Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nicaragua: Benjamin´s Piñata

These are the pictures taken by Leanne BEFORE the gradeschoolers poured through the doors. Don´t think that I think this many kids counts as a crowd.

Today is Benjamin´s birthday. Benjamin is a fellow volunteer in Chacocente, and he´s from my home area code, which combined with his winning personality makes us instant friends. Yesterday he and Esperanza and some of the kids and I made a piñata, which is a new skill I´ve half picked up in Nicaragua. When I say half picked up, that´s because I learned a bit here and a bit there, but never the whole process all the way through.

I did get the right materials.
We cut the crepe almost the way it´s supposed to be cut.
I successfully boiled yuca flour into piñata glue.
I successfully created a star piñata out of newspaper.
I remembered to dangle streamers from the corners.

So what if one of the points was a good four inches lower than its sisters? So what if we didn´t let it dry all the way before putting the crepe on? Did it dash our
spirits that the piñata was still wet with yuca glue the next day when we wanted to put the candy in? Not at all. When the wet newspaper started giving way, we bravely bandaged it all over with clear cheap tape and stepped back grinning and clapping each other on the back. The gaping whole causing 5/6ths of the piñata to fall away from the other sixth was not allowed to follow through on its threat; disaster was averted.

The last thing I expected to foil our plans was the rope INSIDE the piñata.

This afternoon, I let preschool out early to give us time for me to climb a tree to hang a thick jumprope over a high branch, tie the piñata rope to the thick rope, and lie in wait with the preschoolers, ready for the rush of gradeschoolers to pour through the main doors and try to bat through my layers of piñata tape. We got them to stand in a circle. We chose the first batter. He was blindfolded and spun around. It was a particularly long stick, so I was taking pride in dangling the piñata down, and then quickly pulling it out of reach high in the branches, when one such maneuver resulted in a snapping, tearing sound and the piñata abruptly hit the dirt. Immediately there was a mash pit of children, screaming and literally lying on top of one another, scratching for the candy. We grownups stood back, laughed at the intimidating spectacle apparently our responsibility, and after a couple minutes started bodily pulling students out of the mound. Two kids turned out to be on the bottom, hugging the intact (if a bit mushy from the wet glue) piñata to their chests. They took off running.

Well, we said, standing back and recovering from the shock (and taking note of the tip of piñata clinging to the frayed end of the piñata cord-- the entire piñata had simply detached from the rope and fallen), there you go. That was your piñata, Benjamin. Quite an experience! Wasn´t that a good story to tell.

But then the more demure kids complained to us: they had stayed out of the mash pit, and therefore had no candy. I was inspired to justice. Were the most aggressive and greedy kids to be rewarded by their behavior, while those who had stayed out of the mob remained candy-less? I took off jogging after the culprits.

I went through the school, where the teachers pointed me in the right direction. I caught sight of two kids with a suspiciously bulging backpack carried between them.

I have learned by chasing pre-adolesent culprits of various crimes, that I can run faster than they can. I picked up my speed. I overtook the kids just leaving the school yard, and recovered the backpack. I made the kids line up and Benjamin (who had kept a stash of candy out of the piñata for the less aggressive kids who never get any) and I started handing one candy to each child. Well, then they started wheedling, bargaining, I want more, I want this flavor. So the two of us ended up grabbing the remaining handfuls and tossing them as to birds. I even started singing that song from Mary Poppins, grinning at Leanne who was the only one I could expect to recognize it (since Benjamin was busy throwing candy to his half of the kids). ¨FEED THE BIRDS! TUPPENCE A BAG!!!¨ Laughing and yelling. It was great crowd control. Wherever kids weren´t, I threw candy. That kept them from rushing my person.

Maybe I should always carry handfuls of candy for just that purpose-- protecting my person from being rushed by mobs of kids.

I wish to conclude by saying that as infuriating and illogical and person-rushing as these kids may tend to be, they are wonderful and I love them so, so, so much.


Peggy Malone said...

Gosh! I thought I'd already written a comment before I had to jump through hoops to get a Google account. Oh, well.
The story was a great one. I'm passing it on to my friend who's doing similar work in Columbia.
Peace, joy, and love to you.
Peggy Malone

David Reese said...

Peggy: sorry for the google account hijinks; if we don't have that turned on we get a lot of fake comments from robots. I'm not kidding.

Rachael: this is a lovely story and perfectly describes what it is like to work at the chaucocente school.