We had a buffet-style breakfast, complete with an omelet station. This place was snazzy. I remember having joked with Michelle the night before that our hotel would probably have an omelet station for breakfast. It did. I asked the cook if the salsa was spicy, and I frowned after he said that it wasn't. "You like spicy?", he said in English. He grabbed a raw jalapeño and jokingly placed it on top of my omelet. I laughed, and he sliced it up and carved the slices gently into my omelet. I didn't ask for cheese after I saw that there was queso fresco a table away. The squeaky kind that feels strangely satisfying to eat despite its plastic-like texture is the kind I missed. The black cat joined us while we talked about how long it had been since we'd eaten papaya. Dan and I agreed that it would taste better with some lime and salt, but it wasn't a bad breakfast overall.
Around 10:30, I had my Spanish interview with one of the language specialists. The goal would be to test my proficiency...and to prove to them that I really was a native speaker. The interviews were one-on-one in the hotel rooms, and I remember nervously sitting down on the bed while the language specialist welcomed me and turned on the tape recorder. The nervousness soon died down as soon as we began speaking. We chatted about the fact that I was from Mexico. The Nicaraguans so far have been curious to know how I learned Spanish, and it all clicks when I tell them I'm Mexican.
She asked me why I majored in women's studies, so naturally, I brought up gender roles in Disney movies. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle suffers from Stockholm Syndrome and eventually marries her captor. In the Little Mermaid, it was okay for a young girl to give up her voice and to be kissed by a prince who received this advice from a crab to kiss her without her consent. I liked it because it helped me analyze anything, even Disney movies. I never realized that the more successful Disney movies of the '90s were the once in which the women were the least empowered. I told her that my favorite movie was Mulan, because she was not motivated to live her life for true love, but she was motivated by her love of her father. This love then came secondary to her own empowerment and realization that she could do so much on her own for herself and for her country. Apparently, Mulan didn't do so well in the box office. True love was only a topic to add some fluff, but it was not a central theme. My interviewer asked me how I would motivate families to spread this awareness of female portrayals to their own children. Some families, she said, think that one reads into these messages too much and then the joy of the movie is lost. It was an interesting point, I replied, but these aren't super complex issues to talk about. It would be interesting to lead a presentation or a class on analyzing Disney films and how they affect young girls' views of themselves.
The interview went pretty well, except that I forgot the word for "award" when I was asked to do a role play of myself accepting an award. Instead of saying "award", I just said "honor". Oops. After she turned the tape recorder off at the end, I thanked her for the interesting discussion. All of a sudden, she started speaking in French to me. She had even been to a region of France on the border of Germany, and it had been a while, but I couldn't believe that I was already speaking in French to a Nicaraguan. My heart felt so happy. All of those years of my parents reminding me to "speak in Spanish, Charleen!" payed off. It was so that I could have these kinds of discussions with people all over the world, and to push me to continue to learn more languages. On my way out, I thought of the word for "award": "premio". Of course!
Before lunch, I received my first rabies shot and malaria pills. Then came our safety and security workshops, which were led by a Peace Corps Employee whose accent led me to believe that he came from the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. When discussing safety during Earthquakes, he brought up the fact that 10,000 Nicaraguans died in the Earthquake of 1972. "Don't run during an Earthquake, because you will lose your balance. You won't be running because you will have fallen. Stay still". If we were able to, though, he advised us not to stand under the doorways but to find the corners of the buildings where the walls meet. Another staff member from Michigan joked :"If you're Californian and you're with a Midwesterner during an Earthquake, you need to explain to them what is happening. They'll think it's just something funny happening, but you need to tell them it's an Earthquake". The room burst into laughter. It's nice to have comic relief during long workshops like these.
During the theft and robbery session, we were advised to carry as little cash in our wallets as possible whenever we go out. "If anyone took my wallet...they would get depressed!", said the presenter. We learned about different strategies for avoiding getting mugged or pickpocketed. The underlying theme was that it was more important to save your life than to save your wallet, because only one of them can be replaced. After the workshops, I jumped into the pool and relaxed under the shade of the palm trees. The black cat was there again. He really likes us!
At dinner I chatted with a current TEFL volunteer about behavior management. As a teacher, I am curious to see how the culture of my school will be. I cannot say "Nicaraguan school culture", because just as in the U.S., each school is different. He told us that structurally, the schools here lack things that we take for granted back home. "Do they have bells?" I asked. "No! Well, yes. But they aren't on time. Some of them are late". "Even the BELLS are late?!", I chuckled because even the bells run on Nicaraguan time. In Nicaraguan culture, it's more acceptable to be late and to take one's time. Also, apparently the rooms get pretty dusty due to the open doors and windows, so it's the students' job to mop and sweep when class starts. They end up wanting to mop instead of participating in class, and they take their time. He also mentioned that tardiness can be an issue, so I immediately thought of using the mop as an incentive. I thought it would motivate the kids who usually come to class late to be the ones to mop the classroom. Sure, they might be missing out on the first few minutes in class, but at least they would be physically present in the room. After having worked at my Boston Charter School, I have always looked for ways to motivate students without having to give them tangible objects such as candy and stickers. As adults, candy and stickers only go so far in motivating us professionally. In three weeks, I will be co-teaching a classroom until November, and I'm excited to already brainstorm classroom management techniques. Tomorrow I will be finding out who my host family is for the next three months! Only one more day left at this hotel with air conditioning.