We arrived in Pearl Lagoon almost a month ago and in some ways it feels like just yesterday that the four of us (myself, Kelsie, Joana and Sam) were meeting at the obscene hour of 4am in the Toronto Airport, ready to depart on our adventure. However, then I think about all things we have already experienced, the relationships we have formed, and how much I have learned, and it feels like we have been here much longer than one month. Reflecting back on some of my first impressions here in Pearl Lagoon it is interesting to see which ones have proved to be accurate and which ones have changed.
The first people to greet us here in Pearl Lagoon, smiling at the wharf as we arrived in the FADCANIC panga, were Ms. Leslie and Ms. Elfrida. My instant first impressions of these women were ones of warmth, friendliness and sincerity. They brought us to Ms. Ingrid’s where we are staying, and chatted with us for a while, getting to know us a little bit and letting us know a bit about them. Not only have these women lived up to my first impressions of their character, they have exceeded my expectations in every way. They are two of the most caring, hard working and trustworthy women I have ever met. Being the only two individuals working full time on this project here on the ground, they work long hours and often even work on national holidays, however you will never hear them complain about these hours. They took us under their wing, adopted us into their families, taught us and continue to teach us all we need to know about life in Pearl Lagoon.
During our first week and a half in Pearl Lagoon, we visited a variety of communities to observe teachers and classrooms and learn about the pre-primary and early primary education system. We observed classrooms at the two schools in Pearl Lagoon and visited the nearby communities of Haulover, Raitipura and Awas. Every time I stepped into a classroom it was difficult to not make initial judgments on that class and the teacher. These judgments were based on the amount of materials on the walls of the class, the way the class was behaving, and the way the lesson was being taught when I walked in. When I walked into the second grade class at Haulover, there was not a single material on the wall and the students were sitting around the perimeter of the classroom rather than in lines facing the teacher. My initial thoughts doubted the effectiveness of this teacher. My first impression was proved wrong however, as this was one of the best teachers I observed. She engaged her class, she knew when they needed a break to regain their focus, and her lessons were geared towards all of the different types of learners she had in her classroom. She taught me that some of the best teachers may not have the traditional look of the effective classroom, but if they care enough to take the time to get to know their students, that is what matters.
In conversations with people at home in Canada about Nicaragua, people’s first impressions are often similar. Their knowledge is usually based on what they know of Nicaragua when it was in international news during their civil war. The impressions are often ones of high crime rates and poverty. It is true that Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and although the country is currently at peace, crime is not unknown. However Nicaragua, especially here in Pearl Lagoon, is actually quite rich; rich in beauty, rich in culture, rich in strong community relationships. We are here as Canadian interns to help the people of Pearl Lagoon, however my first impression is that the Pearl Lagoon people are going to give me a lot more than I can ever hope to give. I think that first impression is going to prove to be pretty accurate.
Written by: Alison