Tuesday, November 29, 2011

San Juan del Sur Biblioteca: I choo-choo-choose Chinandega

I Choo-choo-choose Chinandega
Originally posted on Simmons GSLIS Dispatches from the Field

Day 2, or January 5, 2009
Hotel Camino Real, aka our Managua home base, has a delish all you can eat buffet in the mornings, and may be the reason why I went to a third world country and gained 45 pounds. HCR also has a special feature I discovered early in the morning on day 2 whilest following a very interesting sign on an exploratory jaunt around the premises:
What could this be?
Senor Pavo
Yeah, that’s right. Deer, or venados, si se habla espanol. Wee, knee high deer to be precise. And not just deer…
Senor Pavo
Hello, dinner
One big, loud, pavo, or turkey si se habla ingles. No deets on his presence were available. HCR is also attached to a casino with a giant neon pharoh head on it, appropriately titled Pharoh’s Casino. I contemplated gambling for the first time here, but the waves of cigarette smoke and video slot machines kind of turned me off. I’m mostly disappointed I didn’t get a picture of it. I suppose my pic of Senor Pavo more than makes up for it though!

After partaking in some buffet breakfast gluttony, the GSLIS crew met up with Heydi, SJDS librarian and total sweetheart, Noelia, another SJDS librarian sweetheart (and only 19 years old!), Luis Carlos, Edwin’s nephew and a SJDS guybrarian (16 year old, but so mature we didn’t realize this until his mom told us later in the week), and Richard, our awesome driver. We piled into our 12 passenger silver chariot, bound north for Chinandega, with a CD filled with soft rock 80’s songs serenading us. The road took us past Lake Managua (or Lake Xolotlcn to the locals; the names are apparently interchangeable), and past several volcanoes we spotted in the distance, which incited a camera flash riot in the back of the van.
Volcanoes on the road to north
We arrived right around lunchtime in Chinandega, and went to Subway. Something to take note of in Nicaragua: restaurants, even fast food ones, are…not fast. Not even medium speed. Even at a fast food sandwich shop, it took close to an hour for our 15 person group to all get served. This meant we were running kind of late, and had to jet almost immediately off to our first site visit at Ameya.
Ameya is a small village on the outskirts of Chinandega. From what I can gather, the villagers are primarily farmers, making a living off the land. Jane planned a snack of chocolate milk and Nutragrain bars. She told us that for many of the kids, this could have been their only meal that day; giving the kids a nutritious yet delicious snack was more of a priority that stunning them with sugar.
Our arrival was a bit overwhelming for our GSLIS gringo pack. We pulled in to a crowd of close to 200 children dressed in their best, partaking in some sort of dance contest, and quite possibly the most frightening clown I’ve ever seen.
Nica It
Enjoy those inevitable nightmares!
We were introduced with a warm welcome and promptly thrown into some field day games. Erikka may have lost the potato sack race to children half her size, but a little boy lost his pants, so I suppose his pride might have been slightly more damaged than hers.
Erikka’s race
Erikka’s race
Rounds and rounds of field games later (egg races, wheelbarrow races, musical chairs, etc.) we got to my personal favorite part: story time! For the majority of you who don’t know me, I’m an aspiring youth services librarian, currently holding down two jobs in libraries for teens and children. I did a little bit of majoring in Spanish in college back in the day. Ergo, one of my biggest interests in the pursuit of my degree/career/happiness is the development and furthering of Spanish language youth programming. Ergo, I was excited for this part of the afternoon.
The SJDS Biblioteca picks a book of the year each year, which is read at the main library and is also brought to all the sites visited by the book mobile. This year’s selection is Cordoroy, and past selections have included Ferdinand and Clifford. I was definitely nervous when Jane asked me to do the reading. While I’ve done story hours, my experience would best be described as limited…limited to groups of 15-20 at the most, not close to 200, and also limited to the English language, not a language I was three years rusty in speaking or even understanding! Despite my jitters, the kids were wonderful and respectful, and the reading went really well despite my few stumbles over words; some kids got so into the story they crowded around behind me to look at the pictures up close.
Cordoroy in Spanish for 200
We transitioned into a raffle to distract the children while we prepared a snack for 200, which involved making chocolate milk in a water cooler and then rationing it out into 200 servings. Who says math isn’t useful to librarians? Yeesh! Luckily, it was easier than it sounded, the only nervewracking part being when we finally served the snack and were almost bum-rushed by lines of the cutest and best behaved rioters I’ve ever seen.
Ameya snack
Bags and bags and bags of milk
It was a great day and visit. Jane left several boxes of clothing for the future distribution in the community, and several boxes of books as part of her library in a box starter kit. The kids left with a good snack in them and with new stuffed animals they’d won in the raffle or games. Our GSLIS group left feeling that we’d helped do something really fun in a community that probably doesn’t get to let their hair down very often, and help generate excitement and interest in reading, which will hopefully get the Ameya library off to the right start!

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