Thursday, July 22, 2010

English vs. Life

This morning I gave an oral quiz in English class. The quiz was about the past tense (“What did you do yesterday?” “What did you do last weekend?”) and neighborhoods (“Are there any banks in your neighborhood?” “Is there much crime in your neighborhood?”) But before I got to those questions, I asked a simple “How are you?” Greta and I try as much as possible to keep up with what is going on in our students’ lives, but that’s not always easy to do when there are 20 of them. And when we do hear about how they’re doing on a more personal level, we are reminded of just how hard life can be here. It’s not that life isn’t hard in the U.S., it most certainly is, but at least in comparison to the places and situations I come from in the U.S., the people that I’m interacting with here on a daily basis have many more serious and frequent problemas. We have students who are struggling with difficult housemates and divorces, jobs where you work 60+ hours a week and unexpected pregnancies, machismo and transformation, and abusive relationships and insomnia. Not to mention the daily tasks required to run a household, raise children, and simply survive. Again, it’s not that these situations don’t exist in the U.S., but that a simple “How are you?” at the beginning of an English quiz brings an overwhelming torrent of struggle, heartache, and stress from several of my students.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coro Angel Torrellas on YouTube

Go here to see videos of the CCBN's choir singing a wide range of opera choruses in last year's National Choral Season.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

June In Review

So it has been a while since we've updated the blog, which we apologize for, but truly, the last two months have been absolutely crazy. Here's a brief summary of some of our recent activities:

The month of June began with the yearly visit to the CCBN from Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Cincinnati. IHM has had a twinning relationship with the CCBN for over 10 years, and each year a group of youth and adult chaperones makes a visit to the CCBN to learn about its work, gain some perspective on Nicaragua's reality, and build relationships with the community. Their 3 1/2 day stay at the CCBN was packed full of class visits, puppet shows and play dough with kids, reflections, arts exchanges, and conversations in both broken Spanish and English. One of the highlights of the weekend was Sunday morning's mural painting at the local Carlos Fonseca elementary school, also founded by Fr. Angel Torrellas and Sr. Margarita Navarro. Scholarship students from the CCBN joined forces with the IHM delegation to brighten the perimeter wall of the new preschool area at the school, and CCBN artists collaborated by drawing educational figure outlines on the wall and guiding the youth through the paint process. The wall turned out spectacularly, but more importantly, paint replaced language as a means of cross-cultural communication.

I spent the middle of June back home in Fargo, sharing stories from my work here with some of my community of support and celebrating my parents' 25th wedding anniversary. Initially, setting foot on U.S. soil (aka the Houston airport) after a year was a little overwhelming, but the support of my friends and family made the visit incredibly meaningful and a lot of fun. I was able to do a presentation on my time here to close friends and family, as well as visit with my church about my work. Favorite moments included eating lots of dessert with my best friend, playing mini-golf with my brother, and getting driven everywhere by my parents because I was too scared to get behind the wheel after a year!

Then, I hit the ground running by arriving back in Nicaragua the same evening as another group from Cincinnati, this time made up of a dozen soon-to-be seniors at St. Ursula's all-girls school and two of their teachers. These young ladies spent their time taking in both the rural and urban reality in Nicaragua, as well as sharing with a small group of CCBN youth about school, relationships, the World Cup, and whatever else might come up in conversation. After learning a little Nicaraguan folklore from the dance group, the St. Ursula's girls taught the dancers here the Cha-Cha Slide. So much laughter!

The weekend of July 4th was our semester closing at the CCBN. Instead of a graduation ceremony, the Cierre Cultural was a cultural extravaganza. Music, theater, food, painting, handicrafts, and dance, including our own performance with the Latin Rhythms class, made for a fun morning of sharing art, laughter, and nerves.

Now, it's back to a regular routine of English class and arts youth activities for me. I'm hoping to get more involved with the CCBN's new gender violence prevention project, so more on that coming soon.