My dear friends, family, and other blog readers
It must have been at least a month since I’ve written, and I apologize for my ever lateness.
To provide some excuses, I’ve been quite busy! April was full of more difficult Spanish classes, a practicum week in Somoto, a Northern city of Nicaragua, and some of my first experiences giving educational charlas on various health topics.
A couple weeks ago, I travelled with about 12 other trainees to Somoto, a city situated in the North of Nicaragua, for a week of practical training with some current volunteers. I was excited to explore a city in the mountainous region of Nicaragua and see some of the work current volunteers are doing.
We spent our first day hiking and swimming through the el Cañon de Somoto, a big tourist attraction in the area. We took a short hike up to a farm, where we had a delicious lunch amidst dogs, pigs, and horses. I tried my first fresco de granadilla (natural fruit drink made of passiflora) with big, crunchy seeds in it, which I found delightful. After lunch we hiked down a bit farther to meet the river, then floated and waded all the way back down.
The rest of the week was spent busily practicing and preparing charlas, and then presenting them to various audiences in Somoto. A charla, in the Peace Corps context, is a mini-presentation on a specific health topic, generally given with the goal of changing the health behavior of the group. This definition is vague because a charla can take on many forms and be used with various populations. During our practicum week, for example, we gave charlas on contraceptives to a youth group and a 6th-grade class (I should note, this age may seem very young to be receiving information about contraceptives, but reducing teenage pregnancy is one of the main goals of the health sector of Peace Corps Nicaragua, and early education is one of the ways we’re trying to achieve it. Let me know if you’d like to know more.), charlas on exclusive breastfeeding to mothers taking their children to receive vaccinations, and charlas on HIV to 11th graders and a queer support group. As I said, a variety of topics and a variety of audiences! I used the word “presentation,” but a charla isn’t generally a stand-up formal kind of thing. In fact, we’ve received training on non-formal education methods and use a format that incorporates ice breakers, games, and lots of audience participation. Sometimes a charla is simply a conversation, which is really more of my goal. I’d rather not be giving all the information, but exchanging information: learning from my audience what they know and what’s important to them and their community and in turn providing information they want to know.
Giving 6 charlas in one week (though as a small group of trainees, and with lots of help from our volunteer mentors) was exhausting and definitely stressful at times, but by the end I was feeling much more confident in my abilities to do meaningful work as a volunteer. I also felt so inspired by the current volunteers who helped us as mentors, especially Emma, who has almost completed her two years of service in Somoto and acted as our host for practicum week. All of our charlas and visits were set up by Emma, and it is many thanks to her that we got to work with such a diverse number of groups! It was very inspiring to see how well she had integrated in the community, how many people she knew, and how many different organizations, schools, groups, and individuals she has been working with over the course of her service. It got me more excited than ever to start my own service, and reaffirmed that this is where I want to be and what I want to be doing.
After practicum week, I felt ready to let Peace Corps send me away to my site so I could get started as a real, true volunteer! But, alas, I have another month still of training, and though I am tiring of intense 6-hour Spanish classes, I know I will be better volunteer by the end of it.
Happily, though, many good things await me in May. In 2 weeks I will finally know where my site is! In other words, my home for the next two years! Shortly after finding out where it is, I will visit for a week to meet my new host family and get to know my counterpart (a local health worker; could be a nurse or the leader of an NGO). I’ll return my training town for a couple more weeks of training, and will finally swear in as a real Peace Corps Volunteer on June 3rd! Many good things to come. I will keep you updated in my own unpunctual way. Stay tuned 😛
Que me le vaya muy muy bien. Hasta pronto.