Our flight to Panama left at 9:30 and we were in Cartagena within the hour. We got off the plane onto the tarmac and stood figuring things out under the beautiful night sky in Colombian warmth. We were so excited to finally be here after hours of flying!
We met Juan, our guide, who took us to our hotel for the night and got us all settled in. The hotel is gorgeous and this morning we ate a yummy latin breakfast for which there are no english words! Fruits, cheeses, loaves, eggs, etc.
On to a day of touring the city before driving to Brisas del Mar.
A quick return note – our flight just left Miami and is nearing cruising altitude. We expect to be landing on time and at the gate in Toronto for 5:31. A number of us were pulled into the secondary inspection area at US Customs (likely because we were on a farm), however that was only a short delay. I expect some of us will have the same visit in Toronto with Canadian customs.
Went out to breakfast at the same place we went yesterday. Today the chocolate tasted much more bitter and was not as good. Everything else was delicious. We got on the bus and went on our way to zip lining. When we got there we got our safety equipment on and headed up the hill to the top of the zip line course. After a emvery/em brief safety lesson we started the course. There was around 10 different zip lines we went down. I went down “superman” style and upside down. Everybody was brave and went upside down on one of the zip lines. (We all still have our limbs). After this awesome experience we went to the Masaya market for some shopping. We bought things for our family, our churches, and ourselves. We ate a quick lunch and then headed back to Managua to go to our host families. Sadly, a few of us had to switch our host families so we did not see the same people as before. We got changed then went to the “Art Games” at Los Quinchos school where other groups were doing their service projects. The Art Games consisted of 3 groups of 3 painters creating a picture in 20 minutes. The winner of their group would move on to the final round where they would compete again to win. We were able to buy raffle tickets to win any of these paintings. Lillian and I won a painting and Harrison won 2! We went back to the home stays and went to bed knowing we had to be up at 4 in the morning.
Woke up at hotel. Then we walked through the town to a restaurant to a restaurant called “Maison de Chocolate” (house of chocolate). Then by 11:00 we boarded two small boats for a boat tour through these small islands close to the shore. The islands (all 300 and more) were created by volcanic eruptions in the 1700s, which is pretty cool. We saw a lot of birds and some monkeys. I got really burnt from that. After getting off the boards we got a bus tour around Grenada from Victor. It is a really nice city it almost feels fake. It feels like we’re not in the same place as we were for the past week. It feels like a facade for tourists. There is no more tin roof shacks and a lot less garbage. After this we had free time. Harrison, Annika, Rowie and I went to the little market in front of our hotel. They mainly had little touristy items like shirts, hats and trinkets. We got Harrison to do all of our bartering for us. Got more sunburnt from that. We ate supper at a fancy restaurant, then we attempted to go salsa dancing, but the hype was more than the reality and we were all out of there within half an hour.
Hola from Nicaragua, I hope you’ve been enjoying the blog posts so far.
Today we said our final goodbyes to the farm. They were very happy to receive all of our donations, and hoped we would come again. After that we it was of to Masaya, where we would all finally get to climb a volcano. Volcano Masaya is actually made out of 4 craters, and one of them has been nicknamed “the mouth of hell” after a large cross was built on the side. The hike to the highest point was hard but the view was amazing. The landscape is so beautiful here. Afterwards we headed to the lovely city of Granada. It was a city colonised by Spain when they came, so all of streets are very narrow, especially with cars. The hotel we’re in is very nice, especially after being at the farm. Two more days before we’re on a place bound for Canada.
Today was or last day of work. Or projects have been completed, the mural is amazing and the other things we have done will make life for the workers and their children much better. I personally have been kept quite busy (not that everyone else wasn’t) today with mixing cement, painting the outside wall of the school house, and cleaning a lot of tools.
While painting, two of the boys who live on the farm wanted to help us paint, so we handed them some brushes and they got right to work.
On the topic of children, they are all very sweet kids and each of them sports a million-dollar smile, and that’s the best part of the trip so far. Interacting with the Nicaraguan people either with the help of Juan or one of the interpreters is a great experience to know more about how people live here in Nicaragua, as well as being able to share things about our lives in Canada with people who have never been there before.
Each day after our contribution to the projects, we have a lesson about some part of the process if coffee production, or just about life here at the El Recreo, and today we had a more interactive lesson by going coffee picking. The lesion started by taking a terrifying truck ride up the mountain to the coffee trees. We tied or baskets around or waists and fought through the yes to pick of as many coffee cherries as possible, which was more difficult than it seems and w was a real eye-opener into the lives of the workers we hear getting on the truck at 4 AM each day to get to work. After picking, we hiked back down the mountain to sort the green and ripe cherries onto a tarp.
Dinner as usual was very good with chicken, vegetables, rice, and (homemade) potato chips. Dinner also was or segue into our final mixer with some of the people who live on the farm. This mixer featured a piñata which was a real hit with everyone who was there. We danced, sang, and then had a nice farewell with the children before heading back to our rooms for the night.
Or time here at El Recreo has come to an end although we will always have the memories! Of to Granada tomorrow!
We woke up today to the typical sounds of one of the farm’s dogs barking. Most of us have gotten used to the sound of this daily interruption at 4AM, and are able to fall back asleep again. At 7 AM we had a breakfast of scrambled eggs with meat, beams, tortillas, and sausages.
We had a variety of projects to work on today: some people worked on the mural, others worked on making cement, building a terrace beside the school, levelling the ground in front of the new bathrooms or painting the infant care centre. It was quite sunny and many of us pale folks have gotten some sunburn. Luckily some people packed aloe vera which has been very helpful for treating sunburns.
For lunch we ate beef with red onions and green peppers, rice, salad coleslaw, and plantain chips (a group favourite). It was all delicious! After lunch we were back to work until 3pm. We cleaned off (some) of the dirt or paint on us before listening to the nurse at El Recreo tell us about what she teaches the families on the farm about. It was interesting to learn that things we all consider common knowledge in Canada, ie hygiene, are not things people in Nicaragua know. She gave us a tour of the workers living area on the farm and showed us how she works with them to improve their health. We then came back for dinner which consisted of soft or fried tortillas, beans, beef, coleslaw and vegetables. We had a group reflection in the chapel where we talked about our thoughts on the trip this far and sang some songs. We were all quite exhausted and feel also soon after. Of course we all heard the dog bark before falling asleep. It was a great but exhausting day overall! See you next week!
Today was the second day of work on the farm. We had more kind of Americanised food today. For breakfast we had pancakes and bacon and for dinner we had spaghetti and meatballs.
In terms of painting work, we continued painting the mural, painted the inside if the school, and stated on the nursery. We also levelled out the dirt for the patio, made concrete, and dug more trenches. There was a tree in the way of the one spot where we were sitting, so we used a machete to chop down the tree.
After working we got to your the coffee processing plant.
At night, we had another mixer which about thirteen people (mostly kids) came out to. We played soccer with the kids for a while and then we talked with them and played some games. It was a great day!
After our first sleep in our lovely rooms, we started our work projects. We were separated into groups to do the mural on the side of the school, making concrete for the covered patio, digging holes for the terrace, digging trenches for three bathrooms (there was a LOT of digging),nbsp; and thing together rebar, which is what I did. We worked side-by-side with our Nicaraguan leaders, TCOW leaders, and translators. The morning weather was very cool, but it soon heated up to 25 C. We ain’t in Canada anymore!nbsp; We worked for about six hours with a one hour break for lunch (man do Nicaraguans known how to cook!). After super we gathered in an outdoor hall for our first mixer where we met some of the children whom we played with earlier in the day. Even though they were very shy, we ended up laughing at the funny repeat-after-me songs. With only a few minor sunburns, today was an enriching and exciting experience and I know we all enjoyed our very deep, very exhausted sleeps.
(Typist’s note: Lauren forgot to mention the lesson we got in the afternoon around the history of coffee which included a tasting of this plantation’s product)
Today we left our host families in Los Robles. We took our tour bus from Managua, singing the whole time, all the way through dry, flat plains until we reached a mountain range called “Isabella.” The view from the mountain was spectacular and scenic. We arrived in Jinotega after two hours or so of driving, and ate at a nice buffet named “El Tico”which is kind of a slang term for Costa Rica. We got back on the bus after lunch and dice for another hour, and it was still incredibly gorgeous. We arrived on the coffee farm, El Recreo, but had to walk party of the way up the driveway due to rocks, which took around fifteen minutes. After all of us settled into our dorms, it was time for a hike. Don Emir took us all through the mountainous plantation, and our walk was more than two miles up hill. On the way he explained how coffee beans grow and taught us about coffee rust, a disease that can destroy entire crops.
After that, we had dinner with some of the Nicaraguan workers, and did a group reflection and song. Overall it was a great day. The weather here is still hot, but not nearly as hot as Managua. The next week is going to be amazing!