Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Our Address

Mason Wiebe or Brenna Brooks-Larson
Apartado Postal 366
León, Nicaragua
Central America

This will be our address for the remainder of our time here. It is just a PO box about 45 minutes away from our town. As always, if you send a box it will take longer (around a month), so try to fit what you send into a padded envelope and that should take about a week. Of course if you want to send a box worth of stuff, we're fine with that. Not sure about letters, but I'd imagine they are about a week as well.

On a totally unrelated note, I still can't find Hot Tamales, Skittles or Red Vines anywhere down here.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Internet in our town

Unlike most Peace Corps volunteers, we have 4 cyber cafes in our town. Por eso, we will likely be able to update this more frequently and will have greater access to our e-mail.

Have any of you heard of Gmail talk? I think anyone with a Gmail acct can use it and it is just like Skype. Por ejemplo, if you are logged on to gmail and I am too, we can click on something and , assuming we have a microphone and speakers, we can talk for free. If any of you know more about this, let me know because I'd love to use it to talk to you guys.

Thanks for your comments and we look forward to more. Mom, to answer your questions, we aren't supposed to move out until the first 6 weeks is over. I hear people do it though. Also, we have to have the PC Security director come and approve our house before we can move in. Our family here is the same that was mentioned in this entry that we posted a month or so ago when we were here visiting. My time is running out soon.


Más Fotos

Me with my host mom and sister from training. This was taken at the swearing-in ceremony.

Here I am giving a speech in spanish. To my left is the Director of PC Nicaragua, the US Ambassador and the director of the Ministry of Education.

The ladies of medioambiente from our training group. Notice how many more there are than us caballeros.

Here are the handsome men of medioambiente (environment) at the
juramentación (swearing-in ceremony). We know we look good.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

We´re home now

So, after 11 weeks of training and a week in hotels in Managua, we are finally in our site, Malpaisillo, with all of our stuff. We are living with a host family for these first 6 weeks and we're looking for a house to move in to. School gets out for summer this Friday, so we won't have much to do in the way of teaching until February, but we have plenty to do as far as getting to know the town and language (at least for me).

During that week (actually 8 days) of hotels in Managua, we had our swearing-in ceremony. I was chosen to deliver a short speech thanking everyone and summing up what we did in training and what we have to look forward to. I was quite nervous as there were over 200 people there, including the US Ambassador, the Director of Nicaragua's Ministry of Education, various reporters and cameras, and the whole thing was in spanish. Afterward I was pretty happy with myself. Oh yeah, I also had a moustache during the entire speech.

After swearing-in, we got to go on a weekend vacation to a beautiful eco-tourism / coffee plantation resort in the mountains of Matagalpa called Selva Negra (translates to Black Forest and is supposedly reminiscent of that region of Germany). It was actually cold there and beautiful. Monkeys all over the place and lots of trails through the thick jungle like forest. If any of you come to visit, we'll try to go there.

We returned to Managua for the all volunteer conference for 2 days and after that we got to enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with American families down here. Some folks got to go to the Ambassador's house, or the director of USAID, or PC staff members from the states. We went to the home of the Press Officer for the Embassy. She is really cool and is about our age. She's from Colorado and has worked in Columbia and Mexico. She cooked an amazing meal. My best yet here. It was really nice to be able to participate in an American tradition with other people from my country. This year I was thankful for many things that I no longer have that I took for granted in my day to day life in the states. There are so many conveniences there that we don't even realize until we don't have them.

On another note... we got a phone, so you can call us if you want. I don't want to put the number here for the whole world to see, but you can get it from our parents or shoot us an e-mail if you wish.

Hasta luego...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

new photos!!!

This is a typical country kitchen. The women cook over fires, because propane stoves are too expensive. This lady was cooking a giant stew for a festival for the patron saint of the region. On that day, all of her neighbors from the countryside would stop by her home with their bowl and spoon, and she would feed them. It's tradition to sing a song asking for food, and people go from house to house all day! There were two other giant pots of stew as well! We ate some and it was good but we got stomach aches. (Typical reaction!)
This is me with my friends Susan, Jackie and Meghan. Susan's host brother made the costumes for us! They are typical Nicaraguan fiesta dresses.
My host mom and dad, Christina and Guillermo, after they voted on Nov. 5. They stain their thumbs so they can't vote twice. The ink takes days to come off!
Here I am with my puppy! Clavito. (It's Nicaraguan slang for naughty!) We love him.
This is Mason with the director of one of his schools. We have to ride bikes to some of our schools. This photo was taken about 2 kilometers outside of Malpaisillo. The volcano chain is behind them. You can see Momotombo way back there. Peanuts are growing in the field.
Here I am with my wonderful host family. Don Guillermo, Cristian, Dona Cristina, me and the little cousin Pedrito. Nicaraguans rarely smile in pictures, so they look unhappy, but really they are the happiest, kindest people!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Photos again (remember you can click to enlarge them)

Yes, that is Brenna on a horse. She is in front of one of her schools which is about 12 K away from our town. With temperatures always in the 80s or 90s, that makes for a long bike ride. This is what most of our schools look like. Just a few big rooms, half cinder block and half windows. All are blue and white (like the flag) and almost all have metal roofs.

These girls live in my training town and are very cute.

So, I have a moustache (bigote) now. All of the guys in Environment are growing them for swearing-in. It will be gone ASAP after that.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mas likes Hot Tamales...

...and he has a mustache. Pictures are on the way. How is everyone? We miss you all a lot, and really appreciate all the packages and e-mails. We're through the elections, and everything ended up being nice and peaceful. The day of the election was so intense and eerily quiet. People were just waiting to see what would happen. The results started coming in at around 1:00 a.m., when I naturally was awoken by the noise. Rockets, gun shots and car horns, along with hundreds of screaming voices let me know that Ortega was ahead. And that's the way it was all night long! The next days were really peaceful as well. They had feared riots and violence, so we gringos were all on lock down for about four days, but all turned out well. We're actually lucky the Sandinistas won because if they would have lost, there probably would have been trouble. On monday night when it was official that he won, there was a wild parade of fanatics in the street. They packed at least 30 people into each pickup, 10 people into cars with about 5 sitting in the open trunk! Hundreds of cars raced down the highway with flag waving loonies practically spilling out! It was quite a sight!
So here we are waiting for January 10th when Ortega takes power officially. We're actually not really worried about our futures here, because he seems to have calmed down a bit. He may end up doing some good things for this country. We all know it desperately needs a change. In his campaign he promised a lot of things that sounded wonderful, and the people are really depending on him to follow through.
Mas and I only have 3 more days with our host families. I love mine so much, I know it will be a hard goodbye. At least they will be only a phone call away when we need them. Mas made his family pasta with peanut sauce a few nights ago, and I made mine a chocolate cake and oatmeal cookies! It's fun to get them away from the everyday rice and beans for a change! In just 6 days we swear in as official Peace Corps Volunteers!!! We're feeling ready and proud to be a part of such an important organization.
Here's kind of a funny story to give you all an idea of what life is like here. I went over to Mason's house to spend the night with him two nights ago. At 1:30 in the morning I woke up because I had to pee. The bathroom is outside in the back patio (vey common here) so I had to unlock the back door and go outside. I did it as quietly as I could because the night was so quiet. The dog was back there saw me(she was pregnant) and started to bark, which made the whole house wake up. I went back inside and she stopped barking after a while. But her barking made a dog down the street start, and he went for about 15 minutes. Then, his noise made the roosters wake up, and they started going. By now most of the roosters around the town are doing their thing, three dogs are barking, and the baby a few doors down starts crying. Then we hear some whining from the dog in the back. It turns out she had her babies right then. So needles to say, one person waking up to simply use the bathroom turned into half the town waking up and 7 newborn puppies!
We love you all! Carol and I wish more people would make comments!! We've got lots of great pictures to add. Hopefully tomorrow you'll see them.
Con amor,

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Malpaisillo, Leon!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is Brenna for the first time!!! So here we are visiting our site, the place we will call home for the next two years of our lives. It´s a small town of 6,000 people called Malpaisillo, in the department of Leon. Malpaisillo translates into ¨bad little country.¨ It´s kind of a funny name. We are located in one of the hottest parts of the country, which will definitely be our biggest challenge. We´re on the edge of Nicaragua´s volcanic chain, and we have a view of about 6 of the 11 volcanoes from right outside of the town. So the bike rides to our little schools are very beautiful! Our town is surrounded by volcanoes and fields of soy, peanut and corn. It reminds me a lot of parts of the Texas hill country, with volcanoes instead of hills. The people have been nothing but friendly, which has really made us feel good.
Mason will be working with four different elementary schools, and I will have three. His are all a good bike ride outside of town. His farthest is a 18K bumpy, hot, dusty ride to a tiny countryside school on the base of the beautiful and very active Cerro Negro volcano. My farthest school is 13 hot, dusty and bumpy kilometeres away! School is from 7-noon, so the ride in the morning will be great, and the way home will be soooo hot! I actually wore long sleeves yesterday on our bike ride because the sun is so intense. The students in these schools are so wonderful. These are the families who live in the middle of nowhere who have to bike long distances on tiny country roads just to get to school. They can't afford uniforms or shoes, and they come to school dirty, but somehow they make it. The teachers are remarkable too. They make less then $100 a month, and they walk or ride through sun and rain for miles to teach these kids every day. It´s a shame that a lot of kids who live out there never even go to school, or they drop out early. Many families can´t even afford the notebook and pencil.
Our town seems to be a very laid back and happy place. I think we´ll fit in well here. Most of the families are broken due to the large ammout of mothers or fathers working abroad. Many are in Costa Rica and the US working as cooks, gardeners, construction workers, etc... There are NO jobs in this country. The economy is so bad that most families have at least one person sending money from abroad. That is how our host family here survives, and it is how this economy stays afloat. In our family there are 5 people and a 5 day old baby living off the father´s wages as a gardener in L.A. He payed a coyote to cross the border 14 years ago. My mom here has lots of stories of people she knows who have died crossing the border from Mexico. These people are our family and friends now, so it really brings the immigrant situation home for us.
Politics... Things are heating up big time! The presidential vote is in 4 days, and there is really no idea of what will happen. It´s seeming like it´s 50-50 between communism and democracy. It´s a really historical time to be here. Many people are very scared, and people are just holding their breath. The newspaper reports that Daniel Ortega paid for thousands of Nicaraguan students studying medicine in Cuba to come home and vote. It´s all very scandalous and dirty.
I guess that´s all for now. We´re having a blast and just enjoying what comes our way every day. Thanks for folowing along! -Brenna