Student Reflections From Nicaragua
Thursday, April 26th
Well, today was our last full day here in Nicaragua. We woke up bright and early to the sound of roosters crowing and songbirds singing. After a lovely breakfast, we headed to our work sites. There was not too much to be done, so our group mainly moved piles of dirt and materials. We were able to say goodbye to the families, and took pictures with the houses donated by families back home in NH. They were very pleased to see all who helped.
We headed back to our home base and relaxed. A few of us took showers, while others played a bit of soccer on the patio. We had lunch (our last lunch here in Chacraseca.) The women who served us food also made jewelry and set up tables for us to see. We than had another 40 minutes or so before we hit the road and went into Leon one last time. A few of us went to the center market and saw a boy we'd played soccer with in Leon several times already.
Then the group went to a small art education studio, where they provide affordable classes in music, dancing and art. They taught us the traditional craft of alfombras, rugs made of sawdust, which are laid along the city streets to be walked on during processions during Holy Week. We dyed bags of plain sawdust, and then were able to make our own alfombra as a group. Our individual images (mine was a rainbow cow, while others made birds, flowers, or suns) resulted in a colorful collage of creativity. We also followed the tradition and walked on top of our designs -- a little bittersweet but we got loads of photos. While at the studio, we also watched a demonstration of a traditional Nicaraguan dance, and saw an artist speed-paint a Nicaraguan landscape in less than 10 minutes!
We had our last supper at a small restaurant in Leon, which served pupusas, a popular dish in El Salvador. They are thick corn tortillas stuffed with meat, cheese and beans, grilled and served with a tangy cabbage salad. After dinner we went home and began to pack for the long trek home tomorrow. We are ready to head home, but very sad to leave such a great place.
Wednesday, April 25th
On Wednesday, we started off the morning with some pancakes and fresh fruit. We had to fill our stomachs for a long day of fun activities (so I thought). The delicious breakfast was followed by some marble cake to celebrate Kole's birthday. The stoves had to be finished, so we headed to the houses where we successfully constructed the two structures. This was followed by a short break at the house before we headed to the Dreamers. At the school, some of us had a hard time with the kids but my group was rather cooperative. After a couple of fun activities we made our way home to prepare for the volcano. Our lunch consisted of chicken patties, mac and cheese, and of course, rice. We hiked for about forty-five minutes until we reached the top. Here, there were amazing views where you could see the great features of Nicaragua. Yet, to get down the mountain, you could either run or walk down the volcano. Although I have a severe fear of heights, I thought I would be able to run down the steep volcano easily. Little did I know I would meet my demise; including the shredding of the skin of my knees and blood running down my shins after I did a scorpion. I was able to recover a little bit, but felt the pain when we had a dinner of plantains, rice, beans, and an avocado salad. After dinner, all of the groups circled to have a meaningful reflection of the day with a few laughs, concluding the day.
Tuesday, April 25th
On Tuesday, we started off the day at our respective house sites building stoves. A woman named Rebecca taught us how to make mortar using clay, sand, manure, and this water that we referred to as snot water. What the water actually was, was patea water, which we made by mushing patea plant in water in order to make it a gooey consistency. We used soaked bricks to build the walls. Our team didn't get to finish the stove because Rebecca had to split her time between the two work sites, so both got put a little behind. We were able to watch the other team build the top of the stove and cut the bricks using a machete. After we got to take showers, we went into the city of Leon and got to spend some time experiencing the culture of the shops, and see the kids hanging out around the center square. Some of us went and bought a soccer ball to take into the square and hit around. As we walked into the square, a little boy named Darwin, who we played around with a little bit last time we were in Leon, was there with some of his friends and we played a game of soccer, with flip flop goals and everything. We ended the night at a local mexican restaurant with everyone all together.
¡Hola amigos! Today was the longest day of working we've had. We started working on building stoves for both houses around 9:30. It was a lot of hard work making mortar to hold the bricks together and stack them all perfectly. I was a part of the geometry team making sure each corner was a perfect right angle and that they were all the correct distance apart. Despite the sweat and sunburns, we all managed to bond and make a lot of fun out of it. We ended at 2:30, with only 1/2 hour of work left on the stoves for tomorrow! By the time lunch came, we were starving and I don't think I've ever seen people eat so fast. I ate most of mine, the rest I fed to my dog best friend bean, who is a tiny white puppy with LOTS of energy. After a nice shower, we headed to Leon for some down time. Ellie & I walked around and looked at all the shops and had to suffer through many stares for our awful sunburns on our shoulders. To end the night, our whole group went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant and it was an awesome opportunity to talk to some of the Rotarians that I haven't been able to have a full conversation with. Now we are heading home for bed, it's hard to believe the day is already over! This trip will be in my heart forever and I'm so grateful for this experience. Sorry mom, but I might not come home ;-)
Monday, April 24th
Anna and Ellie Graff
We started our day with a breakfast of rice, beans, papaya and banana. Soon after, we set out for our two work sites. The land of one of the work sites was very dry and dusty. During the rainy season the area is filled with corn and sesame seed crops. There is an amazing view of the Momotombo volcano. At this site, we spent the morning digging a latrine and soaking bricks. The second site is set back on the top of a hill. Surrounding the house are trees, pigs, cows, dogs, and a few other animals. We spent our morning at this site filling the foundation of the house with volcanic rock and concrete. At noon we all got back in the busses and headed to a family-run bee farm. Here, we ate a delicious lunch of rice, beans, beef and a homemade tortilla. After lunch, the owner, and president of the National Beekeeper Association, Fabricio, took us on a tour of his land. We learned about the roles that each family member plays in the business. One of the things that we found most interesting was that Fabricio sells bee colonies to other people in the area who sell the honey back to him. After our tour, we got to taste some of the honey, then returned to Chacaraseca.
Empezamos el día con una desayuno de arroz, frijoles, papaya y banana. Después, nos fuimos a los sitios de trabajo. La tierra de un sitio era muy seco. Durante el estación lluviosa el área tiene las cosechas de maíz y sésamo. Desde aquí, se puede ver el volcán, Momotombo. En este sitio, pasamos la mañana cavando una letrina y remojando los ladrillos. El segundo sitio está en una colina. Cerca de la casa hay arboles, vacas, cerdos, perros, y más animales. Aquí, pongamos rocas de volcán y concreto en el base de la casa. Después fuimos a un negocio familiar de abejas. Allí comimos un almuerzo de arroz, frijoles, res y una tortilla. Después de el almuerzo, el dueño y presidente del asociación nacional de apiarios, Fabricio, nos dió un tur de su tierra. Aprendemos de los trabajos de cada persona de la familia para tener éxito en su negocio. Una cosa muy interesante es que Fabricio vende las abejas a otras personas y entonces compra su miel. Después del tur, probamos el miel y regresamos a Chacaraseca.
Sunday, April 23rd
Kole Patten, CHS Senior
Today Sunday April, 23 the Conant/Conval Interact group traveled to San Juan da orienta and Granada. We woke up around 6-6:30 and prepared ourselves for the day, we then ate breakfast promptly at 7:45 prepared by four extremely welcoming and kind hearted Chacrasecan women. After breakfast, we traveled to San Juan and visited a family-run pottery shop that has been doing business with FNE for 6 years in helping them expand and develop their business. We learned the 6 step process of producing these homemade pieces of pottery and watched first hand the extensive and dedicated work this one family puts in into each piece. After watching and learning, we were brought over to their formal shop where the pottery was being sold to the local community and we had the chance to purchase already made pieces. After the fine pottery experience, we were bused over to La Laguna a Apoya, a massive lagoon left over from an imploded volcano. We spent multiple hours there taking in the cultural experience and enjoying ourselves and the company of the locals who were enjoying the beautiful day in the fresh water of the lagoon. To end the day we traveled to the close and very historic town of Granada, where we connected history of one of the revolutions led by a Tennessee man William Walker. We saw the town square where he would run what he controlled of the Nicaraguan country of the time and even the church where he burnt down in an attempt to escape he country from his displeased natives. In Granada, we had roughly an hour to tour the public lit streets where music and street performers lived for the night. We were immersed first hand in the culture of an average Sunday night. We then ate dinner in town and discussed the long day we enjoyed with the people of Nicaragua.
Megan Wheeler, CHS Senior
Greetings from Nicaragua! After a long day filled with Earth Day activities yesterday, we woke up bright and early this morning. Breakfast consisted of pancakes, eggs, plaintain chips, bread and fresh papaya!
Our first stop of the day was at a pottery workshop in San Juan de Oriente. Here we witnessed the process of a pottery business run by a local family. The steps included preparing the clay, working on the wheel, painting and designing the work, and firing it. I even got to spin a bowl on the wheel! The final products were beautiful, and the whole group made a great amount of purchases from the family!
Next up was la Laguna el Apoyo! It was nothing like I had ever thought it would be. It used to be a volcano, but over time it imploded, which resulted in a stunning place to swim. The water was clear and warm, and the surrounding scenery was gorgeous!
We finished our day in Granada, and got pizza together as the entire group. I was even lucky enough to be able to attend a part of the Catholic Mass going on in the cathedral right in the middle of the city. The cultural experience was incredible. It will be late when we get back to Chacraseca, but we will be up early again getting back to work at our houses after our fun day off! Side note: Hi, Mom & Dad, I'm alive and well! I love you!