One of the requirements of the scholarship that brought me to Manna Project is a set of bi-weekly updates. Here is the one I wrote for today – a little dry for my tastes, but it’s what I’m up to!
It is, as expected, incredible how fast the first half of my summer project has gone by. I only have a month left?! I feel like the long semester in Scotland, which ended a full month after Vanderbilt’s, cheated me out of a third of my summer. I’m not ready to believe that I’m on the the downhill slope of this Nicaraguan mountain.
It’s been a good, and varied, two weeks. I started taking Spanish classes at the end of June; four hours a day, three days a week. I was nervous about spending that much of my volunteer time learning the language, but in just two weeks it has transformed the way I interact with the people in Cedro Galan. I have been able to make friends with the students in adult in English class, speak enough to earn a little bit of credit with the high school students, and play with the kids – one of whom calls me “Marco de Bicicleta” for no apparent reason, and another of whom calls himself “Mark the Second.” I’ve had halting conversations about Nicaraguan history, politics, and religion, and about how Nicaraguans view the United States and Americans ( estadounidenses).
I’ve also spent the last two weeks planning ahead to next year and beyond. It’s been healthy for me, I think, to take time to self-analyze (parrhesia, in Greek) and think about graduation and beyond. I’m considering applying for the Fulbright Scholarship and for Vanderbilt’s Keegan Traveling Fellowship – both of which will allow me to continue doing the sort of international friend-making that I’ve been doing the last few months.
Coming up in the next few weeks: More adult English class, which is still my favorite. I take over teaching the high school English class in a week and a half (!!). Baseball practice starts tomorrow. I’m considering asking Greg, the volunteer coordinator here, if I can spend a week or two living with a family in Cedro so that I can continue to develop my Spanish. I am also thrilled to have a friend from home, Lindsey, coming down to volunteer with me for the last two weeks. I am just itching to introduce her to my new Nicaraguan friends and to watch put her talents to use down here.
If there’s one thing that has been noticeably “missing” in my volunteer work so far, it’s been that I still haven’t been to Los Quinchos, the filter house for Managua’s street boys. It would have been a perfect place for me to commit my time, given my Peruvian experience, but when the volunteers were making commitments it was the only place I hadn’t visited yet. I asked the coordinator Matt if I could start coming just to help out, and am hoping to be able to do that this week. There are too many good things to do down here!
Marco de Bicicleta