San Carlos

Our week with Self-Help International was a continual trial of patience, perseverance, and courage.  After arriving in San Carlos on Monday afternoon, our first evening there was pretty relaxing as we just stayed within the boundaries of the hotel by going to the restaurant next store for dinner before taking a short walk around the harbor.  

Each morning started off with breakfast at the restaurant right next to the hotel before going to the Self-Help office to pick up Orlando, our project guide, materials, and sack lunch.  After gaining all of our staff, we traveled an hour by car to the community of Los Chiles.  Upon arrival on the first day, we broke up into two groups: Michael Gleason, Tyler, Michael, Jeremy, Taylor, Jena and I went to work on the water committee project, while Fred, Bethany, Kelsey, and Paige stayed to paint a building intended for use as a child care/recreation center.

The Self-Help International organization is run much differently from El Porvenir.  After hiking to our site 2km away from the painting group, we were divided into 2 farther groups to complete the water project.  The boys all stayed down towards the bottom of the stream while the girls hiked on the side of a hill to get to the top of the water source with Teresa, a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Los Chiles.  Little did we know what a huge impact Teresa would have on our stay and how much she would help us to eliminate the language barrier between us and the community members.  Hiking on the side of the moutain required the first factor, Courage.  We were traveling on a tiny tiny path about 6 inches wide, which if not navigated properly could send you tumbling down into the rocks of the stream, which we couldn´t see.  While at the top, the girls cleaned the water source of leaves, sticks, and mud with sticks and shovels while the boys were down digging up old pipes, digging trenches, and carrying new ones for 2km.  It was a day of incredibly hard work, which unfortunately, may have caused Tyler to feel very ill the next day.  

Self Help International is run much differently from El Provenir.  Most of the time, we had no idea what was going on and what was expected of us.  We learned about the water campaign not from any Self Help International staff, but from Teresa.  The goal of all our hard work was to but a new water filtration system in which would deliver clean water to the community.  Also, with this new system, many members would be receiving water for the first time.  This was a significant project, because the last water committee in office collected dues from the community only to run off with all their money.  So while we felt we were being used for cheap labor, it was only because the community has no real trust in the water committee anymore as a result of their past experiences.  The new water committee is dedicated though, and was not elected into office, instead, they were nominated by the community.  So these people really are working hard to do a good job, and execute their first signficant project.  

Unfortunately, I need to sign off as we are heading to a Waffle House for breakfast! Hope this short summary may have given you some context to last week.  If you have any questions please feel free to comment, and I will try to better explain.

Thinking about and praying for all of you back at home and the other groups abroad for May Term.

p.s. We are traveling to Ometepe today.

May 13th

Happy Mother´s Day!!

We are currently in Granada again, staying at a (my first) hostel.  I think it is safe to say we are all pleasantly surprised by this experience thus far.  The hostel has coffee 24/7, a pool, and a community of young english-speaking individuals.  This is the first time since arriving in Nicaragua that we are not thinking about how to communicate in Spanish, a welcome change from the past 2 weeks.

Today has been full of adventure as we traveled from our rainforest lodge to El Castillo, to San Carlos, and finally to Granada.  A couple hours by boat, and then in our van with our loyal driver Hiro. Our weekend in the rainforest was absolutely wonderful.  We were completely secluded from the real world as the resort was only accessible by boat.  Our only companions were the bugs, animals, and military personnel across the river. We arrived Friday afternoon and had lunch, then traveled to a place to swim. We paddled for about half an hour to a little spot with that only offered a small place to swim amongst a small pebble beach. Needless to say, we only stayed for a little while. After dinner that evening, a group of us went on a crocodile hunt with a native tour guide. Fortunately, the majority of the crocs we saw were not very large. Especially for the ones that he picked up and brought into the boat to let us touch and look at up close. The next morning we woke up bright and early for a 6am tour of the rainforest. It was such a great experience as between the two groups we saw howler monkies, poisonous frogs, white-faced monkies, wild pigs, birds, etc. Towards the end of our tour, it started to rain. The first rain we have experienced since arriving in Nicaragua. We were all happy to finally have a rainy day, especially when we wouldn’t be out in a community working. Most of us spent the day reading and playing card games while swaying in the hammocks under the large grass pavilion. The rain pursued on through the night, and kept quite a few of us awake. When it rains here, it pours. There were holes in the roof soaking some beds, and we seemed to have quite a few more bugs and lizards trying to sneak into our mosquito nets.

 

 

I apologize for the short blog after such a long dry spell, but my eyes are too heavy to continue on. Our normal bedtime of 8:30 makes it difficult to stay awake at 10pm. I will try tomorrow for a summary of our stay with Self Help.

Thinking about all of our mothers and loved ones back at home. Hope you all had a wonderful mother´s day.

San Carlos

We have made it safely to San Carlos! This was the first time Wartburg students have traveled on the newly paved road linking Managua to San Carlos. In the past, groups have had to travel to San Carlos by plane because there was not an adequate road linking the two cities together. Also, the plane only flew twice a week, so last time when an emergency arose, they had to drive back to Managua on the gravel roads for 12 hours. With the paved road that we drove on today, it only took us 4 hours to get here.
Yesterday marked our last day with Tanya and Catalina. We started the day with a wonderful continental breakfast at the Granada Hotel in the morning before packing up and heading to our canopy tour in the Mombacho area. IT WAS AWESOME! When we arrived, the crew took very little time to fit us with our gear and helmets for ziplining. After we were all fit and ready, they took us up a hill in two vans to the beginning of the tour. After a 2 minute information session, we began! There were 5 men who took us and they were very encouraging and silly. When asking us if we were ready they would say, “yes and yes?” and another common phrase was, “Don’t worry be happy.” They didn’t give us very much time to reconsider, would strap us onto the line and tell us to go. Very fast. They were also very encouraging to try more than the standard sitting position. We all went upside down and like superwoman (or superman). On the very last zipline, they bounced us up and down. Called it “Rock and Roll.” There were two options to finish, short and slow, or rock and roll. And they said “Rock and Roll? or Rock and Roll?” Mike had a little encounter with the zip line, but only came away with two little scrapes. Everyone else survived, and even have some pictures to prove it!
After ziplining, we went to an overlook and took some pictures before heading to lunch. Our last day, Tanya and Catalina indulged us in some Papa Johns for lunch! We all had our fill of AMERICAN pizza, breadsticks and cinnamon sticks. Many of us ate until we were stuffed! After lunch we tried to hike up an active volcano, but upon arriving at the park, we were informed that it was still closed to the public as a result of a small explosion which occurred 2 weeks ago. As a result, we continued on our way back to Managua. We made it safely to our hotel around 3:00pm, and had downtime until dinner at 6:30. Tanya and Catalina took us to an authentic restaurant, in which the menu was COMPLETELY in Spanish. After figuring out what we wanted, we had a wonderful final meal together. The director from El Porvenir joined us to hear about the week in which both Tanya and Catalina got raving reviews from all of us. We split some dessert, and were serenaded by Catalina and a musician to close the evening. We also presented Catalina with the two leadership texts we are studying and we had all signed both of them.
We were sad to see them leave, as they had become part of our little family. There were some pretty emotional goodbyes last night.

I have to sign off now because the group is ready for a mini fitness session. Today is cardio with burpees, squats, mountain climbers, etc. We will be having dinner at 6pm in the restaurant right next to the hotel we are staying in and will walk around San Carlos afterwards.

Thinking and praying for you all back at home, and for the other groups aborad for May Term.

Kathryn Werner

May 5: Granada

Before leaving Terrabona this morning, we had the opportunity to be served an American meal for breakfast. The restaurant we ate at for breakfast and dinner during the week served us the Nicaraguan version of pizza. The bread was very dense and thick, with slices of ham and cheese, topped with a little bit of red sauce. Very Nicaraguan, the cheese wasn’t melted, nor was it in much supply. It was a nice variation, but I missed my fresh morning fruit. After breakfast we loaded up and began our journey to Granada. We had to travel on the poor gravel roads for two hours before reaching pavement again. We drove for another hour before reaching Masaya at which we stopped at the Masaya Market to shop and eat lunch before continuing on to Granada. Granada was about another 45 minute drive from Masaya. We learned that throughout the city’s existence, it has been burned down repeatedly by those who have inhibited it. In the 1800s, after William Walker finished his stay in the city of Granada, he burned it down because it was too beautiful to leave as it was. A reflection of the city, The Granada Hotel is absolutely gorgeous! All of our rooms had air conditioning, walk in showers, and beautiful architecture with a very homely, english-speaking staff. Shortly after dropping all of our bags off and checking out our rooms, we departed for the island tour on Lake Nicaragua. The lake has 345 separate islands owned by many different individuals. Ranging from sprawling estates costing millions of dollars to desperate looking shacks, the socioeconomic status of owners varies. Something all of us were really intrigued by was the condo which could be rented out for only $150 for an entire weekend. A great destination for young people like us who may be looking to get away from the main stream. Another small island we visited had 4 moneys who lived there. After being found sick in the wilderness, a man placed the monkeys there after their rehabilitation and they live off the fruit trees located there. The owner also comes and visits the monkeys about every 3 months. Although a lot of the islands are already owned, there are quite a few estates for sale with and without houses. Tanya said the asking price for an island started at $150,000. Also, further out into the lake, she said sharks could be found who have been filtering in from the Caribbean. After our island tour we went straight back to the hotel and changed into our swimsuits and paid a visit to the gorgeous pool area. Crystal clear water with tiled floors, tiki hut, and shaded lounges, it truly felt like we were on vacation. We spent our free time in the pool before changing for dinner. The hotel restaurant we ate in was absolutely delicious. We had the option of choosing from the pasta menu and a combination of 3 chicken (pollo) dishes. A number of us chose the tomato and basil pasta or 3 cheese pasta; all of which were a welcomed break from rice and beans. After dinner we stopped at an ATM before and on our way back, an ice cream parlor. After getting back to the hotel, we all got back together again and went out on the town with Tanya. It was nice to be able to experience the night life in Granada, all while watching the final boxing championships? on the screens set up along the main street outside restaurants. Later tonight, Michael is supposed to be arriving from the USA. We are all very excited for his arrival, and to be able to share this wonderful experience with. Tomorrow, we will be going back to Managua and staying at our first hotel for the night before being handed off to Self Help International the next morning.

Thinking about and praying for all the other May Term trips and you guys back at home. Hope all is well!

Kathryn Werner

May 4: Terrabona

I apologize for not submitting this blog on Friday, but after we got back from our work site in Monte Grande, we realized a power outage was extending to all rural communities. We were without power until 6:30pm, after the internet cafe had closed. Anyways..
Today marked our very last work day in the community of Monte Grande. A morning that started out with a lot of excitement, knowing we would be having a celebration this afternoon, came to a dead halt when we came across a young man who had fallen off his dirt bike on our way to Monte Grande. He was at the top of a hill, just around a corner, and must have lost control and tried to prevent his fall. While doing so, he trapped his hand and leg in the chain of the dirtbike. We all stopped, and after checking him out, it was obvious he was going to have significant damage to his pinky, ring, and middle fingers on his left hand. After breaking the chain apart and freeing him, the top portions of his pinky and ring fingers were cut off and the top of his middle finger was significantly injured. We scraped together what little first aid supplies we had with us and sent him in the next car on their way to Terrabona with a bandana wrapped around his hand held in place with hair ties. In the process, we were tying to get him to sit down and hold his hand above his heart. Besides a little crying, this young man was incredibly brave and humble. I think I would have been screaming, crying, and yelling for help had I been in his position. A woman in the Monte Grande community who was originally catching a ride with us stayed behind for somebody to come pick up his bike. She was an angel, trying to comfort him while we were workng on him and volunteering to stay behind and walk all the way back to Monte Grande by herself. After he left, we continued on to Monte Grande and tried to rekindle our spirits to prepare for the events of the rest of the day. We toured the local school stopping in a 2nd grade classroom and the library before visiting the latrines and washing station executed by previous El Porvenir groups. Jenna and Paige handed out some coloring books and crayons they had developed during Community Builders. After arriving back in the community, we initiated a cleaning campaign by going out and picking up trash. Trash is a HUGE problem in Nicaragua. It litters the streets, fields, forests, and communities. It is EVERYWHERE. Our tour guide Tanya, says its liberating for citizens to throw items away because they had previously had to use everything they could get. By the end of 2 hours we had filled up the better part of a truck bed with trash. It was great how many community members came out to help and worked with us. Oh boy, it was hard work. The sun was pretty intense and by the end, my shirt was soaked. Much more than the previous days, which was surprising. After lunch we initiated a soccer game with the kids again that went for at least an hour. A little while after lunch, the festivities began. The Monte Grande community had organized a Pinata in honor of our departure. Pedro, the community leader spoke and gave his many thanks for our visit along with Lester and David. Pedro, Lester, and David each represented the 3 branches of El Porvenir: reforestation, sanitation, and education. Fred thanked them in return on our behalf. Afterwards, we had a piñata. Candy was flying everywhere, and unfortunately, so were the wrappers. It was sad to see them throwing everything on the ground when they had just helped us pick up trash a couple hours before. During the final farewell, kids were coming up to us asking for our watches, gloves, hairbands, etc. Unfortunately, we were not able to give away any of these items because they were crucial for the rest of our trip. But we did donate a soccer ball on behalf of Firefleyes. Upon arrival back to the hotel we discovered we were still without electricity. It did not come back on again till 6:30, half an hour after the water pumps are supposed to come on. As a result, we would have electricity, but no running water until 3 or 4 in the morning when the pumps were scheduled to come back on again. As a result, Tyler, Kelsey, Jenna, Paige, and I went to another house who had a generator and used their showers so we may be clean for bed and would not have to shower in the morning. It was a very successful day despite some of the problems we encountered along the way.

Terrabona

We made it from Selva Negra to our next stop, Terrabona very well.  The last hour of the journey was very bumpy though as we were climbing up gravel roads eroded with rocks and holes.  The hotel is the bare minimum, which is formed around the house of a local family.  The rooms of the motel look out onto a dirt square with trees, chickens, a dog, and a bunny to break it up.  There are clothing lines running from a couple different trees to hang out laundry on.  This stay has been the first time I have washed my clothes on a tradional cement washboard with soap and water from the facet.  We just finished our second full day of work in Terrabona with only minor troubles.  There are a couple scrapes and sunburns in the group, but nothing too major. Yesterday was our first day in the outskirt community of Monte Grande, a remote village in which we have been working on a reforestation project.  Over the past 2 days we have planted 158 trees on the side of a hill, built 6 terraces of stones on the sides of these mountains to prevent further erosion, and 2 stoves in houses of others in another village.  Yesterday, we all worked together carrying trees and water, planting, digging, and rock hunting.  Today, we split up into 2 seperate groups.  Jeremy, Michael, Tyler, Taylor, and I continued the reforestation project, while Bethany, Jenna, Paige, and Kelsey went to build the stoves.  This has definitely been hard work.  It was about a quarter mile between the community where the trees and water were to the hill we were planting on.  The job I took on was carrying trees and water back and forth from the hill while others stayed back to plant, dig, and water.  We carried the water in empty liter bottles and gallons.  Each tree needed at least 2 of these containers of water, so we made quite a few trips.  At the end of the day, we met up with the girls and held witness to all of their hard work.  The houses they served were at the stop of a steep hill of which they had to carry their assembled stove frames and materials up.  The stoves will have to dry for 2 days before they are taken our of their molds and will be watered for 7 days afterwards to prevent cracking (completed by the members of the house on their own).  My group which stayed back at the first site today, played soccer with the kids before lunch time.  After that game, needless to say, we were all pretty tired and dusty.  Michael, Taylor, Tyler, and Jeremy also played soccer with some of the kids in the Terrabona community on our first night in the town.  After our work days, we have all laid pretty low, taking showers, reading, and jounaling for the night as we are too tired to do anything else.  We have been eating all of our meals in a small restaurant on the square, all of which have consisted of beans, rice, torillas, some fresh fruit in the mornings, coffee, chicken and pasta, and some juice or gatorade.  All of the meals have been delicious despite the lack of variety in menu choices.  This morning, we had Corn Flakes and warm milk together for the first time.  Not many people were a fan of cereal without COLD milk, a luxury the people dont have here.  

–I apologize for the short blog, if you have any questions please dont hesitate to comment, and we will try to answer them.

Also, I apologize for any mispellings as this keyboard does not write as marked, and only reads spanish words.

We will try to update you more before we leave Terrabona.  Hopefully tomorrow as we have gotten into the flow of things!

 

Written by: Kathryn Werner

Hello Nicaragua!

Well we made it to Nicaragua, safe and sound! Our flight transitions went smoothly, although we had a close call in Houston for our connecting flight to Managua. By the time we arrived at the gate, we had 15 minutes to quickly find some dinner before boarding the plane. Unlike the flight from Minneapolis to Houston, our flight to Nicaragua was on a very large plane and not at all to capacity. To be honest, I think everyone had their own row by the time the plane took off. We also had the luxury of watching the movie ¨We just Bought at Zoo¨, which was very well done. I encourage everyone to watch it! Our flight into Managua was absolutely beautiful. While we were in the air, we were able to watch an incredible lighting show taking place in the clouds beneath us, all without turbulence. As we were beginning our descent into Managua, I was shocked by the beauty of the city at night. Flying into Managua from across the dark water, the city´s lights were twinkling beneath us. After arrival at the Managua International Airport, our group had no issues getting through customs once we completed the appropriate paperwork. Outside the gates, Tanya, our El Porvenir leader greeted us and had a bus ready to take us to the hotel. It was about a half an hour drive from the airport to the hotel, which flew by as we took in the scenery of the city. We had the pleasure to stay in a BEAUTIFUL hotel. Newly established, the interior was very modern with a lot of space. Each bedroom had air conditioning, tile floors, tile walk-in showers, and a fan. The room I was assigned had a wonderful balcony that overlooked the gated neighborhood we were staying in. Such a beautiful sight this morning. When we went downstairs for breakfast at 7, we were greeted with a beautiful meal complete with poached eggs, scrambled eggs with peppers, tomatoes, and onions, sausage, pancakes, beans and rice, toast, fried plantains, and gorgeous fresh fruit. We had bananas, pineapple (which was white, not yellow), papaya, and watermelon. All of which were just as tasty as they looked. We were also served freshly squeezed orange juice and strong Nicaraguan coffee! The staff at the hotel was absolutely incredible. They were so nice, always asking if they could help us. After breakfast we went on a tour of Managaua by van and stopped at some memorials, the old cathedral, parliament building, and unoccupied president residence. Afterwards we went back to the hotel and was again served a delicious meal of chicken, rice, fried potatoes, and cooked broccoli and carrots. Around 2pm we headed to our next destination, Selva Negra Coffee Plantation. It was about a 2.5 hour drive into the mountains. Needless to say, it is much cooler up here, with a lot more bugs. I needed a sweatshirt for dinner. Tomorrow morning we have a tour scheduled for the plantation following breakfast and will eat lunch before we head to Terrabona. Wednesday will be our first day of work. We will try to update you again the next time we have internet access.
Thinking about you all back home and the other May Term trips. Hope all is well!