“Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures” – Cesar Chavez
What an eventful day! Such enriching activities that played into our theme for the day: culture. What does culture mean? How do you define yourself? Where are you from? These were questions that we posed to the group with the goal to have them think about their own culture and discuss how it is passed on from generation to generation. These questions highlighted how one aspect of culture such as art is diffused with the goal to preserve customs and traditions of a people, particularly in Matagalpa. Additionally, we wanted the group to keep the words of Chavez in mind, as they did their hands-on workshops for the day. Quoted at the start of this blog, his words are meant to remind them of the fact that different does not mean flawed nor does it mean it merits destruction.
Well, after a “delicioso” (delicious) breakfast they got the chance to partake in a hilarious energizer. This little pick-me-up had the group compete with one another in a game, in which they sounded like high-pitched birds but with the stealth of ninjas. Say what? I know just trying to picture brings a smile to your face right? After the energizer, we had our academic seminar on culture. The group had such a meaningful discussion and was able to relate the topic to both their own lives and the lives of those in Nicaragua.
Then, it was time to get ready for our first field trip of the day. We visited a little town called El Plomo, where we would meet a group of four inspiring women. They have succeeded in preserving not only the culture of its country but also providing educational opportunities for children in their community, employment, and empowerment for women in a society that otherwise would suppress and disregard their importance. They have done all this with a jewelry business endeavor that has flourished in the past 5 years. The group demonstrated appreciation for this knowledge by their attentiveness and interest when listening to the leader of these four women, Maritza, and by their interactions with the workers as they had the chance to create their own jewelry. The group created such great pieces and they learned a new skill!
The field trip adventure did not end there! After going on a shopping spree for jewelry, it was time to eat! So, off we went to Doña Adalila’s home to make Nacatamales. This typical Nicaraguan dish is made with chicken leg, potatoes, rice, mint, green pepper, tomatoes, capers, olives, raisins, and a special red sauce, wrapped up in a banana leave. It is then left to cook for four hours. We did not have time to cook the ones we made, so we ate ones already prepped for us. Yummy yummy in our tummy! Definitely a savory dish that for many was an acquired taste but still the group did well in finishing their food!
We felt full and content with our meal and elated with our wonderful interaction with Sylvia (the bus driver’s daughter). She definitely kept us entertained and laughing the entire time we were eating. We are on the bus, chanting and singing to the beats of Michael Jackson, when we realize our bus won’t start?! Panic was NOT the first reaction! Who knows about mechanics? We asked the group and Daniel abruptly jumps up and says he can help! He figured out it is the starter but we also find out the bus would need a big push too! Empowerment of girls and boys because we got out of the bus and we pushed our little hearts out until we got the bus to start running again! Whoo hoo! At this moment, everyone displayed great initiative, humility, adaptability, and the definition of teamwork! As teachers, this was a moment that definitely made us super proud 🙂
Tired and sweaty we make it back onto the bus and we make our way back to the hostel. The first “líder del día” (leader of the day) that would run the next day’s activities, had a meeting with the GG leaders and the program coordinators. During this time the rest of the group had free time, which they used to rest before their last two field trips for the day. The time came to walk over to Doña Ernestina’s shop, where students had a workshop on black ceramics. They learned the history of Doña Ernestina and how this artisan skill is unfortunately becoming a dying art form in Matagalpa. The group were sculptors for the day and created their own ceramic art piece. My attempt at a turtle was a bit failed but nonetheless it is mine alone. It is what Doña kept emphasizing: take ownership of your work and be proud!
Ceramics created and hands cleaned off from all the black clay—we go off to Arabesco dance studio where we learned hands-on how to dance many different types of dance styles. We started with an invigorating warm-up and continued to learn salsa, merengue, bachata, cumbia, and Nicaraguan folkloric dances. The boys dressed up in skirts and hats while the girls just in skirts. What an amazing sight of rhythm and footwork! They even felt at home when the instructor had them do a little bit of twerking! Oh no! Such joy an excitement, the group exercised until they were drenched in sweat and had pain in body parts they did not even know existed!
Finally, dancing time is over and they head back to the hostel to shower before they have their nightly meeting and group reflections. Such an exciting day, full of so much learning and kinesthetic experiences. They were fully immersed in the Nicaraguan culture and were left with many more new unforgettable experiences.