Jacksonville resident serves in Peace Corps
by Lori Tippets
Aug 13, 2013 | 2079 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Caroline Nabors was feeling a bit lost after living in Tuscaloosa for six years.

The 2006 graduate of Jacksonville High School had certainly made the most of her six years while at the Capstone, receiving an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Spanish, and then a Masters degree in Applied Linguistics/TESOL.

Caroline had also found the time to travel, both on her own and with the college, “visiting Gaudi Park in Barcelona, experiencing a Holy Week in Guatemala, watching the sunrise from Machu Picchu, eating pizza in Napoli, crossing the Atacama Desert and standing in front of Iguacu Falls.”

Despite all of the education and the traveling, Nabors decided that she was still looking for something. “Peace Corps crossed my mind and seemed like a possible solution,” said Nabors, who had thought about joining after she completed her undergraduate but went on to complete her Masters degree. After much contemplation Nabors decided that the Peace Corps, with its 27-month obligation was the thing for her to do. “I found the solution to my restlessness in my mailbox last July, (2012) an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua, ”said Caroline.

Caroline reports that she was unprepared for how different her experience would be. She was assigned to serve in an isolated region of the country that is radically different than other regions. “I live on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, in a city called Bluefields,” reports Caroline. “There are five different ethnic groups living in the city and a beautiful mix of languages and people that spread throughout the 17 neighborhoods. This is my absolute favorite thing about living here. Bluefields is an isolated melting pot RICH with culture.”

Caroline mentioned a few random facts about Bluefield, like all food is made of coconuts; coconut oil, coconut milk in soup/rice and beans, shredded coconut candy and homemade coconut bread that is hot and fresh everyday.

There are no roads to Bluefields. Caroline said that from the capitol you can get a five hour bus to a town called Rama and from there you have to take a wooden boat (panga) for an hour and a half to reach Bluefields.

The British and Americans originally developed the region. In the course of five minutes you might hear Creole, Spanish and Miskito all spoken by the same person.

Bluefields is known for the extreme amount of rain it gets throughout the year and most people only have access to well or rain water.

The two favorite pastimes in Bluefields are baseball and dominoes.

Caroline lives in Bluefields with a Creole family in the neighborhood of Cotton Tree (Creole) or Punta Fria (Spanish). In the house a mixture of Creole and Spanish is spoken. Caroline explains this saying, “Creole is similar to English, but has a colorful attitude and vocabulary that cannot be matched.”

Not many luxuries are available to Caroline as she takes a bucket bath every morning before heading off to teach at the high school or university.

“The smallest class at our high school has 52 students and the majority of classes are multi-level. Creole and Miskito students can usually understand more English than Mestizo (Spanish speaking) students, but that does not make them any stronger in reading, writing or speaking.

“It is a very challenging classroom environment plagued by constant interruptions or cancellations and a serious lack of resources.”

Despite all of the hardships and difficulties in teaching due to the lack of resources, Caroline says that in all the chaos she found her real reason to be serving in the Peace Corps. “I am a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) volunteer in Bluefields. All TEFA volunteers co-plan and co-teach with Nicaraguan teachers. This is why I accepted the position.

Teaching English abroad is a touchy subject in many countries and I never wanted to feel like I was forcing English on anyone. For me, Peace Corps has been the key to sharing what I know with isolated communities who really want English teachers/English teacher trainers.

“I am not just a random foreigner that arrived to teach and then leave after two years. I am a co-teacher and friend to four excellent Nicaraguan teachers that will use our classroom experience to build stronger English language foundations in the future.”

Caroline teaches 7th, 8th and 11th grade high school and students preparing to be English teachers at URACCAN University in Bluefields. She also has been involved in several camps, teacher training workshops and TEFL conferences around the country. “I am always impressed by the motivation and ingenuity of English teachers in my site and in all Nicaragua.”

While Caroline works daily to help improve education in Nicaragua, her parents, Greg and Nila, anxiously wait to hear from her, not on the phone but on Skype and Facebook.

Nila is impressed and proud with what her daughter has accomplished. “Being a mom of a Peace Corps volunteer fills me with a wide range of emotions; pride, anxiety, worry, stress, but at the end of the day pride always wins out. To have a daughter that loves people like Caroline does and has a servant’s heart makes my heart feel full. When the world came calling, she answered the call,” said Nila.

For Greg, seeing his daughter leave was a hard task to deal with. “September 4, 2012 was a pretty tough day for this dad. It was extremely hard to say goodbye to a daughter and not know exactly when you would get to see her again. However, as the days went by and her conversations became full of excitement in what she and the other volunteers were doing, I became more at ease and at peace with the whole situation. I am very proud of her for her willingness to stand up and step out to serve.”

Caroline has not forgotten her University of Alabama roots. Working as a counselor for the embassy sponsored ACCESS English Camp Caroline spent a week working with students from all over Nicaragua practicing English and participating in cultural activities.

Each student was assigned to a state team. Caroline’s team was Alabama. “As a graduate of the University of Alabama and an obnoxious football fan, I was thrilled to make our team cheer, “Roll Tide Roll.” On the last day of camp, Alabama won their 15th national championship. Nothing can ease your nostalgia for home like 40 ecstatic Nicaraguan students screaming “ROLL TIDE ROLL”...by far one of my favorite moments in the country.”

Having Caroline and other Peace Corps volunteers in Nicaragua is probably one of the best memories that the children will also have.
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Jacksonville resident serves in Peace Corps by Lori Tippets

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