Friday, February 21, 2014 - 0 comments

Busy Week in Managua

After the Youth Leadership Camp, I started making my way down south towards Managua for what was going to continue to be a very busy week. I had a couple of days  free between the end of the camp and the beginning of my close-of-service medical appointments, so a couple of my closest friends and I went to the beaches of Chinandega to have an early birthday celebration.

When I realized I was going to celebrate 3 birthdays in Nicaragua, I wanted to make it a goal to hike 3 volcanoes. The first year, in training, my whole group went to Masaya and hiked around Volcán Masaya, enjoying the views and all the sulfur-y goodness. Last year, I decided to run up and down Volcán Concepción on the island of Ometepe...for "fun" (the race itself was so hard, but the other festivities were totally worth it). This year, I wanted to try and attempt Coisgüina which was in the Chinandega department, close to where we were staying.

Unfortunately, we found out it was going to be close to $40 dollars a person. That's how much I pay a month for rent! Long story short, we opted for beach over volcano and traded the latter in for a tour of the Flor de Caña rum factory for $6 dollars instead. It was a good decision.

I'm going to miss the Pacific sunsets...

At the Flor de Caña factory

World's Largest Barrell

With Volcán San Cristobal (the one that blew up in 2012) in the background 

With 25-year rum! Too bad it's over $130. wah wah

After our Chinandega adventure, we all headed to Managua to start our COS process, with interviews, medical appointments and the like (had my first cavity, EVER, that was fun to fill...). We also had a meeting to wrap-up the mobile population survey project and though it's now in the stages of being analyzed, we were able to execute over 630 surveys over 4 departments! I'm eager to see what the results read as well as see how this project evolves in future years.

My time in Managua also brought my last HIVaids Task Force meeting. We discussed future projects, including a camp for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, a training for teachers on how to educate about HIV in the schools, another HIV conference similar to the one we did in October and future developments on the mobile population survey. We also did something completely new. The night after our meeting, we baked some goodies to deliver to people living with HIV at a hospital in Managua for Día de Amor y Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship, celebrated on the 14th). It was quite interesting hearing their stories and they all were super grateful for the treats and basic goods we brought (i.e. toilet paper, toothbrushes, soap). I happily passed the torch of "chair" to another PCV from my group who is extending her service for another year and I'm sure that she, and the rest of HIVaids Task Force will continue to do great things!

Shopping for supplies

Choco rice krispies!

The group with our goodie bags

Well...that's it! My pup goes home next week all by herself. Delta is being very accomodating and reassuring me that she'll get home just fine; mom and dad are at the ready to see their grandpuppy!

I won't be too far behind her 3.5 weeks later. WEEKS. I just have to get thru a final staff presentation, my group's going away party, my Jalapeño going away party, and then me voy.



Retiro de Liderazgo


During the first week of February, I escorted 5 teens from rural communities of Nueva Segovia to the cold regions of Jinotega to participate in a youth leadership camp at Vida Joven (Young Life). The camp was started a couple of years ago by other PCVs with the topic of leadership and becoming leaders in their communities. It involved youth from all departments of Nicaragua, far and wide, and this year the PCV camp organizers decided to expand the camp to involve all Peace Corps sectors (Health, Environment, English and Entrepreneurship) and continue with the main theme of leadership.

All the PCV camp counselors with our fearless PC director and assistant

Alongside another Health volunteer from the group that's about to celebrate their one-year anniversary, we taught a 1.5 hour session of how to educate about HIV and teen pregnancy to the campers' peers. We went into the camp assuming (we assumed correctly!) that all the campers had a basic knowledge of what HIV and teenage pregnancy are, so we decided to educate them on how to present this information in a fun way; thru dinamicas. It was a fun, interactive presentation and I think the campers enjoyed themselves.

The "White Blood Cell" Dance: Explaining the process of HIV

My co-counselor with one of our "juguetes"

Condom demonstration

When the campers weren't in the informational sessions, the counselors put on glow in the dark frisbee, a fogata (bonfire) in which we taught the kids how to make s'mores, basketball, volleyball, KICKball (good times!), football (the kind we play in the states) and a series of adventure games like climbing up a 15ft ladder and sliding down a pole, or doing a scavenger hunt at 6 in the morning, as well as having a dance night starting with a one-hour session of Zumba taught by a new volunteer and yours truly. (Nicas, including teenagers, regularly wake up between 4-5am every day; they were the ones waking the counselors up! It was rough, but I kinda wish that teens in the states were up and motivated at that hour!)
Photo scavenger hunt: the whole group laying down on the bleachers

PSH: The group with a kitchen lady

PSH: Looking "lost" at the entrance of the labyrinth

PSH: Creating a "human table"

PSH: The entire group touching the camp leader

PSH: Human pyramid

PSH: "Jailed" at the camp, with a guard

PSH: Playing Leapfrog on the baseball field

Second place!

After teaching ZUMBA

Aside from being FREEZING (well, 46* F) with even colder showers, it was a great time and I think all the kids had a blast. I hope this project continues to thrive in the future!

Monday, February 3, 2014 - 0 comments

Más Allá del Oro, Part 2

Back in June last year, my counterpart and I put together a half marathon. It was a great success and everyone was eager to do another one right away instead of wait an entire year.

Originally, we were planning on having the event in December, but due to graduations at the primary schools and institutes, Purísima, Christmas, New Year's and everything in between, everyone was extremely busy and not have been able to participate. Instead, we decided to do it in January.

We got the word out via local radio and television, as well as thru the Peace Corps Nicaragua network (via Facebook and email).

Overall, we had about 40 runners, more than last time! Some Peace Corps Volunteers were able to come up and participate as well as students from the ISLA brigade who was in town. What impressed me the most is how many people signed up and ACTUALLY ran the half marathon distance. In June, we only had 2 Nicas, my Nica counterpart, and 8 PCVs. This time, we had 11 Nicas (including my counterpart) and 7 PCVs/students.

We got medals donated from a local jewelry store, raffle prizes donated from Thorlos and RoadID (who also donated bibs and "swag" bags) and some pretty awesome shirts made for the event.

On the way back from dropping off the runners at the Honduran border (we mapped out a different route this time around, having them start 21km from the OTHER direction of Jalapa and finishing the race winding in and out of the city), while passing some of the 10km participants already running towards Jalapa, I heard the bus driver say "This is such a new idea, I wonder if it'll grow in the future."

Sustainability. That's what (some of) my job as a Peace Corps volunteer is all about, promoting sustainability. Though the half marathon was my last project as a Peace Corps Volunteer (WHAT?!), I will be supporting my counterpart from the US in the future half marathons he puts on in Jalapa, however I can. Who knows, maybe in a short time, I'll come back and be able to run in the event!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 0 comments

Back to the Coast

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a great holiday season with loved ones. For Christmas this year, I didn't do much of anything because my dog decided to jump off a cliff the week before and break her leg. We spent Christmas Eve with my Nica friend and her family and Christmas day was pretty uneventful.

With my friend at her house

Primos (cousins)

Modeling with my friend's daughter

With the nativity scene

Christmas Eve Dinner: Fish, potatoes, salad and rice

Festive Pípe, with her limp leg :(

Pípe in cast #3, she's now on cast #6.

A couple of days after Christmas, I got together with a couple of other volunteers from my group and we went to the Atlantic Coast to celebrate New Years with our friend in Pearl Lagoon. There were some girls from the newest Peace Corps Nicaragua group and it was fun to share anecdotes as older volunteers to the new ones. 

On New Year's Eve, during the day, we all took a trip to the Pearl Cays. They're a group of 18 small islets off of the coast of Nicaragua (we were on international waters and had to display our passports exiting and entering Pearl Lagoon). We traveled to 3 islands and everything was so incredible. The views, the islands, the beaches, everything! We even got to see a monkey (named "Pipo"), several live starfish, eat fresh fish soup called Rundown and swim in the Caribbean.

On the boat ride out from Pearl Lagoon to the Cays

Crawl Cay, first one of the day

With some of the girls from my Nica 58 group.

Unreal views

Lunch: Rundown. A traditional coast dish, fish soup with vegetables.

Pipo on Grape Cay!

My new best friend

GIANT starfish on Lime Cay

Crabs and I get along now...after they've crossed over.

We were wiped out after a full day's activities on the Cays, so after a quick nap, we all went out to our hangout post, Casa Ullrich, to wait till midnight. Nothing much was happening, so we went down the street to Queen Lobster, counted down the last 10 seconds of 2013 and were promptly greeted with reggae Christmas songs.

On the Atlantic coast, it is traditional to go "soup hopping", visiting different neighbors and eating lots of soup. Since we went cay hopping earlier, we got soup at our hostel, whereas some of the girls who live on the coast ate up to 6 bowls of soup in 2 days! After eating possibly the yummiest soup I've had to date in Nicaragua, we called it a night and went to sleep.

On the Pacific coast during New Year's Eve, it is traditional to burn a viejo ("old man"). The viejo is made of clothes, old materials, trash, stuff that's easy to burn. He represents bad decisions, habits and regrets of the previous year, and once he is burned, it wipes the slate clean for the new year to come. After a full night's sleep, we went back to Ullrich and built a vieja to burn. Check out the video I made HERE.

Constructing "Dolores"

Dolores getting ready to face her fate.

Giving Sra. Dolores a piggy back ride outside

Getting ready....

Adios, Dolores.

Filming the burn

"Are you really taking a selfie with the doll?"

Adios 2013

The next day, we flew back to the Pacific side (I got to sit RIGHT behind the pilot of the plane!) and I came back to Jalapa the following day. 

It was rough to be without my family during the holidays this year, but coming in to Peace Corps, I told myself that I would celebrate both holiday seasons with the Nicas. I'm happy I kept that promise and can look back on this year (and last year's holidays) in the future at the unique experiences I had.