David Jantz and Emily Vogt are spending their service term in the town and surrounding areas of Santo Domingo in the Chontales department/region of Nicaragua.
A JOURNAL EXCERPT BY DAVID JANTZ:
“The town is located in an idyllic setting with mountains surrounding and cobblestone streets winding their way through brightly colored houses. It’s a rough-and-tumble cowboy town where cowboy hats, horses, dirty jeans and rubber boots abound. I was immediately interested in everything I saw as it is a far cry from the city life of Jinotepe.
There are very few cheles [a term for light-skinned people] so I stick out like a sore thumb. People are always staring at me, introducing themselves, or asking for money.
My first impression was shaped by the fact that I was traveling with Maria [Sanchez Schirch] who worked here for 6 months during the Literacy Movement. She and I went and visited some old friends of hers and visited places that had a lot of history for her. Throughout that weekend I was always learning something new or having a new experience. Because I had the opportunity to learn and see so much, it will be a weekend I remember for the rest of my life.
A part of Santo Domingo that became apparent to me very quickly was the politics. Gold mines are a huge part of the economy here, and with the competition and environmental concerns there is a lot of complicated stuff going on. All this is very intriguing to me and I would like to include mines in my final project somehow.”
A JOURNAL EXCERPT BY EMILY VOGT:
“I have two service placements here in Santo Domingo. My morning placement is at the Instituto, or public secondary school. My afternoon placement is at Filadelfia, or escuela de las monjas (the nun’s school).
I typically wake up at 6 to eat breakfast and get ready for the day. I leave the house at 7am with my backpack full of materials for the 30 minute walk up the mountain to the Instituto. If it is raining, I take a mototaxi. Once there, I find Johanna, my co-teacher for the English classes. If it is Wednesday, I find Elvis because Johanna does not have classes on Wednesday. Elvis is my other co-teacher for the English classes. It is more like college where the students also have random free periods. The students stay in their own classrooms and the teachers rotate to them. Usually, I help with pronunciation or aid the students with busy work while my co-teacher calls them up for grading. I work with 7th-11th graders.
I then have 2 hours free for lunch and relaxing. Sometimes, I go to [a friend’s house] for lunch….Sometimes I visit my mom at work so I can check email. Usually I eat lunch at home and take a nap.
I leave my house at 1:45pm for the 8 minute walk to la escuela de las monjas. There’s a primary school there in the mornings, and a secondary school there in the afternoons. I help teach English there from 2-5:45pm in the afternoons. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday I co-teach..giving pronunciations and helping with busywork. On Wednesdays and Fridays I teach by myself to a group of primary school students, then to the nuns and teachers. I really like the environment at this school, and during breaks I get to talk to the students or play basketball with them. It is a lot of fun.
I also give random English tutoring lessons on weeknights and Saturday afternoons. Mostly it is just helping the university students with their English homework and pronunciation….It has been a whirlwind of work here!”
JOURNAL EXCERPTS BY DAVID:
“…I have an interesting service assignment in the mountains working with a group called FUNDAR. There they care for a wildlife refuge and a model farm. They are employed by…the big mining company here to preserve wildlife and aid in reforestation.
In the refuge there are several objectives. One, to produce fertilizer for reforestation both for the refuge and other locations. Two, to reforest the refuge itself. And three, to build paths, lookouts and cabins to allow visitors to see the refuge. On the refuge I have worked with fertilizer and done some manual labor but also just sat around a lot. On the farm, the objective is to make it completely self-sustainable as a model for citizens of Santo Domingo. Currently, the major industries in Santo Domingo are cattle farming and mining.
This will provide a different opportunity for the inhabitants to make a living…All in all, a typical day doesn’t really exist…sometimes I explore new places but I’m always learning.”
“Santo Domingo is an incredible place with mountains everywhere you look, rainforests, rivers and more. The environment is nothing like Jinotepe and has very different concerns as well.”
A JOURNAL EXCERPT BY EMILY:
“My second weekend here in Santo Domingo, David’s host brother, Carlos, took us to the Evangelical Church that he regularly attends. Since then, church activities and functions have been a large part of life here.
The church was founded by a Baptist church in Pennsylvania. It was a church plant after the Sandanistas took power and one of the men who came to help build the church from the states died of Yellow Fever while here. The Nicaraguan church members are very grateful to the Baptist church for bringing them this ‘true religion.’
The church is very young-both in years since it was established and in membership. Youth and young adults with or without families make up the majority of membership. The oldest members are in their mid-fifties…
The church meets on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Sunday is the traditional two-hour long service. Saturday is a bit more like a Bible study. In addition to singing, prayer, and the lesson, Saturday’s gathering includes games and often a meal. Last Saturday night, we met between 6-9pm for a BBQ. Of course this still included the traditional elements of the service.
Every time I have seen someone from church outside the 4 walls of the building, we have discussed the Bible-specifically creation, evolution, and the Big Bang. It is the safest point of contention between us gringos and the Nicas, so we rarely stray from this topic.”