Thursday, December 8, 2011

San Juan del Sur Biblioteca: Tip Top Tipitapa

Tip Top Tipitapa
Originally posted on Simmons Dispatches from the Field

Day 4, January 7, 2009

We spent the night in Managua again on our way south, which meant that we were able to get in a site visit to Tipitapa, a community on the outskirts of Managua and another Wisconsin-Nicaragua partner library. I have to say, this was probably my favorite site visit of the trip, for a number of reasons. We were warmly welcomed by Dona Rosa, the librarian whose house is also home to the library, her young assistants, Karen and Carla, and a bunch of children who were at the library. Through the volunteer staff’s hard work, persistence, and dedication, the site has prospered and has been really valued by the community.
Dona Rosa welcomes us to Tipitapa

It seems like Tipitapa is a site that really gets it; there are a wide range of books in Spanish for kids of all ages, and they are all about the subjects kids actually want, like dinosaurs, animals, magic, etc. I was pleased with the diversity in the collection too; while this is clearly a library mostly for children, there is consideration for all reading levels, including adults. Jeremy made the excellent point that the bookshelves are on a level easily accessed by children.
Courtyard in the Tipitapa Biblioteca
Lauren reads a story in Tipitapa
One of my favorite moments of the entire trip occurred in Tipitapa when I was checking out the book room with some young boys. Fishing for questions I could handle asking in my bumbling Spanish, I settled on asking them to show me their favorite book on the shelf was. My little posse of boys eagerly started looking through the shelves, and one of them made a grab for a book. He pulled it down and thus began one of the more amusing conversations I’ve ever had in Spanish; it was about “dinosauros,” (I think you can all handle the translation on that one). Dudes, I have trouble pronouncing dinosaur names in ENGLISH. Throw in some accents and rolled r’s in with 13 to 15 letters, and voila, here comes Tiranosaurante Rex. Luckily, the language of little boys is universal, so the roars needed no translation, and nor did the mockery of me when I told them that my favorite dinosaur is the triceratops (sorry, no translation. Also, admit it, I know I’m not the only one to have read Homer Price and the Enormous Egg and fantasized about having my very own pet triceratops!), and a picture of a T-Rex eating a triceratops was instantly produced.
Outside of this, the library is clearly a library with the goal of serving the community in mind. The kids feel comfortable here, evidenced by the fact that they all had no problem marching right into the book room and browsing leisurely to their hearts content. The women who work here know the children by name and are equally respected by the kids, who were actively engaged in a number of activities (a passion for crayons, like little boy language, seems to be universal). Moreover, the kids here were super friendly to us, despite their initial shyness, which to me indicates they felt comfortable there, even with all these day-glo white strangers talking at them in gibbersish.
While helping kids make Cordoroy calendars, I had the singular pleasure of meet a boy with perhaps the best name ever…Maverick. For those of you who don’t know, one my all time favorite movies hands down is Topgun. I contemplated asking him if he had a best friend named Goose, but figured I’d play it cool and settle for photographic evidence of my encounter with Maverick. I attempted to take a picture of him with his calendar, which had his name written across the top. Tragically, the writing didn’t turn up in the picture! You’ll just have to take my word that there is a boy by the name of Maverick living somewhere in Tipitapa, Managua, communicating, keeping up foreign relations, and maybe even requesting a fly by.
I’d also like to add that Dona Rosa showed some of us a slide show she’d put together of a project the volunteer librarians have taken upon themselves to start. They have started doing a pseudo bookmobile of their own to the dump in Managua, which sadly has a community living in it, and a good number of children. She showed me pictures of the holiday party that they threw for the kids, which included a small gift and snack for the kids. It’s kind of incredible that these women do this; the sites we visited on the trip could probably be considered as being below the poverty line. Yet these women who already selflessly volunteer their time, go far and beyond their responsibilities and are working to bring literacy and books to the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua. To say I’m impressed and a little bit awed is an understatement.
Cordoroy Calendars in Tipitapa
As we hit the road, we were showered with hug and kisses from the library staff, the kids, and the adults there. Dona Rosa told us that we should consider the library ours too. I have to admit I got a little misty! All in all, it was a great visit, and I hope that Tipitapa continues to do the fabulous work they have been, both inside and outside their community. They’re clearly doing something right!

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