Día del Patria

The whole school... with Kaleb hiding out on the left up the back.

The 14th of September is a big deal here in Nicaragua - so big, in fact, that the street we live in is named after it. It's Nicaraguan independence day or some such the like, so that means that in the lead up there's a lot of flag waving and performances and other excitingly patriotic occurrences.

Dancing with hats is a serious business. And the dance teacher deserves a stiff drink!

The festivities characteristically began several days earlier, specifically for us, because Kaleb's school had arranged the children to perform, with traditional dancing and a brief version of history, at the school. Many school groups actually get out on the day dressed in uniform and march, but St Pauls, having a total population of twenty seven kids mainly under the age of six, went with the slightly more contained environment. Pressing most heavily upon my mind was the fact that we had been asked to bring a traditionally Nicaraguan dish. The teacher sent a note home with a list of food that I should bring. It was quite exciting, not knowing how to prepare any of it, or for that matter knowing what most of it was, but I managed to negotiate rice and beans as a compromise - at which I am now quite capable.

Recitation is also a serious business...

Dave and I cleverly arrived at school at twenty past ten in the morning, having been told ten. We weren't going to be tricked by the Nicaraguan time scheduling again, no sir! And we were quite chuffed to find that we arrived with five minutes till the performance. We weren't so pleased to realise that we had forgotten the camera, but luckily Victor and Katya (our landlord's daughter and son in law, whose son Marcel goes to Kaleb's school) came to the rescue with their camera so all the shots here of the school festivities are thanks to them! The school was all decked out in blue and white (the national colours, of which the flag also comprises) with paper streamers, and strung up flags, and generally prettiness. There were also children buzzing around the wings (read corridor) of the stage (read open tiled room). We took our seats and waited for the performance to begin.

Maize pots on heads, and off they go.

The kindergarteners played quite a significant part, primarily because there are so many of them. The kids looked really cute in their traditional clothes - the boys were wearing white cotton pants and white cotton one piece shirts with colourful embroidery on the front of people, fields, and the word "Nicaragua". They were also wearing straw cowboy hats, which are an integral part of their dancing, and little shoes that basically looked like pieces of card tied on with orange leather. And they all looked so serious! The girls also looked very sweet, bedecked in traditionally flowy and seriously ruffled skirts and tops. Some were in blue and white sateeny material, and some were in white cotton with colourful stitching in the ruffles. They were also scrupulously made up, eyes, lips, cheeks, and each girl's hair was pulled back within an inch of it's life, gelled to cracking, and festooned with flowers. They all looked particularly pleased with themselves.

The skirt swinging in full... swing?

The first few performances involved the little ones; the girls and the boys in separate pieces. The boys came out to do a recitation, where they stood like terrified deer in headlights, completely unprepared for all the tall and adult eyes staring at them. The girls did a little dance after that, where they were carrying decorative replicas of mortar and pestles, apparently to represent grinding maize. Three of them were completely shellshocked, but one of the little girls was an absolute trooper and did all the moves with a flourish while the other three sat staring at each member of the audience. I predict a dazzling career in show business. After that, there was a combined boys dance, where there was a lot of gallant hat swinging, two couples of year threes, who looked very serious and dedicated. One of the boys was so dedicated that when both of his shoes fell off he valiantly continued and pretended it had never happened. The year one boys came out wearing cardboard sandwich boards to give us a historical rendition of Nicaragua, and then the penultimate dance was the year threes and Kaleb.

Kaleb attacking Marcel, our landlord's grandson. Luckily they're quite forgiving!

The year threes had graduated from traditional all white clothing to jeans and red embroidered shirts, with kercheifs around their necks and coyboy hats. The dance was about a bull, and the boys all waved greenery as Kaleb charged out in a hoop full of streamers and proceeded to try and gore each kid to Spanish music. It was very exciting. After that, the whole school sang a song (possibly the school song, or some patriotic number) and we headed out to the main area for traditional eats.

Kaleb on the attack

The highlight of my eating was some excellent fried cheese, made by our landlady (if we had discovered her cheese when we first arrived then we wouldn't have developed such an aversion to Nicaraguan cheese in general) and yucca, which is bizarre and waxy and potato-esque. I also tried some of the traditional maize drink, which tasted suspiciously and pleasantly like heavily sugared chai tea. Dave was more adventurous with the eating, with the consequence of developing food poisoning that night, and spending the following day with cramps, sweating, fever, and all manner of exciting other symptoms that I attempted to relieve using a combination of gatorade and paracetamol. He was sick for the whole of Thursday and the first half of Friday (the actual day of independence) but we still managed to catch a parade as they were going right past our house. My favourite bits were the marching band baton twirling girls... there were three outfits the girls were wearing. Either school uniform (modest); shiny beruffled and flouncy dresses (traditional); or (my personal favourite) peaked hats, tight long sleeved shirts, minis, and thigh high boots with coloured lacing and batons. Picture a cheerleader in boots and you're there. They were awesome, and I could tell the other girls had actually wanted to be those girls.

Come on, who DOESN'T want to be those girls??

All in all, an excellent way to pass the time celebrating the independence of a nation (food poisoning excluded) and as a bonus, a distinct lack of four am marching bands.

Everybody loves a marching band!!

Hi bull

Hey Bridget

That's me with the colorful thing!

Love from Kaleb