LPI

The language proficiency interview (LPI) was developed to evaluate oral skills and communicative competency. The Peace Corps uses this interviewing technique to evaluate the language level of volunteers when they enter the country, at the end of their three month training cycle and finally at the end of their two year service. The interview lasts about 30 minutes and during this time it is important to use a wide range of vocabulary, speak with fluidity and use verb tenses correctly.

There are four major levels of Spanish Proficiency with many subdivisions. They look a little something like this:

Superior

Superior -High

Advanced

Advanced-High

                                                 Advanced-Mid                      (level now!)

Advanced-Low

Intermediate

Intermediate-High

Intermediate-Mid

Intermediate-Low

Novice

Novice-High

Novice-Mid

                                                                 Novice-Low                                (starting level)

When I got to Nicaragua, I was at Novice Low. I could say “hello, how are you?” and I could identify various objects around the room. It was nearly impossible for me to form sentences unless I had memorized them previously. I was in the lowest level possible.

After 1 ½ months of intensive language training and countless emotional break downs I had advanced to Novice High. At the end of the 3 month training cycle, I had advanced just a little more to Intermediate Low. I still made a ridiculous amount of errors and needed to continue studying to be fluent enough to be successful in a work environment.  When I started work in my site I looked for someone in my town that could teach me Spanish. That is when I found Claudia, whom is now one of my best friends in the entire world. I spent much of my first 3 months in site at Claudia’s house as she corrected my grammar and taught me a lot about the Nicaraguan culture.  After a while, we began to chat about whatever topic was on our minds, laughing and cracking jokes.  From then on, I had tried to speak Spanish the most/best I could.

Yesterday, two years into my Peace Corps experience, I took my final Language Proficiency Interview. I was incredibly nervous, yet seemed to keep my calm as I spoke about a variety of topics with the interviewer. Unsure of how I had done on the interview, I could hardly wait until today to find out my final level. I was hoping for Advanced-Low. Today, I received my level.  I am an Advanced-Mid Level Spanish Speaker!  I have jumped 7 levels! CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!

Cheers to all of us who have come so far! You can do ANYTHING if you put your mind to it!

I Teach Sex-Ed

If you had asked me five years ago if I would be comfortable teaching Sex-Ed to a group of adolescents I would have immediately responded, no. Now, almost two years into my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am a competent sexual health education teacher.  I am currently working alongside a non-government organization, “Casa de Joven” promoting sexual and reproductive rights.  Throughout the months of October and November, we have been actively involved in promoting these rights in the community in which I live.

In most rural communities of Nicaragua, women do not discuss sexual health nor are they aware of the rights that protect them. For this very reason, there are organizations such as Casa de Joven and Peace Corps which have direct access to the information needed to promote these sensitive topics. I started integrating myself into the local public schools by working side by side with the school guidance counselor giving a series of four lectures in each classroom. Topics include Sexuality, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s), HIVaids and Sexual and Reproductive Rights. Amongst these topics we always include self-esteem and family violence as part of each lecture.

As for those who do not attend classes regularly, Casa de Joven and I are promoting these topics in all rural health posts throughout my community. We have a goal to reach 36 lectures in the waiting areas of health posts, health center and the Casa Materna (Birthing Home). Although this project is time consuming and it is hard to measure the results of each lecture I give, I know these topics need to be taught in order to better the health of the country.

I particularly enjoy clarifying the myths that many Nicaraguans have about sexual health.  Many think using two condoms is better than using one, and some that masturbation causes mental illness or eating food such as eggs and beans is harmful when a woman has her period. These legends have been passed down from generation to generation and due to this they are preventing themselves from living a life of optimal physical and mental health.  Also, many grown man and women have never used or seen a condom or any form of birth control causing adolescent pregnancy and economic stress.

I have truly enjoyed every lecture I have given on sexual and reproductive health. Educating today’s youth is extremely important for tomorrow’s future. I think I may have found a sincere passion for sexual health education and I have my Peace Corps experience to thank for that!

Americanica Birthday Celebration

As they say in Nicaragua, I have completed my 25th year and as we say in the states, I am 25 years old. Either way, another year has passed and I am blessed to say my first quarter of a century has been fabulous!

As a young girl, I would wake up to my mother’s birthday wishes, balloons and some sort of delicious treat waiting for me on the kitchen table. My Mom always knew how to make me feel extra special on my birthday. Heck, she planned an entire surprise party for me on my 17th birthday while her husband had gotten major surgery that very day! When I turned 20, I worked the whole day and she had twenty balloons sent to my work. She has never failed to make my day super-special.

Fortunately and unfortunately, I have spent my past four birthdays wondering around the world. When I turned 22 I was studying in Australia, at 23 I slept in a van while traveling from California to Utah and 24 in Nicaragua.  So, this year I was really a little sad to be gone, yet another year. Also, I was turning 25! That’s old, isn’t it?

Much to my surprise, this birthday could not have gone better. On Tuesday, my women’s group and I celebrated in Claudia’s house. I made a homemade spaghetti sauce and served it with a really delicious dessert. And as promised at a Nica birthday bash, there was dancing. We did the salsa, Marenge, Cumbia and of course, danced to all the 90’s greatest hits ;-) It was a great night!

Then, I was woken up at 5 am on Thursday morning to the Happy Birthday song blasting right outside my door. I shuffle around trying to get out of my mosquito net, looking for my flip-flops and open my door. My roommates were standing there, singing to me! They gave me a little piece of pie and we danced in the waiting room of the clinic. Although it was 5am and still dark, I really was enjoying every moment of it. They snuggled back into bed for a few hours while I started my day.

I worked the morning and celebrated with some volunteers that night. I received some wonderful packages from the states along with an uncountable amount of birthday cards! My friends host sister decided she wanted to do my make-up (she studied cosmetology in Panama). So, I let her and it turned out to be beautiful. We stayed in all night, grilled, eat dessert and of course there was dancing. It was a great day.

I spent this past weekend celebrating with 10 of my Peace Corps friends. It is also my friend Tony’s birthday this week, too. We went to a small hostel and relaxed by the pool from Friday to Sunday. We played cards, eat delicious French bread and it almost felt like we weren’t in Nicaragua! It was paradise!!!!

All in all, this turned out to be a great birthday celebration.

Claudia and I cooking my birthday dinner

My Favorite Nica Women!

Little Munchkins

Dancing like a Latina is not easy, but I will try until I hit the floor!!!!!!!

Birthday Makeup: 25 and still basking in my youth!

My Peace Corps Mate: My hair will never look as good as hers, no matter how hard I try!

Birthday Weekend with friends from all over Nicaragua!

 

Shake, Shake, Shake….Shake Your World?

 September 8, 2012

Site from above the volcano

 

From the Highway

 

Yesterday, September 8th 2012 I was notified at 9:20am Volcan San Cristobal  was erupting. The Emergency Action Plan that I have heard about since I was a trainee  was activated. I was notified I needed to pack a bag and get out-of-site A.S.A.P. When I first received the message, I froze. Without haven bathed, a full cup of coffee poured and still half asleep, from not haven slept the night before, I throw whatever I saw first in a bag.  Scared. Nervous. Excited. I lost my mind for a moment, then had to get it together. I grabbed a handful of underwear, shirts, duct tape, headlamp, computer, kindle, passport and my toiletries. I was out of my house in 5 minutes flat.

I hopped in taxi which took me to the entrance to my town, where I encountered a chicken bus headed to the city of Chinandega. I had to get closer to the volcano in order to get out, which scared me silly. As we approached the volcano, a mere 5km from the activity, ash began to come in the windows of the bus. The highway had at least an inch of dust and visibility was difficult for about 5 minutes. The view of the volcano was remarkable. Over one thousand meters of gas thrown in the air, it reminded me of a science project only a million times larger.

I made it to Chinandega by 11:00am and joined the other volunteers from the department. Next we made our way to the city of Leon where Peace Corps drove us the rest of the way to a safe location.

Yesterday, there were 13 tremors across Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We are on standby until Monday when they can determine if it is safe to head back to our communities.

A Bubblegum Pink Kinda Gal

Last week was a challenging one. As a PCV, sometimes I feel unappreciated as if my work is overlooked. I had little work to be done throughout the week and the work I did have planned was interrupted and I had lack of participation. I had my women’s group planned for Thursday night at 5 o’clock and the theme to be given was yoga and exercises for the mind. I messaged the women in the group that morning to invite them to the session and even went house to house to make sure they were planning on attending. (Reminding people 1 million times of an event is normal here) All stated they would be there, so I go throughout my day planning for the meeting.

It was 5:30pm and I sit there waiting. Not a single woman showed.

Although warned at the beginning of service it would be a challenge to gain participation, I set my expectations high. When a situation occurs when I work hard for something and it back fires, I feel useless, and begin to ask myself why I am here. More so, does anyone even notice me?

After a few days of unfortunate events, I spent an entire day visiting people around town, chatting, eating food, and not focusing on my work. I found myself relieved and comfortable in my surroundings.

This very day, I sat in a friend’s house and she had a bike in the corner, dusty and with two incredibly flat tires. I asked her whose it was and she said it was hers but it had been sitting there for quite some time. She must have taken note that I was staring at it. This sad, yet beautiful, bubblegum pink bike had my name written all over it.  She turned to me and told me if I fixed it up, I could have it. I looked at her in disbelief. She was going to just “regalar” the bike to me? She told me she was thankful for my friendship and she appreciated the women’s group I had started and wanted me to have it.

I have wanted a bike since I got to site but could never afford it. Now, out of the kindness of this women’s heart, she told me to take it. Just like that, I forgot all of the horrible events that had happened in the past week.

I am appreciated. I am here for a reason. Just some food for thought.

What am I going to do after Peace Corps?

I am shy eight months from completing my Peace Corps service. This is causing an overwhelming amount of emotions. Some emotions I feel are positive such as the accomplishment of tackling a second language, living in a community who’s water runs for a mere 4 hours out of a 24 hour day, and my ability to capture an audience in order to portray the message in an exciting way. Unfortunately, these positive emotions are frequently overtaken by a variety of negative factors causing me to feel stressed which affects my being.

At this point in my service, I am analyzing the work I have completed in the past 19 months and I am planning the eight that remain. Yet, it is no longer my Peace Corps service that is causing me the most stress. It is my life after.

What am I going to do after Peace Corps?

This is a common question amongst volunteers on the down sloop of their service.  I am being haunted by this question every day. I bombarded myself with questions like; should I go right to grad school? If so, where? What should I study if I do decide to go back to school? I should probably start studying for the GRE’s if this is my decision. When should I take the exam? Do I want to try to find a job right away? What type of job am I looking for? Where do I want to live? Should I travel? Will I adjust to the culture well when I move back to the states? AND MANY MORE….I am the only person who can answer these questions and that is terrifying!

Since age 5, I have been in school. I studied, wrote papers, and solved math problems until I graduated with my bachelors at the age of 22. I have studied the majority of my life. And now, more than two years after graduation I am living in a place where essays are not written and math has been forgotten. My daily goals are trying to stay hydrated, fight off parasites and beat the heat! My pace of life has slowed tremendously and I have formed a new view on what is important in my life. I am not sure I am ready to take on the work of Graduate School, nor work a full time job. But is it like riding a bike? Will it all come back to me?

These thoughts consume my day, as they do for many other volunteers. We have been removed from American “reality” and we must make decisions about our future while in the midst of the biggest cultural experience of our lives.

For the next eight months, I will probably change my mind one million times. Life doesn’t get easier with every decision I make, it gets even more complicated.

I ‘m a Peace Corps Volunteer and I’m STRESSED OUT!

A Nicaraguan Boda

On Sunday afternoon, my host sister, China, celebrated her wedding to her high school sweetheart, Arnoldo. This being my first Nica wedding, I was not quite sure what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the turn-out of friends and family and the “alegria” (happiness) of the event.

It was a civil marriage, what we know back in the states as getting married by the justice of peace. There were over one hundred guests to witness the signing of the documents, and as they did so, the crowd gave them a standing ovation. This short ceremony took about 15 minutes and immediately after, the music began.

The guests started to form a line to greet the bride and groom and hand over their gifts. I was confused at first exactly what was happening, but quickly grabbed my gift and joined the others. As each guest passed, they gave a few words of wisdom to the bride. It was a beautiful moment.

My host sister chose an ivory colored wedding dress that set just above the knee.  She looked beautiful, like a little cupcake…seeing as she is 4’9”. J

They had a three-tier wedding cake and the traditional center pieces at every table. A soda was served first and then came the main meal, which was fried chicken, side salad and rice.  A small pudding dessert was served and then everyone hit the dance floor. There was no first dance, nor did everyone dance in a circle to “We Are Family”, but dancing sure did happen. I was able to practice Cumbia, Merengue and Salsa while everyone got a kick out of the “Gringa” on the dance floor! It was truly a blast.

Unfortunately, the party ended a bit early due to a power shortage.  Sad to say, but that’s just want happens in my town.

Here are some pictures of a true Nicaraguan Wedding. Enjoy!

Wedding Invitation

 

Three-Tier Wedding Cake

 

La Chinita “I Do”

 

Wedding Ceremony

 

My Host Sisters and Host Mom

 

The Newlyweds

 

Party Time!