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MARTIN
 
ADVENTURE in NICARAGUA
 

My painters for this project were American volunteers mostly from Kentucky and my Tico (Costa Rican) friends.  I had lots of volunteers, more than I really needed.  In fact, I had so many volunteers that people in other projects mumbled that they couldn't get their work done as efficiently.  Of course, part of that was because all of the other projects involved cement and tropical sunshine.  Now seriously, what would you rather do?  Paint with a fan blowing on you (really it was meant to help dry the paint) or swelter with the heat, sun and insects.  Did I say insects?  Yes, there were unusual numbers of gnat-like creatures.  They didn't wander solo either.  They festered and swarmed in packs, usually around my face.  And, there were mosquitoes in the mix, too.  All too often, the volunteers (me included) received souvenirs from the mosquitoes in order to remember the Nicaraguan experience.  So, I repeat, I had lots of volunteers.

I did feel some guilt that there were no Nicaraguans involved in the project.  Gathering volunteers was out of my hands.  I refuse to do a mural by myself, but I don't often have control over who my helpers are.  The school getting the murals was run by the orphanage, Cicrin, but most of those attending the school were from the local community.  This school was an elementary school with a host of kids ten and under while most of the orphans were teenagers. 

However and fortunately, many of the students at the school were not going to be denied.  And, I was so pleased to welcome them.  There was a reason for that, but it happened much earlier and in Europe.  I thoroughly enjoyed painting with orphans in Romania.  It was a wonderful couple of days for me and I knew it.  But, a Romanian man told me something I'd never forget.  The mural was a special time for me, but it was one of so many special times for me.  My murals provided me opportunities around the world that I never imagined.  However, for these orphans, these few days were a highlight of their lives that they would always remember.  When you are someone's highlight, it's a very humbling experience.  So, I guess it's easy to understand why I made sure these little kids got to paint when they were so anxious to help.

I've mentioned several times that I don't have the necessary cooking gene for success in the kitchen.  Well, it's not the only gene I lack.  There is also the foreign language gene. In varying degrees I've studied French, German, Spanish, Tagalog, Arabic and Dutch. They don't work for me.  None of them.  If I had that gene, perhaps the lessons would stick.  Perhaps people wouldn't make fun of me when I tried to communicate in something other than English.  Perhaps I wouldn't feel gene deprived.  But, I am and so I can't habla, parlez, spreken or speak those languages with any sense of mastery.

Of all the languages I've studied, I think I have the most success with Spanish.  And, little kids don't seem to mind Spanish mistakes as long as they are able to communicate, so I had a magnificent time with my little painters.  I was so pleased that I was able to speak -- and joke -- with kids in a second language.  First, I asked if they were intelligent.  Who says no to that?  Then I showed then a three step process for carefully applying paint to the mural.  Of course, I highly praised those who proved their intelligence. 

I asked one boy how old he was, ten, and then I told him that he was so very old.  His friend smiled and said, "I'm eight and I'm young."  I agreed with him, instantly, but then I reminded him what would happen in two years.  Everyone laughed.  And so, that's how my painting session went.  Everyone who wanted a turn got one, and everyone left with a smile.  Me included.

MARTIN
Copyright 2011 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.