About bataholavolunteers

Friends of Batahola Volunteers is a volunteer program which brings young people from the U.S. to live and work in Nicaragua.

#MigrationMiercoles

I meant to post this blog last Tuesday for the title #TraumaticTuesday but after the afternoon I had….I really just wanted to relax.

So last Tuesday I had the WONDERFUL opportunity of going to the Immigration Office to extend my Visa. SO when I entered the country, I received a tourist Visa for 90 days.  After those 90 days I have  2 options…leave the country (go to Costa Rica) and come back or go to the Immigration Office. I really didn’t feel like leaving the country (we don’t know if they would have let me back in) and spending all the time to find out whether they would give me what I needed.  So we did the second…… and should have gone to Costa Rica!

Where do you imagine an Immigration office being? In Spain I remember it being very far from the city center in a large building. In Ohio I’m not sure if I had ever been in an immigration office but I did not expect it to be in the middle of the mall…..

We arrive at the mall, checked out the Halloween store first (we needed some mental preparation) and then headed off to the office.  The waiting room was filled with green plastic chairs with people waiting and when the person in the front far right chair went in, everyone shifted one chair over, all moving in a snake pattern, to move ahead in the line.  I waited for the form guy to give me a form to fill out ( it cost me 5 Cordobas) and began reading to make sure I didn’t have any questions for Christina (my supervisor).  Now, I’m not sure why but the security man wouldn’t let her sit with me to help me understand everything….so she was forced to let me be by myself.

After about 5 minutes of reading the form, this woman burst through the office doors and stomped right up to me.  She had a very serious, sour face, like someone had spit in her gallo pinto or something. She came up to me and let me tell you, if we ran into each other on the street…..I would NEVER want to be on her bad side.  She began asking; Why are you here? How much money did you come with?  Where are you staying? When are you leaving?  What are you really doing here? Why do you need an extension?

The questions were so forceful and she was just drilling me with them that I was sweating and stuttering a bit.  I know some of you might be reading and thinking, ‘Aw Kels you should have been stronger’.  I know there are people thinking that…but take this into consideration: these people, this government..they do not want anyone here for a long period of time.  They don’t like foreigners experiencing what their government does, or what their people go through.  These workers here don’t want someone that knows someone with power to see something that should be hidden. So this woman was trying to scare me into giving up and leaving. Instead, we went to a different office. By the way, shout out to the older woman next to me that explained everything in great detail so that I would understand. You rockand I will never forget you!

I can’t say it was any better but hey, this time I didn’t have Ms. SourFace breathing down my neck.  This time Manuel, Christina, and I were solo in this office that looked kind of like a reconstructed hanger for airplanes. So the woman shuffles us to a section with a giant sign hanging above: “EXTRANJEROS”/”FOREIGNERS” and we sat and waited. The lady in this office looked a lot nicer but I was prepared for another great experience…I was ready for the challenge!

After getting up, walking to the window, sitting down and waiting about 50 times (I am NOT exaggerating) the woman told me that I could only have 31 days instead of 61….and that I needed to pay 500 cordobas (about $16.67) This woman told me that I needed to bring more information about what I do at the center and what all my life here was like in order to get another 30 days…..

I did ask her about my flight thought…. it’s in December and then ‘I’ll be gone’ why do would she care about all of that if I’m leaving and out of their hair?

So after about what felt like a year….I didn’t even get what I came for….I got half of that. After the small amount of tears shed after that mean woman yelled at me in front of everyone….after running back and forth from my chair to the window…..after being interrogated for about two hours….at least I can give a great story down the road!

 

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#LeonLunes

To those who haven’t been sleeping well the past couple of weeks, wondering ‘Why hasn’t she posted a blog?’ FEAR NOT! I have one right here for you!

So for today I would like to discuss Leon, the city in the northwest of Nicaragua! I had the opportunity to get out of Managua for the weekend, which really helped me clear my head and relax a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it here Managua and working in the center but sometimes a break is very necessary!

So, Friday around noon we set of for Leon! So, to get to Leon you can take a 50’s school bus OR you can get a microbus from the UCA that costs 61 Cordobas per person.  Due construction and the driver wanting to take a break every now and then, it took us about two and a half hours to get there.  Once we were there, we left our stuff at the hostel and began walking around! We had the opportunity to tour around in the Revolution Museum with Our guide Javier.  He was a part of the revolution and the men that like to sit on the stoop outside are those who also fought and are still proud to this day.  That had to be my favorite part of the tour; having someone that lived it, that could look you in the eyes and give you all that they experienced.  We learned about Sandino, the ‘Father of the Revolution’, the man that started it all.  We also learned about Carlos Fonseca and many more that had their important parts in the war. Something that I really liked was that Javier took the time to point out that women took part as well.  He began to explain that women are just as powerful (in different ways) as men, and sometimes they may even be smarter in someways.  So he said that as well as men, he thanks women everyday for being a part of his beautiful country and their part in the revolution as well.

After touring the museum, he took us up to the roof to get a good view of the city…..now when you think of a roof, what does that look like in your mind? I can guarantee that what your imagining is definitely not the kind of roof we were walking on but hey, sometimes in life, you need to be a little risky. Even though it was a tad sketchy, I’ll admit that it was worth it.

Saturday we made our way to the cathedral above, where you can go up to the roof and walk around…barefoot…in the heat.  It was an interesting experience; I wore sandals and when walking up there you cant wear shoes at all…so i burned my feet a bit. BUT it was totally worth it!  We walked around the roof for about 25 minutes (the time that they give you to take pictures and wander around).  We made our way around trying to stay in the shade avoiding the intensity of the sun. Let me tell you all…..Leon is so much hotter than Managua, and we were DYING in the sun.  But with some Powerade and positivy, we survived!!! While up on the roof, we HAD to take so cliche pictures… so enjoy!

     

For the afternoon, we signed up for an excursion, want to guess what kind? Here’s a little hint!

We hiked up a volcano!  We had the opportunity to go to Volcan Telica for the sunset and to get up close to the edge to see the lava and to chill for a bit.  Something that I found very interesting was the noise the volcano made.  It sounded like a large river flowing.  After a 2 hour car ride, an hour hike up, we got to see one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve experienced.  We ate our vegetarian sandwiches and our prize beer (there was actually a guy at the top selling beer to people that made it to the top) and then went back to see more of the lava at night.  After about 2 hours, we headed back down to the cars and headed home, exhausted! The ride on the way back was a bit rough; the driver wanted to get home quicker and was not letting the bumpy rode stop that.  So after about an hour I felt like throwing up but hey, still worth it!

 

Sister Margie Monday!

So for this Monday, I wanted to give a personal story of Margie as told by a woman that used to work in the center and that still is inspired by her everyday.

A couple of Fridays ago we didn’t have power so I went and visited my Nica mom Doña Kony!! Just a quick back-story: I came to Nicaragua to volunteer for a month and stayed with Kony for the month.  Even though my Spanish was horrible, somehow she has become my best friend here. She has taught me Spanish, patience, and so much more.  After letting me take a quick snooze in her hammock, she offered me lunch and began to tell me an amazing story!

So how I tell this story is how she told me in Spanish and then I tried to translate it the best I could for you all. Also, she DOES know that I’m sharing this story! She was delighted to share it with you all.

When Her Daughter Jenny was in the Father Angel Torres Chorus, Sister Margie was still alive and well. One day Dona Kony used to be very timid and shy and saw Sister Margie walking from the center to her house every day.  One day she had worked up the courage to say hello to Margie, greeting her as she walked by.  Sister Margie stopped and began to talk with Dona Kony.  They spoke about the center and how  close Dona Kony’s house is, it was very convenient!

 

“I’ll tell you what.” Says Sister Margie “Would you like to work at the center? Would you like a job?”

Dona Kony looked to the ground and said, “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

“How about you come to the center tomorrow morning and we’ll get you started? I will see you there at 9 o’clock sharp.” Margie said to her as she said goodbye and went on home.

In shock, Dona Kony thought about it and showed up to the center, nervous/excited and ready to see what Sister Margie had in store for her. When She came, she told Dona Kony that she would help clean the center and take out the garbage.  Dona Kony was happy to do it and content to have a job and contribute to her family.

After some time at the center, Dona Kony had gotten to know the community and all who made the center one family.  Later on, she and Sister Margie had a conversation resulting in the question of “You know how to read and write no?”

After answering with a ‘no’ Sister asked her if she wanted to join the Primary Education Class for Adults!  So excited, Dona Kony began studying and completed all 5 five years of her studies at the center.

As time flew by, Dona Kony had to stop working due to health issues at the center but still was a part of its community. She began making her own ice cream and selling it to her beautiful barrio (neighborhood) to continue supporting her family.

I’m not sure when this happened but, another thing that Margie helped Dona Kony with was suggesting changing her patio into rooms for people to stay in.  These rooms would become a home to many people/students, memories of a beautiful Nicaragua and a meeting place for the Friends of Batahola.

Just from saying hello on the street so many years ago  changed this woman’s life but she will never forget who that hello went to for the rest of her life.  Sister Margie touched her life just as she touched so many lives of others in the center.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful story and want another because the next one will be coming out soon!

Familia Friday!

Hope everyone’s week has been alright!  Would you like to guess what today’s topic is? No one?  Any guesses at all? It’s all about the fam ya’lllllll!

I’m not sure how many of you know but I’m living with a host family and might I say, they are just amazing! So we are a family of five (now that I live with them): there’s Julio, Karla, and my two sisters Ram and Ramsi.  Now, this is the host family BUT wait, there’s more! I would like to give a shout out to the other siblings that belong to our family, but they live in another part of the neighborhood!  Camille and Kwin used to live with the family before I was here, but still come around and are a part of the big fam!

Thanks to these beautiful people and their kindness, I feel more comfortable and loved while still getting used to the life and culture here. Karla, Ram, and Ramsi have been teaching me safety, slang, food, frescos (juice), and how to have a great movie night every now and then. Thanks to Julio, every meal I learn something new about the culture, the people, the history, or even a random fact that he heard that day.  Camille and Kwin also have a lot to offer, in that they have experienced what I’m going through right now.  They are great at letting me rant or giving me advice on how to make it easier adapting to everything.  They really are a big help because of their support as fellow gringos.

Not only does the family offer everything I mentioned above, but they go above and beyond in making sure I’m involved as part of the family. We have had some pretty amazing adventures already! We made it to the Chocoyero, which is a natural reserve good for hiking and observing.  Speaking of the Chocoyero….funny thing…my bestie Napo is actually from there! The Chocoyero has it’s name because of the parakeets that live there, also known as Chocoyos! Napoleon is another member of the family, found outside, Mama Karla took him in and now he just kind of wanders around and steals my almonds (I may just give them out but…that’s not the point).  We’ve also been to the Somoto Canyon, where we swam/hiked down the river. It was so
Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor, water and natureamazing! We had to jump off of steep rocks and climb through some currents.  I ended up being the first to fall, but no worries, it was just due to being clumsy….nothing special about it.  Did I mention that we celebrated Ram’s birthday while at the Canyon? She turned eighteen!!!! My little sis is all grown up!

So what was the point of this post? Here it is!

Along with some other people, this family has come to take me in and give me so many experiences already.  They have become my family here and have made it easier being away from mine.  It isn’t easy to leave your family and be so far away.  They have helped me in so many ways with love and support, if anyone asked me, they are a part of my family and always will be.

Just like any host family situation, there can be trying times but at the end of the day this is my familia!  So a big shout out to all of them for, in a way, taking care of me and dealing with my Spanish.

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Getting Ready for KERMES!

It’s time for the Kermes!! Yay!

I don’t know about the rest of you lovely readers….but I didn’t know what Kermes meant (in English or Spanish) so I looked up what the translation would be!

I typed it into WordReference and it gave me a couple of answers: true bug, kermes and county fair.  If you guessed county fair you’re right! Sort of!  We’re having a fair to raise money!  Adults can buy their entry band for C$10 each and children for C$5 each.  For those of you that would like an idea of what that is in dollars: Adults need to pay $0.34 per person and children $0.17 to get in.  

Each class that the center has is going to make something to sell at the Kermes or putting on activities.

The dance class will be having a mini concert/presentation as well as my host mom doing Zumba!  The cooking class will be showing off their culinary skills to help support. There will be some foods for C$10-15 per serving and drinking for C$10 per cup/bolsa. The Natural medicine class will be giving massages for C$10 or so per person and doing health examinations  to help contribute! Also! There will be a popcorn stand!

This beautiful creation you see of the box of popcorn was created by the one and only MOOORRRRAAAA! She and many of those who are helping with the Kermes are working hard and making sure every detail is in order for the day to go smoothly!

If I understood correctly, there will also be face painting, games, and as you saw above A DUNK TANK! Hopefully all goes smoothly and a lot of people come to help support the center but also to enjoy all the activities, food, and presentations! So, if you live in the barrio, or close to the barrio make sure to come and join us tomorrow (Sunday) from 8 am to 4 pm and be sure to have fun and get some yummy food! Everyone has been working hard so you know it’ll be a good time!

 

 

Hit That Note!

Have you ever wanted to be on American Idol? Do you think you have with it takes to be a great singer?  Or do you just like to read blogs about people singing in English?

LOOK NO FURTHER!

This past week my wonderful English students had to sing English songs for an assignment.  We had a range of songs from ‘I want it that way’ by the Backstreet Boys to ‘Great Pretender’  by the Platters!  Let me tell you, they worked very hard and some were very passionate during their part of our mini concert.  We had some doing the wave and some singing along! I will tell you though, it took every bone in my body not to sing (or dance) when the backstreet boys came on!

 

Did I also mention that I had to get up and sing? Yup! They made sure their teacher didn’t feel too left out as they took the stage so they chose a song for me…in Spanish! The amazing song to debut with was called ‘Amor Fritanguero’ by Cuneta son Machin if you would like to listen to it.  Go on and have a listen! I can assure you it’s an interesting one! So, what is this song about you ask? Well, let’s have a mini Spanish lesson to see if you all can guess it, if not you’ll have the answer soon enough! For starters, the word ‘amor’ means love. So the first part is done= love!  Second part of the lesson- frita is an adjective used mainly with fast food or food that is ‘cooked in oil’. Any guesses? Fried would be the correct answer! So a fritanguero would be the person frying the food.  SOOOOOOO drum-roll please! I sang a song about the love for a person who fries food to sell it! Yay!

We will be having our next mini concert in about seven or eight weeks when we complete level four and move to the fifth and final level of their studies. Stay tuned for more English activities!

We have the KERMES coming up on September 3rd where we will make refresco and volunteer our time to raise money for  CCBN along with the other departments at the center!

Maybe there will even be a blog post about it!

Transportation Tuesday!

So last week I went on an adventure to a cafe!  I had company while going (Christina) but not on the way back. Christina lives in Ciudad Sandino and it can be rough getting there due to construction so we had a baptism by fire moment and I was being put to the test. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready for the moment…..but mentally not really prepared.   Due to a little panic, I completely forgot all of the buses that I could take to get home except for the 114….when in doubt the 114 will most likely get you where you need to go…I think. So I took the 114 and paid close attention to where it was going.  As Hannah  Hart said on an episode of MyDrunkKitchen, “Just be confident…at everything and people will think your good at things.” With that in mind, I kept my head high and looked for things that looked familiar.  I was scoping out the ”Hay tortillas” sign or the strange yellow building that we had passed on the way to the cafe. It was all there! I took the right bus! Then we came to my stop so I went to the back of the bus to get off, THIS WAS MY MOMENT. I was going to get back to Batahola Norte in one piece….until the bus driver didn’t stop and blew right through the parada…..so then I just waited for the next bus stop….he didn’t stop for that one either…..  He finally stopped about 2 or 3 stops away from the one that I needed to take….so I basically had no idea where I was.

I began walking back where the bus had come from to find a street or a restaurant that looked familiar. After about 20 ish minutes I finally found myself back at the center…. What did we learn? If you ride the bus in Managau, you need to yell puerta or parada to get off OR you should go to the front to get that way the bus driver sees that you have arrived at you stop and would like to get the heck off.

If you’re looking more for information about transportation and not a story about it the look no further!! Your wishes are coming true!

When traveling around Managua, there are a couple of options you can either take a bus, a taxi, your car if you have one, or you can chance the heat and take a long walk.  Want to take the bus? OK! You can take a number of Rutas almost anywhere. I don’t really know that many places yet…..so I can’t really give directions….anywhere. Anyway, there are two types of buses; ones that were donated by the Russian government and the ones donated by the US government.  The Russian ones use a card system (most of them do) and it costs about 2.50 Cordobas each ride you take…this would equal about 8 cents in US currency.

The US buses don’t really need to follow the rule and therefore don’t have the amazing little card. To ride these types of city buses, its costs 6 Cordobas or 20 cents in US currency. So imagine a big yellow school bus and on the inside it’s been gutted out and the original seats are made shorter in length and the leg room space is smaller to fit more seats but the aisle space is bigger to fit more people. The ceiling has three bars going long ways; this way you can fit people facing the left side holding the bar, facing the left or squished in the middle holding the middle bar.

ALSO, there are ‘Mexican buses’…whether these are donated or not….I’m not really sure! These ones also do not take the TUC card.  But what these all have in common is that they sometimes can be very crowded, and they can get you from A to B!

 

I have yet to experience the bus during rush hour but I think I’ll wait for that amazing experience!

 

 

It’s Official!

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Hello to all that read the volunteer blog!  My name is Kelsey Overley and I will be your new host/guide/however you see fit to call me.  So sit back and enjoy!  I wanted to write a personal intro as I was officially handed over the username and password to the blog.  There wasn’t a huge ceremony or anything BUT I can assure you all that it was a big moment.

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About six years ago a woman by the name of Sue Keefe led the IHM group and gave me one of the best experiences I can remember. Along with her were the wonderful people that were on the trip with me (Go Team Epsilon), the kindhearted people of the center, and anyone else that I came in contact with.

Fast Forward to about 2013 when I returned to the center the second time. I experienced something that changed everything for me.  I witnessed one of the volunteers interpreting for two people (one girl from Managua and one from Cincinnati).  In that moment I knew I wanted to change almost everything that I was doing.  I wanted to change my major to Spanish (along with health) and I wanted to do what I had to do to become a volunteer! There’s a bit more to the story after but I won’t bore you to tears with all of that.  The important message here is that six years later, Kelsey became a volunteer!

I’m not sure if this post was an interesting one or not BUT I hope you all enjoyed it as the first of many to come! I promise the other blogs won’t be TOOOOOO boring or only about your new Blog host.

Love,

Kels

 

Bienvenida a Nicaragua, Kelsey!

We’re very excited to welcome the 6th generation of Batahola Volunteers, Kelsey Overley! Kelsey first traveled to the Center as a student on an immersion trip with McNicholas High School in 2011, and has dreamed of returning as a volunteer since then. Here’s a little more info about Kelsey:

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Kelsey was born in Seattle, Washington but raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She graduated from Archbishop McNicholas High School and went to Muskingum University and graduated with a bachelor’s in Spanish and Health Administration. After graduating, she worked in Spain as an English teacher for nine months and returned home this past June!  Some random facts about her would be that she played soccer for about eighteen years, her favorite food is mashed potatoes with mixed with corn, and she comes from a family of four. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer and reading. Her favorite Nicaraguan foods are gallo pinto and guacamole. She’s looking forward to learning more about Batahola and integrating herself into the community.

 

Welcome home, Doña Martha and Carla

This week, the Center welcomed back two familiar faces, Doña Martha Juarez Centeno and her daughter Carla Juarez Centeno, who also happen to be my next door neighbors. I often stop by Doña Martha’s on my way home from work to listen to her stories of old days at the Center and enjoy some of her delicious home-made baked goods. Doña Martha first came to the Center in 1983, when she joined Sister Margie’s women’s group. During her time here, she participated in the Friday morning women’s reflection group, the soy program for neighborhood children, and took sewing, beauty and cooking classes. Her favorite memories of her time here are the strong relationships she created with other women. Her daughter, Carla, first came to the Center when she was ten years old and participated in dance, painting, and crafts classes.  In 1994, they left the Center to take jobs at another non-profit in Ciudad Sandino focused on working with street children and single mothers, where Doña Martha gave cooking classes and Carla taught crafts. Both women are very excited to be back at the Center. Carla says: “It feels like coming home.”