Tag Archives: Nicaragua 2016

Thursday, March 17: Last Day of Classes at La Nicaraguita

Emilio ’17 writes:

After a delicious breakfast of tortillas with melted cheese, frijoles, chopped tomatoes and onions, watermelon, tamarind juice, and coffee, we were escorted around the corner for our last day of classes at La Nicaraguita. Inevitably, it was an emotional day for both the Nicaraguan students and for the George School students. After some usual lessons in our classrooms, the entire preschool and primary school gathered for an assembly to celebrate our time together and to say goodbye. After we sang the national anthem, the Nicaraguan students performed several folkloric dances, complete with costumes, and also recited poems and chanted cheers grade by grade. At one point Roberto, the dance teacher and Master of Ceremonies, announced that George School students would now perform a salsa dance. We had practiced it, but we didn’t know we were performing it this morning! Full of laughter, we scrambled into our places and the music started. Roberto danced with Lili, so we kept looking at him to keep ourselves going. It went okay actually, and the Nica students cheered us loudly. Fortunately, the music cut off before the finale, which most of us didn’t really know how to do. The assembly ended with each of us being called to the center, where the children from our respective classes showered us with small gifts and big hugs. I felt so honored to be at La Nicaraguita and to be part of such an incredible experience.

After the closing ceremony we got some time to hang out with our students. As usual, Alec and I got a game of hacky sack going with a few kids, and others soon flocked towards us. Playing hacky sack has become a tradition during these two weeks at La Nicaraguita, and it was sad to think that this would be the last time I would be playing with some of these kids. I gave my hacky sack to Jonathan, a fifth grader who is probably one of the nicest and most fun kids I’ve met on this trip, in the hopes that he will continue the tradition.

After lunch we returned to spend the afternoon with the secondary school students, whom we’ve gotten to know better thanks to the evening encuentros and the outings when they have come with us. They were taking tests at first, but when those were over, the afternoon became a permanent recess with a series of games. One was musical chairs, and it proved to be very competitive. In the end only I and a 7th grade boy were left, dancing around one chair. When the music stopped we both sat down fast, the chair tipped over backwards, and somehow I managed to keep my seat! After the games, the dancing began, despite the heat. When school was over we moved into the street to play stick ball with some of the La Nicaraguita kids and some kids from the barrio who go to public school. They had a real bat, but we used their homemade balls which were surprisingly good, constructed of tightly wound scraps of cloth and then covered with layers of clear tape. They really sailed when hit, and we had to retrieve many balls from roofs down the street.

Soon it was suppertime: gallo pinto, a cabbage slaw, queso, and platanos fritos, with cantaloupe juice. Tonight when our families arrived we carried with us two large bags of grocery items to contribute to the homes that have hosted us so generously. It’s hard to believe we fly home day after tomorrow.

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La Manana de Verano

Johvanny ’16 writes:

This morning I was awakened by the combined sounds of a crowing rooster and blaring Spanish music from a neighboring house.  Since I woke up earlier than usual, I decided to help my host mom with the household chores she does every morning before she walked me to breakfast at Rafaela´s. 

After we finished breakfast, a class of primary students from La Nicaragüita arrived to escort us to school, but they were ten minutes earlier than usual.  Instead of their normal school uniforms, they were dressed in casual play and beach clothes, which reminded me that today is La Manana de Verano (The Summer Morning) at the school.  As we paired up for our walk to school, some of the older students brought additional tables and chairs to the house in preparation for today´s special lunch with the teachers. Continue reading

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Tuesday, March 15: 25th Anniversary Celebration and Visiting Nica HOPE

Sydney ’17 writes:

Today was our 12th morning waking up in Nicaragua. It was another good day, full of activity. We spent time with our students in their classrooms, then gathered with the entire primary school along the street for more of the 25th anniversary celebration competencias. First was a game called The Potato Dance. Teams of two people must hold a potato securely between their cheeks while dancing to lively music to see what set of partners can dance longest without dropping the potato. It is a simple contest that is really difficult (I lost early on) but also really silly and generates lots of laughter. Later, our classes played soccer against each other, and my 5th grade class won. We received a trophy and took a photo with it in the midst of the kids screaming “Ganamos! Ganamos!”

Back in the classroom, I checked math homework and recorded grades for their projects on the native fruits of Nicaragua. My students continued learning about the geography and different cultures of Central American countries.

After lunch we were joined by the senior class for another visit to the elementary school in Barrio Acahualinca next to the city dump. Managua is such a sprawled-out city, strung out along the southern shore of Lake Xolotlan, that it took us 30 minutes to get there. We zigzagged through streets lined with trash recycling businesses, and we saw young children sorting through piles of trash for anything salvageable. At the school, we were set to work making banners with anti-bullying slogans to be posted in the classrooms. As classes were dismissed, more and more youngsters came to watch us work. One little boy kept walking around and pinching our ears, saying something teasing that I didn’t understand.

We also visited Cooperativa Nica HOPE several block away. It is a vocational training center for the community that offers technical training and an afterschool program for youngsters. One of the main projects is a jewelry making cooperative. Children are taught how to make jewelry out of recycled materials for sale. Each of us was paired with one of the children, who taught us how to make simple macramé and bead bracelets, which they then gave us.

We returned to La Nicaragüita for another encuentro, this one with the 9th grade. While we were waiting for the encuentro to begin, we began playing hackey sack (for the billionth time!), and were soon joined by a few children of the barrio, most of them kids who go to the public school or don’t go at all. One barefoot little boy who lives near the school really latched onto us, and to Emilio in particular. He came inside with us for the encuentro, eating supper and then dancing with us. He was maybe 6 years old. No one asked who he was or why he was there. That’s one of the things I like about Nicaragua, sometimes things just happen and no one knows what’s going on but everyone just goes with it without question. One of the things I’ve learned about this place is never to have any kind of expectations for anything because whatever happens is always 72.9% more surprising in actuality.


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Settling in to Life in Nicaragua

Moxie ’17 writes:

I woke up early this morning.  I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. and was ready to go by 6:40 a.m. (it would have been earlier but I spent about 15 minutes lying in bed gathering my strength).  I used my remaining 15 minutes to sit in the entry room, which is basically outside, and to enjoy the morning before it got ridiculously hot.  Afternoons are pretty brutal in Nicaragua, but the mornings are nice and I like to enjoy them. Continue reading

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Saturday, March 12: Visiting Leon

by Alec ’17

This morning I awoke, like any other morning, to Guillermo, my host brother, knocking on my door and telling me that it was time to get up. However, being my usual lazy and somewhat irresponsible self, I fell back asleep and woke up at 6:54 p.m. Knowing I had to be at breakfast at 7:00 a.m., I quickly dumped a bucket of water on my head and threw on some clothes. Great way to start a day. Luckily the day did not continue on this unfortunate path and things quickly got better on the way from my house to Rafaela’s. Guillermo, per usual, accompanied me, and we quickly got onto the topic of music. He asked who some of my favorite artists were and I told him, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Lou Reed, because their lyrics are like poetry.  I had learned about his love of poetry and literature in general, so I expected a positive or at least inquisitive response. Instead, he told me that when he listens to music, he listens independently of the lyrics, because poetry and music are different art forms. He listens for the rhythm. He had to repeat himself three times before I understood him. I let up at this moment because I realized I would be able to do two of my favorite things — talk about music and argue that music only heightens the poetic quality of lyrics and that the lyrics combine with the music for an even more expressive art form. I explained this in Spanish, after figuring it all out. We arrived at Rafaela’s and decided that an argument is only an opinion. I was ok with this. It was 7:06 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I was already filled with passion and excitement. I really love Guillermo. He is one of the most genuine people I have ever met, and I will forever appreciate the fact that he didn’t mistake  my difficulties in Spanish for general incompetance. Even though conversation is difficult. He is always challenging me intentionally because he wants to know what is in this weird American kid’s head.  Continue reading

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Updates from Nicaragua

Clarence ’17 writes:

I woke up this morning to the call of my host family’s pet rooster. In Spanish, roosters ¨cantan,¨ or sing. I am not thinking about the beauty of its voice as it acts as my alarm clock. The morning quickly turned into a pleasant one, as I was greeted with smiles and ¨good mornings¨ from everyone I saw.

After our sixth delicious breakfast since arriving in Nicaragua, we were escorted to La Nicaragüita by the cheerful second grade class. I am helping out with the third grade class, and when I walked into the packed classroom, I was given enough hugs for a lifetime. I did the best I could at teaching the kids how to write and say large numbers until their recess. I pulled out my deck of cards, expecting to have to ask the kids to sit with me for a game, but was promptly bombarded with ¨¿Qué vamos a jugar?¨ (What are we going to play?) from every student around me. Continue reading

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Sunday, March 13: Experiencing Paradise!

Shannon ’17 writes:

This is the day all of us have been waiting for: going to the beach and swimming in the Pacific Ocean.  It was particularly exciting for me because I have never been swimming in the Pacific, so the anticipation has been building all week.  

When we arrived at la playa El Miramar, everyone was so excited to get into the water because it is so hot here all the time.  My smile went sky high when I saw the beautiful, bright, blue-green Pacific.  It honestly was everything I had ever imagined it to be.  The waves were perfectly sized to enjoy and the temperature was perfectly refreshing.  Within five minutes of arriving, Lily, Hedaya, and I ran into the turquoise sea.  For most of the rest of the day, we never left, although we should have in order to put on more sunscreen! We did take a break for lunch, which was delicious. Ana, who has been cooking for us all week, grilled chicken and pork over an outdoor parilla, and served it up with avocado, a chopped tomato/onion/and sweet pepper salad, rice, and tortillas.  After lunch we formed a circle in the courtyard of the beachside house we were using for the day and played hackey-sack, which has become one of our favorite group games. Then it was back into the ocean!

The whole experience was so relaxing, a great way to spend our free time on the weekend. It was, by far, one of the happiest days of my life.  I´m going to miss the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore.

After we returned to Managua and had a supper of gallo pinto, queso soave, tortillas, platanos verdes (thinly sliced and quickly fried so they taste like banana chips), and canteloupe, members of our host families came to pick us up for the night.  Back at my family´s home, my Nicaraguan sister came into the room where I was writing this journal and just watched me write, even though she doesn’t know English.  She´s very observant, however, and soon she asked why I had written the date ¨3/13/16.¨  She said that there is no 13th month.  I explained the order in which we write the date in the US, and she explained that in Latin America the order is different, first the day, then the month, then the year.  It was a small revelation for me, but I felt as though this moment is what the whole trip is about, learning the daily differences in our cultures and encountering them firsthand.  I am forever grateful to George School for giving me this opportunity.

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March 10: 25th Anniversary Celebration for El Centro Educativo Nicaragüita

Carolyn writes:

This morning when we walked around the corner to our sister school, we were greeted by the sight of rows of already seated students amidst colorful decorations. Twenty-five years ago today, the new preschool, La Nicaragüita, opened its doors for the first time. Born of the vision of Rafaela Torres Ugarte at a time of crisis in Nicaraguan education, it has grown into a pre-k through high school Centro Educativo with more than 300 students. Every member of the first graduating class went to university. It has been George School’s privilege to accompany this school on its journey and to stand in solidarity and friendship with the Nicaraguan people as they have worked to build a new future. Today’s celebration was almost completely student-centered, with dance presentations, poetry recitations, a visiting musical group, our GS contributions, and many cheers of joy and pride chanted by the students.

Val ’17 writes:

I became a leader today.

I say that because of the success of our participation during the 25th anniversary celebration for El Centro Educativo Nicaragüita. I sang “Someone Like You” by Adele, accompanied by Hedaya on piano, and I had a solo during our group step routine. These opportunities weren’t given to me, they were earned. They were earned as my peers and my teachers came to believe in me. It was me believing that I could do these things. Thankfully, I had already had a nerve-wracking experience performing at the International Student assembly at GS. Because of that, I felt that I was ready for anything.

It’s really a once in a lifetime chance to sing in a foreign country in front of an entire school. Because of the opportunity, I was less nervous about everything. Not only did my confidence translate into this morning’s performances, it translated into buying things at the Masaya artisan market this afternoon. Bargaining is the custom here, and norteamericanos often pay more than they should because they are reluctant to bargain. Luckily, my Spanish has gotten better this week, to the point that I was able to bargain. For example, I bought Nicaraguan baseball jersey for which the vendor began with a price of 400 córdobas ($15). I was able to bargain that price down considerably. Because of the progress I’ve been making, better things have been happening here so far.

These experiences have all been teaching me about what life may throw at me. Understanding that concept, my time here in Nicaragua and my life at George School will turn out to be a great time. I believe that having these moments has made me the leader of my own life.

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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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Second Day at La Nicaraguita

From Hedaya ’17
Tuesday, March 8

Today was our second full day at the school and the first day that I really felt like a part of La Nicaraguita. That was mostly because of the 25th anniversary “competencias” that are being held each day this week as part of the celebration. The whole primary school population moved outside for an hour of field day type events. Each class sat together on the porches of the two school buildings that face each other across the street. The street was closed off for one block so that there was room for the competitions. We sat with our classes to help maintain order and to enjoy the spectacle. Kids screamed and cheered for their classmates, and the classes that weren’t participating at any given time clung to their George School teaching assistants and tried to talk with us over the insane amount of noise.

The teachers had us participate, too, in the rice-sack races, the balance-a-lime-on- a-spoon-stuck-in-your-mouth races, and relay races.  It was really a lot of fun even though it was the hottest day so far and I was decked out in black Adidas pants. When I wasn’t making a fool of my un-athletic self, I was sitting with my class. The children are so young, just 4 and 5 years old, that it would probably be hard to understand them even if they were speaking English. Most of the time I’m either saying “No entiendo” or I just smile and say “Si.” However, today I noticed that even with my broken Spanish, they always wanted to talk with me and never gave up trying to communicate. I thought about that during lunch and carried it with me into my 7th grade class this afternoon, where we participated in an English lesson and helped the students perform their dialogues.

We are so busy here that sometimes I am completely unaware of my surroundings, but I took everything in when we took an ice cream break and sat on the curb. We aren’t in the United States anymore. Not many people speak English here. I was finally able to appreciate the level of cultural immersion that we are experiencing (as I tried to keep my ice pop from dripping through my fingers). I never thought I would say this, but I am looking forward to waking up at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow morning and doing this all over again.

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