News from My Abode in Nicaragua

This is a special holiday weekend for me.  Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year.  It is always a time for thankful gatherings of family and/or friends.  My life in Nicaragua hasn’t changed my passion or  pattern of thankfulness and celebration.

One of my friends always hosts Friendsgiving dinner prior to Thanksgiving.  They provide the major meal and the rest of us bring our own drinks, side dish etc.  This year there were about 70 people at their home.  Such a beautiful event.  On Thanksgiving Day I and seven friends enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner at Finca y Mar, the Rancho Santana restaurant, again a great gathering.  There were several seatings for the repast. Being part of the senior population here, my friends and I were seated at 5:00 pm.

My ESL classes ended on November 10th.  There were 25 students total from all of the classes that finished the whole ten week course.  ALL of the students passed to the next level without too much coaching.  I am a somewhat different teacher than the students have had in the past which made many drop out in the first few weeks.  My goal–and the Fun Limón director Bismarck’s–was to teach courses that would help them learn enough conversational English to participate with gringos and enhance their opportunities for employment.  Many of the students were laid off during the “troubles” in Nicaragua.  This category of students was given full scholarship to ESL classes.  Hence I wouldn’t allow the students in any of the four levels to use their textbooks or cell phone translators to answer questions during class participation.  I told them early on that they won’t be carrying their textbooks around with them to have a conversation and that although they do carry their cellphones, it isn’t always possible to use the translator features for a conversation in English.  My WIN-WIN at the end of the class was that all the students could repeat the English alphabet which they finally memorized and that they had a concept of creative thinking.  Thanks to my daughter, Rivka, who went to Spanish Immersion School from kindergarten to sixth grade and continues to study Spanish from a College Profesora friend, I was finally able to change my textbook teaching format.  When I mentioned to Rivka that I was frustrated by the inability to have the students attempt more conversions, she told me that her teachers had the students  write stories together in class.  This concept worked for me even when there were only two students in the class on a particular day.  I wrote what I called Little Stories which they had to read and then answer questions as the example of a Little Story.  After that they had to collaborate and write a Little Story–always no more than five or six sentences–then one of them read the story to the class and I would ask the questions about the story.  WOW, that seemed to work and chase away the fear of embarrassment to participate in conversation.  YEAH!  All collaboration had to take place in English.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) not ESL.  The students are teaching me so many new Spanish words, some that are unique to Nicaragua.  When I have a hard time explaining a lesson, I ask one of the students to explain in Spanish and then I have them write the new words to me on the board so that I can better learn my Spanish conversation.  I am a visual learner and find it nearly impossible to hear what the new words are.  We have a good time in class and I’m proud of these adults who come after work and give up family time to attend the classes.

As a result of the “textbook” issues I had this session, I convinced Bismarck and the Fun Limón Board to continue to pay my meager monthly salary for the next 10 weeks to write textbooks that we could use for our classes.  Katherine, Bismarck’s wife, who was my 6th Level student, is working with me on the project.  We have seven levels of textbooks to write before classes begin again on January 8th.  After that I’ll be adding one textbook for every session from Level 8 to Level 12.  INATEC, the government department that certifies the language vocational programs, requires twelve levels of instruction.   So far Katherine and I have about half of the first book in conception and I do all the input for print.  No eating bon bons for me.

The editing work for Continua is always fun for me because it requires some research.  I hope that the latest project for the Florida Board of Nursing Application is accepted by the FL Board.  Think positive thoughts for us here.  A new venue for Continua sales means more work for me.

Nicaragua is still in a state of sadness for us.  The lack of compassion by our leaders who refuse to tell the truth to themselves and the people is astounding and foolish.  Tourism is still minus 0 and universities and businesses are still closed.  Here in our “little rural bubble”, the biggest problem is lack of tourists that used to fuel the economy of small and some large businesses.  In some respects the crisis was a good thing.  The “troubles” curtailed the rampant rise of greedy investors who saw Nicaragua as a goldfield of opportunity and were “mining” with our cheap labor pool.  Now the government is running out of money so the opportunists can’t get the government services for licenses, permits, and development.  Banks aren’t giving credit of any form–loans, credit cards–and haven’t been doing so for several months.  Bank customers are pulling large sums of money out of the banks leaving enough to keep accounts open but not enough to warrant global credit and interest.  This Nicaragua isn’t “normal” as the government media are defining it.  Most large towns basically shut down at dark.  One reason is for safety, another is for defiance and resistance to participate as the publicized normal.

I have two big real estate sales that will be coming to closing status before the end of the year.  For this I am very grateful.  It has been a rough month for me financially.  My Nica daughter, Carmen, had to have a C-Section for a her one month premie baby–Alicia.   She was born at 5 lbs. but had pulmonary hypertension in her little heart and lungs and ended up in the Premie ICU at the private Vivian Pellas Hospital in MGA.  In order to keep her there, we had to scramble together to make a $7000 deposit for Alicia after Carmen was released post surgery.  Alicia was able to come home here a week ago.  I went to the pedie cardiologist with Carmen this week and was delighted to see–with the latest technology ultrasound–that Alicia’s heart and lungs are functioning normally now.  My slight concern is that her neuro system is lagging behind somewhat but that may catch up to normal in a couple of weeks when she would have been a full-term birth.  I’m praying for this.  Carmen and Alicia’s dad are dedicated parents to both of their children.  Their son, Sebastián, wasn’t very happy about the new intruder in his mother’s space so I told Carmen to get him a doll that he had to take care of while she was attending to Alicia.  He is recovering after a week of divided attention.

All else is running smoothly here.  I got a new set of headlights for my “truck”, the term that they use for a 4×4 SUV.  Now oncoming cars don’t have to be blinded by the diffusion from the severely pitted headlights.  I was always getting the bright light signal when I wasn’t using the brights because the diffused light was terrible.  Autos down here have to be sturdy and resilient, my 2006 Toyota 4Runner is perfect.

As in the US, the stores have been promoting Christmas stuff since October.  This year, I think it will be not so “over the top” as it was last year.  My room mate and I need to discuss what we may or maynot do about decorating the house.  Since Sherry is a hermit anyway, I don’t think I’ll do much inside the house.  I may make some kind of wreath for the door though or buy an artificial wreath and decorate it with beach shells and glass.  Yes, that would be a good project.

It looks like I’ve run out of sensible information so I’ll stop now.

Take good care of yourselves wherever you are.  Life is precious.

Katherine and MF English Class Promotion

Katherine and I at the Promotion Celebration.  Unfortunately no one told me that I was going to be a participant so I’m not appropriately dressed for the occasion for sure.

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