North America · 728 Days · 108 Moments · June 2016

Ana Marcela's odyssey through Nicaragua

18 June 2018

Hola Nicaragua viajeros!!! I have been trying to make contact with our friends in Nicaragua. Antonio responded and sent this link. Please share and help out if you can.

30 June 2016

Part 2- This was the best EF tour I have taken. Our students were courteous, responsible, hard working, and perfect traveling companions. The trip had a perfect balance of site seeing, exciting excursions, service work, relaxing, and shopping! We returned home with our hearts and spirits filled. Thank you friends for following our journal and supporting our adventures. Thank you Gardner and Polis families for entrusting us with your children and for recognizing how important world travel is to our students and our future! Thank you Jefe and Shrider for joining me on this grand adventure! It was a blast!!!❤️❤️
Part I- We are home! We can warm showers and throw the TP in the toilet. We will miss the birds chirping throughout the day and evening as well as the firecrackers startling us as we toured Nicaragua. We will miss our daily serving of Gallo Pinto and array of freshly squeezed fruit juices. We will miss the smiles and hospitality of the Nicaraguan people. Many interactions with them ended with, "Thank you for visiting our country", and "Please return to vacation with your families". They were so gracious and generous.

29 June 2016

We were originally schedule to visit this volcano, Masaya, but it erupted in early June, so we had to visit Mombacho.
The lobby of Hotel El Almirante in Granada.
Matthew striking a pose with Andrés as he models his gift from our Eich familia. ¡Vamos Gigantes!
Our Eich familia saying goodbye to our amazing EF guide, Andrés.
Our last day in Granada was spent visiting the bottom of the Mombacho volcano and zip lining. We visited a historical cemetery where a few of the Niciraguan presidents had been buried and the Museo del Covento de San Francisco where we saw pre Columbian statues and a beautiful view of the volcano. Mrs. Shrider and Simone visited an art gallery and the rest of our Eich family accompanied another teacher from our group to a typical mercado. The sites and smells of that were quite interesting! We also visited two of the Catholic Churches in Granada. After a spaghetti dinner, the students exchanged contact information and they were given an opportunity to share what they wanted to remember from the trip. Some spoke of being more appreciative for school and food. Others spoke of being mindful about buying items that support fair trade. One student shared how they wanted to remember the students they met were just like them. We celebrated the beautiful night with a walk to buy gelato!

28 June 2016

Over the course of this past week I have seen many things and gained new experiences. I have helped construct an additional school house in Los campos, I have hiked around a volcano and when I sit here reflecting on it all I realize how meaningless some of our problems at home truly are. We are complaining if we do not get our morning coffee, well they are struggling to get clean water. Some walk over a kilometer to get drinking water. We are complaining if prices for eggs go up. Well about 50% of the population here lives under $2 a day. I look back it all the complaining about homework the lack of Wi-Fi and think how trivial it is. These kids have to walk kilometers just to get to school for the prospect of a better life. Some of these families do not have cell phones let alone Wi-Fi . I simply think what have we been complaining about. What we need to do is to think about other people who are less fortunate and think about how we can help them and not our selves. -Matthew Polis
This past week I learned a lot about Nicaraguan culture, Nicaraguan history, improving my Spanish, and I learned a lot from the new people I met. One of the things I learned was how important education is; from the women's group and meeting the kids who go to the Los Campos school and others who have to walk long distances to get to their's. Another thing is realizing how insignificant our problems are compared to the struggles other people have to face everyday. It kind of puts your whole life in perspective. The entire trip was really fun and I'm glad I went on it. -Simone Gardner
Fun in the pool!
This is from yesterday's carriage ride around the city of Granada.
We visited the "Park of Poets".
We rode a horse draw carriage throughout the city in the afternoon.
Goddess Shrider!
I may have "peepeeripees" a little, but I survived. We ziplined a total of 10 times through the forest of the Mombacho volcano. A few from the group waited at the visiting center but everyone enjoyed the day.
Sr. Kerns, El Gran Jefe, making my dreams come true! It is always special sharing world travel with students, but it is much more fun with my BFF.😘

27 June 2016

Simone was willing to help out in whatever was needed and always had a positive and cheerful attitude. So proud of her.
Matthew is such a hard working, diligent young man. We were so proud of his willingness to make every moment count!
This was a picture of us on a hike in the rainforest earlier in the week.
Today we visited the Mombacho volcano. It was amazing how we were inside a cloud. The altitude that we were at was the same as the cloud. It was truly an amazing site. It was also amazing how much vegetation and animals were living up at such high altitude even next to the steam vents, It was truly amazing. We got to see many wild creatures including a sloth who got up and moved around which they only do once a week, and the howler monkeys which are the loudest monkeys in the world. It was truly a sight to behold. -Matthew Polis
Today we went on a hike around the volcano. We learned about a variety of plants on the hike, including parasitic plants verses air plants. We also came across a hot spot which was a hole into the earth and it was very hot and sulfurous. We also saw a two toed sloth and learned about them. We learned about the volcano and its history, and how it's geography affects the area around it, like how all the islands around are the land that used to be on the top of the volcano. -Simone Gardner
Trying out some local foods. Too bad there wasn't any fried iguana to try!
Our adventurous Matthew trying Dragon Fruit juice!
Mi Familia Eich ❤️
Jefe getting sucked into a small steam vent of the volcano. We could feel the heat and smell the sulfur.
Our girl Simone "dabbing" in a tunnel of the volcano.
Today, we visited a volcano named, Mambacho. I will have the students journal about their day tonight, but I wanted to share their photos.
¡Qué interesante!

26 June 2016

We had an elegant dinner of white rice, salad, and grilled chicken. We later went for a walk around town and stopped to buy gelato. Many people were outside restaurants watching the Copa America. It was very exciting.
Part 2: We arrived in Granada, Nicaragua around noon and visited a very unique cafe called "Cafe de las Sonrisas". It is a brightly decorated cafe that employs deaf and mute people to work at the restaurant as well as makes hammocks to sell. The gentleman who began the business was visiting from Barcelona, Spain and wanted to open a restaurant. He fell in love with Nicaragua, but was saddened by the struggle of the people, especially a friend who was deaf. He decided to open a business where he could train and hire deaf people and also help them achieve their goals. "Tio" Antonio Prieto Buñel is a phenomenal human being. It made us feel good to know that EF and Free the Children support his endeavors.
Part 1: Wake up call was 6:30am today. We were ready for breakfast by 7:00am with our bags packed. We said thank you to the Montebelli team and loaded the buses to participate in a pottery workshop in San Juan de orient Masaya. It was about an hour drive. We were able to hear from a descendant of the indigenous group Chorotega, which are descendants of the Maya. He demonstrated the steps and techniques used to create the pottery in the same manner of his descendants from a thousand years ago. As the artisan placed the clay on the cement and kneaded it with his bare feet a musician came out and played the marimba. I couldn't help but imagine all of his ancestors who had done this before him and here he was educating us on this beautiful tradition. It brought tears to my eyes. We purchased a few items and noted the web site, just in case I needed to make future purchases😉
Once we finished lunch, we checked into Hotel El Almirante. We were quite impressed with the accommodations! We then were taken to Lake Nicaragua and boated two small boats. There are over 360 small islands/isletas on the lake. There have been sightings of Bull Sharks in the lake 😳but we didn't see any.

25 June 2016

Oh, hello fellow scorpio! Welcome to our cabaña.😬
Part 2: They replied with yes each of the 12 partners had made 19 USD. This was huge because the women were not used to making anything. Now everybody respects them and even assists them if they need it. I took from this that if you really put your mind to it you can accomplish anything. As the women stayed up late making the jewelery to do something, women in that village did not usually do that to provide for their families. We can do the same with our challenges. We can remember these ladies as risk-takers who pushed past the villages expectations to support their families. We too can push beyond our limits to do what we want. -Matthew Polis
Part 1: Today we went to the school to work and got 164 buckets of dirt sifted at the building site! Once an hour had passed, a group of women came whose village had already been visited by Free The Children. The women told their tale. Free The Children wanted to implement an alternative income program so that the women would have a chance to earn a salary. They were presented with 3 options and they chose to make jewelery. They told about how they had to climb up trees to harvest the seeds required for the jewelery. They told of the first time they went to sell. They went off to another village and when they arrived back to their own they were questioned on if they sold any jewelery. -Matthew Polis
The things I learned that I want to bring back home with me would have to be just the importance of education, for one. When the women who made the jewelery came to talk to us they really made it clear how important continuing education is to them, and getting their own salary and being independent is. Also, I learned how much effort goes into making coffee and how sometimes the coffee laborers do not receive a fair wage and how unfair their living conditions can be, and how important it is to buy fair trade coffee so they're treated well. - Simone Gardner
Wow! We had another amazing day filled with laughter and learning! We left our lodge at 8:30am to work for an hour on our site. We worked together as a team and filled 164 buckets of clean soil. Everyone was so proud of their hard work! After the work we met a women's group who creates alternative jewelery from seeds. Free the Children worked with the women's group to help them start their business. We were amazed how such a small business could make such a tremendous impact on their lives. One woman spoke of moving from a 6x6 room to purchasing a home for her son and herself. Another woman spoke of financing her education as a civil engineer by making and selling the jewelry. We then boarded the bus and drove an hour to tour a coffee plantation and enjoy a nice cup of coffee. As we toured the plantation we learned each step to growing coffee beans and preparing them to be sold. We ended the night with an activity learning the needs of Nicaragua and affirming each team member.
Jefe in his paradise.
Touring the coffee plantation.
Mrs. Shrider isn't going to let a little dirt under her finger nails keep her from buying jewelery!
Matthew with the women from the alternative jewelery group.
Our Free The Children leaders guided us through a very powerful activity on where our cup of coffee originates.

24 June 2016

We were so proud of our students today. They spent five hours shoveling and sifting dirt, carrying buckets filled with dirt, raking to level the dirt and using a pick ax to loosen the dirt. They worked diligently until each break was called and enjoyed every moment. They never complained. Matthew entertained us the entire time with his quick wit. Using her sweet demeanor, Simone motivated several of her friends to continue to work even when they wanted to quit. We were so proud of our entire group, but especially our Wildcats!!!
When we arrived at the school this morning we were put immediately to work. When we started It felt rewarding because I knew we were making a difference. I knew I was making a difference because we found out how far it was to the nearest 4th grade classroom and they said that most parents would just keep there kids home rather then send them to the school. By building the 4th grade classroom we enabled more kids to have a better education. Matthew Polis
Before dinner, we attended a short one hour Spanish class to review terms we could use as we enjoy our stay here in Nicaragua. Here is a photo of Simone's notes.
Today we worked in the yard at the school in Los Campos. We worked to build the fourth grade classroom. I felt a little apprehensive of having to do manual labor, but it wasn't so bad. In fact, it wasn't too hard at all once you got passed the searing heat and having to wear uncomfortable goggles. Now I definitely know my shoveling skills are more adept then when I first came here. My favorite part was meeting the students who went to the school. They were so friendly and curious, and really interesting to talk to and learn more about. -Simone Gardner
We spent our day in the Los Campos community, in the city of San Marcos. We worked for five hours to prepare the soil of an area of land where a fourth grade class will be built and be ready for students to use in February.
This morning one of our boys cabins was in charge of wake up call, but they must have been too tired to walk up our stairs because they never reached us. Thankfully, the bright sun shining into our cabaña at 5:30am woke us up. Matthew shared the menu for breakfast and dismissed our group to eat by cabin numbers.
Mrs. Shrider's new roommate.

23 June 2016

When we arrived at the school I was surprised to see how eager the kids were to see us. When we were walking to the construction site in the back we walked past them and they wanted high-fives and some wanted hugs and after some talking they hung up a piñata, filled with candy. The kids were a little shy and did not want to hit it except for 2. Then the group helped hit the piñata when we,(the students), successfully hit it and candy came out they scurried over and gathered it up then distributed it evenly among each other. Then when we finally destroyed it they played with the broken piñata. Then we headed out. While I was on the bus I was reflecting on the experience and realized how different the environment was but the kids were just as wide eyed as kids from our country. - Matthew Polis
This morning we visited a Me to We community named, "Los Campos". We drove about 30 minutes through windy narrow roads. When we arrived, we were greeted by smiles and cheers from the preschool class. We learned our project would be to prepare the topsoil to lay cement for the fourth grade class. At this time 86 preschool through 3 grade students can attend school in their neighborhood instead of having to walk on the dangerous high way to attend school. "When I arrived at the school I was so surprised to see the students so excited to see us. We walked in and the little kids asked us for high fives and hugged us. They were super friendly. I thought it was cool that there were murals painted on the walls of their classroom. The entire town had murals. I was surprised they wore uniforms. It was cute that although they were poor and little, when they broke the piñata they ran up to us to share the candy. I want to remember how kind, friendly, and generous the kids were." -Simone Gardner
Enjoying evening team building activities.
Here is Matthew enjoying last night's Team Building activities.
Rana de ojos rojos.
Wildcats in the rainforest! My colleague, Mrs. Shrider, AKA Diosa, just told me my left cheek looks like it is swollen! Must have been bit!
Such an amazing hike through the rain forest. We saw a few monkeys, parrots, and interesting insects.
Matthew and his roommates from Portland, Oregon.
Matthew enjoys his breakfast of lemonade, brown rice, beans, eggs, and pine apple.
Simone helps leads a game during our breakfast meal.
Our home for three days.
The girls were in charge of waking everyone up this morning at 7:30am.

22 June 2016

The kids have connected with their room mates. Jeff and I are falling asleep to the sound of the Copa America on a nearby radio, frogs croaking, crickets chirping, in a room filled with the lovely aroma of Deet. Buenas Noches!
Enjoyed this yummy meal tonight. I had to take a photo of someone else's plate because I ate mine so fast!
Salud! Enjoying the first fruits of our labor here in Nicargua! 😆 Just arrived!
Getting our steps in hustling to our gate at Dallas Ft. Worth, quick bathroom stop, and ordered sandwiches to make it just in time to board our plane to Managua!!
All aboard! Ready to take off! Our first leg is to Dallas, Texas.
What are you expecting from your Nicaragua adventure? Matthew Polis- '"Exploration..." Simone Gardner, "Ziplining!"
Thank you Mr. Polis for providing the party bus to SF!! We are resting our eyes and gearing up for our adventure in Nicaragua!

20 June 2016

Here we go!!!