Sandinista Revolution Day

>> Saturday, July 19, 2008

Today is the 29th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. It’s a national holiday, and since it’s celebrated on a Saturday this year, we also get Monday off of school. Describing the moment of the revolution in his book Blood of Brothers, Steven Kinzer says:

All during July 19 and 20, battalions of jubilant Sandinistas poured into Managua. The youth and idealism that radiated from their faces was a perfect counterpoint to the aura of corruption and venality that hung over Nicaragua for so long. By the tens of thousands, people poured from their homes to greet the conquering guerrilla heroes, to hug them and shower them with gratitude.
The last 29 years have been pretty rough on the young Sandinistas, turning them into, at the very least, old(er) Sandinistas. Our caddy-corner neighbors are still pretty enthusiastic and every year they throw a gigantic party for the entire neighborhood. This is the first year that we’ve been here to experience it because we only moved to this house last September. On Thursday another neighbor flagged me down and advised me of the upcoming festivities and suggested that if we had somewhere else to sleep we should go there. That the party is remarkable should have been enough to get us out of the house since even mundane Nicaraguan holidays warrant some very fierce revelry. Of course we didn’t heed the warnings and starting at about 5:00 the party preparations began with this giant wall of speakers:

The rest of the night it felt like someone had parked outside our house with a trunk full of subwoofers that caused even the bathroom door at the back of our house to rattle. The party was complete with a big red and black (Sandinista colors) piñata for the kiddies, which seems like the perfect metaphor for Nicaragua. The requisite montón of fireworks was steadily spaced throughout the night to insure that Dora was constantly panicky. Around midnight the rain got too strong and I think forced everyone home, but I was already asleep. This is now proof that I can sleep through anything.

¡Feliz Día de la Revolución!



>> Monday, July 07, 2008

Things that used to seem so out of the ordinary to warrant a post have sort of blended into what is normal for us. This is probably why we haven’t posted in a month. We’ve just been busy with day-to-day stuff.

Our first semester exams finished, which is a stressful time of the year. First, if we’re lucky, we help write the tests. Otherwise, the tests end up with errors and typos and the scoring is really irregular. The tests are then just given based on a schedule. For example, Spanish tests are Monday, Math on Tuesday, etc. Some other teacher is probably going to administer the test so you can’t be everywhere to answer questions and prevent cheating. The tests with cheating are sort of like a game of Telephone—the first student gets it correct and then as the answer ripples out from the epicenter the answers get weirder and worse. To grade the tests, Holly and I usually split the stack with our counterparts, which means grading at least 150 tests.

A sample test:

The final grades are really… depressing; just like in the US, students need 60% to pass, but unlike any school I’ve attended, the students are really happy with just a 60. I helped Romel figure the grades on the computer, so this is what one of my first year sections’ grades look like:

Just under half of the students failed, and the vast majority of students that did pass ended up with a D. No one else seems concerned by this.

In other news, the rains have started. We’ve already passed the point of being quaintly pleased by the coolness that the rains bring and now we’re tired of the rains again. It still doesn’t rain all of the time like in October, but now we have a lot more gray ugly days. The rains are usually announced by the most foreboding clouds ever created.

I also got my bike stolen in June. It was basically my fault, but it still hurts. Really, though, that bike was falling apart, so the joke’s on them. The last picture I have of my bike:

There’s a new group of TEFL volunteers that came exactly a year after we did. They’re still in training now, but it’s almost over, so they know where they’re living already, and one of the new volunteers is going to live in Masaya (shout-out to John’s mom!). He’ll work in the Instituto Central (the biggest school that’s in central park) along with giving community classes at the Telecentro. He’s a really nice guy and it’ll be good to have another gringo around to divert attention away from us. This is the front of John's school where we also have our monthly meetings with all of the English teachers in Masaya (this is recess):Holly decided a while ago that she’s going to go to law school after the Peace Corps and she was busy for all of April, May, and most of June because almost every free minute was spent studying for the LSAT. She took the test and is happy with her score, so the next step is filling out applications and throwing away the 5,000 pages of study materials:Dora is doing just fine. She's still pretty necia, but she's learning "drop it" and "off" so well that she will do those things when we ask about 15% of the time.

Right now we’re on semester break. After the final exams, most students (and teachers) just stopped going to school. We’re officially on break until next Tuesday, so we might try to do something fun this week. Otherwise, we’re just relaxing and getting ready for our trip to the US at the end of the month!


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