May 28, 2008
We made it to the boat – and on time – early actually! We said goodbye to most of our Nicaraguan host families and friends early this morning and then began the bus ride to the ferry port in San Jorge. I can’t believe the “service” part of the trip has come to an end and we are awaiting our arrival to Ometepe, supposedly the 8th wonder of the world.
A few days ago, most team members were expressing their excitement about moving on from San Ramon to Ometepe and then home. However, the mood shifted in the last 24 hours to sadness about leaving our San Ramon families and friends. The goodbye/mother’s day party last night was amazing. After a pretty stressful day of scurrying around to finish projects up, all of that was forgotten once everyone stepped into the civic center and partying began.
The evening was filled with cultural performances and mother’s day activities our group had planned. I think everyone would agree that one of the evening’s highlights was Major Joyce River; Norwich University class of 1988 and Assistant Commandant, traditional dance performance with her host sister Laura. It took us all by surprise and left us all very impressed. Major Rivers’ performance is just one example of the level of cultural exchange we’ve all embraced and experienced on this trip. The evening continued with more performances, games, food, dancing, gift exchanging, laughter, and hugging – two communities that 2 weeks ago were strangers are now not just friends, but family. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Last night was the celebration, but the reality was this morning when the tears began streaming and the goodbyes had to happen. But the trip isn’t over and as Beth pointed out, neither is the cultural exchange. We have 6 Nicaraguan family members joining us for the trip to Ometepe, so let the fun continue! The trip will be over in a few days, but the memories and impact on each other’s lives will last forever.
May 28, 2008
Today is Wednesday and we are saying goodbye to our home stay families. It has been an amazing trip and everyone is saying they don’t want to leave, but as fun as it has been for me, I am ready to see the tourist attractions that Nicaragua has to offer. Our next 5 days will be spent traveling, shopping, and touring, which will be very exciting for me. On another note, I have decided that I love being an American and I am ready to return home. Adios!
May 27, 2008
As I sit here to write what might be one of my last journal entries from this year’s trip, I’m listening to my family in the next room exchanging “Buenos noches” & “hasta mañanas” with each other.
I’m so going to miss my family, most of all now that our time has come to leave for Ometepe in the morning.
Tonight was a bit of a late night as we’ve just returned from the civic center in San Ramon – the location of our going away party/mothers day celebration.
Of course no fiesta would be complete without food, song, dance, games, & a piñata! Even Joyce surprised us with a folkloric dance performance that she and her sister had prepared. They were quite good! And Joyce seemed to have been in her element with full costume and make-up!
Everyone on the team has really surprised me in some way during the trip – mostly for the good, of course! But when push came to shove, we came through as a team every time.
Back to my thoughts on leaving (my host family) in the morning: having grown so close to them over the past two weeks, I feel like there’s nothing I can do for or give to them that will ever be enough to repay them for welcoming me into their hearts and home so completely as they have.
Having had come from my own family where we would express our love and gratitude for each other with gifts, I’m at a loss as to how I can communicate my love and appreciation to this wonderful family.
My plan however, is to say in contact with them via any way possible. My “parents” and “brothers” don’t have email but we’ve promised we’d call each other which means I really need to improve my Spanish!
With an invitation from my family to return and the anticipation of seeing Enrique and Melvin’s story about the parakeet that we started together, I can’t wait to return.
If you’re reading this, just know there’s a community of some of the most warm-hearted and fun loving people I’ve ever met down here – and they’re eager to establish friendships with anyone wanting and willing to make the effort. If the ultimate goal of this trip has been to create solidarity and build relationships that won’t soon be forgotten – mission accomplished.
May 26, 2008
Well today is our last day in San Ramon. The two weeks have flown by. It is 8:00 a.m. and there is so much to do today. We have to finish up our La Chispa Library project, set-up for our mother’s day/final night fiesta, and pack for Ometepe. Most of the group is feeling a little torn between excitement for Ometepe and sadness because we are leaving our families that we have grown close to here in San Ramon. I know over the last two weeks I have met a lot of people and grown close to some of them. Last night a small group of us sat around in the local park and talked with some of our brothers and sisters from our host families. The kids here in San Ramon had so many questions about college in the states. Most of them hold that as their goal and we tried to answer as much as we could for them. We also exchanged emails and instant messenger address so that we can keep in contact. Well the day is beginning so I will be writing in a few days.
May 24, 2008
I’m having mixed feelings as the days in San Ramon dwindle down. I love it here, the places we have been, and the people we have met. There is a part of me that could stay here forever and a part of me that misses my family and my boyfriend. I don’t think there has even been a time in my life where I have been this happy. I feel like my true self, spirit, and my love for doing good has come out in my time here like it has never done before. Every penny that was spent to come here was worth it. I honestly can say I’d wouldn’t change a moment here, the friendships I have made here with the people of this wonderful country and the friendships I have made with the people on my team will be everlasting and I am so happy and thankful for that.
May 24, 2008
It’s been a slow day so far, started at 9 at Mercedes’ house; Moriah did some interviews. It has been an interesting week group-wise; I talked in my interview about how the group has been holding together pretty well, I think it has to do with everyone having individual home stays to go home to. There’s a little more alone time then last year, which, to me, is good.
I am now at the institute or local high school helping to teach English classes. We just got out of a first year class that apparently just started; we were supposed to be teaching them how to tell time, but they said they hadn’t even learned numbers yet.
The style of teaching is here is interesting; first of all they usually only meet once a week, so even the 6th year English classes don’t speak as much English as you would expect. The other thing I noticed was that at home in Spanish classes once I got past like 2nd year the teachers made us speak Spanish all the time; here the teacher teaches English classes almost completely in Spanish all the way up through the 6th year. It doesn’t seem to be a really effective system, in my opinion.
Lunchtime now, time for some of Mama Marbely’s delicious pasta and salsa. Hasta Luego!
May 23, 2008
Well it has been a long two weeks! It is Saturday and some of the people in the group visited ‘Los Pipitos’ and ‘Casa Materna,’ as well as the ‘San Ramon Institute.’ I was in the group that visited ‘Casa Materna.’ It was great because we created bracelets out of yarn. It was great until I got a little bored with making bracelets. It was about 11:30 and the group left to go each lunch since it was a hot day. We all went to our host families to eat. After eating, we all went to La Chispa Library to organize books. Oh, yeah, I forgot something! Yesterday I saw the Presidente of Nicaragua in San Ramon, face to face. It was so cool. Not everyone gests to see or even visit the President everyday. I even got the privilege to take a photo with him in person. Now, everyone is not fond of the President of Nicaragua because apparently he is a ‘Sandinista’ political active president. So, I guess, I met a president ‘face to face’ that pushes the ‘Sandinista’ movement forward. So what! Anyways, I have a headache as I write this blog and it’s raining and pouring very hard right now! It is crazy. I think some of the people on this trip are ready to go to a spa and relax, right?!? Yeah, I think so.
May 23, 2008
Lots of things have happened since last time I wrote. Painting “El Chile” school was amazing. Seeing teachers, parents and students from the community of “El Chile” helping us paint an entire school was very cool. Coming back to the school a couple of days later to see students enjoying their brand new painted school was very rewarding.
It’s amazing and somewhat cool to see how different characters can come together to complete a task. Some of our team members have adjusted to the culture and “food;” others not so much, but we are still supporting each other to keep going. Some of us are feeling ready to go home, but I still think that there is so much to do here and so many potential projects that we can contribute to.
I’m very lucky to have the host family I have. “Dona Nelly” and everyone in their family have been very hospitable with me. I feel like part of their family and I will keep in contact with them forever. Some of them may go to visit me in Panama in July.
I’m looking forward to the vacation part of the trip and enjoying with Keyla (my sister) in Nicaragua in Ometepe and Granada.
May 23, 2008
Today was a big day in San Ramon. The President of Nicaragua came to speak. Jose told me this morning on our walk to meet the team that the President would be visiting. Our group went to La Esperanza Verde today for a short hike, and an awesome lunch (no beans, haha). We laid and relaxed in the hammocks a while before heading back to San Ramon. When we returned, there were police at every corner putting up roadblocks and setting the stage for the President. The town gathered to hear the speech, and things were very chaotic. A few group members and I stayed for most of the speech, ate some cheeseburgers, and headed back to Chris’ house.
The procession of police vehicles began soon after the President stopped speaking. Shiel and I stood on the curb and said goodbye, not realizing the President was driving one of the vehicles until he was just past us. I’m assuming he left San Ramon via helicopter, just as he had arrived.
Tomorrow should be an interesting day. Shiel and I have planned to swim with the ladies at Casa Materna. But 3 of the women were due today, and a few more are due on the 25th, so we’ll see in the morning! We are also eating dinner at an Italian restaurant tomorrow! Everyone is pretty excited about that. But it’s time to head to bed, the dogs and chickens always wake me up early! Adios!
May 22, 2008
Our days have been full, but I get more sleep here than at home. Last night Estella’s 19-year-old brother went to the hospital with a fever, GI distress and dehydration. I watched the house for a little while as they got together with the family to get a cab to get to the hospital. This morning Tio Mignel seems to be a little better. Samurai is eating out of my hands and now letting me pet him, and sleeping at my feet. Bribery gets you somewhere after all. One villager saw samurai warming up to me and made a remark about getting to his heart through his stomach, and I said dogs and men are all the same. He laughed. Last year, Laura was at the University in Leon so I only saw her one weekend or two, but this year she is home during the week and goes to school on the weekends. We are getting to know each other better and having a lot of fun together, but at times she seems offended or distrusting. I am hoping that we can get her to Norwich for a year and eventually get a University exchange program going. A couple of days ago when we were on the bus driving through the La Chispa neighborhood, a bunch of kids yelled “los ricos”, the rich people. People here assume all gringos are rich, though it is true our poor do have much more than most of the rest of the world’s poor. I hate being perceived as one of “los ricos” because it keeps walls and barriers in place instead of tearing them down. Envy is such a powerfully harmful emotion for everyone. The Ivan Illich paper will provide for a lively conversation along these lines. Last year Clark, my host family “brother” was unemployed, because of the difficult economic conditions, so we had time to get to know each other, but this year he works several hours away doing coffee studies near Honduras, so I only see him on the weekends. I miss him, as his family must miss him. Many men here who are lucky to find work at all must travel great distances and leave their families for long periods of time. We have such powerfully strong ambitions that food, clothing and shelter just don’t seem to be enough and we destroy families and societies trying to get more. The only real answer is being content with what we have, which is probably much easier for those who have. The early American spirit was one of hope. What is it today? Getting and consuming and getting more until we get to our graves. I would have any trouble becoming a Nicaraguan… I would have a hard time counting coffee beans for eight hours a day though.
May 22, 2008
Aside from missing home, the last few days have been semi-busy. Yesterday I spent the morning and afternoon at Casa de Materna working on the proposal for them so that they can get a new building. I did quite a bit of research on proposals and I finally found a format that I think would work for Casa de Materna, I’ve done with them, and I have tons of notes on Casa de Materna’s history and goals. Hopefully I will be able to draft a proposal for them before we leave and have it sent out to as many NGO’s and private organizations as possible. Today we climbed the mountain behind the school in El Chile, once we got to the top, it was an absolutely beautiful view. You could see for miles. Currently we are at the weaving cooperative in El Chile having a mother’s day celebration with the women of El Chile. Well, I’m going to get back to the festivities…
May 22, 2008
Well, it’s a Thursday afternoon and we are at the weaving coop at a party for mother’s day and we are all having a blast! I can’t believe that a week has already gone by and we have progressed so much. Nicaragua is amazing and the people are the best example of hospitality and attention. My time here has taught me to value the little things I have to offer and to care for those that do not have a lot to live by. I have wonderful people and I hope to meet more who will teach me the real values of life. We have had some crazy moments on this trip, from getting wet in a dirty lake to getting stuck in the middle of the road. Its just hilarious and I hope to be back another time of my life.
May 22, 2008
Wow! I can’t believe how fast the time is going! Today was our last day in El Chile. We are already starting to say goodbye and it feels like we just got here. I have been having a blast and the group is meshing really well. The last time we were in El Chile we painted the school. Today we got to see the finished product with all the paintings on the walls and all the kids in the classrooms. That was pretty awesome to see and was physical proof that we are actually making a difference here. The next few days are filled with mother’s day parties and our goodbye party is only four days away. We have done a lot of work here and the people really appreciate it. We have one more trip to Matagalpa to finish our work at La Chispa Library: cataloging and organizing all the books. This whole trip has been a great experience so far and I am looking forward to a great last few days.
May 22, 2008
The days have been flying by. We are almost two full weeks into the trip. The experience so far has been worth every penny. Our trips into Matagalpa and El Chile have been amazing. Experiencing the culture first hand and is really something else. Being able to help these people in many ways has been rewarding. Tonight should be very interesting because it’s the basketball game against the local San Ramon team. Apparently it’s a big deal in the community and the game is going to be a big challenge. Hopefully we will win.
May 22, 2008
It’s crazy that we’ve almost been here for two weeks. We are always busy, our days are usually packed. Yesterday I went to Casa Materna with Kailey, Rosa, and Greg. We went over basic information about how to take care of your newborn, many of the women already know a lot. In the afternoon we returned with gifts, ice cream, and baking supplies to make banana bread. It was really fun to be able to bake with the women since many of the women don’t have an oven at home. It poured all afternoon so we stayed inside and made a cake for the mothers of El Chile. After dinner we walked about, not much going on. Tonight is the infamous basketball game between us gringos and the team from San Ramon, I’m thinking we’re going to get our butts kicked.