First Eskimo

by Alex Fuller-Young on March 23, 2010

By James MS Johnson

When I am visiting the school, I am often asked to drive the Libby Bus, picking the students up and taking them home at the end of the day. I rarely get to know their names, but I do learn their neighborhoods, and see their family members waiting for them, and watch the teachers carefully escorting their students, while holding their little hands when they have to cross the roads, making sure that they are safe. The afternoon preschool kids go home about an hour and a half before the older children, and there aren’t very many of them. Taking the morning students home, first through fourth graders, and picking up the afternoon students, sometimes puts more than 100 kids on the 24 passenger Libby Bus, packed in like sardines.

On a warm afternoon in February, I delivered the preschool kids, little four and five year olds, to their homes in the neighborhoods of Santa Elena, Tomas Martinez, and Fernando Salazar. The two afternoon preschool teachers, Isabel and Alerna, were the only people that I could see left on the bus as we made our way slowly back through the downtown streets of Nagarote, heading back up to our school at the top of the hill. Pulling to a stop at an intersection, I saw one of my friends, Jose Angel, pushing his little white, Eskimo ice cream peddler’s cart, jingling its bell on the corner. Jose Angel is 70 plus years old, and the father of twelve, including Mario who is the school’s welder. Jose Angel is from Masaya and has copper colored skin and very high cheekbones; he is as close as any Nicaraguans who are Indios puros, a “son of Nacatime”, an ethnic tribe from the Masaya area. Our eyes met through the windshield of the bus and I pulled to the curb. As I opened Libby’s front door, I asked Isabel and Alerna if they would like an ice cream from Jose Angel’s cart, and of course they said yes, please.

To my surprise, when I stood up, I saw two little children sitting toward the back of the bus in between the two teachers. They were so small that their heads didn’t stick above the seats and I had not seen them in my mirrors. Did we forget to drop them at their house, I asked in Spanish? No, they just lived way out in the campo, and they had to wait for the older kids to get out at five PM to get their ride home. They simply rode around on the bus and went back to the school to wait. Well, of course now I had to buy two more ice creams from Jose Angel and wondered, what were their favorite flavors? Chocolate? Vanilla? Pajizo freson?  They didn’t have a clue what their favorite flavor was, and they did not understand what their teachers were asking. We decided on chocolate. Alerna carefully folded the wrappers to catch the melting drips as the two children savored their first ever Eskimos while the Libby Bus slowly took us back up to School of Louise’s  Dreams.

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