Me to We Trips: Nicaragua

Hi there! My name is Cecilia:) and I am very blessed to be able to have fundraised and bought a ticket on my own for this trip which I am sure will make it even more memorable! I am also very fortunate to have had a lot of support in the process of signing up for this trip as well as with the fundraising process for education in Nicaragua with my school club!

This page will be exclusively about my journey in Nicaragua and all the amazing experiences I will be sure to encounter!

Down below are a few pictures of my journey throughout the 2 week adventure I had the privilege to experience!

Hi ! I’m so happy to share my experience with you:) Since I did not have wifi during my trip, I journaled in a notebook and down below are daily accounts of thoughts and experiences.

Aug 14th: We had an epic detour to El Salvador once our plane to Managua got cancelled. It was very cool I got to experience a different country and culture during the short time I was there. There were different types of cars, smells, ,animals (BATs), and methods of doing things which I wasn’t necessarily accustomed to. It didn’t hit me that I was going to visit the community I had so long been fundraising for and helping out with until I stepped through the plane doors into the hot humid air. We went through customs and made a 45 min drive to the 4.5 star hotel the airline provided for us. The bed was amazing and the room itself was very similar to hotels I had stayed in before.

Aug 15th: Unfortunately we needed to wake up very early to catch our flight the next morning, but at least I got to see the breath taking sunrise and eat an El Salvador prepared breakfast ( which was very splendid). I got to try many different fruits! We then got onto the flight to Managua. The airplane view was spectacular especially because it was my first time seeing Central America from above. It was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean from an airplane for many years! When we got to the accommodation we would be staying at for the next 2 weeks, it was a definitely something I needed to adjust a bit too. The house was very pretty(purple) with all these plants and animals I had never seen before including bugs sadly. The inside was pretty cramped and there were bed nets! The washroom was very small, had gazillions of bugs roaming around, and the shower only had cold water. It was not easy to adjust to new life but after the first day I would get accustomed to it pretty quickly! Humans are made to adapt! We then had some amazing food which I won’t get to much in detail in with these posts but all I can say is that the staple in Nicaragua is rice and beans so we pretty much had that all the time! We then travelled one hour through the busy streets of Managua to the tranquil country side of El Trapiche. I’ve never seen scenery quite like what I saw that day. The trees were everywhere covering the mountaneous terrain. I think the most important thing I took away for that day was the culture. I saw different villages and standards of living. On the streets I could see different forms of living, technology, infrastructure, and more. One of the most drastic things I remembered was the quality of life itself. I had seen houses made out of cardboard and scraps of metal before but that was through pictures online. I had never seen it right in front of me, so tangible, just out of hands reach. As I watched the houses from our bus I couldn’t help but feel a sense of guilt. That while I was born in to a family that lived in a first world country, these people were living living without access to clean water, electricity, education, and more.

Aug 16th: We woke up to an early morning at 6:30am as the next few days we had full days of building at El Trapiche. When we had done all the morning jazz and ate breakfast, we got there around 8:45am.  A man named Arturo took us to his bean and corn farm as well as talked about his life. He described how the drought for the past few years impacted his ability to provide for his family. He also talked about how much time and effort their family put into agriculture as in their community, agriculture was the only things that could sustain them. The land they rent costs 80$ USD for 3.5 acres per a year and they earn at least 60$-70$with one harvesting season (June-Aug / Sept-Nov). However because of the drought, their harvest has failed. He reiterated that they are in debt because of this but they continually work hard on the field as there is not other option. He states that he takes the risk of getting into more debt to purchase the field each year as that is on the only way he can support his family. His happy smile and polite manner truly inspire me. He apologized that we couldn’t see the abundant growth. This man really taught me something about hard work. That sometimes hard work doesn’t pay off but sometimes hard work is the only option. However, I’ll always remember this man.  Even though his family of five is barely scraping by, just the fact that he was temperate and calm really demonstrated courage. He is hopeful that the next season will be good and I hope so too. It must be so difficult to watch all your hard work go to waste. This isn’t like the hard work I thought I went through. My complaints are nothing because I learned something or progressed, but this man, he lost everything multiple times in the past and could possibly lose everything in the future..Then when we had the chance to ask questions, I’ll always remember this. “Since your field is open, do the people of the community steal your crops?” Arturo replied (translated by a translator): “No, everyone in the community respects each other’s space, when it comes to harvest time, members of our community help our family out by picking the beans.” At the moment my jaw could have dropped because even when the people of the community had nothing or were starving, they still used compassion to help others out instead of taking something that isn’t rightfully theirs.  As we walked back I couldn’t help but feel thankful that he shared his powerful story. When we got back to the school, the local men (including Arturo), taught us the jobs for the new addition to the school ( the children’s playground). We rotated between jobs of pick-axing to loosen up the dirt, then shovelling up the dirt into buckets, and then taking the buckets to the top of a pyramid structure. All I can say that it was a good workout in 36-40 weather.

It’s definitely not easy to be in hot, humid weather doing hard physical work with dust blowing constantly in your face and sweat running down everywhere! After three rotations of jobs we got to have lunch. We did some team bonding activities and were just about to head back to the worksite when it started to rain cats and dogs. When it rains here, everyone takes it seriously because one could take a very nice shower under the clouds. When we got back to Kairos we had time to clean up and eat dinner. After dinner we had Spanish lessons! Hola, mi nombre es Cecilia, y tu? And that ended with a spontaneous salsa lesson!

Aug 17th: Another early morning of building! It was definitely more difficult as the sun was on full blast! We had more breaks and also we got to meet all the school kids after they introduced themselves to us. We then attempted to introduce ourselves with our freshly learned Spanish. I was literally chasing kids down attempting to have a conversation; I love kids! Seeing the joyful children putting their best foot forward when going to school spoke volumes about their eagerness to learn. Definitely actually seeing the happy faces and experiencing the children’s joy makes all the things we do back home (FTC club) worth it. I can’t wait to tell FHFTC about everything and show pictures!. I also feel that I’m getting more used to this life style (quatrines, limited use of water/electricity, cold showers, bed nets, different food, and the language barrier). After visiting the school children, the Alternative Income Women’s Group visited us at the school and talked about how FTC implemented that group. I’m glad to hear the positive impact that this group has with bringing a sustainable income for the women in the community! They sell many different pieces of jewellery that they make at markets, fairs, events, and schools:) They also taught us how to make a japanese style bracelet that we got to keep and gave us time to purchase their creations! After relishing in their talents and making purchases, we headed back to the work site for more work!

Then we headed back and had some delicious Western dinner ( pasta is love, pasta is life)! Then the Nicaragua Me to We director paid us a visit to answer any questions we had about Nicaragua. He taught us about the history of Nicaragua and the revolutions. (More information soon to come). We then did a Nicaraguan family simulation. All of us were grouped with two other people to become a family and were given a profile. We then calculated the costs of living in cordovas (C) which we would actually get for tomorrow to buy groceries at the market. My family of four (the mother being pregnant) only had 0.90$ USD to spend a day on necessities (primarily food). With that in our minds, we went to sleep to think these thoughts over.

Aug 18th: Another early morning at El Trapiche! We got to mix concrete (which is not easy at all:( especially making it from scratch), and we started adding concrete blocks to finish the pyramid structure). Time went a lot faster today because cementing blocks is a lot easier than pick-axing! After our rotations we hopped on the bus to the market to buy our groceries for our simulated families. Our family (the Perez family) has 21 C’s to spend! When we got to the market it was very nice to soak in the different way the Nicaraguan people sell their food. They had set up stands and everything was out in the open on the side of a street. As our family walked down the streets, we had to do many calculations to get the most bang out of our buck. In the end we could only afford half a pound of the cheapest rice and four teeny potatoes. During this activity because we had so little money and so many mouths to feed, we tried to find food that would fill our stomachs more than the healthier alternative. It also made me very sad to face the reality of what living under the poverty line meant. Collecting our groceries we headed back to the bus so we could get to a pottery place. We heard the story about the indigenous people and the owner taught us the ancient practice of how to make ceramics. We then had the opportunity to try ourselves which is not easy! I kept breaking my pottery at the wheel. Also the pottery wheel was self automated, so I had to kick the wheel with my feet! After trying to make pottery, we were able to buy pottery if we wanted to. Our day ended by heading to the city of Catrina which overlooked Lake Apoyo where we got to take pics!

Aug 19th: The first not early morning! We headed back to l Trapiche to visit Arturo’s sister in law ( Maria Victoria) who talked about her life and the impact FTC made in the community. She stated that she always loves it when the Me to We trip participants visit her:) She also apologized when she didn’t have enough hairs! The people here are all so welcoming, kind, and humble. After that we visited the children at school and played games with them. They seem to like skipping and playing soccer. Since it was so windy and dust kept getting into my eyes, I went inside the school and introduced myself to some of the kids inside. Because I didn’t speak a lot of Spanish, I decided to use my artistic skills to draw some pictures on the board and teach the kids to draw. It was quite successful because their smiles was all I needed to know that they loved it! They were always so excited and adorable:) Two boys both names Mario always gave me high fives after they did really well in skip rope. It was just so heart warming to see the kids be so joyful even when they didn’t have a lot. We then had lunch, and placed more blocks on the build site after lunch. After building, we went to a mural in the second El Trapiche community which was situated on the water well FTC built a few years ago. We got to paint the NIcaraguan scenery on the well with acrylics! We wrapped everything up around 4pm and got back to Kairos at 5pm. I started to do laundry as a lot of my clothes were now soaked up with dust and dirt. It was incredible that I spend 40 minutes washing 5 pieces of clothing! Even though they were super dirty, I knew that I took the washing machine and dryer at home for granted because here it took me so long just to be sanitary! After dinner, we did a pretty cool magic school busy activity which was basically a debate on important global issues! I am definitely going to use that for my club at school!

Aug 20th: A surprise early morning as our guest speaker was coming earlier! His name is Padre Fernando ( Father Fernando). He is a famous Jesuit priest in Nicaragua that is here to share his story about the revolution and literacy campaign he started. Even though his voice was barely a whisper, my heart was thumping from adrenaline. His words were so incredibly powerful! Just like a normal person he had fears when he started the revolution for the Nicaragua people to free them from the corrupt government at that time, but his love for people kept him going. He describes in great detail how scared he was when he was tortured but he kept his eye on his goals which were justice and peace. (More on this on my blog). After his talk, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed in a good way. Love is the biggest strength of this world. It can conquer anything. His words will always resonate with me: ” We are made to love one another, in love we can discover ourselves/Love that is through service,” and he quotes Aristotle, ” To be ethical will lead to happiness, to be wise is to live.” Perhaps I will share with you one story about his experience with the National Literacy Campaign.  There were youth volunteers who risked their lives to teach the peasants how to read or write in the mountains while there were volunteers being killed, raped, or tortured by the Samosa soldiers. And there were a group of women who despite hearing that other women were raped at the teaching camps still went courageously to teach. He states,” If that is not bravery, if this is not internal strength, if this is not love for the poor, then I don’t know what is….” It’s amazing that all the volunteers despite threats from soldiers who opposed them still stood in what they believed in: literacy for all. After the amazing campaign the illiteracy rate fell from 60% to 12% in only 5 months!!! They taught a total of 400,000 people which is a extremely significant in Nicaragua! After his talk, I went up to thank him even though he didn’t speak English (his words were translated) he gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek. What a sweet and humbling man because through all the things he talked about, he didn’t mention much about himself which really displays his humbleness.

We then had the opportunity to reflect on our way to a jungle that we were going to hike ( I forgot the name:(…) We ate lunch at the cafe there where the tour guide explained all the different animals that lived in the jungle, and it was so cool because all the tropical birds or majestical creatures I had learned about when I was younger were here! There were tucans, big blue butterflies, alligators, gold ants, and so many names I haven’t even heard of! It was just sooooo cool:D! When we started the uphill trail of 4km, it was the most sweat out group had sweated ( if that’s even a word). It was quite humid and very hot! We constantly stopped to take pictures and the countless trees that extended in every direction seemed unbelievable because I had seen these in magazines but to be actually there and feeling it was another story. Definitely saw a lot of weird bugs but didn’t have too much time to think about them as I was busy taking pictures and looking for tucans! When we got back to Kairos, we did a sharing activity called seven things that make me who I am. It got emotional pretty quickly because often times there are a lot of people who are dear to our heart that have passed away or bad things that have happened to us and it’s not easy to open up to a group of people about it. After the activity thought it was quite emotional, the group got a lot closer and we learned how to support each other more. We ate dinner then did more group activities like charades which involved super dangerous running at night to chase down supervisors for clues, and huckle buckle which gave me heart attacks…

Aug. 21st: I’ve started to get used to my time here. Even though it’s such a different environment, I feel at ease because of the warmness of all the community members and the people I meet. Today is a tourist day so we’re allowed to take a lot of pictures and buy things! I can’t wait! We start by visiting Granada which is near the second largest lake in Central America  (Lake Nicaragua I believe)! We stop by the beach to take pictures then to famous churches, an old train station and the main square. There was a lot of American/English/French architecture mixed with Spanish designs which can be seen through some of the pictures above! We then headed to Cafe de las sonrisas which I believe means a cafe of smiles. This cafe is extremely special because it is completely run by people with disabilities! The founder of the cafe talked to us (we always have a translator) about the reason why he started the cafe and what they do there. Most of the people who work there are deaf but they have simple to use menus and a lot of posters for customers to use sign language. The cafe also creates opportunities for women with children by having a workshop where they make hammocks. It was my first time trying a hammock in Nicaragua and boy did I love it! We also got to practice making one with the help of the workers there and participate in the worlds largest hammock (well it will be). We had a tortilla wrap with cabbage salad and watermelon juice! The cafe also gave us ear plugs so we could feel what it felt like even if it was just for a few moments what it meant to not have the ability to hear. It was quite scary and lonely to not be able to hear an voices:(

We then headed to a coffee plantation called Cafe las Flores! Before we headed through the coffee plantation, we had to opportunity to look through the menu and order drinks. I ordered some things I were craving like cheesecake and chai tea. We then walked through the trail and  saw the procedures of this 100% environmentally friendly plantation with the tour guide telling us the extra precautions they have to take when they call themselves rainforest certified. A lot of the green practices were really cool! For instance, they collected all the dirty water from washing the coffee beans or from processing the beans into a big tub where they plant water lilys which help break down bacteria and clean up the water. They say when salamanders and frogs inhabit the water again then the water is clean and good to use as the creatures are freshwater ones! The guide also told us the sad reality for many of the bean workers in Nicaragua as well as others in Central America. They pick 4-6 big buckets of coffee beans which are the size of peas and takes the whole 9 hr work day but they only ear 0.10$ USD… When we go to Starbucks or another coffee chain and pay 4-5$ for a cup of coffee, how much of that money is actually going to the workers who are doing the most work? These workers who pick these coffee beans pick enough a day for hundreds of cups of coffee. Big companies are only getting richer, while the reality of these coffee bean workers are unpleasant working conditions and no working insurance. It’s so important to buy fair trade coffee because by boycotting companies who pay workers in developing countries under 2$ a day is ( I believe ) violating human rights when a bowl of rice for 4 person family costs 0.50$ just for one meal…We then headed back after picking some coffee beans and learning the processes of picking them. Our drinks had arrived and we paid for them. It was the best chai tea and cheesecake I have ever had in my life! And the plus side was that they were organic * yummy* My friend Arti didn’t want her mocha and so I decided to try some, it was the best coffee I tried. I wasn’t exaggerating, the tastes of Starbucks is nowhere as good ( sorry, but it’s true)! With the sun beating on our faces, the rich flavour of organic fair trade coffee on our tongues, and the aroma of trees wafting through the air made for the perfect day to just enjoy.

Aug. 22nd: We went to a new community today that FTC doesn’t work with but the community asked for our help with building their pre-school! It was a fun morning because we were cementing bricks and I love it when Arturo and his friends help us out as well as say “perfecto!” when we do things right. I definitely had to earn that perfecto as he said okay at first! And for the first time in forever it rained when we worked. It was very refreshing and helped with our cement making which is a major workout! Other than building we talked about action planning back at Kairos.

Aug. 23rd: Due to the heavy rain the roads to El Trapiche were flooded so we couldn’t build today. Instead we did an activity that compared the world’s continents in four sectors: health, GDP, food consumed, and pop. The results were kind of expected but to put them into context comparatively was jaw dropping. Even though I knew about the world pretty well, to do a hands on model of how consumerism, HIV, GDP, and pop. with shoes, $, bandaids and more was very overwhelming. For instance, even though Europe and North America didn’t have a lot of people, they had the most $ and resources with the least amount of AIDS. These problems arise form consumerism and how the rich have so much more than they need but they always want more. This is the true definition of inequality and injustice. Ex: the new phne we buy so little of the $ goes to the workers who work the hardest or the longest hours. I really strive to work hard so I can voice these injustices for the people who have no voice.

We then visited an active volcano and some pictures in the afternoon. All the smoke was sulfur and still spewing from the volcano. An interesting story comes from the wooden cross on the top of a hill that overlooks the volcano. I was told that the people thought the volcano was the gate to hell so a priest built a cross there to bless the place. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take a picture of it because my camera couldn’t distinguish it from the smoke. After thirty mins we left as too much sulfur was not good for us. We headed to the tourist market to buy souvenirs and such. There was a lot of hand-made merchandise if not all of it. I bought two very unique pens which I’m very excited about (maybe too excited). At the end of the day, I guess the group’s constant wishes for pizza hut were answered because we got to eat some Nicaragua pizza from pizza hut. It was very cheesy!

Aug. 24th: Woke up in the morning feeling not the best probably due to the foreign pizza. We left around 9am for an interview with Rakelle, who was the leader of the alternative women’s jewellery group. It was again very heartwarming and heart wrenching as it was her son, Milo’s birthday but because there wasn’t rain, she had nothing (food) to celebrate her son’s birthday. In that moment, I wondered what it felt like to not have anything and be able to do anything for your children to give them a little moment of happiness. Even though it has been very difficult, she still managed to smile and got her son for us so we could sing him happy birthday. He was very shy and slipped away right after we sang him the song, but he was very adorable! She was overjoyed by such a simple action and it just felt good to do something that would make her heart happy. She continually thanked us for coming to a foreign country to work on the building site because what we were doing was bringing the community together. She said that we would forever impact the community there. She then proceeded to tell us about her experience in this community especially the difficulties of when she was pregnant with her three children. When we asked her what she would like to see happen in the future in the community, she quickly responded that easier access to health care would be very beneficial for the sick and women who were pregnant. Her humbleness and kindness of accepting us to her house again will always be something I’ll remember especially her smile.

I might forget the faces of the people or their smiles without the photographs, but I will never forget the way they make me feel because those feelings are forever locked in my hearts when my memories fade. They made me felt like I belonged<3

Aug. 25th: This morning was the good bye ceremony for the community of El Trapiche. The school kids ( mainly the girls) performed dances with the teachers saying a speech. We then did our performances ( singing our national anthem, a speech, and the cup song). When I sat down, I did some funny faces and joked with the kids which giggled back and did funny faces back which was very cute! Then we played with the kids one last time and took some pictures. Goodbyes are always very difficult, so it was so hard to let go of these kids. They hugged us and I attempted to say that I would miss them very much in Spanish, which only got confused looks but I think they got the gist of what I was trying to say to them:D yay kudos for me for trying! I will never forget these kids as I continually strive to create easier access to education. They are the reason why I do what I do because I’m so glad that these kids can have the confidence and empowerment they need to chase their dreams and make a better life for the future generation. I wouldn’t seem them again, but I do hope that they will have wonderful lives now that they have had access to education<3  It was very depressing to not be able to see the worksite men who helped us so much on the build site as they said they would be there. Hopefully we will forever be in their minds as they will definitely be in ours. We then headed back to Kairos to pack for our two day beach retreat—-

After packing and heading on the bus to the coastal region of I believe Leone, we arrived at the beach. The beach house was like something out of the movies. The rooms weren’t so much but the lawn that led to the shore of the beach was amazing. There were hammocks, rocking chairs, benches, and Hawaiian huts that were there to be enjoyed by the cascading sounds of the light blue waters. It was truly magical. It felt like a dream. Any time of day, the ocean was beautiful. Whether it be in the morning with it’s brilliance, or in the afternoon with it’s tranquility, or at sunset with it’s ability to awe, or at night with it’s mysterious power. The sand here is very fine and black because of the volcanos! While helping a friend, I dropped my phone (my camera) and the LCD screen broke so now the screen has turned black). Very sad, but I’ll live. Most of the time is spent action planning and sharing our plans with the group. We had an amazing Italian dinner ( large rolls of lasagna with garlic bread and salad!  Then in the evening ( the sky turns black around 6pm) which is hard to get used to, the host of the beach reserve, Punita shared her story about her and her husband’s roles in the revolution. It was again very inspiring because despite opposition form her family and friends, she did what she thought was the right thing: fighting for the oppressed Nicaraguans. She talked about her shared ties with Padre Fernando as well which I thought was pretty interesting! She also said that it was a tradition to have a campfire talent show on the beach. So we found fire wood and had a campfire talent show! It was very fun to be laid back after so much stress in the past year. We then roasted marshmallows and made smores! It was my first time eating smores and it was soo good. This trip had a lot of firsts for me!

Aug. 26th: We had a late morning which started with breakfast at 9 am. We did some more action planning and presented them to the entire group in the form of a elevator pitch. After all the discussion of details of our plans, we had lunch ( roasted tomatoes, crispy chicken w/ sweet & sour sauce, AND cheesecake)! We then had some free time which I spent reflecting, reading, soaking up the sun, trying not to stress about life when I got home, and chatting with new friends on hammocks! The day went really quickly and we got back together to write letters for ourselves in the future. I spent that time writing on the beach looking at the ocean. I can never get tired of watching the waves constantly rolling themselves onto the shore. It’s beauty is mesmerizing, captivating, magical.  I got to watch the sunset where the sun was a fiery reddish orange and the surrounding sky was salmon pink, soft lavendar, baby blue that splotches into the yellow and white clouds. The other half of the sky is blue outlines by the brilliant bright moon peeking through puffy defined clouds. An once in a life time opportunity~

After dinner we did a thanking each other activity where everyone closed their eyes and faced outwards. Different people took turns tapping different people on the shoulder after a prompts was read. Ex: Someone who inspire you… Someone who can create change, etc This activity made me feel pretty confident and a major esteem bumper.

I then went to the beach again for star gazing and moon watching. i can’t describe it but with the backdrop of the sounds of the waves, constellations, and the moon illuminating just enough of everything was the most peaceful I have ever felt in a long time. I wanted to trap that moment in a jar and keep it with me forever. Those moments were unreal and I was so glad to have had that opportunity to be quite and relish in God’s creation. I laid there in the dark hoping that one day all people could fell the peace and tranquility I had just felt.

Even though it’s hard to see the impact I make through empowerment, what encourages me is that I know that the kids in El Trapiche can go to school through some of the work I did. Now as this trip is coming to a close, I feel re-energized to dream big, chase dreams, and work hard. Even though I don’t want to leave this gorgeous place, there’s always a time where I need to start fighting again.

Aug 27th : It was again a late morning but I woke up at 7 and got to stare at the waves some more. Also my new mosquite bite or random bug bite count is up to 25 with 8 old ones that have kind of scarred:(… I also memorized the 9 trig identities, yay for studying ! Can’t wait to start AP calc and physics…( got to review that chem for SFU). This is the last full day in Nicaragua since we’re leaving so early in the morning tomorrow!

 

 

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