By: Sam Wisnicki
One thing that I have come to terms with, after having worked in Pearl Lagoon over the last four months, is that you should never expect your day to go as planned. Back home it’s natural to plan out your workday mentally, and set goals for yourself the night before. Although there are days in Pearl Lagoon where that type of forethought will come to fruition, more often than not the ability to be flexible is your greatest asset when working in international development – and certainly in Nicaragua.
The average day for us starts at 8am, when we get to PLACE (the Pearl Lagoon Academy of Excellence). We go to the office we share with Ms. Leslie & Ms. Elfrida (our Nicaraguan bosses), the principal of the elementary school, and a volunteer from Austria. Each morning we spend some time discussing life and work with Ms. Leslie and Ms. Elfrida. Close and sincere personal relationships are essential to a good working relationship here, so that time to talk is very important. What we do in the mornings, aside from catching up, is always malleable, and if things are to change from what had been planned, we usually find out last minute. Last week I had intended on writing some reports and finishing this blog post; instead, I ended up doing reading tests for grades 1 and 2 in both English and Spanish, in three different schools and two different communities.
A saying that has resonated with all of us since we first heard it from our friend who has been working across Nicaragua for the last ten years, with both the United Nations and his own agri-development organization, is: “Everyone in Nicaragua is in a rush to wait”. There are a number of ways that this saying always seems to ring true in our daily lives. Last Thursday, for example, we found out that the Ministry of Education expected us to run a workshop Friday morning with preschool teachers. We spent all day Thursday pulling the information together and rushing to create a dynamic workshop on objective-setting in the classroom; later that night, we found out that all the workshops for the following morning were to be postponed because the Pearl Lagoon baseball team – who had just won the championship – were coming to town to celebrate. We found this out through a telephone conversation with Ms. Leslie, and it was mentioned only in passing. News travels by word of mouth, and if you want to stay in the know you should cross your fingers that the right people have your telephone number.
This month is set to be a busy one. I am very excited to be running a human rights workshop, with three of my fellow interns, at the General Assembly for the MyBEST Project in the community of Orinoco. It will begin with an introduction to human rights more broadly, and then focus on children’s and women’s rights for the remainder of the day. This will be run with teachers, parents and leaders from the surrounding communities. This month I will also be working on typing and overhauling the level III preschool manual, writing reports, and developing and delivering a materials workshop with Gr. 1 and Gr. 2 teachers. These are the types of goals we put in our monthly work plans, which is a better time frame to formulate plans within.
There is already so much, both personally and professionally, to be taken away from our experience in Pearl Lagoon; and I am sure by the end of November, when we wrap up our time here, we will have developed skills that haven’t even made themselves apparent to us yet. But while we’re in Nicaragua, we’ll continue to shy away from making plans and keep going with the flow – as that is the only way to get things done.