27th July 2014

My name is Talia and I got to be ‘El Lider Del Dia’ (Leader of the Day) for Culture Day. When I got my position the night before I was worried about whether anyone would listen or care about what I had to say, but luckily I had my roomies’ support every time I brought up my nervousness. I was also excited for the day because of everything we were going to do and I really do love how cultures can be so different, yet sometimes so similar.

Everyone was awake by 7 am, but a few girls including myself woke up to do some stretching and core workouts with our GG leader instead of running at 6 am. We left for breakfast to Quiero Mas and we were surprised with pancakes! I was excited because it reminded me of my dad who loves to make us pancakes on the weekend.  Afterward we had our culture seminar at around 9 am. The seminar was about accepting other cultures and how we shouldn’t make judgments or assume the worst about people who do things differently than us in their culture. Some of us mentioned personal experiences of being judged or being in a situation that could have been avoided if assumptions weren’t made about us. I shared about my experience being part Lebanese and how a friend of mine was extremely shocked because there were two other Lebanese girls who aren’t related to each other and yet looked almost identical which made my friend assume that all Lebanese girls look like those two girls. The group then made our way to Sutiaba, a small village that used to be the core of Leon because Leon was located somewhere else and was destroyed after a volcanic eruption, so the people decided to make a new Leon surrounding Sutiaba. The trip there required us to walk for 10 minutes and then ride the public bus for another 10 minutes. The ride was stuffy, sticky, bumpy, yet most of us agree that the public bus was an interesting adventure.

We went to a small art workshop in Leonto make a sawdust carpet which is a cultural ritual that happens in Nicaragua during Holy week, the art is centered in creating images in the form of a group mural with dyed sawdust. We tried to make it as colorful as possible and make symbols that bridged the Nicaragan and American cultures. We had several colors: bright red, pink, orange, light yellow, grass green, shocking blue, and black. The sawdust was harmless but when trying to shape an image with it one could feel the occasional prick or wood dust. After we had completed the project and were proud of our work we were asked to destroy it with our feet. We were quite shocked but it is part of the Sutiaba tradition to destroy it because they believe that the beauty of art lies within the process, not the product. (Our shock was recorded courtesy of the GG Leaders and Coordinators.) We stepped all over our work and after many thanks to the workers we left.

On our way to a chapel, we saw a strip of art that was spanning the side of a building; it was of Sutiaba’s recorded history. Even though it has been up for a while you couldn’t see any colors fading.  When we reached a chapel that integrated indigenous traditions into the Catholic faith, there was a mass that was in session so we just took group pictures out front and were ready to ride back on the public bus then walk straight to Quiero Mas. They offered us a traditional Sunday meal called Indio Viejo; its base was corn with a soup like texture. Most of us enjoyed it with some plantains. Afterward we came back to the hostel and split into three groups after having a small ‘energizer’. A group went to the supermercado and the plaza central, another group went to both places but also to the cyber cafe to contact home or just have some time on the internet. The third group of only two people chose to stay home and sleep for their free time. Once free time was over we gathered around in the hostel and were told by the staff that all three toilets of our toilets were clogged with toilet paper, which shouldn’t have ever been in the toilet anyway because of the way the water system in Nicaragua functions. We all had to do our part to unclog the toilets and make posters reminding people not to flush the toilet paper. It sounds gross, but in the end we came together and we all took responsibility and realized that it could have been worse.

Later in the evening,  we all chipped in $4 to have a dance instructor come and teach us Salsa and Bachata. Some people were annoyed because they felt ‘forced’ to participate because Farima and I insisted, however in the end those very people who detested it ended up really enjoying it a lot. I was having so much fun, even when the day’s work caught up with me and my legs started to ache as we counted out our dance steps, we were all laughing at each other’s missteps. Then we had our nightly meeting wrapping up the day based on our events and we described culture and how culture affects people. As a group we commended Ryan for his attempts at dancing earlier. We also realized how we all feel so close even though it has only been less than a week in Nicaragua together. With our newfound bond in mind, we also agreed we have to remember that even though the Leader of the Day is our peer he/she is responsible for the day, so we need to listen to them and follow their lead. We ended the night passing the ‘El Lider Del Dia’ role to Eileen, but only after Eileen completed her challenge of impersonating Stefany and Judith (one of our GG Leaders and one of our GG coordinators). Eileen then informed us of what we would do on Education day. Today was a great day!