Every time I come to Nicaragua with Global Glimpse students, I am not only reminded of why I am in the teaching profession, but also of how amazing it is to learn and be inspired by the students I teach. Today was incredible, yesterday was also, and I have no doubt in my mind that the rest of our trip will get more powerful and transformative for each and every one of us.
Today, a group of us woke up at 6 am for our morning run and exercise routine. Still with creases from pillow cases on our faces and our legs throbbing from all of the walking and dancing we did the day before, we pushed through like champs and completed the exercise goals we set for ourselves. We quickly showered and got dressed for breakfast at our beloved Quiero Mas restaurant and then walked back to the hostel quickly for our academic seminar. I have to be honest, these academic seminars are my favorite part of my Global Glimpse experience because I’m always blown away at how critical, thoughtful, and engaged the students are. Today was Culture Day, the quotes that we reflected on and talked about were:
“A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” –Marcus Garvey
“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” –Wade Davis
We had these quotes in the back of our minds as we reflected on the history we learned the day before and how it relates to the ways in which culture is developed, practiced and preserved from generation to generation. We brainstormed all of the ways we might describe Latin American culture based off of the exposure we’ve had and then we thought about how a Nicaraguan might describe American culture based off of the exposure they might have, but more specifically exposure from the media, popular culture, etc. We realized that there are so many negative stereotypes of both cultures and the students were very critical about how these messages shape their own and others’ consciousness and understanding of people, cultures and countries that are different.
After the seminar we took a field trip down to el Museo de Mitos y Leyendas (Museum of Legends and Myths of Nicaragua) and to our surprise, this museum used to actually be a prison and torture site for political prisoners and revolutionary fighters who were against the Somosa dictatorship and dynasty. This was particularly deep for me because as I shared with the students, my uncles/mother’s older brothers were fighting on opposite sides of the Nicaraguan war back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. My oldest uncle was eventually killed by the same military that my other uncle was serving in, which resulted in him leaving to the U.S. for political asylum. During the tour, I could envision how dangerous and violent Nicaragua was at that time and how painful it must have been to have your family torn apart by war. I could feel the tension in my body and the goosebumps on my neck as we walked in and out of former prison cells and torture chambers and all I could think about was how war and the cycle of violence destroys a people and destabilizes a country, almost always on the basis of greed and hate.
At this museum we were also able to learn about legends and myths that have been carried on from generation to generation in Nicaragua, many of which I heard as a child from my grandmother, aunts and uncles. We saw amazing statues and artwork that Nicaraguan people have made in order to continue to share these stories with others through cultural demonstrations and parades throughout the entire country. When we left, we walked straight to el parque central (central park) and we challenged ourselves to find people from the community and ask them about their culture and history. The students were amazing and did a beautiful job really engaging with locals in Leon.
After the museum, we had lunch at Quiero Mas and the students began planning for their English lesson at the university in Leon. We went on to the next field trip which was a place that teaches art as a form of resistance in different ways. They use circus acts, dance, and the super difficult skill of walking on stilts, as a way to not only spread joy and fun with other Nicaraguans, but to simultaneously teach about social issues like environmental problems, domestic violence, masculinity, and much more in communities throughout the country. We were so inspired by the work that this organization does. Felix, the man who helped found this group, also taught the students how to dance Salsa AND of course, being that I am from the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, I made sure he also taught the students how to dance Palo de Mayo, (a tradition dance from Bluefields, Nicaragua) even though I taught them the night before and earlier in the morning. I wanted the students to really understand that culture is not stagnant, it’s not universal for everyone in the country, the culture of the Atlantic coast is very different than that of the Pacific coast and yet, as Nicaraguans, they still also share a lot of similarities.
We also learned how to walk on stilts and I was not too skilled in that area, which is fine because I KNOW I got skills in the dancing department so I can accept that I can’t be great at everything but I still tried, ha! We had an amazing time and I know that experience will be a highlight that the students will remember forever.
Once we got back to the hostel, the students quickly got ready for dinner and English tutoring at the university. They were amazing, I was humbled by their teaching, their spirits, smiles, effort and presence as educators in those multiage, intergenerational classrooms. I watched closely at how the GG students used their bodies to describe and teach English vocabulary, how they made students laugh and participate effortlessly and I almost forgot it was only their first day teaching! They are all excited to see their students again tomorrow and I’m equally excited to watch them shine along their students as they engage in the magic of learning and teaching.
Once we got back to the hostel, we had our nightly meeting and I passed the leadership torch onto Veronika. I have carried on the tradition of wearing my baby brother’s picture on a pin for every leader of the day since I’ve been with Global Glimpse. I always get really emotional when I share about my brother and his story with the students. He passed away unexpectedly less than 3 years ago, 3 days after he turned 25 years old. It is still difficult for me to accept but I have vowed to keep his legacy and spirit alive in everything that I do, for as long as I am alive. My brother was a true leader, he had a beautiful spirit, and I see aspects of that same spirit in every one of my GG students. I feel blessed to share my pain and joy with them, to open my heart and invite them to do the same. I’ve realized that true learning and transformation can never happen in the absence of relationship and vulnerability. These GG students are something special and their hearts are not only open, but their spirits are vibrant and powerful just like my brother’s so it’s an honor for me to see his face smiling at me as each of them demonstrate their strengths as the unique, powerful individuals that they are.
Today was a good day.