School Days


“You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your volcano is waiting. So get on your way! ~ a variation of Dr. Seuss

Monday was the first day of school for most of the students in Nicaragua. I love the first day of school. I love the smells of sharpened pencils, shampooed hair, and new books. I love the excitement, attention, and motivation of the students preparing for a successful new school year.

This year, thanks to a generous donation to my library, Maxwell and I decided to buy  school uniforms for some of my favorite students who live nearby. Don’t you love this photo? They are always smiling!

One thing that always surprises me is that no one knows the sizes of uniforms for their children. Grandma said that they cannot afford to buy new clothes, so they never know what sizes will fit. We measured, asked their ages, and shopped for new uniforms, then returned with crisp white shirts, belted pants for the boys, and navy blue skirts for the girls.

The stores were wild in Moyogalpa. It appeared that everyone waited until the last moment to buy uniforms and school supplies. We lacked two skirts for the girls because they were all sold, so we will return the next week to see if new skirts were delivered to the stores.

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Let’s Get Real About Consumer Protection Rights in Nicaragua


                                  “Debt is the worst poverty.” -Thomas Fuller                                                                                       

When we were shopping for appliances in Nicaragua, I didn’t understand the prices that were displayed. All I wanted to know was the total cost of a refrigerator, but instead the prices were listed in monthly installments on stickers that must have been glued on the appliances with super glue because they were impossible to remove!

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It didn’t take me long to figure out that the majority of Nicaraguans can’t afford to pay the total cost upfront. Not only is credit “king” in Nicaragua, but the lack of consumer protection, the outrageous interest charged to buy on credit, and the lack of education about consumer rights in Nicaragua combine to make the worst poverty.

So, Let’s Get Real About Consumer Protection Rights in Nicaragua. (or the lack of them)

The first Consumer Protection law for Nicaragua was passed in 2013. Below is the link for the law in Spanish.
Law 842: Law of the Protection of the Rights of the People who are Consumers and Clients

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Earth Day Nicaraguan Style


“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” —John James Audubon

This week we are celebrating Earth Day at the La Paloma Elementary School. Because one of the greatest environmental problems in Nicaragua is deforestation and destruction of the Nicaraguan forests, we decided to stress the importance of trees to the elementary students through a variety of fun age-appropriate activities.

The Nicaragua Network reported, ” Logging of the 72,000 hectares of pine forests in Nueva Segovia, Madriz, and Estelí was stopped on Apr. 13 by an order from the Nicaraguan Institute of Forestry (INAFOR). On Apr. 15, government communications coordinator Rosario Murillo announced the formation of a presidential commission to evaluate Nicaragua’s forests which would be led by Attorney General Hernan Estrada.”

We could think of no better way to teach environmental awareness than through Dr. Seuss and The Lorax. Ron hauled a bucket of dirt to the library and filled the cups with the dirt, while Maxwell and I set up the program for the first and second graders.

IMG_1614I found several songs in Spanish from The Lorax movie, downloaded them to a memory stick and played them for the kids using our new projector. We already had The Lorax book in Spanish, but when I was looking for songs in Spanish, I found a video of a woman reading The Lorax and downloaded that, too.

Maxwell introduced the book and asked the children what they thought the book was about. Smart kids! We received a variety of good answers; It is going to be about chopping down trees. It will be about dirty water. I think it is about how to take care of the earth. 

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Do What You Know


“Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers.”
― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

What do you do after moving abroad when the newness wears off and you feel like everything has become routine? I hear many expats say, “I need to find my purpose here.”

For some, it may take several years to find their purpose. Others never find it and become disgruntled and dissatisfied because their adopted country doesn’t meet their high expectations. I arrived on Ometepe Island as a freshly retired teacher with two children’s Spanish books. Because of those children’s books and 30 years of teaching K-12 and University education majors, I found my passion naturally.

The neighborhood kids came to my house regularly to read the books over and over. It didn’t take me long to find my purpose. I did what I knew the best…teaching. I became a rewired and retired teacher…my own boss…and started a children’s library in my little local La Paloma Elementary School.

I converted a storage room into a library, made bookcases, collected over 2,000 children’s books in Spanish with the help of many generous benefactors, and hired and trained Maxwell to be my librarian.  He took English lessons from me eleven years ago…and when I expressed my need for a librarian…there he was.

I Do What I Know Best


Teachers are master fundraisers.
We know exactly what the students need and how to get what they need. We beg, plead, and seek donations, discounts, and items on sale like professional bargainers. We are marketing marvels…selling the needs of our students to everyone who passes by our classroom doors. Continue reading

Where Do They Go From Here?


“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” — Henry Ford

 

In Nicaragua, the academic school year starts in February and ends in December. Ron and I were invited to be a part of two graduation ceremonies this December. The first graduation ceremony took place at our La Paloma elementary school, which has 88 students, 4 teachers, and now the librarian that I hired for my library in the school.

The second graduation ceremony took place in Urbite High School, where our god-daughter graduated. The education statistics are frightful and the state of education in Nicaragua is and has been in crisis and stagnation for many years.

I can’t help but wonder where the graduates will go from here.
IMG_96072014 statistics report that Nicaragua has 1,389,000 pupils enrolled in primary and secondary education. Of these pupils 940,000 (67%) are enrolled in primary education.

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Meet Maxwell


“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot

 

In 2004, Maxwell was one of my English students. He is on the left in the front row of this photo. Throughout the years, I have continued to watch these young men grow and thrive.
Sergio, ( the one with the devil horns) is the manager of the Corner House Cafe. Smiling Luis, behind Sergio, is a very talented classical guitarist. Luis, ( front right) speaks very good English, works in our local grocery store and leads tours.

I am so proud of all of my students for they have beat the odds and are very successful in their chosen careers. When I was looking for a librarian to teach in our new La Paloma Elementary School, I encountered a serendipitous moment. Maxwell had returned to Ometepe Island to finish his degree in English. He spent three years in Managua on a full scholarship, but had to return to the island for medical reasons.

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The Grand Opening of the La Paloma Elementary School Library


“In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain

 

The Grand Opening of the new La Paloma Elementary School Library was held the end of November, 2014. After months of remodeling, painting, categorizing, making book shelves, and organizing the books into simple genres, we held a book party with a piñata, food, a dance, and a ribbon cutting ceremony.  All 85 children enrolled in the elementary school received a new book to take home.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Come Together Right Now


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Converge. The Nicaraguan people have converged or assembled for many things recently. Using some of John Lennon’s lyrics for “Come Together”,this is a visual story of the ways in which the Nicaraguans converge.

                     Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
                     He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
                    
Nicaraguans converge at the cemetery to celebrate the life of my neighbor, Don Jose.
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Two Kids from La Chureca Looking For Sponsors


Jefferson is a Weekend Philanthropist and he is looking for sponsors for two children in Nicaragua. If you are interested in sponsoring one or both of these children, please contact him.

The Weekend Philanthropist

For the past year, my mom and I have sponsored two children from La Chureca, paying so they could go to a private school outside of the landfill.

The kids worked hard, but private school is difficult and there has been a lot of change going on around them, including the community being moved to concrete homes together with people from other extremely poor areas of Managua.

This year, our scholarship director in Nicaragua, a nurse who has been serving the people of La Chureca for over a decade and who volunteers her time to help administer these scholarships, has two more children who she thinks are up for the challenge of private school – all they need is the funding.

Benefits of private school over public school:

  1. Smaller class sizes.
  2. Higher discipline.
  3. Access to a psychologist, a library, and a computer lab.
  4. Incentives to be the best…

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The Luxury of a Library


“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.” ― Harold Howe

I have great memories of our public and school libraries in the states. The smells of ink, musty paper, and glue conjure up nostalgic memories of sticking my nose in a book and virtually traveling to distant places through the miracle of words in print. Yet, I can’t explain the feeling I get when entering a library to any of our local islanders, simply because they have never experienced a library..the smells…the hushed whispers…snuggling in a bean bag chair… curling up with a good book. Those concepts are alien. They have no understanding of reading for pleasure because it is not a cultural pastime.

This morning, Ron and I delivered 100 books to a new-to-me school. Follow us on our trip, because we were pleasantly surprised at what we discovered.

On my walk to the bus stop, I was enthralled with the brilliant display of orange flowers on the malinche tree. The locals comically refer to the malinche tree as the matrimonial tree, because the vibrant flowers appear first, then they quickly fall off and the tree becomes a tangle of vines.
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I met Ron at the bus stop near the new airport. Soon, I’ll have to figure out a way to transport my books more efficiently. Ron straps them on our motorcycle, and I follow him on the bus.
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Two trabajadores were filling in a drainage ditch near the airport. “Take our photo,” they shouted.
IMG_2845“When will the new airport open for business?” I asked. “Mañana,” they replied in unison. Alrighty then, I thought, maybe in six more months.
IMG_2847The bus never came, so I flagged down a moto taxi…my favorite form of transportation on the island.
IMG_2849When we entered the school, the director told us to deliver my books to…THE LIBRARY!!! The first school I’ve seen on the island that has the luxury of a library.
Santiago, who attended this school from preschool through high school helped me translate to the LIBRARIAN. Santiago doesn’t speak any English, but he understands my Spanglish well. When the librarian had a question, she would direct the question to Santiago, and he would repeat it a little louder and a little slower to me in Spanish. Then, I would respond to Santiago, and he would fix all my verb errors. We work well together.
IMG_2851I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the librarian lived in La Paloma and I knew her son. We bonded instantly. She showed me around the library. It was decorated with lots of posters and cut-out hearts for Mother’s Day, which is celebrated on May 30th. Although the library lacks children’s books, which the kids can read for pleasure, it is well stocked with teacher’s materials and classroom textbooks. I have high hopes for this school because the school thinks highly of its library…a measure of what it feels about education.
IMG_2852We toured a first grade classroom. Aren’t they adorable? I offered to return to read to this class and do a fun book activity with them.
IMG_2854Then on to visit their outdoor classrooms. A perfect setting for a hot morning!
IMG_2855Bikes were haphazardly scattered…and what is this??? Looks like the teacher needs to keep an eye on the kid holding a desk over his head.
IMG_2856We left with a sense of community and a warm fuzzy feeling for the school that has the luxury of a library. Now, where did we park the motorcycle among the sea of bikes?
IMG_2857Thanks for the memories, Esquipulas Los Angeles School. There’s nothing like the smell of a library. I think I’ll look for some bean bags for the library. The kids would love them.
IMG_2859Many thanks to all the wonderful readers and network of librarians and teachers who have donated books to my mobile lending library. I can assure you, they are in loving hands. It is because of your love of reading that this is possible. I’m spreading the love one hundred books at a time throughout the elementary schools on the island.