Sih is the Miskito name for a small palm tree that is covered with nasty spikes. Traditionally, children make arrows for catching fish by fastening the three-inch-long spines to bamboo-like reeds. Adults dangle sections of trunk and fronds from porch roofs to ward off bats. Foreign visitors often become acquainted with the Sih palm when they walk a muddy trail, slip, and reach out for support without looking at what they are about to grab onto. Ouch!
Sih is also the name of the next village downriver from Urang. Downstream but a bit more upscale, relatively speaking. Bright teachers from Sih such as Alfred and Sailin Menth, and the Yunkiath brothers, have skillfully instructed local children over the years and have been leaders in the community.
Alfred now teaches high school in Waspam and is conscientious to help orient local kids when they come up to study in the “big city” after their sixth-grade education has concluded. Sih is a neat little village, the smallest of the seven that we serve, with a friendly, cooperative population.
There was a school-related crisis at one time, however, that illustrates the kind of problems that occur in a small Miskito village. When schooling was first offered to the villagers, a kindly old man donated a plot of ground on which to build classrooms. The transaction was done with just a handshake, and a cement block structure was financed and built. When the man died, his grandsons discovered that there was little available land left for housing inside the village area. They didn’t want to clear new land on the outskirts, so they decided to take back their ancestral plot, demolishing the school and taking the metal roof for themselves. They said, “The deal was with our grandfather, not with us.” So, for several years, we held classes at the Moravian church, until a new plot of land could be legally obtained from the village and a new school constructed.
The new school looks bright and clean, but the yard is small and the drop ceilings in the classrooms are low. Little ventilation enters because of the dense thicket that comes almost to the wall on the windward side, while hordes of deer-flies arise out of the swamp and buzz students as they sit at their desks. In spite of the discomforts, the children are as pleasant and cheerful as any you would want to meet. We are so for them!