Nica Day 7 – Hiking Day!

Thurs, Jan 12

Up at about 6:30am to do a wipe shower – too cold for a bucket shower this morning too!  Breakfast was at 7:30am and it was an egg and rice patty, beans, potatoes and tomatoes, coffee, and tortillas.  Very good again!  The group met us at Lucia’s house at 8:30am and from there we went coffee picking for a bit.  Next we went on a hike down a hill to have a tour and explanation of the coffee process and hike and tour of the wet mill with Henri Acuna.




Henri explained that the coffee processing takes many steps.  Along the way he pointed out various medicinal plans (trees) that he community uses for things like minor scrapes, infections, sore throats, etc.  We got to the mill and he pointed out the many different machines and structures that process the coffee beans.  Henri explained that this particular mill had not been in use for about 3-4 years.  When it is in use it is spotless!  After that we hiked back on the hill and I was majorly sweaty!  We only hiked about 4000 or so steps, but it was all up hill on the way back!  I’m happy that the bugs have really not been an issue here at all.  It is cooler in the mountains and I’m comfortable in 2 long-sleeved shirts.


We come back from the mill tour and had lunch with our family.  First, Corey and I had the opportunity to cook plantain chips for our lunch.  It was so fun to help, but also to see how Lucia works in the kitchen.  There is a big concrete slab counter with 2 big holes in it that big iron pots fit into.  Then, a wood fire is lit underneath and that is how she cooks.  The plantains are sliced really think by a slicing tool and then fried in oil until they are transparent.  Corey and I each tried it and enjoyed doing it!  Our lunch consisted of a vegetable-squash type of patty with onions in it, our plantain chips, rice, beans and orange drink.  It was very yummy, but even better than the food was the conversation!  Lucia and her granddaughter joined us for lunch and we talked about how almost all of the food they eat grows here.  Everything grows here except the rice and the oil – which they buy.  Now that is farm to table!!  No processed food here!  Lucia was also telling us how she is like the “medicine woman” of the co-op and has learned how to use plans that grow around here for many purposes for health.  They cook with them too, but have learned out of necessity how to use them to help with infections, cuts, rashes and many other things similar to what Henri had talked to us about during our hike to the coffee mill.  She learned from the training provided by the co-op.  The bus only comes to Mirflor twice a day – once in the morning, and once at night so the people have to know how to take care of a lot of things themselves.

She then was taking about how she was grateful we were there staying with her and about how all the religions should be all together and not fight.  That is how God wants it, she explained.  She said that before the co-op started she and the other women were really shy and would never want to come out of the kitchen to talk.  But now that so many city people have visited them, she feels okay to talk to anyone and she is proud that she can do that!  Even though we had Jeanine there as a translator, I was happy that she backed off a little and let me stumble and use my Spanish more this time which made me feel good. Jeanine even told me that my Spanish was improving!!  Yay!  We helped her wash and dry dishes and then Bianca brought us out a treat.  It was this warm banana mushed with vanilla and it was heaven in a cup!  Amazing!

Side note – I made the toilet work today!  Someone had cleaned it so when I went it was in good shape.  I used it and was determined to make it flush.  One of our group’s family’s had told them to hold the full jug of water at eye level and then dump it in (rather than at toilet level).  I tried that and it worked like a charm!  Victory!  I know this might be too much information or, at the very least, might sound silly, but I felt like a major success after this!  I made the toilet work!  I can survive here!  Happy for small victories.


Next we went on an awesome hike to a look out point (Mirador) with Henri as our guide.  It was beautiful up there!  It was about 45 minutes up and 45 minutes back on a pretty technical trail, but not as challenging as the one in Guatemala in 2013 (Rostro Maya)!  It was a pleasant temperature the entire way.  When we were at the top Henri told us his story about growing up as a 5-year-old when the Contras attacked.  He explained that he used to wear his shoes around his neck in case he had to run away quickly from the soldiers.  His story was really heartbreaking.




After the hike we went to a soccer field to play futbol with the community youth.  The JCU group lost 4-2, but they gave it a good fight and had fun!  I cheered from the sidelines and took some pictures.  The dogs are all so skinny here and it is really sad.  A couple of the women students broke down about it today at the soccer fields as we watched one of the dogs who could hardly walk, stumble and then squeeze through the barbed wire.  I remember being really sad about the dogs in Guatemala too so it wasn’t that much of a shock for me here.  It is still really sad and disturbing, however.  I wish the country could do something about it, but it is hard to care for the animals when there is barely enough to feed the people.  The dogs are always scratching and you can see their ribs.  The come up to me and wiggle their tails a bit, but they don’t really engage that much.  They just seem to exist here; they don’t seem happy.  They aren’t allowed in the house, but every now and then one will scratch at the door of the house.

Tomorrow we leave at 7:30am to leave the mountains.  This has been a really cool experience, but I’m ready to go, I think.  I’m just a little outside my comfort zone, although I have adapted much more to life here today than yesterday.  It is just so hard to believe that families live here in these conditions all the time.  For a weekend “camping” experience it was doable for me, but that is really my limit.  No shower again tonight – I’ll shower once we get back to Batahola at around 3pm.


I just got to see the sunset and it was absolutely beautiful!

We had dinner and it yummy again, of course.  We had these mustard seed leaf patties that were amazing.  Jeannine explained that they don’t waste anything here.  Lucia smashes the mustard seed leaves, takes all the water out and then adds egg and flour and makes them into patties.  We also had rice-n-beans, tortillas, and avocado.  Tres Bien! We had dinner with Bianca, Lucia’s granddaughter and her two friends, Maladie and Katherine.  It was fun talking with them about their studies and general stuff.  They all live in Esteli and go to the university there.  Katherine is studying medicine and Maladie is studying business.  Jeanine translated some, but we tried to speak a lot too. After dinner we found a deck of cards and played a bunch of games with them.  We played Spoons, Burro and Lie.  They were all somewhat familiar to me from Zach, but just with different names.  It was really fun, but we decided to get to bed by 9pm.  It is chillier tonight than last night, I think.  It is also so dark when I turn my headlight off.  No light pollution here!  Unfortunately we could not see the stars tonight because it is cloudy.  Bummer because it is supposed to be amazing skies up here with the stars!  I’m turning out my light with the hopes that I don’t meet my scorpion friend in the middle of the night, again!


Nica Day 6 – To the Countryside!

Wed, Jan 11

Up early today!  The alarm was set for 5:30am, but I was awake at 4:30am.  We showered and had had breakfast.  Bless her heart, Donya Daysi was up at 4am (normally she is up at 5am) to make us breakfast.  We had pancakes, orange juice and cornflakes.  Daysi gave us each an orange and a little box of chips as a snack for our long ride up north to Sontule, Miraflor.  She is so sweet!  I took my Dramamine so hopefully it does the trick and I can sleep on the bus.  Jeannine Daboub, another translator met us at the bus.  She was going with us to the mountains as additional help and just as a safeguard to have another translator there with us.  This program’s staff thinks of everything!


Good news!  I was totally fine on the bus ride.  It was long, but the roads were not that windy.  The worst part was the long dirt road at the end of the trip.  It was about 6 miles or so that took forever at the end.  It was really bumpy, but it didn’t make me sick at all.  I just sort of rolled with it and was in the zone from the medicine.  I tried to sleep on the bus, but I could tell that would have made it worse.  We actually crossed a river on the bus!  Apparently not going through the river would add quite a bit of time to the drive.  Strange, but cool!  Along the way we picked up Henri Acuna,at the office of Miraflor Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (UCA), Producing for Fair Trade Market, who was to be our guide in the mountains.


When we arrived in Sontule we had lunch with the Women’s Cooperative Members.  We split up and half went to one house and half went to the others.  Lunch was exceptional and had typical fare of rice, beans, plantain chips, fried chicken, mashed potatoes with tomatoes and tortillas.  Also dessert was a candied squash.  The color was an odd gray, but it tasted like acorn squash.


Next we had a meeting with the New Dawn Women’s Cooperative about the history of the community.  It was so interesting!  I was surprised to learn that there were 17,000 people living in the Miraflor area and 5000 in the Sontule community (117 families).  Their stories were amazing and the women were so brave.  We learned how they advocated for themselves out of necessity and grew the co-op from a few women to many now.  The co-op has helped them to be able to have their own coffee fields, provided training on various things and in general helped them to boost their confidence and self-esteem.


Next we broke up and went with our families to get settled in.  I was with Corey and Jeannine and stayed at Lucia’s house.  I was so glad to have Jeannine with us!  I knew she would help with communication between us and the family.  Corey and I made up our beds and got our mosquito nets all set up.  The Global Ed center provided us with bedding (sheets and a blanket).  I also brought Zach’s bed roll from summer camp and hoped that it would keep me warm enough.  It was really chilly up in the mountains – in the 60’s and probably lower during the night.  It also was drizzling when we arrived so things were wet and a bit muddy.  It is extremely primitive there.  There is no electricity or running water.  They use solar panels and have a single light bulb in the various rooms so it stays pretty dark.  We had a simple supper of rice, beans, potatoes and avocado and wonderful tea.  We talked a bit with Bianca, Lucia’s granddaughter, at dinner.  She is staying with them for the weekend.  She is a first-year university student studying engineering.  Jeannine helped us with our Spanish so it was fun!


We were in bed by 7:30pm!  We were really tired from our early day, but also after the sun goes down it is extremely dark and there is really nothing to do.  Folks who live up here rise with the sun and go to bed soon after sunset.  The family usually goes to bed at 8pm.  Corey and I shared a room with 3 beds in it.  The toilet is outside our room and down the path a bit.  I was glad I had my headlight because I was sure I would need to go in the middle of the night.  When Lucia showed us our room she explained that it was important to keep the door (it was a half door) shut and locked so the animals don’t come in.


There were a number of animals that roam free all over the outside of the house – chickens, dogs, cats and a pig!  They also had horses, and cows.  They didn’t allow animals inside the house, except there were baby chicks running around the kitchen!  To me this living situation felt like glorified camping that I could do for a couple of nights, but I can’t imagine living like this, without so many comforts, for years and years…but I guess that is the point!  It really is gorgeous countryside here with absolutely beautiful flowers and flora all around.  We took a walk before dinner to check out all of the other houses and I think we lucked out staying with Lucia!


I woke up at 11pm and had to pee really bad.  So I got up, put on my boots, grabbed my headlight and started to head out.  I unlocked the top half first and started to open it when my had touched something that did not feel like wood.  When the light hit it I instantly recognized it as a scorpion on the outside of the door!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Oh, my God!!!!!  I gasped and shut the door and told Corey that there was a scorpion!!  “What should I do”, I yelled!  I really had to pee!!  Corey suggested that I just go out the bottom half of the door.  I determined that was a good plan so I bolted out the bottom and told Corey to shut it after me so our friend didn’t invade our room!  I quickly realized why everyone told us to shake out our clothing, shoes and bedding!!!  And another great reason to have a mosquito net!  Terrified, I made my way to the toilet which was totally clogged and full of feces, by the way, and did my thing.  Coming back to the room, the scorpion was still there so I made a quick entrance and shut the door behind me.  I had a long night ahead of me after that!  I was nice and toasty in bed, but I kept thinking about that thing and just praying it didn’t get in.  I slept okay, but the wind woke me up a bunch of times.  It was incredibly windy and every time there was a wind gust the whole house rattled and it sounded like it was going to blow down!  Finally, I got up at 6:30am, did a baby wipes shower and got dressed.  I was hoping to try a bucket shower, but it was just too cold.


As I mentioned earlier, there are tons of animals running around, but none are pets.  Most of the dogs here are visibly suffering from malnutrition and it is heartbreaking.  This one puppy, Balu, is really cute and very much puppy and I would love to put him in my suitcase and take him home with me.

Nica Day 5 – Trade Day

Tues, Jan 10

Today was another busy and long day.  We got up at about 6:15am, had breakfast and were reflecting at the center at 7:45am.  First Donya Daysi took us for a little morning walk around the neighborhood.  We walked through the park and just enjoyed the beautiful morning.  Reflection went well and then we were off for our first appointment.




We headed for the free trade zone in Tipitapa.  We had a tour of Wells Apparel Factory and met with Dick Gallegos, Manager, and Lourdes Gomez, Secretary General of Union.  From what I understand in the free trade zones the businesses do not pay any taxes to the country in which it is operating.  During our tour we saw the employees working on Wilson athletic products.  It was really interesting to see the various steps in the process and I took what pictures I could.  It was interesting also to hear about the wages the factory workers got paid.  It was the equivalent to $170 per month.  In terms of work conditions I noted that the main factory area(where the largest number of people worked) was not air conditioned and was rather warm (and this is Nicaragua’s winter time), and the other office areas, graphic design areas, and printing areas were air conditioned.  The manager answered many of our questions and kept telling us that the employees liked it there and didn’t really want anymore than what they had.  They were just thankful for a good job.  I have my doubts, however.  We didn’t get to talk to any employees and didn’t have much time at all with the union representative.  He also reassured us that they had some cool perks for their employees and lots of things in place to boost morale.

Next we had lunch at another buffet place – rice, beans, chicken and plantains.  I know the food may sound boring, but it was so good and I honestly did not get sick of it!

Our next stop was the American Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM).  We met with Avil Ramirez, Executive Director, and discussed the opportunities and limitations of the Central America Free trade agreement, Fair Trade and Other Trade Initiatives.  It was interesting and kind of sad to hear about how much more Nicaragua needs to grow.  This talk was cut a bit short because Mr. Ramirez had to leave to attend their President’s inauguration scheduled for that evening!

Last we went to the Center of Global Education and Experience in Central America to hear about the history and current situation of Nicaragua with Mark Lestor, the center’s co-director, and Ann’s husband.  He covered lots of information including politics, elections and the US involvement in the contra war which was all very eye-opening for me.  This talk was originally supposed to be on Saturday, at the beginning of the trip, but due to our travel changes it had to be rescheduled for today.  It would have definitely been better to have it at the beginning to set the stage for our experience, but it was great to hear anytime.  There was way too much to include in my journal.  Suffice it to say I was sufficiently overwhelmed with information and am still processing it now!

Before we left the center that night we received our bedding for our trip to the mountains tomorrow and got some last minute instructions/reminders.  I was feeling nervous thinking about the trip in the morning.  It is a 3-hour winding road trip and I just didn’t want to get motion sick!  I planned to take a pill for sure and just try to sleep!  We meet to leave at 7am!

After dinner (beans, rice, chicken nuggets, and plantains), we watched a little bit of the Inauguration of President Ortega on television.  It was cool that we were learning about the history of Nicaragua and then also living the history at the same time.  Also, ironic because our own U.S. Presidential Inauguration was happening later in the month! Oye!

We got helado!

Next, Leah, Ammy, and I went for a walk around the neighborhood.  We ended up at the home of Donya Conie who sells helado (ice cream) at their house!  I was really excited to try it as I had heard about it from past trip chaperones.  I had chocolate ad it was really good!  We bought some home for our family too so we got 5 helados for 10 Cordoba each, which equals $1.70 total!  It tasted like a chocolate milk icy and it was really tasty!

After we got back to the house I got packed for the mountains.  I only wanted to bring my backpack, little backpack and pillow.  The suitcase is way too big to drag to the mountains.  I got into bed by about 9pm.


Nica Day 4 – Crafts Day

Mon, Jan 9

Well, I survived my first night of sleeping under the mosquito net with no bites!  I actually slept pretty good.  I headed to bed at about 9:30pm.  I woke up at about 5:30am to go to the bathroom, but waited until 6am so I could just get up and take a shower.  The shower is just a spigot and is just one temperature.  It was not exactly cold, but cool and actually refreshing.  We had breakfast before heading over to the center.  We had granola with milk, bananas and some bread and coffee, of course!  We did about an hour of reflection which was neat.  I shared how I was moved by the priests message in the sermon about coming in Nicaragua to find Jesus.  Our family is so generous and hospitable and it is really amazing and humbling.

After reflection we went to visit different crafts people in the town of Masaya – first a woodworker Francisco Tikay and Aleida Potosme and son Luis and then a potter, Norland Guerrero (on Facebook at Norlan Francisco Guerrero Lopez).  The woodworker talked about this trade, his business, and then answered our questions.  We then had an opportunity to shop and purchase some of his fine work.  I wanted to buy one of everything he had because it was so beautifully made.  I bought a fairly large piece (bowl) for our table at home.  I wasn’t sure if I would have to pay extra for it to carry on the plane with me, but I figured it was totally worth it!  He shared how we raised 9 children, two of which became medical doctors.  Wow.

As I write this sitting on the porch of our house it is noisy.  There are dogs barking and kids playing out in the street. Because the homes or open air you hear a lot of commotion outside.  It is a little stressful for me.  I wonder how people find quiet here.  It is nice and cool this afternoon with fresh breezes.

We heard from Manuel Jarquin, Program Director of the Nitlapan Institute of the Central American University Regarding Initiatives to Export Crafts to Bookstores on U.S. Jesuit University Campuses.  It was interesting to learn about how this organization supports the local trades and crafts people.  It is so great that we have Ann as a translator so we can learn so much.

Next we visited the potter.  This was way cool.  He showed us how makes a piece with 16 different steps!  He starts with clay right from the ground where he lives and it takes about 12 days from start to finish.  What struck me from his demonstration was how much he reuses and recycles items for his art.  For example his paintbrush is made from the casing of a Bic pen and strands from his daughter’s hair!  Much of his work is focused on aquatic life and so I was very happy to purchase a tea-light candle holder with tortugas all over it!  Beautiful!

After the potter we had lunch at a buffet place in Masaya called Comidas Criollas.  It was yummy!  Ann told us what to stay away from at the buffet – bascially pork and any raw vegetables.  We were all very hungry because it was close to 2pm.

After lunch we visited NicaHOPE’s Economic Development Program, a project of Fabretto Children’s Association. This organization offers educational and economic training programs for communities who have historically worked in and around La Chureca, the Managua city dump.  Ms. Isabel Cristina Lazo, the director, did a short presentation and shared a couple inspirational videos.  We heard testimonies from some women who had previously worked in the dump which was inspiring.  One opportunity for children to gain training is through the jewelry-making co-op and we learned some about this too and had opportunities to purchase items to support the program in the store.  This program also provides computer classes.  I bought some bracelets for Mike, Zach and my mom.  Then some of our group tried to make bracelets with the help of some of the children.  I passed on the bracelet – making because I know my limits!

After another long day we headed home to have dinner with our family.  Tonight we had chicken, rice, plantains and ice cream as a treat!  Then we just relaxed as Daysi and Antonio watched their novella on television.  Leah went for a walk with Ammy and I got caught up with journalling and reflecting on the day.





Nica Day 3 – Meeting our families


Sun, Jan 8

I slept like a rock last night and I’m so glad!  I took advantage of the international phone charge that we had done yesterday and texted Mike good-night last night.  I’m the chaperone that has an international phone set-up in case of emergency, but I won’t use the phone anymore.  It is just nice to know that I have it.

The hotel is really nice and air-conditioned in the bedrooms.  The shower was actually hot – bueno!  We met for breakfast at 8am which was yummy!  Breakfast was in  2 parts – first the fruit phase and then the beans/rice, eggs and bread phase.  The pineapple juice was so fresh and fantastic!

The market

Our first stop this morning was at the market.  We did an exercise in which we split up in groups and had to buy some products at the market that a family would typically buy for a week.  We were given an amount of cordobas based on our (imaginary) livelihood and had to shop based on that.  It was fun because we had to try to use our language skills (or lack there of) to bargain and find the price of items and actually buy some items.  Our group bought tomatoes, rice and sugar.

Next we came to the Batahola Norte Cultural Center in the Batahola neighborhood to meet our host families!  I was excited and nervous to meet them!  Leah and I were paired up with Donya Daysi.  Donya is a term that is translated to mean mam.  We did introductions with the whole group of women and then split up and went to the families houses for lunch.  Daysi fixed fried chicken, rice, cooked vegetables and Jamaica juice (throw back to Guatemala!).  It was all yummy!

Net ready!
Fr Rafael Aragon

Antonio, our host dad, got our mosquito nets put up for us over our beds and we were all set.After lunch we took a walk with Ammy (Daysi’s 18-year-old granddaughter) to the park and a bunch of kids followed us.  Ammy is in her first year at the university studying cultural dance!  After that we met back at the center for a talk with Fr. Rafael Aragon, O. P. on liberation theology.  It was very interesting, but a little hard to follow because I was so uncomfortably hot.  Ann translated the talk with this cool individual translation equipment.  I

learned a lot from what I could follow.  To me it seems that liberation theology is a lot similar to protestant thinking, but apparently there are a lot of critiques of it from the Catholic church.  After the talk we had a brief break and the we had mass.  Ann translated the mass for us too which was cool.  We were celebrating Epiphany (the official end of Christmas) and it made me a little homesick.  The sermon brought tears to my eyes a bit because the priest mentioned that it was amazing that our group had come from a rich country like the United States to find Jesus in a poor country like Nicaragua!  So true!  In the middle of mass the sky opened up and it poured!  The priest mentioned that it shouldn’t be raining on Jan 8 and that it was another example of climate change! Ah!

Dining area

After mass we came back to Donya’s house and had dinner.  So incredibly good.  We had beans, rice, fried cheese and my favorite – plantains!  Donya told us that this was a very typical meal here.  Lunch is actually the biggest meal of the day which, frankly I liked it that way and I think it is more healthy!  We had orange juice too that was nice and cold.  Both on the bus and in all the homes there were big jugs of filtered water so we always had enough to drink and to keep our water bottles filled.

Our Batahola family consisted of Daysi and her husband, Antonio, and their granddaughter, Ammy.  We also met their grown son (Paul?) who I think lives there sometimes.  Both Daysi and Antonio knew little English and Leah and I were pretty rusty with our Spanish so it was interesting!  There was also a cat, dog, bird and turtle in the house.  The house has running water and electricity.

Living room

They have a shower, flushing toilet and a nice dining table and living room area.  Our room had two single beds with a cart night-table in between and two fans facing either bed.  There was a porch outside the house with a hammock and some rocking chairs.  Rocking chairs are huge in Nicaragua!  Antonio liked to watch TV on the porch.  Also on the porch they have a small tienda (store) from which they sell miscellaneous items like toilet paper, soup, etc.

I would like to talk more with Daysi, but I feel a little awkward because I’m so rusty with my Spanish.  I do know that she teaches sewing at the center and she is always quite busy around the house keeping it very clean.  I’m hoping to sleep okay tonight with the heat and my fear of bugs.  I will make more of an effort to talk with my family tomorrow. Time to rest.

Nica Day 2 – Getting there, take 2!

Sat, Jan 7

Well, I slept okay, but not great. I tossed and turned because of the air conditioning in the room. I kept getting cold and then hot again. The AC was loud too. I also kept thinking that I didn’t set the alarm. I did and it went off at 7am. Quick shower, breakfast at the hotel and on the shuttle to get to the airport by 8:30am. We waited quite awhile in the check-in line, but were amused by all of the dogs traveling today!

Here is one of the cute dogs at the airport! We literally saw about 4 of them!


The security line was really fast and we got to the gate just fine. After a quick Wendy’s run (all the way to another terminal, bu the students were not going to pass on any other meals after yesterday!) we boarded the plane with no drama. We flew American this time so I got to watch a movie and have pretzels and a beverage.

I saw this cool image made out of flowers in the airport and I took it as a sign that everything was going to be okay with the rest of the trip.


We arrived in Managua just fine. I texted Ann, the staff person at JCU to let her know that we had finally made it safetly. Anne McSweeney, from the Center for Global Education and Experience, met us at the airport. She was to be our guide and translator for the week. We took the bus to the Royal Inn Hotel.




We had a snack of pound cake and fruit juice to hold us over.

Our bus for the trip

After our snack we took a quick bus tour of the city of Managua. Ann is so knowledgeable about everything that is is really fun to listen to her talk about the history of the city/country.

Overlook of the city

The trees that the president’s wife had installed throughout the city. There is a wide variety of opinions about the trees!

A street entrepreneur trying to earn some money blowing fire

Afterwards we returned to the hotel and had a brief introduction meeting in which Ann gave out the schedules and discussed how to stay healthy and safe during the duration of the trip. We had dinner which was rice, beans, tortillas, and chicken; pretty typical meal. It was pretty good!


Next we had a brief reflection meeting and then I played one round of the game, Mafia, with the students before going to bed. There was a large outdoor evangelical concert going on that night that was really loud so I hoped I could get to sleep okay.

Nica Day 1 – Plains, Trains, Automobiles…and Buses!

Jan 6, 2017

Nicaragua Group 2017 ready to go!

Well, this certainly started out as an interesting trip so far and we were still in Florida! Let me back up and start from the beginning. Mike dropped me off at JCU at 8:30am this morning. We were leaving JCU at around 9am to get to the airport in time for our 12pm flight. We got checked in okay after the gate attendant has a little trouble putting all of our passports in one by one. Our plane left on time and the flight was uneventful…until on our descent at about 2:20pm the pilot announced that there had been an “incident” at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale and the airport was closed. My stomach sunk and I totally assumed the worst. He said we had plenty of fuel so we were going to be circling the airport until we further instructions. We had plenty of time as our connection to Nicaragua wasn’t leaving until 11:45pm that night. Then about 30 minutes later the pilot announced that there was an active shooter situation with fatalities and they were re-routing us to West Palm Beach International airport. OMG. The worst possible thing happened. The time was now approaching 3pm – the time we were supposed to land and I had no idea how to get in touch with Mike to let him know what was happening with us. Plus I had no idea the scope of the situation there. I was feeling panicky. The woman next to me had an alert come on her phone as soon as we got service and she told me the scope of the shooting situation. At about the same time my phone started blowing up with all of these texts and Facebook messages from people asking me how I was. I was able to talk to Mike on the phone and felt better then as we landed. Soon after that they released us off the plane and told us to pick up our bags in baggage claim. Then the waiting game began for what our plan would be. As we waiting for our bags, all I could think was I want to be home. I was sad, tired and just done with this trip before it began! But I was one of the chaperones and had to keep it together!! The agents with Spirit airlines did not know what to tell us. They seemed to indicated that our late flight would still be taking off in Ft. Lauderdale, but Mike (the other chaperone is named Mike also) and I really doubted that! So the travel agents working with JCU staff arranged a flight out of Miami for the next day for us at 12:20pm to arrive in Nicaragua at 2pm. First we needed to get to Miami airport! We took a bus to a train station that would take us to the Miami airport. They booked us hotel rooms too right by the airport so that was good. We waited for a little over an hour for the train and the trip to the airport took about 2 hours. I was grateful that we were safe and all together. The students were in good spirits which was very helpful!

I was feeling super sad about what happened yet again in our country, this time way to close to home. I saw a bit of what happened on my phone with 5 people dead and 7 injured from a guy who had legally packed a gun in his checked bag. What? How does that even happen?! I again had doubts about the trip again then and just wanted to be home with my family. At the same time, I felt thankful that we had a plan and were headed to the hotel. I looked forward to getting some sleep and I was glad that I had packed a lunch and ate it on the plane earlier. Some of the students didn’t have lunch because they were planning on having it at the airport, but that didn’t happen so they were starving! We pre-ordered pizza to be delivered to the hotel by the time we arrived. I just kept thinking that tomorrow is another day and hopefully will be much better. We got the hotel by 10pm and hoovered the best tasting pizza ever (or we were just that hungry)! Afterwards another student and I found the fitness room and I walked the treadmill to burn off some extra stress.

Here is the travel log for today’s adventure (7:30am – 10pm)

7:30pm – Car to JCU
Bus to airport
Plane to Ft. Lauderdale, but re-routed to West Palm Beach
Bus to train station
Train to Miami airport
Train to shuttle station
Shuttle to hotel – 10pm
(Total of about 15 hours)

Grand Prix Challenge 2016!

I did it! I completed the Grand Prix Challenge for 2016! This challenge was offered through my online running group sponsored by Coach Jenny Hadfield. The challenge involved virtually “traveling” over all the continents as you completed activity points. In other words each time a participant participated in 30 minutes or more of any activity you earned a point and could color in the appropriate square in a continent. Once the entire continent was colored you would move on to the next and so on until they were all completed. I’m happy to say that I finished right on the deadline day of yesterday, Dec 31, 2016!

This was such a fun way of getting activity in and tracking for 2016. I was motivated to “color” even if I didn’t really want to do the activity. I thought I would share my continents here and my stats for the type of activity I completed. I color-coded the activity that was done on that day. The thing that is not noted on my maps, however, is the actual time or mileage. Some of these days were just 3 miles or 30 minutes, while some could have been longer workouts, classes or races.

Australia – continent #1

Total Points (20): Yoga – 7; Treadmill – 6; Walking – 3; Run (outside) – 2; Other – 2

Europe – continent #2

Total Points (15): Yoga – 5; TM – 7; Run (outside) – 3

Asia – continent #3

Total Points (45): Yoga – 13; TM – 16; Walk – 3; Run – 13

Africa – continent #4

Total Points (30): Yoga – 3; TM – 5; Walk – 11; Run – 11

Antarctica – continent #5

Total Points (45): Yoga – 9; Walk – 9; Run – 27

South America – continent #6

Total Points (36): Yoga – 9; Walk – 3; Run – 24

North America – continent #7

Total Points (44): Yoga – 9; Walk – 15; Run – 20

Around the world finisher!

Grand Total Days – 235
Grand Total Activity by type:
Run (outside and TM) – 134
Yoga – 55
Walk – 44
Other – 2

Overall it has been an active year!! Now, let’s jump into the next Challenge of 2017!

Great New Year’s Eve Race 2016

Dec 31, 2016

Well, yesterday I ran my 7th of the GNYER starting at Stow High School. It is always a fun 5K and the weather is always a gamble. This year the temp was right about at 40 degrees and it was snowing a bit as we drove to the school. This year’s race was special because it meant that I was completing my Grand Prix Challenge for my online running group which was very cool. The deadline was by the end of the year and by golly, that was when I finished! More on that challenge in another blog post.

Here I am wearing my new Christmas blinking hat (thanks, Mom!). This hat will definitely make multiple appearances for all of the holiday races next year!!!

Full length shot so you can see my tutu. I just felt like it!! The top is supposed to be glittery for New Years.

I brought my photographer with me this time to try out his new camera!

I ran into fellow runner friends, Alise and Chris at the race again this year. I ran with Alise so that was fun. Chris won 2nd in his age group so that was awesome!! I was happy with my time 32:46 and 10:33 mile pace. It wasn’t my fastest run for this course, but I did cut almost a minute off of my time last year of 33:58. For this race in addition to giving out all around winners and age group winners they give out an award (trophy and $100) to the male and female in the middle of pack. The female who won this came in at 32:26!!! So close to us!!!! The male who won it was a 9-year-old kid who also won it last year, which was way cool!

This hat is the swag from this race. It is very soft fleece and will be worn this winter for sure!