Day 1: December 13th, 2015
Today was a very busy, fun-filled, culture day in Nicaragua. Since eating rice and beans for breakfast for the first time wasn’t risky enough, we headed to go zip lining across one of many crater lakes in Nicaragua. Our guides were super helpful, and probably a little amused by the uncoordinated nature of our group. Nonetheless, there will be some great pictures to come. We were then feeling hot hot hot at Volcano Masaya. Not only could we go right up to the crater, but we also visited a great lookout point. We could see where the lava had traveled back when Masaya erupted in 1772, along with some breathtaking landscapes. Get ready to get some goodies because we then visited the handicraft capital to snag some souvenirs and try some quesadillo (tortilla filled with cheese, onions and sour cream). Granada, the THIRD OLDEST CITY IN THE AMERICAS, was our next destination. There, you will find a lovely yellow cathedral next to a very much lively square. The square is full of food and craft vendors, musicians and horses ready to give you a buggy tour. We tried a traditional Nicaraguan treat of shaved ice topped with fruit. Delicioso. While in Granada, we headed another crater lake for a boat tour of the 365 islets. We saw everything from dirt-floored shacks to homes on these islands owned by some of the richest families in Nicaragua. We also saw a spider monkey or two on their secluded island. The mountains and neighboring communities were surrounding us as we received our tour from our driver, Cesar. Again, it was another great photo-op. Tomorrow, we head off to start serving the community of Santa Julia, and we couldn’t be more excited! Meeting people and traveling to foreign, unfamiliar, places in order to experience some new things are all a part of the challenges we will face on this trip. However, after our reflection meeting tonight, I can’t wait to see what this group makes of this amazing week.
Day 2: December 14th, 2015
Today was our first day in the community of Santa Julia. First,we got two know a few of the women and some of their stories. Most were leaders in the community, each were inspiring. We got to see the school where the 6th graders will graduate from on Friday. We also visited the cemetery, and each grave was marked with a cross and some had the national flower of Nicaragua on them. After a tour of the community we learned to pick coffee from the coffee trees. We were in awe of how far these women walk and how steep the terrain is. We tied baskets around our waists and trekked across the mountainside looking for ripe berries. Next we had to pulp the coffee cherries and separate the bean from the pulp. At first we did it by hand, then we used a de-pulper that was donated by an Auburn group two years earlier. This made a huge difference in the productivity, and it was great to see the impact Auburn students had made on the community. We hope we can leave our mark as well. The women and children were so welcoming and always had smiles on their faces. They were so grateful to see us, and are looking forward to getting to know us during the coming week. We can’t wait to spend the rest of the week with them.
Day 3: December 15th, 2015
Today was our second day in the community of Santa Julia. We started the day by planting seedlings that included peppers and tomatoes. The process for planting these seedlings began by sifting dirt then filling small trays with it. Next, the trays were watered then a stick was used to poke holes in each compartment filled with dirt. Two seeds were placed in each compartment. We enjoyed working together with members of the community to accomplish this task. Next we got to de-shell red beans. We did this by hand but also by beating the bag of beans with a piece of wood. Then we picked some coffee cherries and the terrain was very steep today so it was challenging. Then we went back and de-pulped the coffee cherries until lunch. After our lunch break, which consisted of a chicken kabob, rice, slaw, and plantains, we began the process of making candles. They had never made candles before and neither had we so it was a learning process for us all. While waiting for the candle wax to melt, we were able to meet and play with the children in the community. We danced, played games and got to know each other and even though some of us did not speak Spanish, our fun and laughter broke all language barriers. We heard Lola’s, who is the vice president of the co-operative and the community leader, story. We all took back the lesson of perseverance back to our hotel rooms. Next we went to dinner, and after dinner we met a famous Nicaraguan painter whose paintings are based on petroglyphs found in Nicaragua. He also plays the hand saw as an instrument so he played us some tunes. Later we sorted out donations to start preparing for the graduation and gift giving on Friday.