Now here we are, 7 months after that moment. It took 7 months to get to the point where I feel like I genuinely have done a lot of good, but I did not have all the resources I have now. The timeline of the evolution of my responsibilities began with a once-a-week hour long class. All I had to do was fumble my way through a few games and books that were unpopular.
Right before the winter break, as I was preparing a trip that would be two weeks long to take advantage of the break, my work load changed. As it got lighter because of the coming break, it also got vaguer. I had heard mentions of extracurricular classes I might have to teach, but only faint whispers. I had mentioned it casually to some co-workers and received shrugs in reply. My boss waved it off and I could not tell what was a natural change in the way my host agency worked and what was being dropped because there were not enough people to make it happen.

The central market with my supervisor, where I am trying to take pictures and also lend books out at the same time.

I was not sure what to do. These classes that I would theoretically be teaching would be 3 hours long with the same group of kids for about a week and a half. The curriculum I was planning was all baseless- I had no idea who the kids would be. I only knew their ages, certainly not their reading levels or interest levels. I knew I wanted to do debate classes, but did I have the skills to teach that to kids younger than who I typically taught, and with a clunky, sparse vocabulary?
In the end, the kids told me they enjoyed class and were wondering if I would be implementing some of the lessons when we came back from break.
Since then, I have gained confidence in my ability to teach subjects more complicated than ‘’reading is good.’’ I have taught poetry classes, gone to conferences about implementing complicated literature and poetry into curriculum, and am planning to make a book with stories the kids will write themselves.

A theater storytelling event I set up with a nearby school.

I had expectations when I walked into my host agency as everyone does (and shouldn’t). In the end, I am glad that my expectations were broken. Had I just been filing papers the whole year, I do not believe I would have learned or helped nearly as much as I am now. Plus, some highly-specific skills ended up being more useful than I thought.

What is Barrilete

by Sophie Impellitteri
When I sat down to meet my boss on the first day of work, all I could see was her lips moving as she barreled forward in unrelenting, full speed Spanish. I came to Nicaragua not knowing any Spanish, and, it turns out, it takes a lot longer than two weeks to get up to speed. I nodded nervously during pauses, though pretty much all I understood was that I needed to wear my hair in a bun because they were having a lice problem (I only got this because there was a visual demonstration). 

Before coming I had received a brief information sheet from my supervisor. It gave little information other than “Barrilete, children ages 0-18.” Google Translate came up with “keg” for “barrilete,” which even then I knew was incorrect. My first two weeks I saw what seemed to be dance classes and chaotic homework time. When I showed up for my first full day, I was surprised to see nearly 90 new faces in little gold and brown uniforms, and taught the word “preescolar.” On my second full day I ended up standing in the back of a pickup truck, driving down mud roads and watching Margarita have conversations in floor less houses that I couldn’t understand.

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Nicaragua – A Gap Year in Photos

By Brenna Trollinger

Roof of the main Cathedral in León

During my time as a Tufts 1+4 Nicaragua Fellow, my worldview has significantly expanded through this rich cultural experience. I appreciate the chance to encounter people and places in different walks of life from rural mountain areas, to coastal towns to vibrant city life in Leon. Through my internship and through independent travel, I have documented my time here in a series of photos. From rural schools to active volcanoes, I continue to fall more in love with this amazing country and the diversity of life here.

Fireworks during La Gritería, a Holiday that celebrates the Virgin Mary

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Volcanoes

By Sophie Impellitteri

 

     When I saw the sweat drop off my face and streak my mud caked ankles I really thought I am never doing this again. Never again am I going to let someone convince me that hiking 5 hours up a mountain will be fun. I get winded carrying my school books to a third floor math class, so why did I think I would be capable of hauling a 50 pound backpack to the top of a volcano. 

 

        By the time we reached the top and fell onto our bags, I hardly cared about the volcano sitting behind me. All I could think about was how, on top of everything, there was no shower, and no bed. The only things waiting for me were a toosmall tent and a very early hike back down. All I could think was that I never wanted to do this again.

 

        But then we started walking up the final slope to the rim of the volcano. All at once, the forest was gone and my entire view was consumed by reddish rocks. I was in a movie or on Mars or in a dream, and my brain was so preoccupied with consuming it that, for a moment, the aches were forgotten. 

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Rocking Chairs

By Sophie Impellitteri

Like many homes in Nicaragua, my host house is littered with rocking chairs. Made from dark wood and wicker backs, some have permanent spots while others appear to multiply as my host mother arranges and rearranges them. On my first night I decide to trust in some orientation advice and take my book out of my room where I fold my legs into an oversized rocking chair. When my host sister joins me and asks something in Spanish, I twist my eyebrows and give her an awkward I have no clue what you said smile. On top of the Spanish, my mind was still trying to digest the fact that this 13 year old girl – irrefutably the scariest demographic – seemed to be being . . . friendly?

She laughs and repeats the question more slowly. In this way we pick our way through simple conversation for nearly 2 hours; rephrasing and miming and rocking and laughing out no entiendo after no entiendo. When she pieces together my thought, she spits it back in the correct grammar. I try to fit the words back into my own mouth, though they feel like square pegs in round holes, and she laughs and slows down.

She tells me about how she hates English class and about her volleyball team and listens to me talk about New England winters. We laugh at how she can’t pronounce Connecticut and at how I can’t pronounce almost anything. We talk about our families and our friends and our schools and where we want to travel and what we want to do when we’re mas grande. The whole time I speak in broken present tense, waving my arms in front of my to show when I’m talking about the future and pointing behind me when telling about the past, but this doesn’t seem to bother her.

It’s not raining but I watch thunderless lightning fill the whole ceiling, because in Nicaragua you’re never really inside, least of all when you’re in the center of your house. At the end of the night I smile because we’re 4 years, 2,000 miles, and a language apart but we both still agree that school is usually boring and that we really hope to see Paris some day. I think every house needs a few rocking chairs.