I started the day as usual: Put on my permethrin-sprayed clothes (a repellent that kills/repels mosquitoes upon contact), threw toilet paper in the trashcan after going (since the toilet clogs easily), and ate gallo pinto (rice and beans) and fruit for breakfast. After this developed routine I was ready to go to class.

Without much delay, class started with a discussion on power and privilege. We first defined what both words meant to us, then we defined it in class.

Power

Pre: For me, power is a word commonly defined in the US as someone being in a position of control over other people. I wanted to unlearn what US society taught me about power and to relearn what it means through this experience. I wanted to learn it as if it were the first time I encountered the word.

Post: It was eye-opening relearning the concept of power in class. Interestingly, power can be described as a triangle, with the ends of the triangle indicating its levels of intensity and quality. (adapted from Max Weber, Craig and Craig, and Vanderbuilt). On one end, people who have intense power have higher power quality (Meaning that neither people nor their opinions matter). In contrast, with low intense power comes low-quality power (Meaning people can share opinions and be permissive).

Shared power to me was an oxymoron. I thought, ‘In what way can power be shared, when it usually involves a few people with a lot of money and resources over the majority without?’ Privilege proved to be key to answer these questions.

 

Privilege

Pre: I defined privilege as a status or position as a result of past generations.

Post: We then defined privilege as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people (from Oxford University dictionary). Privilege, like money or human rights, unfortunately, is unequally distributed around the world. And often times the privileges we have are unconscious or unnoticed. So we have to first take the time to acknowledge that we have privilege as a step to tackling inequality. In relation to power, we can use our knowledge and skills to build capacity and empower communities, rather than impose beliefs/knowledge on the community. It can help or hurt people.

To reinforce these ideas, we did a fun group exercise; Each group had a picture that illustrated an issue and each member had to relate it back to power and privilege. Our team got a picture with two kids; One was well dressed and had three blocks ‘ABC’ laid out in order. The other child was not well dressed, had a block with a picture of an apple on it, and part of the block was eaten up. Our team concluded that the boy with the letter blocks was well-educated and more privileged, since he knows the letters of the alphabet. In contrast, the other boy is disadvantaged by having a block that is not a letter and having fewer blocks to work with.

Something not mentioned however, was that though the not well-dressed boy may be illiterate, he can still learn visually. He obviously knows what an apple looks like and how it functions (by eating something that resembles it) so he knows what it is. Yet he will still have a disadvantage in society, which favors those who are literate. Sadly, illiteracy is an issue in both developing and developed nations. We were informed that very few people in rural Nicaraguan communities can read or write. But even in the states, people are illiterate when it comes to things like medicine. Some English and Spanish speakers that I have met in the states can speak or listen better than read or write.

For the remainder of the day, we chilled out. I skyped my family around 8 (10 their time) bragging about how Nicaragua was quite a way to spend a birthday (yup today was my birthday), and I even told them that it was hands down the best way to spend it.

Demographics of Nicaragua

With the Spanish conquest and confiscation of Africans, Mestizo populations would grow later (a mix between Spanish/Indigenous/African). Miskitos remain the largest indigenous population with their own language and culture. They live on the Northern Caribbean coast of the country.

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