Day 74

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Today is the big day: the competition day.  I can honestly say I have not been thinking about winning.  It goes completely against my nature but I know with a language barrier, I should just hope for my absolute best. The kids do not seem too pressed about winning either so the primary focus has just been learning and being prepared!  I am so proud of my kids because they know their stuff.  My boss said the most important thing is to make sure they know the information, not necessarily who wins. So that has been my focus.  Most of these children are also in the class I teach so I know they understand the material and are confident they could become little awesome entrepreneurs one day.  We arrived at the competition and despite not receiving any funds my group wrangled all they could and bought a pack of 50 cups.  The hotel not providing coffee worked in our favor; we sold out of our drink.  My teens were so happy and content that people wanted to come back for seconds. It was so good they been invited to another Peace Corps event to sell their drink!  I must admit we were sure another group would win because of their success and the volunteers with advanced language levels. We did not think we would win first place but we knew we were strong contenders.  I knew our product was great, our logo was unique, and our business plan was legit.  The only thing I was unsure of was our presentation because I thought we needed a little more practice.  My youth were so nervous and we had only run through the entire thing twice, both times with a few slipups.  
When we sat for the judges verdict we congratulated each other on a job well done, sure we would not be called.  In third place, Nacilletas, a gluten free cookie.  One of the youth in the group came up with the idea because her sister has Celiac and her food cost four times as much as normal Nica food.  In second place, Tawni Teen. Which was a group that made jewelry from old clothing.  Now here, my heart started beating fast because everyone thought Tawni Teen would win first place.  Even they thought they would win first place.  Suddenly it dawned on me; we could win, because our product and presentation was good.  My group was 4Yolo. Our product was a frappacino type of drink. Then drumroll and my ears deceived me.  They called our products name.  I screamed but then looked around for clarification that I was not dreaming. Other people were congratulating us and patting us on the back. Our youth were just as surprised and walked up to the front like deer in headlights.  They won book packs full of school supplies and money to continue their business.  I could not be more proud of them and their positive attitudes.  Without thinking about winning, they did their absolute best that is what counts. 
Right after we hung out in the pool and it was an absolute godsend. It was what I needed and swimming relieved all the tension in my body. I did yoga underwater and it made it easier to do the moves without tension.  I think I will make pool moves a regular addition to my yoga work.  On top of that we celebrated John’s (another volunteer) birthday. He turned 70!! Since we’re such a talented group we celebrated best way we could. Several PCVS got together and danced like locals. It was beautiful. One volunteer rapped, 2 sang while the other played the guitar and another volunteer recited Shakespeare .. it was amazing. John spoke and told us what he’s learned after 70 years on this earth and ended with a few tears. Our PCV family is better with him as our father figure. On the bus back home, we sang songs at the top of our lungs as if we were on our way home from a camping trip. I recorded some of our song conquests. The memories I am making have been epic so far.  As soon and I do mean as soon as I got home, I began taking out my braids. The sad truth is between the dirt here, my sweat, and the new growth; my hair could not go on another day.  I was looking like a hot mess to put it nicely. My hair became a cultural learning lesson as my family thought I was cutting off my hair, even though I told them the braids had hair that was not mine.  Then when they saw my hair, they said it was pretty and I should leave it out.  So I had to explain how a fro is a lot like a sponge, holding anything that touches it, dirt, sweat, cigarette smoke and a hassle to maintain. It is healthier and better protected in a style like braids or twists.  Then my mom said well you can just put it in a ponytail, she does not understand that it is fluffy, not straight enough to be controlled by a ponytail holder.  Then she said well just straightened it.  I then explained any amount of moisture in the air, sweat on my head or rain will cause my hair to revert faster than you can say “bad hair day.”  Never has my Spanish been tested more, than last night. I still do not think my mom understood it all, but that is ok.  I know she understood me when I said, I am leaving with a fro and I will return with a new hairstyle.  That much was clear. With the help of my volunteer friend and my mom sending hair in a package (again, THANKS MOM!)  I will be looking like a new woman tonight. 
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