University of Colorado Nicaragua 2017
May 15-18, 2017
¡Saludos desde Nicaragua! (Greetings from Nicaragua!)
We’ve only been in Nicaragua for four days, but we’ve all fallen in love with the country in one way or another. Our process of getting here was a tad lengthier than we expected (flight delays, plane mechanical issues, etc.) but we arrived safe and sound very late on the night on Monday, May 15th and were greeted by our amazing trip leaders Michelle and Francisco “Pancho.” Our journey started at Laguna de Apoyo, a small family resort on a lake created from an extinct volcano crater. We set some group expectations with Pancho and Michelle, had our first tastes of authentic Nicaraguan food (we loved it!), and then enjoyed some leisure time swimming in the lake. It was the perfect place for us to get focused and ready for our three-week journey ahead of us.
We then moved locations into the city of Managua where we would start our first service project with Podcasts for Peace. Podcasts for Peace is equal parts a community center and advocacy group for a neighborhood in Managua that receives very little support from the city. Many local children utilize the center for social and educational support. For a long time, the community, Acahualinca, didn’t have running water 24 hours a day and the hours when they would have water would often be in the middle of the night. Podcasts for Peace rallied around the community and sent a powerful video with voices from the community expressing that access to water is a right of all Nicaraguans and Podcasts for Peace was successful in getting running water to Acahualinca 24 hours a day.
What we are helping them with is providing some key upgrades to the infrastructure of their community center. We’ve been hard at work mixing concrete and sifting dirt to be mixed with powdered cement and water, to apply to the walls inside the center. It’s hard work, but we all know that these key upgrades to the support structure of the building will provide the community with a better center for their activities. We even built a brand new wall in the center today! We’ve also been very fortunate to be able to interact with some of the children that come to the center on a regular basis. We played with them, read them stories, and even helped them with their homework. We have one more day left working with Podcasts for Peace and we’re working hard to provide them with as much help as we can give them in the few days we have had.
Very soon we will be embarking to a more rural area of Nicaragua called Totogalpa. We’re all anxious to meet our homestay families and work in their community. We’re bonding really well as a group and as trite as it may sound, I’ve had a quote from Ghandi running through my head since we started our work here in Nicaragua, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I truly believe that this experience will teach us all a lot about who we are not only as a group, but as individuals and that we will return to Boulder as better versions of ourselves.
Written by Gabe A.
May 19-21, 2017
At our last day at Podcasts para la paz, we finished our project of cementing the walls and eased the transition for the next Global Works group. The next day we left Managua for Totogalpa in Nueva Segovia, were introduced to Fenix Group, and met our host families. Today, we spent the day at Canon Somoto where we hiked and swam. We then spent the rest of the day with our host families.
At Podcasts para la paz, we finished cementing and topped our project of with handprinted a designated wall with paint with our names. Since there was less work for us to do on our last day, we had some more time to spend to connect with the kids, which was especially a cool experience for me (Jacob). A second global works group of middle schoolers would arrive who we welcomed at Podcasts para la paz and gave tips on what to expect. We advised them about the work ahead and not worry about their Spanish level and looking “gross.” To close out the day we went to a local restaurant and enjoyed a concert of the local music. The artists said that their music incorporated Nicaraguan themes and was a special treat to hear.
Saturday was our last day in Managua at Hotel Xolotlan. We left for Totogalpa on a five hour bus ride, stopping for lunch at a local pulperia in Esteli. We arrived at Restaurante Solar around 5:30 and were given an orientation surrounding the purpose of Fenix Group. That was followed by a dance presented by several members of Fenix Group. Afterwards we met our host families at the restaurant and ate dinner with them. We then went to their houses to get settled for the night and get to know our families better.
Today we had the opportunity to see and explore Canyon Somoto, roughly fifteen kilometers north of Totogalpa. There we hiked and swam through the Canyon and had an awesome tour guide who helped us make the most of our trip. After returning we ate our lunch, which was packed by the staff over at Restaurant Solar, by some noisy chickens and roosters. We then headed back towards our homes to rest and get prepared for the week ahead of us. Today we also got to experience our first bucket shower, which consists of filling a bowl with water and using it to shower ourselves. This was many of our first experiences showering without running water, which was a challenge but also a treat.
In our opinion we were able to experience the most of Nicaragua’s culture and landscape in the past few days. From Podcasts for Peace, to our journey to Totogalpa, to spending time with our host families, and seeing Canyon Somoto, we have gotten a lot out of the past three days. Conversing with our host families seems to get easier and easier, and although there have new challenges with the language, bucket showers, etc. the experience has been priceless.
-Watts and Jacob
Here we are in Totogalpa working with Groupo Fenix. On Monday, we worked at Solar Mountain, helping spray natural insecticide as well as learning the process for making the insecticide. The process included walking through the lush jungle, finding leaves from trees and pulling them off of branches to place in bags. We also tilled the ground around trees to encourage more growth. Seeing the way Groupo Fenix utilizes natural products was incredibly interesting.
Tuesday was slightly more work-intensive, because we began working on dry latrines. They are different from traditional pit latrines in many ways, the main difference being environmental impact. Traditional latrines drop waste into the ground, creating potential for contamination of ground water, should it leak. Additionally, once a pit latrine is full, it can no longer be used, and is simply sealed up and forgotten. Dry latrines, however, are built above ground, and utilize natural materials such as adobe mud and wood. The toilet, split into two sections, diverts waste into two different tanks. A special material is added, and the waste is eventually turned into compost and fertilizer, to be used in the growth of avocados, mangoes, and much more. Our group jumped into different parts of the building process, mixing adobe with our feet (called “cob”), building stairs, and cutting wood for the structures. It was difficult, but rewarding.
Wednesday we returned to the same work as the day before, finishing off the jobs of the adobe walls, the adobe bricks and the concrete stairs. While it was similar jobs we all rotated to something we hadn’t worked on before, to see how every part of the dry latrine was made. But, it was also a very special day for one of our group members, Shannon. It was her birthday so we had a little party and hit a piñata full of Nicaraguan candy! So yummy and fun! As we finish our last day in Totogalpa we will pack up, discuss our experience here and have a final night with our host families. Off to the next stop and half way through our trip!
– Asta J. and Ashley A.
May 25- 27, 2017
On Thursday, our team said goodbye to our homestay families in Totogalpa. We were able to stop in Matagalpa at a local coffee shop in order to recharge and connect with our families through the provided wifi. We were given a few hours to explore the city, check out local stores, and go to the beautiful white church that marks the center of the town. We then continued our drive and were able to arrive safely in Las Peñas Blancas to begin our second homestay. Since we changed our schedule a few times we ended up staying together in the cooperative for some much needed group time while also celebrating our arrival with a welcome dinner that the families brought to us all the way from their homes!
On our second day we woke up early to meet our assigned families and had breakfast with them followed by a quick orientation of our service project here in Jinotega, installing compost toilets!! After lunch and various activities with our host families, we went to the artisan center to learn how to make beautiful beaded jewelry out of magazine papers. We finished off the evening with dinner, relaxation, and preparation for the next workday.
The third day was our first full day of work. We installed pipes, the tank for compost, and carried lots of sand and rocks to stabilize the tank. We used the traditional assembly line style so that no one got too tired too quickly. Lots of folks were feeling under the weather due to changes in our environments, but most of the group felt better towards the evening and were able to meet for a woodshop workshop. We each created a Chinese puzzle that assists with logical thinking that has been used for thousands of years. We finished up and walked back to our homes with our families to get ready for dinner and our next day of work.
– Jordan H. & Shannon W.
May 28 – 30, 2017
On our fourth day in Las Peñas Blancas, we finished the project at the first house by refilling the pipe trenches and adding more sand and rocks to the tank trench. We then added some water to the tank so that the pressure of all the rocks and sand would not dent it. It was really rewarding for the group to see a project through from start to finish. In the afternoon, we took a tour of the coffee fields. One of the owners, Henry, showed us the different coffee plants and where they were processed. Everyone was excited for the tour since we are all such fans of the coffee here.
We started working at a different house also installing an eco-friendly toliet. Since this was the same type of work we did previous days, we progressed quickly in the project. We dug the trenches for the pipes and installed them. We then had a picnic lunch all together with our host mothers and then proceeded with a much needed nap. Our afternoon activity was bread making at a local resident’s house. She hand-makes the dough and has a special oven made for the proper cooking of the bread. We made bread with cinnamon and sugar and also sweet empanadas with cheese and sugar. Everyone’s favorite though was the loaf of bread that we made with cinnamon sugar dough. The man of the house, Don Chico, also played us music on his mandolin while our bread baked.
Today, we are continuing working at this house and finishing up on the installation of the pipes. In the afternoon after we work, we are all very excited to go on a waterfall hike with Don Chico. He is 78 years old and has been leading these hikes everyday for many years. In addition, today is Nicaraguan Mother’s Day and many of us will celebrate with or do something special for our homestay mothers. Everyone is looking forward to going to Granada and ending our trip on a relaxing note on Thursday but we will all miss Las Peñas Blancas very much.
– Emma H. & Sammie P.