The first day in Nicaragua is often a blur. Between the red eye flight, the road travel from the airport to Managua, and then arrival at the Seeds of Learning Resource Center midday, it’s hard for me to tell the date or time. All I know is I’m feeling a strange blend of exhausion and adrenaline that helps me stay awake for nearly 36 hours.
Nicaragua’s landscape is amazingly green and tropical. The sky today is overcast and the scent of smoke hovers in the air as we load the Toyota truck and head off for the worksite. Twelve kids and seven adults, coated with sunscreen and loaded with backpacks and water bottles, took off down the dirt road for the first day of our adventure.
The children and teachers greeted us in Casas Viejas. Currently, the community has a two room schoolhouse for preschool through 6th grade. Our job is to help construct a two-room annex to provide a space for high school students. In Nicaragua, high school is grades 5-11. For the kids of Casas Viejas, the nearest high school is over several mountain passes, about a 90 minute walk. This addition will provide high school for not only kids, but also adults in the community.
Yuri teaches 17 preschool students, Ana teaches 22 primary students in 1st-3rd grades, and Marisa teaches 22 4th – 6th graders. The teachers also serve as liaisons for the community to provide information about the school building project.
Nicaraguans are incredibly hospitable, and go to great lengths to make us feel welcome and comfortable in their community. As soon as we arrived, Carolina, a 6th grader, quietly came up to me and waited for me to speak. She had a sweet smile, and was excited to get to know the teenage girls and me. After a prayer and singing the national anthem, she proudly danced for us.
Our work task for today was to prepare to start building one of three walls for the school. First, we had to create a human chain to move bricks from the front of the school to the back area where the annex is being built. It was a great way to get to know some of the kids, and we were able to move hundreds of bricks fairly quickly. Cameron managed to turn it into a game, while getting to make some new friends.
To the kids great delight, the wall building began a bit early! Lily took right to the bricklaying, while Cameron helped build a cement foundation.
This trip, I decided to be much more organized about getting to know the kids’ names, so I took a photo of these girls and asked them to write their names and ages in my notebook. I’d forgotten that photos are a huge treat in Nicaragua.
It snowballed, and soon I had nearly every child wanting to write in my notebook.
After a few hours of brick laying, we tumbled into the pickup and headed for home. We knew we’d sleep well, with the work of cementing friendships in Nicaragua has begun. The awkward introductions were over, and tomorrow the real building would begin.
How can you resist these smiles? Not bad payment for a long day of work!