Independence Days

Nicaragua celebrates two days of independence. The first day, on the 14th of September, is to commemorate the defeat of the imperialist American filibusters under the command of William Walker at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1856. The second day is to celebrate the earlier declaration of independence of Central America from Spanish colonial rule in 1821. Students of both high and elementary schools all across Nicaragua have been dusting off their drums and xylophones and practicing after school for more than a month to prepare for the parades and presentations. One of my high schools was chosen to represent our entire island for a department-wide (loosely equivalent to state-wide in the US) parade in the city of Rivas. We got up early and assembled at the high school. Two jam-packed buses took us to the ferry after many delays and we just barely made it in time. The ferry ride was relaxing and it was fun to watch the kids be kids on a field trip, sneaking off to kiss boyfriends or girlfriends, mildly concerned chaperones trying to keep track of students and hands, and everyone else buying cheap snack foods to eat. Upon arriving on the mainland we jam-crammed back into the buses and quickly flooded back out at the assembly point. Our school had banner-carriers, a prom queen, the corn princess (could be a Midwest parade, right?), a dance troupe, a baton corps, an all-female drum corps, and a band (mostly composed of more drums). I was really impressed and proud of all of them, especially as we wound through the streets and bore the brunt of an oppressively strong sun to perform their dance presentation at the end. We finished with the parade route and the presentation by about 11:15 and for a confused 45 minutes there was talk of taking the buses to an oceanside town 30 minutes away to reward the kids for a job well done, but in the end there wasn’t enough money or parental permission to cover the trip. We all spent the next five hours waiting in the shade until we bussed back to the ferry and the island. We arrived late, sunburned, and exhausted just before 8 pm.

The next day was much the same, though we got to start a bit later. The main difference was that one of the two buses broke down and we had to try to squeeze even more people on the main bus. Instead of being ‘jam-packed’ I would describe it as more like ‘neutron-star-packed.’ We fit 121 people onto a maximum-capacity-sixty regular sized school bus. I’ve never seen anything like it. Luckily, this time we only had to go an hour to our county seat for the parade. The parade ended at a baseball stadium where we listened to a ceremony commemorating the independence of Central America. It was another unbearably hot day and the students took refuge under umbrellas, flags, and the elaborate folklore dresses worn by the dance team.

Some students of mine escaping the heat

After the ceremony we had a dance competition between all the schools in the county and the school I work the most often at won! (my secondary school got second place) It was a really exciting time and a great note to end on, except that it took another three hours to get home. More sunburn and exhaustion.

Day three was essentially the same exact parade as the day before, but it took place in my town for the benefit of those who couldn’t leave town the previous day. More sun, but at least it ended by 1 pm and we were close to home already. I have two photo albums to share, one with pictures from my main school and the other of my secondary school. After these three days ‘off’ of school, I was ready for a vacation. Luckily the next day was Saturday and I got to relax for the weekend. We have a few days off this week, too. Monday was a day off to compensate teachers who were required to be at the parades the previous week, and then the principals decided to give Tuesday and Wednesday off for the same reason. Monday morning I had another little adventure with my friend John.

The last adventure, as you may remember, had to do with swimming to an uninhabited island about a kilometer offshore. This one was a plan to run from the major city on the northwest side of the island to the city on the northeast side. We were told that it was about 20 km and, though neither of us were in the right shape for it, we decided we would try it. It was a very successful run, despite taking a wrong turn at one point. It became clear after about an hour of running that the run was significantly shorter than we had planned. We have since been informed that it is only 17 km. We tried to run early, from 7-8:30 or so, but it was still pretty hot. I suspect that I may have experienced some kind of sun or heat-related sickness afterward, with intermittent headaches, dizziness, and a disturbing inability to sweat for more than twelve hours afterward. I seem to be back to normal now, but I will be more careful next time not to overexert. When I upload some videos from the parades, I’ll link to them.

Opinions on the new blog theme? I was looking for something with a wider column so the posts wouldn’t be so long. Let me know what you think.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Janet Boddy on September 23, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I love this new format! And it’s very good to hear from you again. Glad you are feeling better.


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