I sat on the floor, camera in hand, waiting. Most of the crowd behind me had already cleared out, as it was getting late and rainy. The kids walked onto the stage, dressed in their uniforms and costumes – girls with woven baskets and long white skirts, boys with wooden machetes and woven hats. They all took their places: guitar in hand, standing behind the marimba, or on opposite sides of the stage, waiting to start. My heart was in my throat – I was nervous for them.
I had tagged along with the Sones Segovianos orchestra and dance troupe to a celebration for El Dia de los Ninos at the Bataola Norte community centre in Managua. They were performing for the first time in Managua, and it was exciting. We had taken the long bus ride down from Esteli that afternoon, through the rain in Managua, and finally arrived at our location.
Finally the music and dancing started. I found myself humming along; the song was one that I had heard floating through the cooperative in the past month, a mix of guitar, marimba, and accordion. The dancers moving, floating through the steps to a traditional Nicaraguan dance. At this point I was grinning. It was so amazing to finally see the kids together, playing music and dancing to it. I remembered the first few classes I had been to where the dance teacher, Sadie, was teaching the kids the steps. I grinned at some of my coworkers as we sat a few feet away from each other taking pictures. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt extremely proud of what our kids from Esteli had accomplished.
I’m at the end of my second month here in Esteli and working with Cooperativa Christine King. I’ve learned an indescribable amount from my coworkers, but I’m once again taken by surprise at how quickly time passes. I’ve spent a lot of time with the women in the ICES office, travelling to different communities and working in the office. We take turns bringing food into work to cook lunch (or sometimes a snack) for everybody, including girls that might be staying in the shelter. I’ve always found that cooking a meal with someone is a good opportunity for bonding. I usually end up cooking with Alba, the social worker of the ICES team. This has given us a lot of time to bond – usually by Alba asking questions about Canada and explaining various aspects of typical Nicaraguan cuisine to me. One of the hardest questions I think I get asked here is “what is typical Canadian food?” I always want to say poutine, but I still really haven’t figured out how to explain what gravy is in Spanish, or cheese curds for that matter. Sometimes I find it hard on days what I have to bring food, because I’m never quite sure what to make there in the kitchen, especially since I haven’t quite learned how to make Nicaraguan dishes. At this point, though, I think Alba is getting used to me bringing a bag of different ingredients (plantain, tomato, onion, green pepper, cream, whatever else I happen to find that morning in the market), and helping me figure out what to make from there.
As I look forward to the next month, I already envision the end. I’m already picturing myself having to say goodbye to all of the fantastic people I’ve met in the past couple months. It makes me think about what it means to be in community with people. How is it so hard to think about leaving people I’ve only known for two months? Sharing experiences and sharing time together is obviously going to create bonds, and I’m so grateful to have met and spent time with the people that I have so far. My challenge (and gift) to myself for this month is to be as present as possible in the time I have left with everybody. The questions I’ll be reflecting on, though, are what it means to be in community with people, even across national borders. Especially when national borders are a lot more permeable on one side than the other, a result of our unjust world structure. It’ll be much easier for me to come back and visit before my Nicaraguan friends can come visit in Canada. My ability to come and go so easily, my impermanence, is a result of my privilege. As much as I’m not looking forward to leaving, I have to remind myself that my ability to be here in the first place is a result of being middle class, of having a Canadian passport, of having the opportunity with my Masters program to travel. That’s something that consistently has me thinking about what it means to live in community or solidarity across borders.
I look forward to the next month. There’s a lot of work left to be done, but I’m looking forward to the end-of-semester concerts at the cooperative on July 4th and July 11th. I’m looking forward to another month of work with ICES and another month to get to know the women I work with. Another month of watching Rastros de Mentiras with Esperanza, and another four Fridays of going to the organic market in the mornings. Another month of being with the people I’ve had the incredible privilege to meet this summer.
Until next time,