Friday, March 19, 2010

Day 7 - Laguna de Apoyo, Grenada, and Monkey Island

It is so hard to believe that today was our last day in Nicaragua. At the same time, because we have packed so much into the week, it feels like we have been here much longer than a week. Here is Kiersten’s (aka Kiki’s) perspective on the day…

“Hey all! So, I have the pleasure of writing the last day’s blog…I hope to not disappoint! As for the day, on our travels to Granada we stopped and saw Laguna de Apoyo, a huge crater lake with the brightest blue waters. We stood on top of a cliff that overlooked the lake, the city of Granada and Lake Nicaragua just on the other side of the city. This place was more beautiful than most scenery I think we saw during the trip. Yogi (Claire Scott) and I welcomed the strong winds with open arms as we stood there. See picture J. Scenes like that remind me how small I really am, in control of pretty much nothing. However, it’s a much welcomed feeling, where compared to in the U.S. I should probably be admitted to C.F.A (Control Freaks Anonymous)…Thank you Nicaragua!

Our next stop was Granada where we enjoyed a nice lunch and a bit of shopping. Granada is a bit more tourist-prone than any other town we’ve been to thus far. The architecture here is unbelievable, so gorgeous. Hard to stop taking pictures! I think everyone is so captivated by the town, or maybe just by all the coffee we bought…Anyway, at 3:00 pm we went sailing to Monkey Island on Lake Nicaragua, where I and a few others jumped on the opportunity to have a monkey possibly come on to our boat. I thought twice about it because our tour guide told us to “be careful of any loose jewelry” and if you know me, the monkeys probably would have taken me captive. However, the one that slinked on to our boat was indifferent to my jewelry and headed straight for the food. He knows what’s up. It was hilarious watching coach try to dodge the monkey trying to crawl on her back. Oh, the memories we will take away! Riding around on the boat on Lake Nicaragua was breathtaking. I just felt at ease being in the surroundings of the scattered islands and greenery growing into the lake. Some of the little islands were even for sale. Mom, I think I know where we should move next. Yes, please! I’m telling you guys, those moments were the moments I’d have to say, “you’d have to be there.” I don’t think anything captures that kind of beauty.

I’m not even really sure how to sum up the last day here in Nicaragua. Peaceful I guess would be right. There is something very indescribable about what I’ve seen here. I know that we’re tourists, and it is expected that we are ohhing and awing at every new sight. In addition, there is something very beautiful about being here and peaceful in this place. Today was something new, something fun, something sweet, and something peaceful. Whatever it was about today, I am grateful for it. Nicaragua, thank you for all that you have offered to us. It was something beautiful.”

We will be back on American soil the next time that we write. We will be back to our everyday lives, but I am confident that we will all have some different perspectives on those lives. Many of us are already beginning to think of ways to return and ways that we can help some of the people that we met. We have all been inspired by the work that Brooke, Mara and so many other volunteers are doing here and touched by the graciousness of our new Nicaraguan friends. It is almost impossible to adequately thank everyone who made this experience possible. From CJ for putting the idea of Nicaragua in my head, to Tim for creating such wonderful tours, to our administration at Berry for allowing us this opportunity, to all of the parents and supporters who supported our efforts, to Brooke, Jo, Mara, CJ, and Linda who helped make it such a memorable trip, we are grateful to everyone for allowing us to have such an incredible experience as a team. Hasta la proxima!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 6 - Jesus on the point, Los Pipitos, and Jinotepe

It is hard to believe that we only have one day left in Nicaragua! We had another full and rewarding day. Here is Claire’s, aka Yogi’s, account of the day…

“Today started early. Kiki and I got up around 7 and did some reading in the hammocks on the front porch of Hotel Casablanca. From there we had a view of the beach and one of the main streets in San Juan del Sur. The breakfasts at Hotel Casablanca have been my favorite meals so far. Every morning we have coffee, orange juice, fruits, scrambled eggs, rice and beans, and toast with guava jelly. The best part of all is the chile sauce that I put on everything, most notably on the guava jelly toast. After breakfast, we drove up to the giant Jesus that overlooks the harbor. There was a great view from up there, and it was cool to see the shadows of the clouds move across the beach and harbor beneath us. Next, we visited the special needs school Los Pipitos, which was one of the best experiences so far. When we arrived, Abby and I went outside with two students to play with chalk. We were very enthusiastic and Abby was more than willing to sacrifice her clean shirt and lay down on the dusty sidewalk so we could trace her. Her sidewalk double came out great, but when we asked one of the students if he wanted to be traced, he looked at us like we were crazy and said, “No, es sucio” or “No, it is too dirty.” After the school, we checked out and moved on to Jinotepe. The bus driver blared some music on the way, including but not limited to Michael Jackson and Guns and Roses. We arrived in Jinotepe and checked into another great hotel, which has 3 parrots that greet guests with a friendly ‘Hola!’”

After we all walked around exploring Jinotepe on foot, we had our last match to play. We played the Nicaraguan National team one last time. We came up a bit short again, but there were some strings of points of great play. This gym was much cooler as there is a nice breeze here this evening. Their team was very gracious and appreciative of having strong competition to play all week. Their coach told us multiple times that they have a difficult time finding quality teams to play except when teams come down from the United States. Overall, playing under such harsh conditions and against our worthy opponents (several of whom were in their late twenties or early thirties) will serve us well this fall. Our young group of players learned a ton about themselves and each other this week on and off the court. Buenas noches!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 5 - English lesson, Women's shelter, Educational Foundation, and Match #3

By the time our lunch arrived today, we had already had a full day of activities! Because today is St. Patrick's Day which is Erin's favorite holiday, here is Erin's account of the day...

"We had another early start today! Our team left our beautiful hotel at 8:30 to help teach English to local waiters in town. The four waiters, Javier, Genaro, Carlos and Ariel were really fun to talk to and hang out with, and we learned as much from them as they did from us. It was amazing to learn more about how the people here grow up and live. After we said goodbye to our new friends, we met back up with our trusty guide Brook who then took us to a local women’s shelter to learn about domestic violence and to give more of our donations. The women’s shelter, Casa De La Mujer, is run by an amazing woman named Mayra Calderon. It was developed to help women who are suffering from domestic violence. The volunteers speak on behalf of the women and teach them their rights in situations of domestic violence. The group has been helping women for 30 years, and the actual physical place we visited was built by a group of Dutch volunteers 12 years ago. The shelter helps to teach the women basic skills such as sewing, family education and housekeeping to better their lives and the lives of their children. The women were very appreciative of all of our donations, especially the shoes and soccer balls (special thanks to Yogi’s Mom)! After the women’s shelter we went to the Galeria del Sur. This is a place run by John Thompson that helps to maintain the culture in areas like San Juan del Sur that are heavily affected by tourism. We dropped the last of our donations off at the Galeria. Our donations will be used for things like school uniforms and a yard sale where all of the money goes to community events. This is the same group that helped to set up our match today. After visiting the Galeria, we had what I thought was one of our best meals. We went back to the Restaurant El Timon where our waiter friends work, and they were able to practice their English on us one last time while we ate. We had a bit of down time after lunch, which was spent at the beach, in the pool, and other various places. We all got lots of rest before our match ;) We got to the court early to teach a clinic for the local girls in San Juan. After the clinic we played our third match against the National team. This match was far more exciting than the others. We played on an outdoor court, and with the wind and loud music we found it difficult to concentrate. My favorite part of the game is standing next to coach to hear her comments about the match. I have been threatened with bodily harm if I repeat them here though! ;) We lost again, but we will have one more rematch tomorrow night! Bring it!"

Another highlight of the day was the quick salsa lesson that the team got from the dance instructor at the Galeria. He leads a group of dancers in an attempt to preserve the local culture. They perform for the cruise ships that stop in San Juan as well as various other local performances. Here is a brief video of our lesson...

Tomorrow morning we are going to hike up to the statue of Jesus which provides amazing views of the coast and inland. Then we will be visiting a school for special needs students. After lunch, we will drive to Jinotepe where we will play our fourth and final match tomorrow night. It will be our last chance to claim a victory against the national team. It has been so much fun to watch the girls playing well together in some pretty extreme circumstances. I am looking forward to it coming together more consistently tomorrow! Echaremos de menos a San Juan del Sur!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 4 - School Visit and Earthship

Today’s activities were as fulfilling as we expected. Everyone had a blast working with the kids at a small school in a neighboring community. Here is Kristin’s account of the day…

“Hola señors y señoritas. This is Kristiñ(a) writing. Today was a beautiful day here in lovely San Juan del Sur. This morning a lot of the girls woke up early to do yoga on the beach. I didn’t actually go, but I’m sure it was nice. In the morning we went to a school about a half hour away from here. The school was really small. I think there were only two classrooms. Los niños at la escuela were very nice. It was kind of hard talking to them, but a few of the girls know a lot of Spanish so they helped translate a lot. We helped the kids do art projects to help them learn English. They had to cut pictures they liked out of a magazine, paste them on a poster, and then name them in English. It was really interesting to talk to the kids, but most of them talked way too fast to even attempt to understand what they were saying. So, I usually just responded with “si”, whether I actually understood or not. After the school, we got to see the earthship or tire house, which is a house made completely out of recycled materials and powered by solar power. The home is insulated by tires covered in cement, and the solar panels sit on top of the roof to power the house. No one actually lives there now, but eventually someone will. We got some free time after that, so most of us walked around and looked at the shops and stands. The stands here are awesome, because most of the stuff they sell is one of a kind. So, the jewelry is very original and beautiful. For dinner we ate at a Hawaiian restaurant, which was really delicious. It is very hot here, but it is beautiful, and I don’t want to leave. So, I’m just going to live on the beach. Goodbye family. “

There were a couple of other points of interest in our day. Towards the end of our time at the school, several of the adults walked next door to visit with several women from the newly formed women’s cooperative. With the help of Brooke, Jo, Tim, and some other Americans who live or spend time here, they have started a business making jelly and selling it. It is a way for these women to help support their families and make an income. All of the families in this community rely almost entirely on their ability to farm, so helping these women create an enterprise is a big deal for their children’s future. We were able to see them start the process of making some pineapple jelly to put in some of the canning jars that we brought down for them. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the process all the way through, but it was amazing to see them cooking in such a rudimentary kitchen. The women were absolutely precious and were so excited to show us what they were doing. It is a great example of helping the people here help themselves and empowering them to improve their situations.

The other highlight of the day was the homemade lunch we ate at a family’s home right across from the school. We dropped off a cooler of supplies before we went to the school and returned to an amazing lunch of chicken, rice, beans, and potatoes. It was brutally hot today, but we had a great day learning more about the culture and finding ways to bridge the communication barriers.

Tomorrow brings more opportunities to connect with the local people and another chance to play the Nicaraguan National team. This time there should be a large crowd. We learned that the truck that drives around blaring advertisements for the nightclubs and restaurants will be advertising our game tomorrow! Our match was also advertised in the local paper a couple of days ago. No podemos esperar!