Teacher Kara and General Chaos

After two weeks here in Nicaragua, I am starting to feel settled in and I am starting to see the work ahead of me. I love every night that I play UNO and volleyball with my host sister and cousins for hours until I am so sweaty that I want nothing more than a cold shower. I feel more comfortable walking around the neighborhood where I know more people and more people know me.

This week, we saw Fortín, one of the sites of detention and torture during the leadership of Somoza. It is so important to have these reminders of this country’s and this region’s recent bloody history and to remember how so many realities here, especially education, cannot be separated from this history. We also visited some of the options for secondary projects, like Las Tías and a weavers’ cooperative. Most importantly, we met our counterparts in the schools and began to attend classes and observe. The first two days for me were overwhelming. As soon as I entered the school, I felt all eyes are on me. I got hollered at from balconies by young boys, and talked about by others. I followed my profe around blindly to each class, where I was stared at even more. Classes themselves were disheartening because I did not really witness a true lesson, but instead, after all the chaos of students arriving, sitting, introductory remarks, etc., there is hardly any time left. I can tell that the students do not feel motivated for their English class. At first, I had no idea where to even start. It felt as though there was not even a structure to begin with. On the third day, however, I had a good day. I knew where to meet my profe. Many students recognized me and said hello as I entered, and I smiled at the rest. In class, I introduced games like change seats and I could tell that the students had a blast even though their embarassment at having to speak English is tremendous. I decided to embrace the fact that all eyes and attention are on me, dancing and being silly. I realized that I can decide to be uncomfortable with all the attention, or I can use it as a tool to meet the goal of helping the students learn more English. When I walk back to my house in the afternoon on the street which many classrooms face, I still hear hollering and cat calls, but I also hear, “Teacher Kara!” and I decide to focus on those ones.

After a long, hot, overwhelming first week, the four of us fellows headed to Las Peñitas beach about 20 minutes away for a relaxing. In the end, it was only más o menos relaxing. The first night in our basic ecological bungalow, one screaming wake-up led to a domino effect of all of us waking up screaming and panicking, at nothing in the end. Our following day at the beach was beautiful. We swam and sunbathed and the water and waves were perfect. However, the chelas (me included) burned badly. Saturday night was spent with one sick girl vomiting ceaselessly, two burnt girls lying in pain and reapplying aloe, and all of us lying awake unable to sleep except the stray dog that had entered our hut and refused to leave. In the end, this chaotic experience was a learning and bonding one.

So I am back in the house, full of arroz relleno, sweating, and still reapplying aloe as I brainstorm how I can make this coming week in school even better than the previous. My goals for next week: heal my sunburn, coplan with my profe and give class together, learn a few students’ names, and decide on my secondary projects. Wish me suerte.

Kara Fitzgerald ’16