Thursday, 12 July 2012

My name is Michael Morin. I was born and raised in Lebret, Saskatchewan. I am 23 years-old.

To start off with, I need to get one thing off my chest. I love Saskatchewan, it's my home, my cradle...but it's starting to grow on me. In a bad way. I've spent 23 years of my life here, and I think it's time for me to get a change in scenery. And this year, I got a major change in scenery when I travelled to Nicaragua on January 31st. It was my first time traveling outside of Canada and it was an absolutely amazing experience! Let me share some of my experiences with you.

Training and New Friends

After quickly packing my things for my 4 month journey in Nicaragua, I first went to Ontario to spend a week training and preparing. I met my 9 other fellow aboriginal interns, including Cheyenne and Kaiti who were part of my team and would be going to Nicaragua as well.

As for me, Cheyenne and Kaiti, I'd say we got along very well. We were all very different people. Cheyenne was very outgoing and eccentric (in a good way). I was the complete opposite. I was quiet and a little shy. Kaiti was kind of in between. She was a little quiet like me but she was also outgoing as well.

The Nicaragua Team!
Left-right: Cheyenne, Me and Kaiti

The group of us at the end of our internship in Morely, AB.
From left to right: Jeremy, Erika, Jeanelle, Cheyenne, Me, Daryl, Lila, Kaiti, Nona and Sacha.

When in Nicaragua

It was my first time being out of the country, besides going to Germany when I was really little (but that doesn't count, since I don't remember that). I was really nervous but tried not to show it that much.

When we landed in Nicaragua on January 31, we arrived in the middle of the night. When we arrived at the airport in Managua, we were greeted by our supervisors Kalia and Henry. To our amazement they were holding up signs with our names on them. That was the first time I saw people waiting in the airport holding a sign with our names on it. It was pretty cool. Cheyenne, being the emotional and lively person she is, was way more enthused about this than me and Kaiti were.

Me and Chey with our amazing supervisors Kalia and Yader.

We travelled 3 hours from Managua to Estelí, which would be our home for the next four months. On our way to Estelí, we talked with Henry and Kalia and started to get to know them. At that time, Kalia spoke little English at the time. Near the end of our internship in Nicaragua, I could swear she was beginning to speak English fluently.

We arrived in Esteli and were introduced to our first home family. Keyla and Marvin were very kind and welcomed us into their home with open arms. 

The second host family I stayed with for the duration of my time in Nicaragua was the marvelous Rodriguez family. They treated me with the upmost kindness and were very loving people. When I first arrived at their home, I was shocked to learn that Aida, my host mom, had lost her mother on the very same day. I felt guilty knowing that I was basically being dumped on their doorstep during this difficult time, but Aida and her family welcomed me to their home regardless.

After I had been with the family for a few weeks, Aida told me that I was like another son to her. Any bad feelings I had felt before then immediately dissipated and I was happy in knowing I had made a home away from home.

Although my host families were kind to me, I felt like a bit of a jerk sometimes because of one problem...

The Language Barrier

The language barrier was a really hindrance to me for a month or two. Even in Spanish Class, I had difficulty. While attending Spanish Class, I had an instructor who spoke mostly Spanish and only a few words of English. It was really stressful for me and over time, I think it was getting stressful for my instructor also. This is around the time, I really started feeling depressed and frustrated. When I started getting home sick really bad.

One thing that made me feel better was occasionally leaving Spanish School to go on a tour through Estelí, guided by the headmistress of the school.
Our Spanish instructors. My instructor is the woman in the white shirt. Her name was Arora (I hope I spelled her name right). Like all the instructors of Esquela Horizonte, she was very kind and patient with me.
 Before my time in Nicaragua came to an end, I had grown more comfortable with Spanish and could hold a conversation. But not for too long. I have yet to speak Spanish fluently.

Working with FUNARTE

FUNARTE is an organization for at-risk youth in Nicaragua which uses art to allow kids to express themselves and give them hope for the future. Over the last 20 years, FUNARTE has painted several amazing murals around the city of Estelí. At first, I thought Cheyenne, Kaiti and I would be involved in the painting of a mural, but in the end, we weren't. Which is disappointing.

The alternative work we did for FUNARTE basically involved working in the office most of the time. For me, my job was taking inventory of items in FUNARTE's office building, which sounds easy, but it was actually very difficult. And since my Spanish wasn't perfect, that made my work even more challenging. If it wasn't for the help of Kalia and my other supervisor, Yader, I probably wouldn't have finished my work before leaving for Canada.

Funarte HQ

Working at Funarte.

Besides working in the office, me and my team also helped the staff of FUNARTE with children's festivals and other events. We also helped pack clothing and notebooks for children going to school whose homes had been destroyed in past flooding that had occurred in Estelí. Sorting out all those clothes and other materials was hectic but with the knowledge that we were helping children who lost their homes and possibly even family members helped give me initiative and drive.

Cultural Presentations

Part of our internship was to give presentations to aboriginal communities about our culture. In my case, I talked about the Métis culture. At the beginning of my internship, I didn't like to speak in front of crowds. Whenever I would have to make a presentation, I would become very nervous, so nervous in fact, my hands would shake. I also had the problem of saying "uhhh" alot.

Trying to dance at a presentation in Leon.

But as we continued making presentations to different communities, I started to gain more confidence in myself. I started becoming less nervous and started speaking more clearly. One of the main reasons I joined the internship was to improve my communication skills and I think I have achieved that goal. It still needs work though, but my communication skills have improved a lot during my 4 months in Nicaragua.

Presenting at the school in Quilali.

During our presentations, I witnessed the great kindness and generosity the Nicaraguan people have. When we visited a community called Quilali on April 19th,  we were surprised to find out that Cheyenne, Kaiti and I were the first Canadians to visit the community.

Another highlight from our presentations at Quilali was when two girls from the class we were presenting to started serenading me! 
The serenade!
Apparently, the girls sang the song to me because when I made my presentation, I was really nervous and they were nervous as well, so they sympathized with me and I guess they wanted to cheer me up. It definitely worked! I'll certainly remember this for the rest of my life. And I'm probably going to be bragging about it for a while.

After presenting at Telpaneca
Travelling Across Nicaragua

Besides travelling to different communities in Nicaragua for cultural exchanges, we also travelled across the country to learn more about the history of the country as well. We travelled to such grand cities like Leon and Granada. Both were very hot. The hottest city was Managua, Nicaragua's capital.

Visiting El Tisey.

We travelled to Tisey-Estanzuela on March 17 where we visited la cascada and climbed to the top of a mountain. Once on top of the mountain, we we treated to an amazing overview of the Nicaraguan landscape.

After climbing the mountain at Tisey, we payed a visit to a man named Alberto who has been carving images into the side of a mountain for several years, maybe several decades.

Here are some pictures from our visit to this interesting fellow:

We also travelled to an island called Ometepe, which was formed by two volcanoes. We had a lot of fun on Ometepe. It was my first time being so close to a volcano. It was here I also saw my first live monkey up close!

In Ometepe

When we travelled to Granada, I did something I had never done before...


It was an exhilarating experience. The three of us had a great time and had some good laughs. It was also pretty freakin' terrifying when I had to hang upside down while going down the zip-line. Never doing that again!

On the road again...

On May 19, we visited a community outside Esteli which lives within a landfill. We were only there for a few minutes, but these few minutes completely changed my view of the world. The people who live here are forced to live in The amongst garbage and even EAT garbage. Like animals!
I aspire to be a filmmaker, and if I make a good deal of money in my career (that's a big if), I will not waste my money of stupid things like fancy cars, yachts or mansions. None of that is important. What's really important is having a roof over your head, having clean water to drink, good food to eat, people who love you and dignity. I'd rather give all my money away to those who really need it.
We are all human beings. We should all be treated like human beings. We shouldn't let petty things like economic status, politics, religion or race get in the way. And we certainly shouldn't let other human beings live like the people in Esteli's landfill.
Hey, Ortega! Abre los malditos ojos, por favor!

Leon's central Park, viewed from the Cathedral of Mary's Assumption
May 21, 2012

The tomb of Rubén Dario, a famous Nicaraguan poet and diplomat
 On May 21st, we visited El Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas (Museum of Traditions and Legends). This museum was originally a prison where, from 1921 to 1979, prisoners were tortured in horrible ways.

 During our travels, I also swam in the ocean for the first time! It was amazing. We all had a lot of fun and learned a lot about the country during our travels. These moments I will take with me forever. I really hope I can visit Nicaragua again soon.

How the Internship Changed Me

There are four main reasons I joined this program:
-make new friends
-improve my communication skills
-see the world, get away from home
-to grow and learn new things

I feel that I have accomplished all those things. And that makes me feel amazing! Before joining this program, I felt negative about myself. I felt like a loser. That I was going to be stuck in the prairies of Saskatchewan and never amount to anything. But now that I have spent four months away from home in another country...for the first time ever!...I feel like I have grown as a person. I also feel confident with myself and proud as well.

Before joining this program, I had problems with home sickness. There were times in the past, where I had moved away to attend a post-secondary institution where I had become overwhelmed, quit and went back home. The first few weeks I was in Nicaragua, I started feeling home sick again. There was a few times where I was seriously considering on leaving, but thanks to my teammates and their sense of humor and encouragement, along with the kindness of my host family, I overcame my home sickness and stuck it out.

And I am extremely thankful that I did stay and see it through. If I had left early I would have missed out on one of the greatest times of my life.


1 comment:

  1. Great story about a most wonderful, life changing learning experience!
    Keep up the good work!