Rain Day

>> Thursday, October 04, 2007

At first, I was really disappointed that I was going to be a teacher in a place that doesn’t have snow days, the cold days where you get to stay at home, watching TV, and drinking hot chocolate. Little did I know that Nicaragua has an even better idea: rain days.

I had heard that school is canceled when it’s raining, but we had never actually experienced it until Tuesday afternoon. There have been plenty of days when it’s been raining, of course, but apparently there are a lot of unspoken rules about what does and does not constitute a rain day: first, it needs to be raining about 30 minutes before school starts, which is the time everyone is normally going to school. It’s rained lots of times around 3 or 4 o’clock, but by that time everyone’s already at school, so there’s no point in canceling it since everyone would get wet going home anyway. Second, it has to be raining hard. Little sprinkles or even the threat of really dark clouds isn’t enough to earn students and teachers a day of freedom. It also has to be the type of rain that’s going to last all afternoon, not just a brief shower that’s going to pass. I think there are probably other unspoken rules that we still don’t know, but I guess we have two years to figure it all out.

On Tuesday morning (school was already canceled Monday, remember, to allow a day of recovery from Masaya’s festivities over the weekend and is also canceled this Monday for the same reason) it started raining really hard at about 10:30 with no sign of stopping. I’m not going to lie; Paul and I were a little eager for our first rain day, but when the rain stopped at about 12:00, we both got ready to go to school. I decided to walk to school since the rain had cooled everything off, but of course it started pouring again when I was just far enough that it was pointless to turn back or take a cab. I arrived at school before my 1:00 class, but it became obvious that it was a rain day because there were about half a dozen professors and maybe 20 students there. I think this is sort of a chicken-or-the-egg situation; the teachers say they don’t come when it’s raining because the students don’t, but the students say they don’t come because no teachers do. Either way, they never even rang the bell for classes to begin. Those of us that were silly enough to come to school pretty much waited around until the rain let up to go home, and I also wanted to wait until my two classes would have been over just to make sure that neither of my afternoon counterparts would come and think I was lazy for not going to school (they never came). I made it home around 2:30 during a brief break in the rain and discovered that Paul had had the exact same experience at his school. Even though the idea of a rain day (presumably) is to allow everyone to say dry, there were plenty of neighborhood chavalos who took advantage of the day to go swimming:

And more chavalos that took the opportunity to dispose of some unwanted trash:

Wednesday was more of the same: it started raining a little before noon and really didn’t let up until after 3:00. Paul and I decided that we shouldn’t go to class since we doubted anyone else would be there (chicken or the egg?) and just enjoyed an afternoon at home reading while it rained. I’m not exactly sure if there is rain day etiquette regarding two rain days in a row, but I guess we’ll find out this afternoon when we go to school. That is, of course, unless it starts to rain.

UPDATE: Without a cloud in the sky this afternoon, Paul and I both went to school. Yesterday, Paul's counterpart didn't go to school at all, and mine both went, but there weren't enough students to have class. So it turns out we didn't miss anything and we didn't have to get wet.


Greased-up tree trunks and firework bulls

Last weekend we went with to la alborada (I don’t know how that translates). It’s a nominally religious festival for San Miguel, and for that reason it was at Iglesia San Miguel in Masaya. We were originally attracted by the prospect of people climbing a greased-up tree to get a prize. When we got there, though, we were pretty surprised to find out that it was also a fireworks show. I feel like we talk a lot about fuegos artificiales, but they're pretty invasive and a pretty consistent theme to life here (for example I heard some go off as I was writing that sentence). Fireworks in Nicaragua are scary because they’re mostly homemade and would most certainly be outlawed in at least 45 states in the US. There are a few types—the one most frequently encountered is one that goes into the air and makes a lot of noise. Then there’s the rare one that goes into the air and makes noise along with some colors and lights. The loudest one is a ground-rumbling firework that can be heard miles away. The final is one that you put into a torro (bull) hat and then use to chase after people:

Since words are inadequate to describe the terror you should feel upon seeing the bull for the first time, here’s a video to help you understand:
After the big fireworks the air is filled with sulfur and smoke, but chavalos still want their picture taken:
Holly and Miriam safely out of danger from the raging fireworks bull:
The whole festival centered around the greasy tree:
The promised pole-climb was a bit underwhelming because not many people were willing to do it. People were pretty smart about it, though. Instead of trying to climb it solo, a group of guys would climb on top of each other (sorry the picture is hard to see).
No one really got close while we were there because the guy on the bottom would always crumble and then all of the guys on the human ladder would slide down the tree. No one had gotten the prize (cash) in a little over two hours, so we decided to leave because it would go on until someone got it. We left to get some nancite helado and Holly spilled it all over herself and the ground but the picture has mysteriously been deleted (hmmm).

It turned out that a few minutes after we left someone got the prize, which of course only intensified the fireworks. Things finally settled down, but there is an exact replica of la alborada this weekend at a different church, but at least we can be prepared for the explosions this time.


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