Otra Vez!

(What follows is a poem I wrote about the second volcanic eruption...)

A la Puchica!!!
San Cristobal, otra vez…
Volcan, !Que Jodes!


A Snippet of my PCV life...

I was asked to write a welcome letter for the Nicaragua Handbook! This is a document given to applicants to provide them with a bit more information about Peace Corps Nicaragua. In this document, there is a section when PCVs write words of encouragement to the invitees. Here is what I wrote:

CONGRATS! I remember receiving my invitation like it was yesterday. I immediately started researching everything I could find on Nicaragua. Since I had already spent most of the application process exhausting various RPCVs with my detailed questions, I poured over websites, newspaper articles, blogs, really just about anything I could find related to my future home. After a few weeks of devouring everything I could get my hands on, I finally realized that when I actually moved to Nicaragua I would find out all this information first hand!  It's great to "be prepared" but looking back, more of that research time should've been spent eating soft-pretzels, dark chocolate, baby spinach, Thai food, exploring New York City, spending time with my grandparents and small cousins, and enjoying the small mechanical wonders of my life back home (washing machine, AC, DVR, wifi everywhere).

Another big congrats on having the patience and flexibility to make it this far through the process! Don't lose that, it will come in handy throughout training and volunteer service. As will a positive attitude and the ability to think outside the box. Just so we're clear, your being invited to serve as a community health volunteer in amazing country, filled with the most generous people, and at the same time heart-wrenching poverty. Tourists may come spend a week to enjoy the breathtaking natural wonders and well-preserved colonial cities. Short-term volunteers may come to donate tangible items or help with a small construction project. Although you'll have time to see the sights and help with various projects, YOU as a PCV are being asked to dedicate 2 full years integrating yourself in Nicaraguan culture and customs, living as the locals do, sharing stories about your life back home, laughing with your friends over the good times, lending a helping hand during the hard times, all while contributing to improving the health of vulnerable groups in Nicaragua. There's lots of work to be done considering the rising rates of teen pregnancy, new HIV cases, and maternal  and infant deaths.  These topics will be amongst the obstacles you face in your daily work. But your work might also mean learning the history behindPurisima, helping your host sister memorize a Ruben Dario poem, coaching a friend through a rough patch in his relationship, starting a community bank, or cooking your favorite dish for your neighbors.

As a Maternal and Child Health Volunteer, I lived in a large departmental capital of Chinandega. It was exactly what I wanted in a site.  I wanted to be busy and have lots of opportunities to work with different health related organizations. There's plenty of work between the 11 health centers, numerous NGOs and non profits, and the 2 casa maternas. Theres no "normal" day for me and I love the flexibility that I have in my schedule! Every day I'm working on a different project or event with a different group. Some of the projects I'll remember most include: An HIV themed street play where a youth group acted out the play while young musicians played background music; introducing yoga therapy for children to my local branch of Los Pipitos (an NGO that works with disabled children); helping a group of 20 dynamic youth promoters prepare for their radio show related to sexual and reproductive themes; and planning a HIV fair in our new mall with others PCVs. I also managed to find secondary activities with an academy of music, a local salsa dance group, and a few peace corps committees. Outside of work, I have an amazing Nica family, considerate and wonderful neighbors. I really have come to crave nica food, salsa dancing and can even play a few Nicaraguan folk songs on my violin. When I need to de-stress I've been able to hang out with the phenomenal people (Nicas and PCVs) who have become a part of the strong support system that I have here in country. I've made a pretty happy life for myself in the time that I've been here.  With any luck, these people will continue to be a involved in my life for many, many years to come. And since every single person in Nicaragua seems to have a Facebook account, I'm sure that will help immensely with the communication process after I leave!

So, by now you're probably thinking, how can I pack everything I might ever need if my life will include so many things. I remember making lists upon lists of things I should remember to pack based on PCV, RPCV, and other recommendations. Surprisingly enough, my baggage wasn't overweight when I boarded the plane for staging. I'm pretty sure I wanted to bring my own kitchen sink! (you know, just in case they didn't sell one in country). Packing for 2 years seemed incredibly overwhelming then, but really Nicaragua has everything you need (and even some of the things you want!). So, don't worry. You'll find a way to get what you need and, most importantly, you'll learn to be happy with what you have.

A few things that have helped to keep me sane are:
My Laptop- I Love sharing music /photos from back home with my nicaraguan friends
Dresses & Mascara- Which help me feel pretty and feminine even when i'm sweaty and covered in dirt and dust
Rosin & Sheet Music- Very necessary when I'm teaching the violin to my students
Dancing Shoes- For when I'm dancing Salsa and Bachata with friends
Uno cards & Decks of Cards- My neighbors love to play and learn new games!

There's so much more so say about being a PCV in Nicaragua, but i'll leave some stuff for you to figure out once you're here. In your hands you have an invitation to serve in Nicaragua. In your future awaits an amazing adventure. Just know this adventure will be filled with smiles, tears, sweat, challenges, change, development and (hopefully) personal satisfaction. Your Peace Corps  experience will be everything you make it and not the least as you expect it to be- and that's the beauty of Peace Corps.

Lindsey Leslie
Maternal & Child Health Volunteer
Nica 55 (2011-2013)
Chinandega, Chinandega


Work Updates...

At 9 weeks out and about 2 years since I started Peace Corps. I'm just about wrapping up every project I have...

For 2 years… I assisted with the ongoing activities of the 11 health centers in Chinandega. Naturally, I worked in some centers much more than others. My job generally included educating the general public about disease prevention, helping with health fairs, brigades, vaccination campaigns, HIV testing, youth workshops, health promoter trainings, etc I also created educational materials and encouraged the use of more dynamic, interactive methods in teaching about health promotion and disease prevention. In association with MINSA I was able to successfully apply for 2 VAST grants to help fund projects related to HIV/AIDS.

Sustainability Plan- I plan on leaving the majority of my charlas, Spanish manuals, and health pamphlets with the health center. I figure since my counterparts have seen me use the majority of them in workshops we've given together, they will be best put to use there.

Music School-
For 2 years… I taught violin and mentored young musicians with the goal that they would come to love their  chosen instrument, be inspired to grow as a musician and develop an appreciation for the learning process as it relates to music. I also worked with the Music School on a street theater play related to HIV. This play was written and directed by the music school director. He also organized the musical arrangement. My only responsibility was to secure funding and facilitate communication between the various institutions involved.

Sustainability Plan-  I'm planning a mini-workshop to teach the students a few advanced techniques (Tuning their instrument, Vibrato, Shifting, Sight-Reading. I made copies of few music books that they can continue to use to develop their talents, as well as lots of sheet music.
I'm also hoping that because I played a small role in the development of the HIV street theater production, it will happen again and again for years to come.

Los Pipitos-
For 2 years… I worked with the therapists and parents of Los Pipitos to encourage healthier eating and hygiene habits. Last Year, I started working on a radio show and doing appearances on TV with them as well, discussing many of the same themes as I did in their offices. In addition, I brought information regarding yoga therapy to their attention and now it is slowly becoming apart of the services they offer their clients.

Sustainability Plan- I copied pages out of the Yoga therapy manual and translated these exercises to Spanish. I have also written all the radio tips that I've given into a notebook that will be left with the NGO. Hopefully, they will continue to use them long after I'm gone. As for the  TV show, im just enjoying my 15mins of fame before I head off to the states. They will be able to use the radio notes if they choose, but they have a variety of interesting topics stockpiled for their TV audience.

Casa Materna-
For 2 years… I promoted disease prevention and discussed health information related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum issues. I also would do breathing and stretching exercises weekly to get the pregnant ladies up and moving. At time, we would do arts and crafts or chat about cultural issues, or dance or do many other activities. My main job was to bring an activity that would help the women to feel a little less bored in the Casa materna.

Sustainability Plan- Ive made a health manual from a bunch of charlas so that the women have some reading material when they are bored. I also plan on making copies of all the health videos that I have so that the nurses can continue playing the educational videos even when I'm gone.

There were other activities that I did, but there were very many ways to ensure they would be sustainability after I'm gone, which is why they weren't included in this post.


For me, Christmas in Nicaragua means...

: Lots of fireworks all month long
: Houses have nativity scenes and Christmas trees
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

: No Christmas tree smell, since there are no real pine trees
: A few different Christmas carols and lots of Christmas concert
Annual Christmas Concert in La Trinidad, Esteli

: No Christmas caroling
: Chickens running wild in the central market (soon to be chicken dinner)
: Sunshine… no white Christmas 'round these parts!
: Spending lots of time with loved ones!
Where's the Pickle?

The joy of gift- giving!

: Celebrating with a big dinner the night of the 24th
: The main dish on most menus is called Stuffed Chicken (Which really is not a stuffed chicken, its a  chicken breast stew. So a chicken floating in stuff...)
La Famosa Gallena Rellena

And La Famosa Dona de la Casa
Finally, time to eat!

: Going out dancing after midnight!

: Spending the 25th recovering from a food hangover =(

2 years later...

I've made some of the best memories & learned a valuable few life lessons. I officially end my service March 19, 2013 which is exciting and bittersweet! Planning on having a blast traveling around central america with fellow PCVS. Then, I'll be home in May! Cant wait! (but also not in a rush, haha)


Carolyn Writes about Nicaragua!

Check our Carolyns post on her recent visit to Nicaragua! It's always really interesting to see what other people think of Nicaragua. In this case, its that much more interesting to see what she thinks,  having just finished up her own peace corps service in Panama.



Leon & Leon visit Leon!

My Uncle Leon and Cousin Leon came down to visit for a couple of days. Here's how their trip went based on the imaginary journal (a la Bridget Jones) I kept during the trip...

Jan 1, 2013
11am My father calls me and tells me that Leon & Leon will land at the Managua airport at 9pm, not 6pm like I told their taxi based on previous information. I panic! Jan 1 is an international holiday. People don't like to work super late on regular days and now on I'm asking for a late night on a worldwide holiday…ack!  ugh! What if the taxi cant pick up my family up that late at night!

5pm The plane has taken off. Thankfully, Leon and Leon are both on the plane this time, Managua-bound. They got lucky and were upgraded to first class! Lucky for me, the taxi has agreed to meet them at the airport and bring them to Leon City. I kick back and relax. Maybe I'll take a hot shower and watch a little hotel cable. =)

9:21pm I start to wonder where my family is. I know the plane landed at 9pm. The taxi wasn't there since they told me they were landing at 9:30pm. I panic! That means 30mins waiting in the shady-ness that is Managua at night. You could lose your passport and wallet in less time than that. Its good they both speak a lil spanish, hopefully thats enough to avoid any creepsters. Its a good thing no means no spanish as well. Hopefully they weren't abducted inside the airport. That'd be terrible!

9:28pm My family has called! YAY! They are alive and in the taxi I sent for them. Hopefully, he reminds them to keep their windows rolled up so nothing sketchy happens in Managua. I return to hotel cable and keep half-watching bad detective shows. This is great!

11:21pm I run into my Uncles arms! Thankful that he has all his organs. I also give my cousin a huge bear hug. The human trafficking mobsters might've tried to hold him for ransom or something. Anyway, I can stop thinking about that. They both made it to Leon!

11:45pm My uncle's brought me M&Ms and Combos! I am very happy about this development. Definitely a close second to hugging my family. Maybe this moment ties for first...not sure, its been a very emotional day!

Jan 2, 2013
7am My body keeps doing this weird thing where it wakes me up early after it thinks i've gotten enough sleep. I check my email, Facebook, and look over at my uncle and cousin, both passed out on the beds still asleep. They made it to Nicaragua!! Hurrah!

10am Breakfast time. I do a little dance. Hands down my favorite meal of the day. We are headed to one of my favorite breakfast places in Nicaragua. So excited for the family to try Gallo Pinto and other nicaraguan delicacies. I'm getting my usual. They both want to try a Nica Breakfast (Gallo Pinto, Eggs, Nica Cheese, Fried Plantain, and a tortilla). Yummy, Yummy Breakfast!

10:37am hmm, well at least I enjoyed breakfast… I guess Gallo Pinto is an acquired taste? Well, at least my uncle liked the maduro frito and my cousin loved the fresh fruit!

11am We are doing a walking tour of Leon, admiring the churches, the markets, the people, other the tourists. Its so nice catching up with my family!

11:12am- Eh...Uncle, Cousin, just go ahead and step around the bolo (drunk guy). They are usually harmless when passed out like that.

12:15pm We check into our private cabana at the Hostal Mariposa and start to enjoy Nicaragua's finest rum- Flor de Cana. Nica libres start flowing. Now we're all kicking back and relaxing! Cousin Leon takes a nap. All is well!

4:30pm We head out to the beach, Las Penitas, to meet up with other volunteers and have dinner. I'm glad we are getting here in time for the sunset. I'm sure its going to be beautiful!

6:45pm This fried fish looks delicious! This is going to be a great meal. Its also pretty cool that my uncle and cousin get to interact with so many different volunteers and hear about their experiences in Nicaragua. For such a short trip they are meeting a whole lot of people.

8:30pm wow... im prettttty bad a playing pool. But at least we are all having a good time being horrible at this game!

11:25pm Time to head back to the hostel. Its late im tired.

11:40pm Crook! Thief! That taxi definitely overcharged us. I understand the need to make money, but you should not take advantage of tourists. Im going to ask about the price he charged us in the morning, it just doesn't seem right!

1am The internet goes out. Leon & Leon are saddened by this. I am already asleep.

Jan 3, 2013
7am Surprise, Surprise. I'm up bright and early. The sun hasn't event brushed its teeth yet. Why cant I sleep in until 9am or something?

9:25am I was right! He overcharged us by about 100cordobas. Thats a lot!

9:30am Heading towards Chinandega. First we took the sun- soaked local bus, than the sweaty interlocal micro bus. I hope they are getting a better sense of how I get around. I wish I was nica enough to let more than 1 person ride on my bike. Ive seen families of 4 all riding on the same bike. We could definitely all fit on my bike. Leon is a bit far though…

11:30am OMG! wow..wow..what the..how..OMG OMG OMG!.. what?!

11:41am no but really.. this is so ridiculous..OMG! how am i going to clean all of this ash of ALL of my belongings?! Also, i wish that i had already packed a bag and that my house wasn't a pigsty! I would've like my family to not have had to wait while I waded through the ash looking for dusty stuff to send with them back home. Jeez!

12:45pm Leon is taking a nap (even though he work up 3 hours ago) and uncle leon is helping me clean by sweeping the floor. I am trying to figure out what I wont be using in the next few months. I'd like to send a bag back home with my family. Aha! yes, I can send some clothes and my hammocks. Oh! the novel in spanish and the jewelry I don't wear as often. Thats enough. A few things less to think about when im packing up for good.

1pm We are at Dona Gloria house eating Indio Viejo! This is a traditional nicaraguan dish. Leon and Leon like the food! In fact, its a contender for best home home cooked meal they've had in Nicaragua. (Its going to be the only thing on the list.. but thats besides the point)

2:20pm we walk back to Dona Gloria house for photos. You have to document trips like this. Youve also got to introduce the family to everyone who lives on  your block. This starts the beginning of introductions to my neighbors.

2:50pm We finally have introduced the family to all the neighbors on my block. Now off the get massages and pedicures! Its been a long 2 days...

7pm We have been properly massaged and pampered. Next stop, FOOD! I choose the restaurant Al Carbon, because I don't think gallo pinto is a staple on the menu AND my family really enjoys good steak.

7:45pm Leon and Leon decide to try and get a quick pickup game of basketball in before dinner. They Win! I cheer gleefully from the sidelines.

9pm We are discussing the best times and the worst times of the past few days. Im glad they made it down for a visit and I'm happy to hear what they think about the trip. The family says they really enjoyed their trip!  My uncle was happy to see my smile and meet my family/ friends in Nicaragua. My cousin says he has learned not to take things for granted and that this may be the best trip he's gone on since beginning his job with the airline. Thats a pretty good way to end the trip. =)