An adage I heard a lot when I was coming into the Peace Corps, as well as from other Volunteers here in Nicaragua, is that Volunteers have a lot of free time, more than people would expect. I certainly have free time. Sometimes I have to remind myself not to surf the internet and Facebook for too long. And I certainly feel a lot less work stress than I used to at EY. But the free time comes in spurts. I certainly don’t have it every day.
For example, last week I had to motivate myself to find productive work. And I think it paid off. One of the business owners that I visited has invited me back to her convenience store this week to talk about some help that she needs. But this week I don’t see a minute of free time on my agenda (and yes, I carry an agenda in the absence of Google Calendar readily available on my fingertips via my smartphone).
Yesterday I was at a school for a planning session with a teacher at 7:30 AM, and I was on the run from them until about 5:30 when I got home. I managed to visit all five of my schools yesterday, which never would have been possible if Lauren had not given me her bike when she COS’ed. And today I accompanied a group from the mayor’s office to rural communities on the route to Cerro Negro (the volcano boarding volcano), where they are trying to develop tourist-friendly businesses.
Some pictures from the campo this morning:
Many of the families that we visited this morning have very little, and I think that getting them a small piece of the tourist pie could really help them. For instance, one family’s only source of income is making tortillas. Another family had no one in the house who had made it past sixth grade. If they could just sell some simple homemade food or drinks to the tourists vans that pass every day, they could see a big jump in their family income. The trick will be to work with the families to make the work sustainable over time, plus work with the tour companies in León so that they bring their clients to these stops along the volcano boarding route. Luckily I really like the project leaders at city hall and the NGO’s they are working with, so I’m willing to work with them as well and put in the effort.
And I was only able to make it to the rural communities this morning because a prior-planned trip to Las Pilas – El Hoyo Volcanoes with another rural tourism cooperative that I have been getting to know got cancelled last minute this morning.
And we’re not even halfway through the week yet. Tomorrow I have a full day of classes. In the afternoon I will unfortunately be filling in for one of my teacher counterparts who is still recovering from facial reconstructive surgery. I’m only writing this blog post right now because I am dreading/procrastinating from making some materials for the class tomorrow that are going to force me to reach deep deep into my soul for some basic artistic skills.
Thursday morning I have class, and in the afternoon I am visiting the convenience store owner that called me yesterday, plus planning with two of my teacher counterparts and hopefully visiting the department of education to plan the business competitions for the students and the next teacher training.
Friday morning is a teacher planning day, so the kids don’t come in, but I will be at one school with a counterpart at 7:00 AM. I’m oddly looking forward to it, because we will begin planning the entrepreneurship curriculum for his tenth graders, and I’ve already got some great ideas for class activities. In 10th grade we don’t have the pressure of planning for the business competition, so we can take our time on themes like product idea generation and creativity and really hammer home the important themes of the class with as many fun activities as we’d like.
I don’t see anything on the radar for Friday afternoon, but I still have a few of those small business owner interviews to get out of the way, so I may try to do them then. And then this weekend there is a Volunteer meeting in León, so I will be headed to that in the morning on Saturday and probably hanging out with my friends that are in town for the rest of the weekend.
So yes, we have a lot of free time, but only sometimes.