We got home from Nicaragua Monday night. From earlier trips, I know that I process my experience on the flight home and during the first days back in La Crosse. This time, I found myself thinking about a game of Simon Says we played the first day we arrived in the Matagalpa area.
We were in Nueva Santa Celia to check on the library project and spend time with children who attend an after school program. We played games we would be sharing with high school students who teach in the program later in the week. We also played a game of Simon Says. There were about 30 children ages 2-14 in the group. Lisa explained how to play Simon Says. Then, we played several rounds touching our noses, toes, and heads. We did some jumping and spinning. The children caught on as we played, and it got harder and harder to trick them when “Simón dice” wasn’t part of the instructions.
What makes this game of Simon Says worth remembering a week later? Once the children understood the game, we invited one of them to lead a round. A little girl, probably about 8-years-old accepted our invitation and led the group. Her instructions went like this – accompanied by very clear, dramatic actions (her instructions were in Spanish of course, these are a translation):
Simon says read a book.
Simon says paint a picture.
Simon says fix your hair.
Simon says look at the map on the wall, etc.
To be honest, she showed us up. Her way of playing was more fun, more creative, and more effective at tricking the group because they focused what she was saying. Fun, for sure, but why am I still thinking about this 10-minute game a week later? Children show me up all the time; it’s part of being a teacher.
Her way of playing the game has stuck with me because of a conversation I had with the director of one of our partners in Nicaragua several years ago. It was my first trip, and the person I was speaking to has long and valuable experience in the country. I asked him what we don’t see as we try to share information and skills. What don’t we know?
His answer was that groups coming to the country underestimate the creativity and resourcefulness of the Nicaraguans. He pointed out they have survived decades of war, natural disaster and political upheaval. Yes, they need expertise and support that is not available. However, given that, they have an incredible ingenuity to adapt and apply the knowledge to their reality.
Doing education work in Nicaragua, it is easy let the pressure of “getting it right” consume me. The government schools are weak and the road to learning is long.
A game of Simon Says on a rainy Monday afternoon was an excellent reminder that Nicaraguans are capable, creative partners who will take what we share and do much more than we imagine.
Simon Says has faith!
These are photos from our afternoon of reading and language activities with the children in Nueva Santa Celia.