Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nicaragua Part V: Final Day, Final Thoughts

My final day in Nicaragua was more of a sight-seeing, relaxing adventure - similar to Saturday's trip to Masaya and Granada.  We had the opportunity to wake up a bit later that morning and have a chill morning till 10:30am... but a group of us (some LDS/Mormon and some not) opted to attend the local LDS services just a few blocks from the hotel.  Our bus driver, Alberto, was kind enough to drive us around to find the church bldg. and then even attended the service with us.  I didn't understand about 90% of the service, but the one thing I did understand was the spirit.  It sounds cheesy, but I just love how the gospel is the same wherever you go.  I knew exactly what was happening and why, and I could feel the overwhelming love that these members had for the gospel and for each other.  I was really grateful that Cami got all the information together to make it possible for us to attend sacrament meeting.

Sidenote:  It was fast and testimony meeting and they went a good few minutes over because people just kept getting up.  Again, not so different from the states. :)

After the church service we slipped out and headed back to the hotel to change and head to Lake Apoyo (volcano lake) for the afternoon.  If you ever want to experience a piece of paradise, check out Lake Apoyo... Oh my word.  It was gorgeous and SO peaceful!  I was so relaxed and just chill while there.  Don't get me wrong, after lunch I jumped in the lake for a little swim and then spent three and a half hours playing games on the water raft 30-40 feet off shore. It was a blast playing Ninja, Chilean children's games, and Down By the Banks on the river raft then taking a million "action shots!"  However, after that it was nice to just read and lay by the side of the lake for an hour or so... It was a little piece of Nicaraguan heaven.
 Me and Laura!
 Our MAT raft crew!
 HOOK inspired shot...
 Mermaid Dancing?!?

After the swim I realized my mistake of not having worn ear-plugs... I always forget that when swimming a lot in a day, but I get swimmer's ear fairly easily when in the water for an extended period of time.  That night made for a pretty nasty, tearful night (with only about 3 hours of sleep) because of plugged ear, but it's slowly healing now and there's no pain anymore - I can't quite hear out of it fully yet, but hopefully soon!

Going back to Nicaragua, we headed back to the hotel post swimming and relaxing to eat dinner and then meet up for a final reflection discussion.  We were all groaning a bit about having to have the final reflection, but I don't know why... I always end up loving those kind of discussions.  I love dissecting feelings and experiences and talking about them openly.  Is that weird?  Eh.  Oh well!

While we were discussing the events from this week we were asked a few different questions.  The first (worded more articulately that this): What was your favorite highlight from this trip and why?  We were often asked to expand upon that by sharing how that experience would influence us as a teacher in the future.  I talked about my experience with Father Cardenal and how I feel more shaped as an individual after hearing him speak - how I set goals for myself as a person and as a teacher while sitting right in his lecture.  Again, it was THAT good.  I kind of saw him as almost a Nelson Mandela figure of his country and purpose... For real - he was incredible.

Anyway, I wanted to take a second to reflect once more.  We were asked to ponder the following questions for our "final reflection" in class tomorrow.  Though I already feel I touched upon these things, I feel it might be good to regroup my ideas and just share some insight to my overall experience.  First, we were asked how the travel seminar influenced our ability to learn about another culture.  

Truthfully, I felt this seminar to be one of the most powerful things I could do to understand and learn about culture while here at Westminster.  We talk a lot about the different cultural backgrounds our students can and will come from, but I don't believe that I fully understood until my experience down in Nicaragua how culture can affect a student in and out of the classroom.  So many kids down there are excited about and love school, but only have the opportunity to go through 6-8th grade.  This is because they have to work after that so their families can make money to eat and survive.  So, as an educator I was thoughtful of the students I will have that might have to work to help their family make ends meet.  How can I help those students succeed and grow? How will I react when a student comes in and says they don't have their work done because mom needed them to run family errands or work extra hours?  I don't believe in allowing excuses to build and enable students to not have to do work.  However, I can be more understanding and work with them to come up with a plan that will work for them if things arise.  It is going to take more effort on my part as a teacher,  but I want to be the teacher that goes the extra mile when needed.  Some other students won't think it's fair, but I have realized that education and learning (just like parenting) isn't about giving every child the same thing, but giving each child what they need to be successful.  Education is about the individual.

The second question: How will you continue to learn about cultures as a practicing teacher?  My thoughts are coming out in THIS fashion:

1.  Be familiar with your surrounding.  As a teacher, I will be aware of the cultures and values represented in that area.  I want to make sure that I know as much as I can about the background of each student and where they are coming from so I can understand their situations and struggles.  I want to be understanding of the kids that fall out of the cultural norms of the area's population, and determine how I can make those students feel included without singling them (or others) out.
2.  Be familiar with what is happening around the world.  At times, kids from other backgrounds and cultures are effected by the things that are happening halfway across the world.  If I stay up-to-date on the important things that are happening around the world, I can relate to those students and hopefully know how to better help them through any tough experiences.  Also, I can use cultural events from around to world to bring in information or ideas that may represent that student without singling them out or making them uncomfortable.
3.  In regards to English or theater, why not bring in literature or theatrical pieces from other countries or cultures?  If there is a piece originally written in a different language, I could bring in translations for class members.  I can use pieces that dig into cultural or societal issues (which many and most do in some way), and do more than perform or read them, but discuss them.  I think this is a vital piece of theater and studying literature, regardless - dissecting and discussing the real meaning behind a piece.
4.  Travel.  I have NO problem with this idea... The more I travel and observe different cultures, asking questions and walking the non-touristy path, the more I can come to better understand a culture or life style.  I love traveling SO much and experiencing new places, so this idea is heaven to me... Yep - I'm going to travel like crazy during my summer months.  It's research, right? :)  Think I can get funding for that?  Yea - didn't think so.  It was worth a shot though! :)

All in all, my experience to Nicaragua was life changing and incredible.  I really was so happy with the people I was there with and how we influenced and taught one another, as well as the experiences the Center for Global Education had laid out for us.  It really was the PERFECT trip and learning experience.  Westminster, I love you even more now... and I already loved you a whole lot.

Song of the Day:  I think I post this video EVERY Christmas, but it is THAT good.  Here is Vocal Point (Feat. Ryan Innes) singing "He Is Born."  He is insane good - they all are.  BLOWS MY MIND.  Check out both versions (one is only half, BUT it's a better version I believe)... Enjoy!

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