I think that if I started the Peace Corps over again I would express a desire for a smaller site. Not too too small, but certainly smaller than León, and without so many foreign travelers, volunteers, NGO’s, and university groups. There are various reasons for this feeling that are best expressed in a different article. However, there are absolutely wonderful aspects to living in a large city for Nicaraguan standards. León is chock full of amenities and cultural events.
A British friend of mine, Dan (I know, I just expressed dismay about all of the foreigners, but I won’t ever lament having wonderful people around), is a supervisor at an outdoor bouldering wall, which was constructed last year inside a children’s park that is less than a block and a half from my house. The wall was built by foreigners for the benefits of the children. However, to raise money for wall maintenance, every Tuesday Dan hosts an open climb, and I have been going for the last few weeks. Dan has some extremely challenging routes taped out, and I love trying them and feeling the burn in my forearms. The wall is called Nuevas Alturas, which means “New Heights” in English.
More than just good fun, having the child’s park and the wall is wonderful for the development of the children of León. The wall, even more so, can really help some kids. Trying, failing, and the union of body and mind can be extremely therapeutic and developmental. I live with a five year old that to me seems to have some sort of mental developmental problems. From my uneducated observations I would say Asperger’s Syndrome, but that is an amateur a guess as it gets. I love her very much and would never wish to have lived in a house without her, but she does not interact like I would expect from a five year old. She does not really hold conversations, and she does not often respond to my questions. Her mom does homework with her every day (she is in the last year of pre-school and they usually practice writing letters), but it often degenerates into a fight.
One night I was outside playing soccer with the two neighbor boys, and she came outside. I offered to let her kick the ball, and she absolutely loved it. Every time she kicked the ball she would scream and yelp with joy and ask to do it again. She was patient. She knew that everyone was to get a chance before she could kick again. She would ask me if it was her turn. She did not want to stop either. She would have gone on kicking the ball as I gingerly set it in place for her all night long. Later that night, back in the house, she told me how much she loved doing it and that she wanted to do it again another time.
That night was the most normal conversation and communication I have ever had with Evelyn (the young girl). It was wonderful. The athletic activity did something to her brain, and I believe it was very positive. I recall a few other occasions where we have tossed a rubber ball or a hula-hoop around in the house and how much she absolutely loved it. I wish that she was able to express herself athletically more, if only to see her open up more and become more vocal and social.
What did her grandmother say about her granddaughter’s newfound love for soccer? “She is going to become a marimacha.” That’s an offensive word for a lesbian. I was really disappointed to hear her say that. Sure, there is plenty of stigma and misconceptions of homosexuality, but in the context of the little girl and child development, it speaks to gender norms and expectations we have for what our children do and like. We need to stop putting our children in boxes. We need to stop prescribing certain activities for girls and others for boys. We completely limit how children express themselves. We stifle their creativity. Numerous psychological studies have shown that our form of childrearing and education is stunting creativity, critical thought, and individuality. At a time when a unique girl was making her greatest strides in personal expression and interpersonal development her very own grandmother was inadvertently stifling her advances. It is the reason that students get to senior year of high school and it is so very difficult for them to create new products or service offerings. They are literally raised not to think. They are raised not to be different. That is a direct reference to Nicaragua, but my criticism is certainly not exclusive to Nicaragua.
That’s why I wanted to write about Dan’s work with the Nuevas Alturas wall. It is a means of physical expression; one not prescribed by society (dancing, dress, boys playing sports, etc.). The wall is certainly a wonderful addition to León and a resource for the development and recreation of her children, and I hope that it remains maintained and utilized for years to come.
For the time being, open climb at the wall is every Tuesday from 6:00 – 8:00 PM. Entrance is C$ 50, and there are climbing shoes and chalk available for your use. All skill levels are invited, and depending on how many people are climbing and how closely Dan has to monitor the safety of numerous climbers, he or another climber may be able to orient beginners in climbing methods and techniques. The parque infantil is located from the southwest corner of the Central Park (there is a big building there that says Teatro Gonzales), two blocks west.