Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Fault in our Stars Review

Since I have read almost all books that are popular movies right now, I was stuck on what to read. However, there was one I had no interest in: the Fault in our Stars. The trailers had not peaked my interest as I thought it was about sick people and I could not image it had a happy ending. One Friday with nothing to do heres what happened:

I began hopeful. BUT

It was interesting immediately, especially the author’s note. I can say it was well written! I, on numerous occasions thought, for a man he sure knows how to narrate a woman! Augustus is the boy we all want to meet, mischievous enough to be a bad boy but thoughtful, sarcastically witty and obviously hot. Hazel Grace is who women wish to be, the more thoughtful you. The girl given to thinking of others more than the arbitrary details of self. As I suspected it was a sad book, but not in the way that you think. I choked up right near the end, I did, and I’m not the tearing up kind of girl. However, a young thug had a glory tear when Augustus farewelled. Having experienced a death in my family due to cancer it hit too close to home and I understood the finality in looking down on someone in their casket, knowing that person is nothing similar to who they actually were. Hazel, thankfully lives on; trucking as much as anyone with stage IV cancer can. I liked the small cliff hanger that Augustus could have convinced Peter Van Houten to write a sequel. Or that Hazel and her family could have moved on. Maybe she will get better and maybe she won’t but has made peace with that. I loved the way Gus so effortless kept sacrificing for Hazel. Even in death, he lamented to write a man he loathed so that Hazel might get something beautiful. That is the true measure of love: thoughtfulness. Without hesitation, this book gets 4/5 stars. It was interesting, engaging, and worthwhile. I connected with the characters and found the reading to be plausible. Despite all that I know I will not read this book again. It was beautiful while it lasted. 

I strongly suggest you read it and try your best to “notice the universe.” 

Day 14

Humans of the teenage maturation are the absolute worst. At least terrible 2’s are are by toddlers! Usually, teenagers are the biggest bullies. They have a horrible attention span. Add in a language barrier and it’s only by the blood of the lamb my patience continued to hold true. It was only our second meeting. We are scheduled to meet twice a week for the next 13 weeks. Today we had the youth make a map of their community based on the places they go to most often, businesses in the community and the places were businesses aren’t. We separated them by gender, to see what differences would be identified. I bet you can guess which one the girls did. It was amazing to see the stark contrast in thinking process, delegation in drawing duties and how it was drawn. The men used one color and went for more realism. It was quite simplistic with pen writing on the inside squares to identify the names of the actual places. The women used color and more abstract realism. They identified several of their houses as the places they frequent. The men had more places, like the soccer field and stadium as frequented places. 
I knew when I woke up, today would be a long day. Class, having to observe a different class, practice for and then demonstrate/attend the business youth group, then co-planning meeting that should have happened yesterday with the teacher we’ll be working with these 3 months. No, written on the board it was feasible, but add in Nica time and things have a way of running into each other. Nica time is what some people in the states call “CP Time” or Haitian time. It’s really no people’s time, merely a tendency to come to events, 10-15 minutes, sometimes later than the designated starting time. It certainly does not reflect an entire people, merely what an individual personally chooses to accept. I was taught early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable. I cannot say that same lesson is taught to all. Lately, I’ve been feeling weak. I think it’s because I’m no longer eating meat with every meal. Here, they can’t afford it. I have requested a multivitamin from the medical office. Hopefully that helps. Walking home, i feel as if I am in the body of a 80 year old woman, my bones hurt, I groan to stand… that can’t be right though, because my Aunt Ethel is 80 and she runs circles around me. Perhaps she is in the body of a 20 year old. If I could blink and be anyplace in the entire world right now, it’d be my bed. *blink*

Day 13

Today is a day full of first. First day observing a class, first day hosting and leading a youth group and the first of many site interviews. The classroom environment is completely different from US. Because of the building structures, there is no quiet. You can hear every classroom nearby. Teachers have to almost tell and children must want to learn, as it takes active focus to tune out the other distractions. They wear uniforms here (in private and public school.) It is a simple white T-shirt with their schools logo printed on it and simple navy jumpsuit pants with the schools name printed vertically. It appears different grades wear different outfits. Still it’s a simple structure that works. Lower grades wear simple navy pants/skirts without words emblazoned with a white blouse with the logo inconspicuously place in top right corner. I noticed that almost no one wears glasses here. Literally no one. In walking through the school and seeing the entire town I have seen no more than five people wearing glasses. For a place that has almost no eye care, why is their vision superior to those in America? Walls are built almost like a partition. The roofs are not cushioned like in America. It’s just connected to the top of the walls then smaller interior walls are built so sound easily travels into and from other rooms. Tim, wood and cement are the basis or every structure here. I cannot say for all of Nicaragua but it’s the basis for structures in my town. 

Everyone is so curious about us (the four volunteers and I), staring while we do seemingly ordinary thing. After we observed the class, we had individual interviews. These are so our superiors can get to know us personally outside of what our coworkers and facilitators say.  Based on all the information, they gather the assign us our final training site, where we’ll live for the next two years. Among the many questions, one stood out to me, not because of the question’s content but because of my response. My boss in many ways asked me what are my expectations or wants in my future site. I said, “honestly, I have no expectations. I am willing to take what I get. I know it’s such an immense blessing just being here. I love my house, twin bed, wifi, no running water. But whether I have more or less could not affect my happiness or how well I do my job. I am just thankful to be here. 
I have to admit I shocked myself. I can’t really say why. I’m not sure if I was shocked by what I actually said or how much I actually meant it. God has placed many things on my heart to do, unfortunately those things are not here, but this place will always have a piece of my heart. My host family is amazing. I wish I didn’t have to go when these three months are over. In a way, my mom here reminds me so much of my mom at home. She’s so sweet and cares for many people.  Just like my mom cared for me (her granddaughter), my host mom cares for her grandson, Samuel (pictured below. He has the fattest cheeks ever. I love him!). She makes a lot out of the little she has. There are 8 people living in her home and still everyone has a full belly and is well dressed. I have witnessed her eat much less so that her children can have more, including me. It has made me more inclined to show my gratitude and do something to show my appreciation. Even in little things, like eating all my food. In America, if I didn’t like something I wouldn’t eat it. Not because I’m spoiled but because I knew there were many other options for me to eat. I wouldn’t burden someone to cook knowing I wouldn’t eat. Here there are few options I can safely eat.  So wasting food is actually taking away from my family. 
From my interview, I went straight to work with the youth group we have created in the community. This was our first meeting with them, where we help them establish a new product or service, then develop marketing materials and distribute product or service. Then the best one travels with us to a big city, and competes against other top groups from peace corps. It’s intimidating but possible. They told us the first meeting is the hardest. They were right. Despite school being out, it was still quite loud with 49 youth in attendance. Add in the language barrier and youth gathered in one place with their friends. I left feeling quite drained. Still, I encouraged myself. Others before me have done it, so I can as well. I am doing my best, that’s all the peace corps asked of me. I have only been here 2 weeks. I have time to improve. I still wouldn’t prefer to be anywhere else. 

Day 12

Today I feel like I’m working through an intense fog. Although, my swelling on my face, ears, and neck have gone down. It still itches and the Benadryl in my system is no joke! My rash didn’t spread any farther though. I’m starting to think it’s my hair. Between all this dust falling, the pollen here has probably gotten into it and it running against my neck and ears was just too much. I know for sure I’m allergic to the pollen here, I had a nosebleed the first day I was here. I also sneezed loudly, the first week here. Sooooo yea, thanks for the prayer. Although I don’t feel well, I went to class.. because.. well I don’t like excuses. I’ve seen my mom go to work with worst. Tomorrow is my first day working with the youth at school. I have to lead the ice breaker and introduce myself and the other PCV’s. First to speak and in Spanish is a little intimidating but I have been doing this kind of thing my whole life. 

They ride horses here. It’s crazy the range of belongings. They are people with personal laptops, smart phones and wifi. I’ve seen trucks and Toyotas but then there are several people on bikes, motorcycles, riding in motor taxis and have house phones. Middle class is almost nonexistent here. There are also many stray dogs here. Walking to school (about a 12 minute walk), I encounter about 12 dogs, give or take a dog. Most are strays, some have owners but they’re allowed to walk around during the day. It’s not scary because they leave you alone for the most part. They eat off whatever they find in the streets. Truth be told none of them look underfed. Mostly, just dirty. It puts to mind the truth excessiveness of America.

I was told being here would give me a greater appreciation for America but that not true. I have only found great awe in this way of life. It reminds me of the world my grandparents described growing up. Your neighbors know you, you know them and everyone collectively cares for one another. Children play outside, in the park and visit each other house, walking together at night unafraid because this is their community. Almost everything here is handmade: wicker chairs with plastic lined designs, several rocking chairs and simple painting design to spruce up the house. I love sitting on my porch, rocking in the breeze. I can easily see why people visit and never leave.

Here the children only go to school from 730-12pm. They come home for lunch. It’s not served at school and they do homework. There are different schedules to go to school as well. You can go 7:30a-12p, 12:30-5:30p or 6-9pm. Most children go to the first schedule. Part of the reason is children help their parents work. 70% of Nicaraguan population is under age 30 and 42.5% live off $2 a day. I hardly ever see older people here. I’ve literally only see two people that look over the age of 60! I feel like I’ll fit in more as soon as I take my braids out, although I’m not looking forward to figuring out how to wash my hair with buckets. I also don’t want to try to maintain my hair with the heat here. It’s very dusty here. Very. I have had my medical kit sitting out for less than a week and this is what it looks like.

I know now why my host mom cleans everyday and puts covers over the furniture at night. The dust here is crazy. Before I put my mosquitera up over my bed, I woke up with dirt on my covers ever day! Still, I was warned it was dusty here and it could not take away my love for this place. It’s just too beautiful here. God made dirt.. and as far as I know, dirt don’t hurt. 

First Lady Review

As a strong recommendation from a friend, I read First Lady by Carl Weber. To those unaware, he is renowned in African American fiction. It’s exactly what it sounds like. I read the entire book like a boss. 
 So the plot is revolving around Mrs. Charlene, wife of TK Wilson, pastor of First Jamaica ministries. Once she finds out she’s dying from pancreatic cancer she sets out with her best friend to control lives from the grave with letters in hopes that the right woman steals her husband’s heart. 

  • Marlene, the first prospect, was TK’s high school lover and partner in crime. Although he cleaned up his drug use she struggles daily. They’re still connected by a son and although Charlene thinks they’re a good fit Marlene’s insecurities and baggage are getting in the way. She got a huge monkey on her back that just won’t quit. 
  • Lisa Mae, best friend of Charlene and former First Lady at another church is in the running for TK’s heart. Although her resume is flawless and she’s about that church life Tk isn’t feeling her. She’s beautiful and got the church game down pack but she never shares herself personally with the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Among other things, she’s focused on the wrong things in this relationship. Plus her lil flunky Loretta leading her down the path of unrighteousness! 
  • Monique, po child is just what you would think when you hear that name. Every church has one, the fine hussy that men can’t help look at and church women rebuke. She lets it all hang out and have the nerve to sit in the front pew. She set her eyes on Tk and the bishop likes her a lot. But church politics never get out of the way and her reputation did indeed precede her. Doesn’t look like a match made in heaven because of everybody else, no matter how similar she was to First Lady Charlene. Her heart broken because she really does love the Bishop and a big decision to make . I wasn’t sure it would be a happy ending. 

Between all the ups and downs of this book it showed the truthful inner workings of the church. Though not always prevalent, the pastor of a church must have a First Lady and his heart isn’t always the deciding factor. I enjoyed this book. Sadly, as is most african American fiction is it was predictable. Still enjoyable with a few laughs in between. 3/5 stars. I won’t be reading it again and I can’t see myself recommending to to my trusted reading circle. STILL, if you’re into african American literature and have a few days (or one in my case) to spare, do read! It won’t let you down. 

PCV Debby and John

I was shocked when I saw these two in our volunteer group and from day one they stood out as hilarious and intelligent. John had a quiet but quirky side that I am so glad I got to meet! We nicknamed Debby #DeliquentDebby and #ThatsnotsafeDebby from our staging scenarios where she did a great job acting out what we’re not supposed to do. Over the few days we had together, I listened in to them tell several stories that were simply amazing so it is very appropriate they be my first volunteers to highlight. Ladies and gentlemen, Debby and John
Volunteer Profile:
Debby Drew
68
3 children
Fun fact: Had career as a midwife and nurse, where she helped 2,000 moms birth children.

John Kotula
69
Fun fact: helped raise 7 children, has 12 grandchildren
Shared fun fact: they both turned 60 in Honduras, turning 70 in Nicaragua and are excited to see what the next decade brings.
How did you meet?
(John) we were introduced by mutual friends at a birthday party. “I knew they were trying to fix me up with her.” (Debby) “well I didn’t know.” (John) Took awhile for there to be chemistry, about a few months but then when it did it, we got close very fast. We met in 1990.

How long have you been married?
Since April 1993

When did you first join peace corps?
We served in 2005-2007 in Honduras.

Why?
(John) Well before we met, we both considered it right out of college but life took us on other paths. We got together, raised kids after the kids went to college Deb suggested it. (Deb) John had reservations but we decided to go. We were inspired by a mutual friend’s mother who did it at 60!

What was it like in Honduras?
(John) I felt like everyday I was seeing something I had never seen before. It was foreign, intriguing, and inspirational. I have never lived in a place where animals just ran the streets. We made a list of how Honduras was like the States and it was a lot like being in a time warp. Everything was behind the times.

(Deb) I was looking forward to that but I was most looking forward to knowing the people I saw in photographs of Honduras are real life and actually being apart of that. Just really cool and who would have thought this would be my life. One time a boy broke his arm. There, when a child is in the hospital, the mother stays with him there. But this mother had a newborn so I alternated between his sisters sleeping under his bed in the hospital for about a week. It was just a dream that that was my life for a time.

What made you decide to join again?
(Debby) Honduras was such a positive experience. We came home, because we wanted to be home awhile. I took a job and said I’d give it five years and after four years I decided it was time to go again. (John) Just being a member of our community and the people. We made great friends among volunteers too. A year and a half ago, we went to a wedding for one of the volunteers from Honduras. We met a lot of our old friends. It was great.

Why did you decide on Nicaragua?
We had about 4 options but some we deduced against because it was simply too far away. We have families in the States and we wanted them to be able to visit. Central America was more manageable. We both wanted to improve our Spanish. We had Central American experience and was excited to be seeing it again in another country to compare it to Honduras.

Day 11

I woke up like this… No Beyoncé 😔

I literally woke up feeling so itchy. My ears and the back of my neck are red, itchy and swollen. We don’t have a mirror in our bathroom.. Well we do but it’s little and very high and I can’t see into it without standing on the toilet so I actually haven’t seen myself in several weeks. My host mom thinks I’m allergic to the sun.. Maybe because I’m darker and getting darker each day. But I told her no I’m not allergic to the sun. She told me I need to walk to class with an umbrella or a hat. I told her it wasn’t the sun for sure so now she thinks it’s something I ate but I didn’t eat anything new. I can’t imagine what touched only my neck and ears all night because I went to sleep just fine. Please pray for me because this amount of a Benadryl has left me pretty sluggish and no good for work.

Day 10

Today has been a pretty normal day… filled with much sun, strong winds, chopped and screwed Spanish and rice with every meal. I am starting to find a natural balance here, as if I have been here many years when in reality it’s only been about 2 weeks. I have decided to make good use of the half Spanish/half English I was gifted and memorize scriptures. My first assignment, Psalms 23 and I try to do add a new verse of it to remember a day. 
Salmos 23
(Psa 23:1) Jehová es mi pastor; nada me faltará.
(Psa 23:2) En lugares de delicados pastos me hará descansar; junto a aguas de reposo me pastoreará.
(Psa 23:3) Confortará mi alma; me guiará por sendas de justicia por amor de su nombre.
(Psa 23:4) Aunque ande en valle de sombra de muerte, no temeré mal alguno, porque tú estarás conmigo; tu vara y tu cayado me infundirán aliento.
(Psa 23:5) Aderezas mesa delante de mí en presencia de mis angustiadores; unges mi cabeza con aceite; mi copa está rebosando.
(Psa 23:6) Ciertamente el bien y la misericordia me seguirán todos los días de mi vida, y en la casa de Jehová moraré por largos días.
So far, I have gotten all the way through verse 2. I repeat the verse in my head repeatedly throughout the day. It’s quite calming and reminds me that even if I don’t know the language, God is with me. It’s almost like I’m constantly in the state of prayer. It’s an active reminder that my Shepherd is with me. I know there is no greater force on this earth than human will so in addition to repeating the scripture, I tell myself, “you can do this” and then I do. I highly encourage you to do the same. PIck a verse, any verse and quote it throughout the day. You’ll feel more at peace than usual. 

Day 9

I was seriously CONCERNED about not getting sleep.. like that’s a problem! As I know sleep deprivation is a tactic in war… Cruel and unusual punishment to say the least, I was feeling quite insane and concerned about my own health. They say 24 hours without sleep is worst than being intoxicated. I felt about at that point.. UNTIL LAST NIGHT!

hhhoooonnneeeeyyyy! When I say I’m thankful. #whew I really am. I still didn’t sleep the whole night but I got some good KO sleep for at almost 6 hours! My family wakes up very very early. Many people live here so working out a schedule for that one bathroom requires early rising. I understand. I truly do. The bright side is I got more sleep than I got yesterday though! It was calls for a praise break, I definitely actually danced at my table, to my host family’s amusement. Today I feel good! ( Good rest can do that do you) but I finally put a real dent in all the things I have to read for the Peace Corps and it made me feel like all they’re asking me to do is actually possible. I have hope and that is one of the three greatest things to have. (Faith, Hope and Love). I wonder if my fellow volunteers are feeling this way too. It’s a process. Today I met the director (they don’t call them principles here) of the school I will be teaching in. I also recieved my schedule for weekly teaching. I start this coming week (eek!) I am both nervous and excited, but more excited. I have given myself the task of extra studying. I want to really get integrated and the only way to do that is to learn the language. Watch me be fluent at the end of these two years. I talked to my family in the states and they asked me what I want… I NEED A SNACK CARE PACKAGE SOMETHING SERIOUS JESUS! I don’t eat as much here as I used to at home and my body feels the difference. I thought I would gain weight here… but I have let that dream go. It’s just not reality. I eat well here and I am so proud of myself for trying new food. (For those that don’t know me, I AM VERY PICKY ABOUT WHAT I WILL EAT.) but their diet isn’t like ours at all. The way my metabolism is set up, I’m almost positive I will look the exact same way… if not more fit because I walk far to school every day and do my yoga on a daily basis. Nicaragua is being pretty good to me. More updates to come!

The Help Review

I have read this book before but I am rereading to give you my review. This book is beautiful and worth a reread. This beautiful novel is filled with  characters similar to my own friends. I felt like it was me and my girlfriends teleported back a few generations. Minny’s fiery spirit is a kindred soul to me. I know what it’s like to have a sass mouth as I know what it’s like to hold anger inside because you feel hopeless for change. Aibileen so calm and wise but struggling to let go of the sadness that take root in her heart from losing her son. Ms. Skeeter was a feminist and she didn’t even know it. Unlike her friends, she was content to focus on her career and uncommon dreams than to settle and marry. She reminds me of my awkwardness and is a reminder to all women about standing for what you believe in. This novel challenged me thinking of racism, the value of education and the power in writing at the time and to remember the life lessons imparted from that generation. Unlike 95% of books that become movies I was thoroughly pleased with the movie. I’m glad it was recognized by various awards and ultimately I would reread! It gives 5/5 stars! I laughed at times. Sometimes I was provoked to serious thought. This book definitely moved me. The ending left me feeling like “me and you will never part”
My favorite line from the book is the dialogue between Constantine and a then preteen Skeeter. 
“Well? Is you?”
I blinked, paused my crying, “Is I what?”
“Now you look a here, Eugenia” – because Constantine was the only one who’d occasionally follow Mama’s rule. “Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one a them peoples?”
it was a turning point in Skeeter’s life because it symbolized a choice. It was her choice to be what people called her. I say the same to you. Choose who you are today, whether they call you ugly, Republican, gay or stupid. I say to you, “Well? Is you?”
Tell me about it in the comments. Were you feeling the same way as I did reading it? Who’s your favorite character?