Knock knock:  “8:00 am – time to wake up!”  is what I shouted at the students’ doors this morning.  Today is the last day students will hear that phrase – tomorrow’s wake up time is 6:30 am and the next day we will start at 5:00 am for a day of hard work with the locals.  Nevertheless, one student responded to my wake up call this morning with “my clock says 7:59!”  – you know your days are full when you are counting every minute of sleep 🙂

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of beans and rice, eggs and perfectly cooked platanos.  After the Mental Warm Up, we set out on our city tour.  Our fearless leaders Juliana and Alex pointed out statues and murals along the way that mark the history of the city.  One mural illustrated the influence of the Cuban Revolution on the resurgence of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and celebrated the resulting literacy programs that were brought to Madalgapa at that time.  We marveled at the central iglesia (church) and were delighted by a festival in the local park, complete with clowns and food vendors.  To conclude our tour, the Program Coordinators generously bought ice cream for everyone which we enjoyed in the park.  While we were eating ice cream, some local children came to beg for change and asked us to share our ice cream.  It was uncomfortable and difficult to say no, but our local guide shared his philosophy that giving handouts to the children fuels the cycle of poverty rather than disrupting it.  According to him, many adults use their children to beg for money in order to gain sympathy.  However, many times the money does not benefit the children at all.  Nevertheless, many of us felt internal conflict in that moment as we gobbled up our ice cream.

Here are some images from our city tour!

Featured Image: (This mural depicts Carlos Fonseca, the founder of the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional – the party that led the Nicaraguan Revolution and now rules the country.  He was originally from Madalgapa!)

(If you look closely, you can see the “shadow of Sandino”, named after  Augusto Sandino who resisted US military occupation of Nicaragua in the 1920s.  He is the namesake of the Sandinista political party, and the “shadow of Sandino” can be found all over the country, kind of like “Where’s Waldo?”, but more meaningful!)

(This commemorative statue depicts fighters in the Nicaraguan Revolution.  Notice that the figure on the left is a female, honoring the fact that many women took up arms to help liberate their country)

(Inside the main iglesia)

(group photo)

Next, we ate yet another delicious meal back at the hotel, exchanged some money and had a leadership meeting with our first student Leader of the Day – Jacob!  Starting tomorrow, the Leader of the Day will be writing the blog post and the first up will be Jacob; shout out to him for taking a positive risk 🙂

Our next activity was to hear from a guest speaker, Don Julio, who lived through the revolution in Madagalpa.  He spoke to us about how he witnessed civilians being shot in the street, right outside of the room where we were sitting.  He had an incredible knowledge of the politics behind the conflict, and all the students made me proud by taking diligent notes and asking insightful follow up questions.  If you are interested in learning more about the history, ask your student when they get back!

Here is one blurry picture of Don Julio that Aliyah (our resident photographer) snapped from the audience:

To conclude our activities for the day, we visited “El Calvario”, a viewpoint up on the mountain by the city.  The views of the colorful buildings nestled into the green, rolling hills are absolutely gorgeous (see below).  However, there is a dark side to this beauty when you realize the spot we were standing in is the same location where Samoza’s National Guard rained bullets down on the city from high in the hills to control the people and maintain their corrupt dictatorship.

(View from El Calvario)

After dinner, our nightly meeting was filled with positivity, genuine love, mature and constructive feedback, reflection and inquisitiveness.

Hey parents (and guardians) – you did a great job!   These kids are on point.

All the best,

-Ms. Cole