The water is your friend…you don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move.~ Alexandr Popov
Every year during the Easter holy week, known as Semana Santa, the media reports the number of drownings which occur at the local beaches in Nicaragua. It reminds me of the yearly reports of the amount of trash collected after the Nascar races at the Bristol Motor Speedway…except this is much more serious.
During Holy Week, the masses take to the beaches to find refuge from the scalding heat in March and April. For some, it is a passionate religious week composed of prayers, processions, and pilgrimages. However, for most Nicaraguans, their spiritual quest takes on a party atmosphere of grand proportions involving massive consumption of Tona and Victoria beer, Flor de Cana rum, and swimming…a deadly combination…especially considering that most Nicaraguans can’t swim.
This astounds us! Ron has over 40 years of experience as a swim coach and a swim instructor. The population of Ometepe Island is 40,000, and increases dramatically during the week of Semana Santa. It is always frightening to go to the beach during this time of the year because our trained eyes skim the troubled waters constantly, instead of relaxing and partying like a bacanalear (a Nicaraguan party animal).
Although the official toll isn’t in yet, the Nicaraguan Dispatch reports that at least 20 Nicaraguans drowned, 970 were stung by jellyfish, and lifeguards from the Red Cross saved 254 swimmers. Semana Santa week is typically a violent week in Nicaragua. Progress toward water safety is slow, but things are looking up. The Red Cross has a few lifeguards stationed at the most popular beaches, now. Ron is going to offer swimming lessons for the preschool children in our local elementary school. We’re going to make a trip to Maxi-Pali (a Nicaraguan Wal-Mart on a smaller scale) this week to buy swimming noodles and kick boards.
We are living on an island, in the middle of the world’s 11th largest fresh water lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America. Surely, we can help the locals make the water their friend…. one child at a time.