Monthly Archives: April 2015

Day 37

I finally have some answers! A few days ago, I found out I would be visiting another volunteer, in another city.. for an entire week. I am not sure if I just missed that information in the litany of information overload happening in the previous presentations we were given or what. I knew we were visiting a volunteer to see what it’s like being in site and observe a class, but that’s it. I thought it would be like a full day kind of thing. WRONG. It’s a full week kind of thing. To top it all off, none of the upper heads wanted to tell us any facts! Where are we going? It’s a surprise. Are we going alone? You’ll see. I really didn’t care so much for the information as much as I wanted to be informed. Imagine how I looked, telling my mom, “you don’t have to cook for me this week. I’ll be gone but I’m not sure where or for how long.” A fool is what I looked like. That was three days ago. Today we finally got some answers. All of us are going in groups to four different places: La Dalia Matagalpa, Leon, Leon, Chinandega, Chinandega, Esteli, Esteli and El Rama, RAAS. Wait that’s five places. Ok so we’ll be in those different towns, staying in some hotel or hostel, visiting the volunteer doing the day, co-teaching a class with them, co-planning with one of their counterparts and seeing the sites of the city. It sounds quite intimidating to be honest. Everything is new, but, that’s the point. We’re doing this now, so when we do it on our own in two months, we can have an idea of what to expect. It’s less overwhelming now that I have an idea of what to pack, how much money to bring and a place to name so my mother won’t worry so much. When I move to site, I’ll have everything I own with me, but this is a trip so the packing is a bit more meticulous. Two volunteers were robbed last week and so they have cautioned us in the proper way to travel. It is a quick reminder that nothing is for certain here. Although no one was hurt, I can only imagine how frightening it was to have a man with a large machete say in Spanish give me your bag. In reality, they only lost C$200 (less than $8), a towel, backpack and the worst of it was an iphone. But I heard through the PC grapevine, they tracked the phone and are looking to get it back. Fingers crossed for them. After all the excitement of travel plans and nervous questioning, we learned about class materials and how to keep a class exciting. As usual the day ended with me feeling like I needed to sleep for an entire week. I heavily debated doing yoga, but as always, once I actually started, I really got into it and the hour and a half floated away. It was dark outside before I knew it and I was super glad I did it. Yoga is truly becoming my safe haven, the one thing I can be sure will decompress the stress of my day. I can tell when I haven’t done it. I am more moody, less prone to patience or calm thought. It reminds me of my own strength as I learn new poses and God’s excellence. I find myself ending every day with gratefulness, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to feel. 

Day 35

Today I am angry, on top of the repeat bug attack. I’m really not sure when I’m being eaten alive, only that I wake up with bumps healed and new parts itching. But that’s not the significant issue; aside from everyone in this house having access to the internet except me (I think my devices are too smart. Not Being funny.) I am getting tired of people talking to me but not listening to me. I almost get the feeling I should yell! It’s like just because I don’t speak great Spanish doesn’t mean you disregard everything I am saying altogether. This has happened twice already. The first time, I realized my family meant well, but it still sent me very close to a meltdown. We were in another city trying to buy me a new phone for the Peace Corps because my android was too smart for the full functionality of the Claro card. (Claro is the Verizon of Central America and Moviestar is the Sprint here.) It started with me talking to the salesman and not fully understanding him, so instead of helping explain, my mom cut me off and did all the talking. If you’ve been in search of a phone, a new one, not an upgrade, you understand my frustrations. It’s similar to buying a car. It seemed that every few minutes the man was telling my sister of something else that was included. “Oh he said you have free 30 minutes to call the US.” “He said you get a free cord and free texting.” My thoughts were, “if it’s included, fine, but I don’t want to pay a whole lot.” Every time I asked a question, my mom or sister would say, “we’ll explain later”, “we’ll explain at the house”, and/or “just wait.” But it was my money making the purchase. I felt justified in knowing right then. I walked away with a phone, but a great sense of being overwhelmed and confused. I felt lost and invisible as the only thing I contributed to the conversation was my money. I had tears in my eyes because I was confused and because I knew how big a task traveling to the city was (45 minute taxi ride) and was not looking forward to the idea of repeating it if something was wrong with my phone. Afterwards, I asked to be left alone for a minute and I prayed to calm myself. I did not want to cry and honestly it wouldn’t have changed a thing. So I sucked it up and prayed for the Lord to work it out. He did. (I got the most basic thing money can buy and let me tell you something..I never thought I’d miss T-9)
Now, this morning I had to pee something serious, but I am the 6th to shower in a line of 8. I was simply asking could I use the bathroom first to pee, then the person could shower but instead of listening, everyone just kept repeating, “ocupado.” Learning a new language is a lot like taking the SAT’s (for those born before that was a thing, imagine a 6 hour exam, that takes months to prepare for and could make or break your future.) Yup, everyday my brain hurts. Every. Day. There is no one here who speaks English, except for the four other volunteers who are in my town with me. Once I get to my site, it will only be me. My family speaks Spanish, the TV is in Spanish, Disney channel is in Spanish, the news is in Spanish, Alvin and the Chipmunks is in Spanish. Literally, everything you can imagine that may be the same is NOT. There aren’t any English subtitles either. I spend my entire day translating. If people are not talking to me, my brain filters it all out as static. It can be so much. I look forward to (God willing I have internet) watching a video in English. It helps me feel less insane, less like an idiot and like I am capable of understanding basic things. After a day of only understanding 20% of everything said to you and playing funky charades, you begin to have doubts about your abilities. I am well aware I am an intelligent woman. I am a published author. I have a college degree. I am not dumb, but after an entire day of chopped “Spanglish” and not ever fully communicating the many thoughts you have, you just feel inadequate. I feel inadequte. I remind myself it’s only been a month and I am fully capable. It just doesn’t always feel like it. Maybe I expect too much of myself. 

PCV Janiece Stromberg

You ever heard someone laugh and knew immediately that it was genuine? You just knew in your heart, whatever they were laughing at gave them great joy. Ever heard a laugh that was so infectious, you heard it and wanted to laugh with them? That’s the kind of laugh Janiece has. You can hear it across the room. She has the type of laugh that makes you feel accomplished if you can produce it. Like, ‘heck yea my joke was funny cuz Janiece laughed.’ #boom #missionaccomplished #ishouldquitmydayjob but still underneath the compulsion to find joy in life was a wonderfully complex woman that I ‘d like to introduce to you today. Ladies and Gentleman, Janiece. 
Volunteer Profile:
Janiece Stromberg
26 (27 in April)
From: Idaho 
Bachelors and Masters in Occupational Health from Idaho State University
PC: Health Sector 
Fun Fact: Has a dog named Mustard, that she is training for therapy work with people 
Why did you join the Peace Corps?
I wanted to join since like the 7th grade. I went to the library and researched it on my own and just fell in love with it. After I got my Masters, in 2013, I decided to commit to it. 

How are you adjusting to Nicaragua? Is it living up to your expectations? 
It’s not so bad because I’ve had experiences in India. So I just keep reminding myself, this is not as bad as it can be. I didn’t really have any expectations, aside from my Spanish. I expected to struggle but it’s not an issue. My host family is very patient with me.

What’s your family like? Did they ask about your hair? How long have you been growing them?
They are awesome. They take me everywhere and ask me many questions to practice my Spanish. They haven’t asked me about my hair directly but my family has politely stared at it. She asked to touch it the one time I had it down and asked what my parents, specifically my grandparents, thought about it. I’ve been growing them for about 8 months. 

What do you plan to do after the Peace Corps?
No idea. I’m playing it by ear. I have been planning for the Peace Corps since the 7th grade, I am ready to see where life takes me afterward, no planning involved. 

What did you do before?
School, and traveling jobs through the states. I went to Europe, India, got certified to teach yoga then hung out with my family.

What’s one thing your host family has taught you?
They taught me that humor doesn’t need a language. We laugh and joke a ton despite the language barrier.

What’s your greatest accomplishment so far in life?
It wasn’t being financially stable, although that’s a big thing in my family or getting my Bachelors and Master’s despite being the first female in my family to do it. It was my grandpa, who I affectionately call “my a-hole grandpa” and I finally being able to connect on another level and having him tell me how proud he is of me. 

How long have you been into health?
Since forever. When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up I would always say some type of doctor. The last answer i can remember giving was neurosurgeon. 

Have you ever been out of the country before?
Yes, I’ve been to Spain, Italy, Europe, London, India and Mexico. 

What do you miss most about America?
I am going to miss the snow. 

What are your favorite hobbies?
It depends on where I am. In Texas, I liked paddle boating, yoga, climbing, and backpacking.

What is your greatest fear about being here?
I think it’s not realizing that I am enough or knowing my inner strength. It’s like the more I say it, the more I can actualize it. You know?

Day 34

I feel terrible for being this upset about the internet not working. Partly because I know people have done their entire service without it. I think the most frustrating part is because I can see the box is lit but know there are technical problems out of my control happening. If it was just dead, completely dark, I would forget about it. The other part is knowing there are people I want to talk to and say goodnight to before closing my eyes each night. AND my blog. I need not keep my readers waiting! I feel like I’m waiting to exhale. It wouldn’t be so bad if the electricity completely went out. It just keeps saying Internet connectivity error. Who knows what that really means.  Despite all that, electrical outages suck. I don’t know what it is about sudden darkness but it’s not nice. It often feels like the electric company was like, “alright that’s enough everyone should be asleep, flip the switch.” 
I knew I should have kept my mouth closed! My mom asked what I like to eat, I guess she thought rice, beans and fried chicken would grow old. As I barely know any food words to describe the food I like I said the few words I do know: vegetables, fried onions, rice, beans, here it comes and spaghetti. I have no idea why I said that knowing good and well I only eat spaghetti twice a year at max in the states! But it was a word I know and to my sad dismay I came home to a dinner consisting of rice and beans on one side of my plate, spaghetti noodles in something like olive oil with cut up potatoes, carrots and onions. I did try it although it looked questionable to me. It was sweet! As if someone cooked the noodles in sugar water. I felt terrible not finished it and when I explained that spaghetti has red sauce and is salty. She explained the only place I might get that is in Managua, an hour away. Another attempt bites the dust and unfortunately I wasn’t digging Nica Spaghetti. Maybe I’ll enjoy the best nica dish I try. 

Book Secrets

OK readers…. I am going to share with you the best kept secret for a book lover. Every day, I open my email like,  ”I got some books, I got some books!” 
Bookbub.com. This site offers top rated, top selling, great reads to you for FREE or very very very discounted price. How is this possible? Easy! Authors have new books coming up and they want to get new readers and attract attention so they offer their first book or one of their best books for free download in hopes that you love it so much youll buy the newest book. Its a system and it works. I highly encourage you to take advantage of the system. Bookbub lets you put in YOUR reading preferences. It will only show you deals for things that you want to read! You get deals as often as you like, daily or monthly. The only possible take away is that its for ereading only BUT Kindle, IBooks and GoogleReads all have apps you can download to your phone OR read on the computer! So regardless if you have a kindle, an ipad or whatever you can take advantage of these beautiiful deals. There is no better gift you can give YOURSELF than a book. Reading is fundamental and its becoming very clear which generation is forsakening it. Take advantage of this readers. Now just to clarify I am in no way affliated with the site. I havent been paid to say this. I am not winning from posting this. I am winning by having a subscription though and I want others to win with me. Subscribe to bookbub and read. Get your life. Go. NOW. 

with love,
Janae

Taxi Taxi

Take a taxi ride with me. To hail a taxi you need to wave your hand away from you as if you’re saying, “shew shew!” 
(Credit to Volunteer Andrew for the first vid.. mine was a the wrong direction again -_-)

The Refresher Weekly

I am constantly saying I am thankful for social media! Why? Because I get to meet and greet people from all over the world. I had the privilege of somehow coming across this young lady on my timeline and she is somebody you need to know! Not only is she ambitious and beautiful BUT SHE HAS THE TRUE ANSWER I HAVE BEEN WAITING ON! Meet Kailah Cameron, the creator and writer of refresherweekly.com!
What exactly is it?
I began planning for the Refresher in January of this year and actually made it public in March.The Refresher is an e-newsletter/blog that caters to Black women by bringing informative, empowering and transparent content directly to your email every Monday. We also, have a blog where topics that don’t fit into the newsletter are discussed.

What is your mission?
Our mission is to uplift the different facets of young, Black womanhood because we are burdened with stereotypes that heavily impact our daily lives. This generation of young, Black women are just movers and shakers; we are creators and entrepreneur; we are scientists and engineers- which I really want to highlight. However, some of us also suffer with depression, anxiety, perfectionism or procrastination, problems finding ourselves or finding our purpose! We suffer from misogynoir (Misogynoir refers to anti-black misogyny, where race and gender together are factors in the hatred of black women.), racism within the educational/ workplace and just a plethora of things that need to be addressed. My goal is for the Refresher to manifest a platform where Black women can be transparent about our issues, where we can grow together and support one another. To empower us to be unapologetically ourselves. No one understands us, quite like us. We control our narrative and I just want to inspire us to keep going because it is hard and on weeks when a young woman feels low or like she’s stuck, our goal is to be that sisterhood rooting for her. 

Why did you start this?
Womens’ rights are my passion and I just hope it radiates through the Refresher.

How do you compile the information or highlights in your weekly newspaper?
My content is derived mostly from my background in social justice. I’ve been active in my community as far as legislation and outreach so a lot of my content has a political undertone. However, through that I’ve met a lot of amazing Black women and network with them. I’ve had a business before where I mostly worked with Black women who now have thriving businesses and I want to include their accomplishments! And I through social media! I use social media heavily as well as word of mouth and personal contacts.

What’s your response to people to potential readers who aren’t black?
They’re welcome to read and subscribe. I actually am open to feminist circles allowing this platform to be welcomed into many of their spaces where they lack inclusivity and understanding of black women. In many of those circles they don’t understand our “humanness”, for lack of a better word. However this space is designed for Black women- so that won’t change. The content will remain for us, about us and by us.


What do you hope comes from this weekly subscription? 
Genuinely, I just hope it inspires young, Black women to keep going. We have so many adversaries, so just to be a weekly reminder of your strength, uniqueness, your wonder and ability. That Black excellence is more than just accolades and degrees, sometimes it’s just waking up in the morning. I hope it inspires someone to keep going knowing that she has a plethora of sisters rooting for her. Also, to eventually have a network of black professional women and continue building from there.

I think your passion is amazing. How long have you been doing this?
Thank you! You are so amazing! I actually launched my first newsletter last Monday! However I’ve been blogging for about a year now and decided I needed to blog with a purpose and start over.

Why should someone subscribe? 
I read that if you’re surrounded by five successful people you’ll be the sixth. Same for happiness and wealth. Therefore, I believe people should subscribe to the Refresher Weekly because of our plan to expose young, Black and ambitious millennial women to each other on a transparent medium. It’s ok here to be broken, to be stressed, uneasy or lost. Unlike many media facets, we focus on genuine content. By featuring successful Black women, along with their weekly struggles, as well as being a strong form of weekly encouragement and affirmations, we plan to manifest those circles.

Don’t take my word for it, GO! Check it out and SUBSCRIBE! You can always unsubscribe with a click of a button. Don’t let the idea of some unknown, stop you from tuning into some much needed encouragement. I can personally attest to the positivity of this young woman. Her knowledge and wisdom supercedes her age and I am grateful to have met her. Subscribing ain’t never hurt nobody, don’t get left behind in 2014. 2015 is all about supporting one another and saying what few refuse to do, “black girls rock!” and Refresher Weekly reminds me of that very fact every Monday. 😉 Link up with her @refresherweekly on IG, Facebook page coming soon!

Day 33

Picture


Children are still out of school so it’s only me trekking to work, which sucks because it’s so rare for the house to be quiet! I was sleeping so beautifully. My english class happens every day from 8 am -3 pm in a volunteers house. For the last four weeks. it’s been in one person’s house and today is the first day of a new location and new teacher. I would be lying if I said I’m excited about it. I’m not. I felt like Nidia was finally becoming a part of my circle. She was familiar and in a place where everything is unfamiliar you cling to the small things you have. For instance, the first week I was here I cried because someone broke my loofa. I didn’t mention it on here because it seemed so insignificant and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for this opportunity. I knew, ultimately, it was my fault. They taught us in the session about house rules “if you didn’t want anyone using your things don’t leave them in the bathroom as this culture tends to be very communal”. I had been leaving my loofa in the bathroom tentatively to dry as I didn’t have any place to keep it in my room and it gets very dirty from all the dust. The first time I left it and checked it midday. It and the bathing items around it appeared fine and untouched. The second day I thought it might have seemed more wet than usual midday BUT I chalked it up to coincidence, as dumping buckets of water can have plenty of unintentional splash back. Now I want to note that I not only talked myself out of it but I ignored the Holy Spirit as He reminded in that millisecond what the volunteers told me, “don’t leave things in the bathroom you don’t want to be shared. This culture doesn’t see hygiene the same way we do.” The next day I came into the bathroom, grabbed my loofa with a growing sense of anxiety and knowing. There was a knot in the string of my loofa. As I have slight case of OCD and could never allow a knot to just exist I undid it. My loofa unraveled in my hands. The lurch of my heart was devastating. I immediately wrapped up in my towel and in severely broken spanish told my mom, “somebody broke it. Someone broke my ball.” Kind woman that she is, she folded the loofa up tied the string around it like a yoyo and declared it fixed. But it was not. As soon as I tried to scrub it against the soap, it unraveled. With tears in my eyes, I dressed without taking a shower. My mom noticed and I waved off her promises of getting a new one that weekend, as it was four days away. What was I going to do? I couldn’t be dirty for a week. Most importantly, why would someone touch my loofa. It was obviously mine, not theirs. Now bless my tenacity, I looked in my dictionary and went to every store in my town asking to see their sponge balls and bought a new one! I say all that to say, I value the things I deem as mine. I considered Nidia MY teacher. She was a good teacher and I am a better student because of her. I was blessed to snap this picture now that she is in a new city and doesn’t come to visit. 🙁
P.S. the volunteer on the left is really happy to be there. He said that’s just his face. 

PCV Smiley Rojas-Nuñez

This was one of the hardest interviews I’ve done so far… and not because the interviewee isn’t interesting. It was actually the exact opposite. He is so interesting and complex that I felt I was doing him 0 justice every time I looked at my notes. I tried and tried to ask different questions so you, the reader, could get a glimpse at the true gem that is this PCV… I tried my best but this interview is only about 10% of the genuine intelligence that is Smiley… Ladies and Gents, I hope you’re sitting down. 
Volunteer Profile:
Name: Smiley Rojas-Nu
ñez
Age: 22

Studied Accounting, at Albany SUNY (Albany, NY), with a minor in Latin American/Caribbean History 
PC: Business Sector 
Fun Fact: A fun fact um… I’ve been hit by a car before in a hit and run accident. 
[Me: O_O Smiley that’s a terrible fun fact! Smiley: how? I lived!]

Why did you join PC?
To perfect my Spanish and hopefully get closer to understanding the kind of career I want to have moving forward.

What’s your greatest accomplishment in life so far?
Being able to acquire numerous scholarships during college helping me to travel the world while receiving a quality education. 

What’s your dream job?
I want to help write trade laws between countries. The way they are currently written, someone always loses. There’s a tax but no true equilibrium in trade. I want there to be a better balance in global trade, where you give the things you have excessive of and actually get what you need.

How many countries have you been to?
8 (China, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua) 

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve been to?
The most beautiful place I’ve been to is Rio de Janeiro Brazil. 

What’s a place you want to see?
I want to go see the Aurora lights. 

What’s your life advice to the world?
Get up and reach out at every opportunity made available to you You don’t know what you’re missing out on whether it’s an opportunity, advice or a chance to change your mindset about something if you only ever stay within your comfort zone. Try new things whenever you can. 

What’s the most interesting thing you packed to come to Nicaragua?
I packed dance slippers, made for hardwood floors. I love dancing. 

What did traveling give you?
It opened my mind to realize the world is bigger than I could imagine.

Who has made the biggest impact on your life? Why?
My mother has made the biggest impact on my life because her immigration story made me realize that I can’t really complain about any of the first world problems I might have to deal with in my day to day life. 

Who’s your favorite superhero and why? 
Wolverine. I like Wolverine because although physically he is immortal, the way issues affect him emotionally makes him feel human. 

What is your biggest fear?
That I was ever perceived as inauthentic.

You can follow Smiley and his journey on his blog here!

Day 32

I’m enjoying the last day of Semana Santa. All the parades are just like this, some figure replica on top of large beams, carried by several men throughout the town. Usually people join in and walk behind it, making it a huge procession, which is what they call it here not parade.