March 12 -13
I am sitting at the end of the long banquet table in Rafaela’s dining room which has become our gathering spot for all things communal: meals; chats; chilling out; card games; and … coloring! That’s right, on this day after lunch, while I am blogging, the students and Cheri are gathered all around the table with huge (3′ x 3′) line drawings of human figures, which they are coloring in with crayons. Two people are working collaboratively on each of 4 drawings, coloring faces, and hair and lips and clothing. These drawings are intended for the walls of the local health clinic, to add color, whimsy, and beauty to a space that will benefit from a touch of grace.
Reflecting on yesterday’s activities, the group has reminded me that after an amazing lunch of roast chicken in a tomato broth reminiscent of a Jamaican-style sauce, we had a far-ranging, philosophical and wonderfully intimate group conversation on the porch. The conversation included all of us except Philip, who was actively playing with 5-year-old Joshua. Every few minutes, Joshua would burst onto the scene, holding some fresh evidence of childhood mayhem, with Philip in hot pursuit right behind him. What fun! For the rest of us, the conversation involved each person taking a turn sharing about some mild childhood accident or injury, usually involving an athletic endeavor gone wrong, or parental advice ignored, or some happenstance of fate coinciding with his or her unfortunate judgment. “Oh, yeah! Me, too!” someone would invariably say, to be followed by an even more outrageous example. This went on for a solid hour, with each of us sharing our own stories and reveling in the collective survival skills of our group, not to mention our species. By the end, it was roundly affirmed that we are definitely getting to know each other better through this bonding experience.
This morning everyone descended on Rafaela’s house at the customary 7:00 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the school week ahead. It seems that everyone in our group has fully adjusted to their homestay, and has figured out how to get their needs met, in terms of laundry, sleep, language and support. The table was lovingly freshened and set by Luis, and breakfast was provided by Ana, as usual. The second graders appeared at our doorstep promptly at 8:00 a.m., eager to hold our hands and escort us the two blocks to school. (Each day a different class gets the distinct privilege of getting to escort the George School students. When it is their turn, they are super-excited!)
With today being Monday, the children were simultaneously eager to be at school and decidedly unruly after a weekend away. On the preschool side of the street, Maia, Greg, Tali, and Alyssa got absorbed into their classrooms with nary a moment’s hesitation, welcomed back by their young charges as the beloved mentors that they have become. Across the way, in the elementary school building, Nicolo and Philip started downstairs, with the 2nd and 6th graders, respectively, and Alex C and Alexander F went upstairs, with the 3rd and 5th graders, respectively. After a short while, Alexander joined Teacher Roberto downstairs with the 4th graders, and I joined the 5th graders for the morning. I absolutely loved learning Spanish with the 5th graders, followed by English (Yes, I was asked to read aloud) and then social studies. (We discussed geographical and cultural differences between Nicaragua and the United States.) What fun to be back in elementary school again!
Today’s dance class added a new element: dancing cheek-to-cheek. Have we mentioned yet that dance is a required part of the Nicaraguan school curriculum? Suffice it to say, our group has done a great job of stepping outside of their comfort zones and learning Nicaraguan dance moves alongside the 6th graders. Tali has played a key leadership role in this regard, as a person for whom this is not outside of her comfort zone at all, thank goodness.
The rhythm of our lives here is starting to begin to feel quite normal. At the same time, our group recognizes that we have less than a week remaining in Nicaragua. Some students saw the weather report on the television, and they reported to the whole group that it snowed in Pennsylvania last week, and more snow is expected tomorrow!?! That is quite hard for many of us to grasp, given that the daily temperature has been 95. For now, we will keep our imaginations of wintry scenes at a comfortable arm’s length, and continue to enjoy the hospitality and grace of our tropical homes away from home for a few more days…