March 9: El Centro Educativo Modesto Bejarano

From Ephraim ’17

Instead of doing our usual work with La Nicaraguita’s younger students, this morning we visited El Centro Educativo Modesto Bejarano, a public elementary school in Managua’s poorest barrio, Acahualinca, where the city dump is located. We waited for our bus at La Nicaraguita, and it was hard to walk in to the children’s hugs and cheers only to tell them that I had to leave.

As the bus approached the other school, it was obvious that we were in a poorer area. Houses were small and had dirt floors and no yards. The streets were lined with recycling businesses for plastic and metal and trash, and for some reason a truck ahead of us was tossing big bags of plastic bottles along the curb.

When we arrived at the school, it was simply not in as good shape as La Nicaraguita. They had much fewer resources at their disposal. Some of the kids were noticeably dirty and unkempt, but they all radiated the same positive energy as the kids at La Nicaraguita.

After a tour of the school, we split into groups for different tasks. I elected to join the group that would clean up the garden. I was excited to get a shovel into my hands and to do some physical labor for a change. Our work caused clouds of dirt to fly into the air as we raked up leaves, weeds, and lots of garbage. Soon my hands and limbs were entirely coated in dirt and sweat. Despite this discomfort, it was satisfying to walk away having cleaned the garden of debris. Clarence found some old Gospel cassette tapes he plans to keep as mementos. We also found a dead cat, which was a discovery that received a less enthusiastic reaction.

After all the groups finished their work, we were invited to play a game of soccer with the students. First our girls played the 7 and 8 year old girls, and then we boys played the same aged boys. Long story short, those youngsters ran circles around us, mostly because they are better at the game, but also because kids on the sidelines kept distracting us with questions like “How old are you?” and “Where are you from?” and “Do you have a girlfriend?”

Shortly after we left the school, our bus passed the city dump. It is the receptacle for all of the city’s garbage and is a truly massive mound of trash. There are many people living in close proximity, and the sight of people’s houses surrounded by trash was a striking contrast to my experience in the US, where most trash is out of sight and out of mind. Apparently the situation here used to be much worse with people actually living in the dump, but there have been efforts to relocate them.

In the afternoon we resumed our usual schedule of attending classes with grades 7 to 11.  A couple more of the Nicaraguan girls asked either their friends or one of our GS girls to introduce me to them. I am not used to being the center of attention like that, so I was at a loss for words. I think that the girls were somewhat equally embarrassed and had difficulty asking me questions while their friends giggled around them. I ultimately just said a few words about myself and asked what they like to do. They all like to dance.

I also managed to strike up a conversation with a boy my age for once. He was really cool, but I forgot his name about five minutes after talking to him. Names are proving to be a considerable challenge for me. I hear so many new ones every day and I don’t have access to an electronic means of organizing names so they slip my mind. The second graders are pretty forgiving when I forget their names, but I think the high schoolers would get offended if I started every conversation with “¿Como te llamas?” Many of the students have asked if I am on Facebook, and I anticipate having a lot of new friend requests when I get back to the US.

I ended the day with a refreshingly cold bucket shower, finally washing away the grime from the morning, and settled in to watch The Voice on TV with my host brothers and sisters. I explained the show to them but it turned out that they already understood many aspects of it despite not understanding English.  They paged through Spanish language channels during commercials, and I appreciated the additional exposure.

Something I appreciate less are the huge glasses of soda my host family serves me. I’m not a big soda fan but I can’t really turn it down when it is one of the only drinks they serve me. So, with a stomach once again filled with lemon lime, I eagerly await the morning.

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Filed under Faculty and Staff, Service, Students

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