Students are getting used to the basic routine of the day: breakfast, academic seminar in the morning, workshop, lunch, workshop, free time, dinner, nightly meeting. Today’s focus was culture, so we started the morning with a seminar about American and Latin American culture–stereotypes, above and below the surface characteristics, values and traditions, and how culture can be transmitted or misappropriated.

During our first workshop we visited an art school run by the Xuchialt Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to local arts and supported in part by a partnership with one of Leon’s sister cities, Minnesota, USA. The resident artists taught us how to make a traditional sawdust carpet by adding bright dyes to bags of mini woodchips then sprinkling them in patterns on an inch-high bed of uncolored sawdust chips. Traditionally, the week before Easter groups of artists spend a day designing these directly onto the small streets of Leon, creating “carpets” of color that stretch the entire block. In the evening when the works are finished, the Easter procession starts…and the entire works get trampled on until they blur into dust, and without hard feelings. It’s an ephemeral art, like a Tibetan sand mandala. (Or like a trip abroad where one’s only takeaways will be the powerful memories?) After building our own carpets, we were a bit shocked to learn we also had to complete the tradition and stomp over our works. Luckily we got some photos first.

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IMG_3443In the afternoon, we visited a circus arts center and challenged ourselves with salsa dancing and stilts walking. Some were more terrified by the heights; others by the dancing. But everyone embodied one of our words of the day–to do something con ganas–and students fully embraced the new opportunity and tried it out. It was a fun, sweaty, unique experience.

We capped the day with a traditional pre-Columbian Nica meal of indioviejo, an achiote-flavored stew of chicken and vegetables and thickened with ground corn.

Today was also one of our students birthday’s, so after dinner we celebrated Kush’s birthday with a surprise dulce de leche chocolate cake and a group poster and later roasted s’mores over candles.Kush birthday

Tomorrow we’ll be discussing aid and development and speaking with a local nonprofit.

Thanks everyone who posted comments!