For the past two years, I’ve considered myself too busy to post a new blog and to tell the truth, I didn’t think anyone would be interested in what has kept me busy. Free time has presented itself to me in a rather unusual but global appearance-COVID-19. Let me explain.
In 2018, a full year of Nicaraguan changes–first political chaos, second Hurricane Nate that flooded much of my municipality creating homelessness and need for community help–I found my life moving from one event to another rather seamlessly, participating whenever and however I could. In October 2018, I said yes to a more radical event/opportunity.
I was recommended to consider teaching adult English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at FunLimón, the non-for-profit Mark and Kathryn Ford Foundation site across the road from the Rancho Santana gate here in Limón. The previous EFL classes were being taught by temporary teachers and volunteers on a 90 day visa basis. The program was faltering and although it is a government supported, INATEC, program the English speaking success rate of the classes was dismal and very discouraging to the adults who were truly interested in learning to speak English. After serious evaluation of the previously used books and handouts, I decided to give it a try by basically winging it based upon previous techniques and logic of teaching caregiving to clinicians and families. Much to my surprise, I loved teaching people who were interested in learning EFL. After the first 10 week session teaching Levels 1 through 6, one of the Level 6 students and I wrote the first version of textbooks for Levels 1 – 5. Level 6 which is only taught in English had a different goal at that time. Two years later, here I am rewriting six textbooks for the fourth time.
You may be wondering why an EFL textbook is a challenge. My students and I live in very rural areas. Many of them haven’t ever attended school beyond 3rd grade and some of them are already Nica university graduates is special career fields. There is no concept of written directions, addresses, cities, and many things that in a city would become relevant when documented in a book. Given the diverse educational level of students, I decided that, number one the EFL classes had to be relevant to the students or why waste their time and mine. Another somewhat interesting thing, I learned early on, was that I had to be a tough disciplinarian even though the students are adults. Other teachers didn’t seem to care about students not paying attention or understanding what they were learning. Many students entered my class at Level 5 when they could barely pass a Level 1 exam. My goal was and still is that the students feel confident in speaking English at whatever Level they are in. So far I’ve had the support of the FunLimón Executive Director and Board. Hence I continue to rewrite textbooks and have them copied in color, a necessity when referring to pictures for exercises. Copying a textbook for distribution to 76 students in six levels of classes is both expensive and frustrating–transitioning from one text document to another is often a disaster as well as hysterically funny. We laugh a lot in our classes sometimes at my Spanish and sometimes at the textbook. Oh, did I forget to mention that Levels 1 to 4 are EFL taught in Spanish. Nicaraguan Spanish isn’t the classical Castilian version that I learned umpteen years ago. First sessions of class are the students learning the English alphabet sounds and numbers. This process continues every class until Level 3 or 4 depending on the group. Every student has to repeat the alphabet following the answer to, “What is the alphabet? The alphabet is: a,b,c, etc.” Same with the numbers.
As a consequence of the second version of textbook writing and prior to the third version, I decided to get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification – 160 hrs. online during the holiday break last year. Much to my shock–yes, shock–I was astounded about how much I didn’t know about teaching English. I also found out how much new information there is about learning and teaching. My respect for teacher’s work notched up considerably.
So back to textbooks, I’m currently in the process of revising Version 4 thanks to the forced break due to social distancing and closure of FunLimón until mid-April or beyond. This time I am trying to find a format to create a template for future changes and for continuing to add textbooks for Levels 7 through 12. INATEC vocational certification requires 12 levels of EFL for adults. I’ll be spending a couple of weeks researching a textbook format that FunLimón can afford to print. Any recommendations, I’m all ears.
In the past year, I’ve had a series of both family and friends visit in my second and third bedrooms. I’ve also rented the second bedroom several times to friends for weeks at a time. Everyone tolerated my 32 hours a week teaching schedule without complaints. Having Saturday to Tuesday as free time, I could entertain and travel within the area to show off my paradise.
When my son, Aaron, his girlfriend, and an older friend of ours were here last October, we talked about my Guasacate house project. We came up with the idea of completing the house and making it an assisted living place–an idea I’ve had for many years but not at my house. With great advice from some trusted friends, I formed a real estate limited partnership. It is now a legal entity, Mi Casa Con Corazon Cia LMTD. Grace, Aaron’s partner, and I are the two initial partners. We are seeking at least three more investment partners for $50,000 each and at 8% per share each in the business. I’ve written a five page business plan with financial projections for two phases of the partnership. This global hiccough has pointed out two interesting facts. That there is interest and would be clients already if the project were up and running; the second phase that includes a medical tourism component is more interesting to some potential investors. I know that this is a project unique to Nicaragua and see it as a private model for living a safe and pleasant life in one’s own space with trained caring attendants.
Another successful event in December was right eye cataract surgery at Vivian Pellas Hospital in Managua by a great ophthalmologist/vitreologist, Dr. Luis Bustamonte who practices at the VP Clinic. During the one week before and after surgery I stayed with my driver Ricardo, who also acted as my nurse for the routine drops, at a friend’s house in Managua. I worked on textbooks after day two at my friend’s house in the bedroom that used to be his twin daughter’s room–two desks, great light, comfortable bed, one to sleep in one to hold papers. You see, I’m well taken care of here. Ricardo was the most punctual nurse, I’ve ever seen. He set his phone alarm to remind him of my drops. He could also teach cleanliness techniques to many of the nurses I’ve seen over the years.
There is one more event that I’m involved with ongoing. I’ve become an El Centro de Especialidades en Adicciones (CEA) Board member. This organization was founded almost 30 years ago by the friend whose home I used during cataract surgery. David Stadthagen had been running the 30 bed CEA treatment center with the doctors and therapists without advisors and helpers. In January, David and his co-founder Juan Manuel Caldera, decided to form a Board of Directors to help them get the organization stabilized administratively. Hence, I’m the oldest and only female advisor. It’s a great facility for both private and non-paying addicts with all variations of disease. The global COVID-19 hiccough has curtailed the international clientele who basically have been subsidizing the non-paying patients. CEA is internationally noted for their consistent positive rehab results. I don’t know how David and Juan Manuel have been able to keep up with all the things they had to oversee in the past. As a CEA Board member I’ll be going to MGA monthly for meetings, btw, conducted in Spanish. Not a bad thing for me as I can use the day for my monthly essential shopping. I’m very lucky in that I’ve always had a monthly shopping list and can survive any long period of time with things I have in my cupboards. PriceSmart is our Costco.
Since I’m now basically up to date with information about my Life In Nicaragua, please keep me up to date with your lives. Remember Only Love Prevails – Solo el amor prevalece.
Sorry, I can’t post more photos at this time.