University of Colorado Nicaragua 2018
March 25, 2018
After a long day of travel, we were picked up from the airport where we were driven to La Laguna de Apoyo. This was the name of a beautiful lake where beside it stood La Posada la Abuela; the name of the resort-style hotel we’d be staying at for the evening. In the morning, many of us were woken by howler monkeys and two parrots; both of whom had lots to say! After we explored the hotel grounds, we shared a traditional nica-styled breakfast together. Although talk was light as we gourged ourseleves with gallo-pinto and the most wonderful cup of coffee many of us had ever had, the group was excited for the day ahead of us. After our delicious breakfast and having a few lavish hours spent sun bathing beside Laguna de Apoyo, the group was eager to begin working with the community. We packed up our bags and headed to Podcasts for Peace, named for their ways of digital storytelling. We were told the community felt lucky to have scored such a spacious and centrally-located school for the youth; though it was immediatley clear the interior needed tending to. Thats where we came in. We worked alongside the teachers painting, sanding bookshelves, and slacking concrete. After our work, we had a brief oritentation where we discussed our homestays, personal strengths, and perhaps areas we could beneifit from the support of the group. In just one day, it was clear that Nicaragua had a lot to offer. We hoped we’d be able to say the same for ourselves in terms of serving the community in a way that is most beneficial to them. – Emily
March 26, 2018
Day two started with a hearty Nica-breakfast and more amazing Nicaraguan coffee that never disappoints! We then packed up quickly and hopped on the bus and drove back to Podcasts For Peace, spending the morning repainting and “spackling” cement on the walls. After a productive morning where we made strong progress in remodeling the community center, we met up with a local community leader and organizer named Yamileth. Our bus driver drove us around the neighborhood and the city as Yamileth told us stories of her experiences and the local history of the area. It was amazing and sad learning about the damages that the dump has caused the community, from health issues to unsafe working environments. It is impressive how the community banded together to deal with these issues, illustrating their strong mobilization agaisnt injustice and care for each other. After a great discussion with Yamileth, we headed to an amazing buffet style vegetarian restaurant and enjoyed a great lunch! After we demolished our food and smoothies we piled back into the van and started our 5 hour drive to Penas Blancas. Most of us slept for portions of the drive but when we were awake we jammed to group leader Gabe’s diverse playlist of unrelated songs and enjoyed the gorgeous views that the Nicaraguan cities and countryside had to offer, from beautiful lush green landscapes to locals going about their days. We arrived at Penas Blancas and enjoyed a delicious meal of rice, beans, tortillas, eggs, and chicken with a vegetable sauce. After the meal, we split off in our assigned pairs and headed back to pur respective host families homes. We all engaged with our host families for several hours, trading stories and learning to communicate together before settling into bed and preparing for our day tomorrow!
March 27, 2018
On day three we awoke in our cots and had our first breakfast and cafes, fresh pineapple and gallo pintos with our host madres. They walked us to the community center to meet up with the group and off to the work site we went. The work site is a family home that we will be installing a compost sanitation toilet in. Today that meant digging the meter by meter and a half hole in the brush behind the house. Luckily, this group had no trouble meeting the task with enthusiasm and even self timed themselves to achieve maximum efficiency. Before lunch at our homestays, despite many episodes of rainfall, the hole was nearly completed. After a delicious lunch of rice, beans, cooked veggies, chaya, and jugo de calala we headed back to the community center for our afternoon activity: xylography-wood carving and print making. This entailed drawing a design of our own creation on a piece of wood and then using a carving knife to carve out the negative space around the drawing. Although challenging to many of us at first, we were in good hands with expert members of the local community to guide us. Once carved, we covered the wood in fresh paint with a roller and laid the paper on top to absorb the print image. Overall the endeavor was a success. After this activity many of us stuck around to play Monopoly with the local community children. At dusk, we headed back to our separate homestays for a dinner of sopa de cuajada– soup with local veggies and cheese, maiz balls.¡Que delicioso! After a long day of physical labor, we returned to our rooms for a much needed sleep.
March 28, 2018
Man oh man was today jam-packed! The group got an early start on working today, racing over to Orlando’s house to finish digging the hole for the tank and clean up the trench for the pipes. After making quick work of the hole, everyone pitched in to remove the pesky roots from the section right next to the house. In just two hours the nine of us, with the invaluable help of Henry and Orlando, had assured that the tank would fit in the hole and that the piping system had all the room it needed! After breaking early (due to our quick work) we spent a couple hours resting, writing, and eating.
At Olga and Bayardo’s house we had a lunch of spaghetti and chips to make us feel at home. Around 2 we all met up at the entrance to our waterfall hike, where the man, the myth, the legend Don Chico met us to guide our way through the brush. We saw crabs, vines to counteract malaria and trees that bled red like blood. Without Don Chico’s help our group never would have known of all the resources the forest provides. By 4:15 everyone was back down at Ashley’s listening to the new band of boys our friend Henry was teaching to play piano, drums, and guitar. Following a couple songs, we all traveled up to Olga’s to play with the new puppies! There we saw their parrot make fun of our laughs and the puppies create the most adorable puppy pile. Once everyone left we sat down for a meal of tostadas with beans, cheese and an amazing pico de gallo-like sauce. I settled in for the night talking to Olga and her father for an hour or so until the days work caught up to me and I crashed.
March 29, 2018
So our last day of work was arguably the most rewarding part of our homestay, next to our farewells. We finally finished installing the pipes that led to the compost toilet and we covered them with the dirt that we dug up 2 days earlier. Then we started digging another hole for the second filtration process. Julia, the woman who is receiving the toilet, made us some sweet bread and buñuelos as a thank you for our hard work.
Our afternoon activities consisted of a coffee tour and traditional bread making. We were able to split up the group between the coffee fanatics and bread winners so that everyone could do what they wanted. After those we said our farewells and exchanged words of thanks and gratitude. We also played musical chairs and Grace won by grabbing the chair out from underneath Emily! We walked back home and had our final meal with our Nicaraguan families. Maria Cristina showed Abby and I the stars and the moon while explaining their version of “the man in the moon.” In Nicaragua, they see a woman sitting, and I can say that she is majestic. We went to sleep nice and early because we had to wake up at 6am for our 5 hour, and extremely interesting, bus ride to Granada.
March 30, 2018
Friday was a day straight out of most tourists nightmare. I say that, because our special group is not most tourists. We began with our last desayuno with our host families, a delicious gallo pinto soup with a fried egg and fresh coffee. Following this, we said goodbye to our families and departed for the 5 hour drive to Granada. Our group faced the trial of several delays along the way. We experienced a Semana Santa procession delaying us an hour, as well as 2 flat tires! After about 6 hours, we arrived in the beautiful colonial city of Granada. The buildings here made the journey more than worth it. The vibrant colors correspond with the energized culture which emanates within the heart of the city. We ate a delicious Mediterranean lunch followed by a walk around the town before dinner. The city came to life as food vendors, shops, and tourists collided under the setting central American sun. We enjoyed a team tour of the main strip before going to a delicious steak house. We concluded our beautiful evening listening to music into the night as we prepared for our final full day in Granada.