Hello Family, Friends, and Fans of the Matagalpa team,
Thousands of miles from home and away from the familiarity of life in our home towns, we tend to begin to make many comparisons about our own habits, ways of living, and preferences with those of the places we visit. Today was an opportunity to reflect upon the culture that each of our families has passed down from generation to generation while at the same time appreciating the new culture that we are experiencing here in Nicaragua. During our morning discussion students shared as examples of this sharing of culture that they cherish their summer time with their grandmothers cooking, the trips to Lake Tahoe, creating holiday decoration, among others. The ease of which they explained these traditions demonstrated they have a solid understanding of what it means to create a tight knit group within their family now and in the future.
For this Dia de Cultura, Culture Day, we experienced two elements of the Matagalpan culture; the folkloric dance and black ceramic. Marco from ARABESCO dance school gave us a sweat-inducing, booty shaking, and extremely fun set of dancing instructions for almost two hours. Salsa, merengue, and traditional were warmly greeted by all of the students as they jumped right in and showed off all of their moves without hesitation. Dancing can be one of those anxiety-inducing, socially awkward things, but I am proud to say that everyone was actively participating. The girls even had an opportunity to put on a traditional dress to practice a few steps typical of both the southern and northern regions of the country. The whole session was kind of like a time warp from the new to the old. In the afternoon, we visited the workshop of Maria Estela up a hill that to students felt like climbing the Himalayas with the heat and humidity. She explained the history of her particular creative expression of black ceramic art, which is made by a time-consuming process of molding, setting, and firing with smoke in a over hotter than 600 degrees Celsius. Her mother had shown her the way of the clay, as she explained, to be able to take care of the house, tend to the children, and possibly generate some income. When we were in the back molding hearts, pots, and other items, there was a little girl also making simple works. I got the sense that when alone, there was a lot of storytelling, tradition sharing, and pieces of advice being passed on to this girl that may have been in the family for many decades.
On this type of abroad trip, we are hoping to accomplish a similar feat of creating spaces to share and reflect upon the new understanding that each of the students are experiencing. We hope to capture the thoughts and ideas from students in the moment with our nightly meetings and journal reflections. We feel that it is important that review how they feel in the moment while they are still in the moment, as to have a greater connection to their true emotions and feelings. And sometimes, students get to a point where they are creating the new traditions all by themselves, as in the case with the hit group game, Mafia.
I would love to relate the game of Mafia to a larger cultural understanding of Nicaragua culture or possibly Latin American culture, but it is really more of a snapshot of the growing bonds between the students on the trip. The game involves an element of storytelling and tall tales that could leave even truth-speaking, innocent players “dead” and out of the game. While it is not necessary to cover all of the rules of the game here, I can assure you that numerous bouts of laughter and yelling were spewing out of the top floor of Hostel El Castillo where many jovial students were playing this game. It is truly a signal of the camaraderie and friendships that are growing between them.
MISC: Weather has been awesome. Maybe a little hotter and more humid than we are used to, but the breeze really is heavenly. The hostel is really nice, showers are lukewarm and not freezing (at least not yet), food has been outstanding with fresh juice every meal (maracuya, jamaica, pina, mango, etc…), and the common area allows us to have our meals and meetings together in one room. No health issues and the mosquitoes have stayed away!!!
“Preservation of one’s culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.” Cesar Chavez