Nica Day 10 – Recreation Day

Sun, January 15

We had our last breakfast with our families this morning.  We had pancakes, corn flakes and juice.  We wrote our names and addresses in the family’s book along with a greeting and then took a few pictures with our family.  Donya and Amy walked with us to meet the bus.  It was hard to say good-bye and I teared up a couple of times.  We exchanged good-byes as group with the women.  I was so touched by their sentiment of , “we hope you come back – we’ll be waiting for you.”



From Batahola we drove to see the Masaya Volcano.  It was about a 15 minute drive up to the top of the volcano and then we literally only had 5 minutes to look down at the crater.  The time limit is for safety since the area surrounding the crater has shifted quite a bit through the years.  We could look down and see the lava and it was really cool.  My pictures actually turned out pretty well.  Afterwards we visited the museum on site of the volcano park and saw bats flying around (not part of the exhibit, but very cool!).



Next, we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and sunning at Apoyo Crater Lake.  It was beautiful!  We all swam out to the dock and played in the waves a bit.  I got a little dizzy in the waves because the wind made the water pretty choppy.  Then we had a buffet lunch at El Paradiso restaurant that was so good!  Then, we just spent a relaxing couple of hours hanging out on the beach.  It started out sunny, but got a little cloudy in the afternoon, but it was such a pleasant place.  This was SUCH a nice way to spend our last day in Nicaragua.  Most of the trip involved intense learning and cerebral topics so this day was much needed and enjoyed.  The sand felt so good on my feet since they have spent so much time over the last 10 days in socks and boots!  I think I also enjoyed this beach time because we had to cancel our trip to Hilton Head this past summer.




We left the beach about 2:30pm and headed to the market one more time for about 45 minutes so folks could do some souvenir shopping.  I bought a cool cross, a nativity ornament, magnet and a clay turtle cup and saucer.  After the market we went back to the Royal Inn to shower,







rest and pack.  We had our last reflection that evening while some in our group went back to Batahola for mass.  Dinner was at 8pm at the hotel which was good – a sweet-n-sour chicken, rice, cooked vegetables, bread, and iced tea.  We also made a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the group in preparation for our long and early/late trip to the airport (midnight) since restaurants in the airport would be closed.  I slept from about 9:30pm – 11:30pm and then got up to jump on the bus at midnight.  Homeward bound!!

Nica Day 9 – Reflection and Fiesta!

Sat, Jan 14

I woke up at 6:30am this morning ready to take a shower, but I’m waiting a bit so I don’t wake up Leah.  We don’t have to be at the bus until 9:30am so we have a little bit of time this morning to get ready.  Yesterday Jeannine told me my Spanish had improved.  Yay!  I feel like it has also.  It is weird what words I pick up on and what vocabulary pop back in my head after Spanish in college so many years ago.  I can definitely understand more than I can speak myself.  Once again, it is clear how much easier it is to learn a language when you are immersed in it.








This morning after breakfast Leah, Amy and I took a little walk around the neighborhood before meeting the bus.  The neighbors are all so friendly that it is fun to walk around and enjoy the morning that way.  We met the bus and headed to meet Marissa Olivares a sociology professor at the Center American University.  She told us her story of being a participant in the Insurrection and Contra War and being a former Sandinista.  Her activism started when she was very young – like 17 or 18 years old.  Towards the end of her experience she could assemble a gun in a minute.  She explained that she didn’t want to fight; they just wanted to advocate for human rights and an equal and fair world.  When the Contras came, she explained, she had no choice, but to fight.  She is/was an activist and a feminist, but no longer a part of the Sandinista party.  She was very cool and her story was so inspirational and brave.  Eventually she went to school in Kentucky and became a Fulbright Scholar.  I think she should write a book!   This will be one of the speakers I will always remember from this trip.

Next we went to the JVC (Jesuit Volunteer Corps) house in Managua and met with the JVC volunteers.  It was interesting to tour their house and then chat with them over lunch at the Center for Global Education.  Folks sign up for a 2-year stint with JVC with an opportunity to sign on for a third year.

After lunch we stayed at the retreat center to do our final reflection.  We spent about an hour and a half and it revealed lots of thoughts, feelings, and great stories.  I, of course, got choked up a couple of times.  Go figure!  Some of the students shared some amazing stories.  One shared a story about an interaction with a little boy  at his home in the mountains.  The boy had a basketball hoop by his house so the student asked if he had a ball so they could play.  They boy responded with “I don’t know” a few times, but them revealed a bottle cap that he used as a ball because he didn’t have a ball.  So the student had a good time playing with the boy and the bottle cap.  There were lots of neat stories like that that students shared and I felt humble to be a part of it and witness it.



We had our final dinner with our families tonight – steak, rice, plantains, and of course orange juice!  We told our family thank you so much and they invited us to come back anytime.  We all met at the park at 8pm to do the pinatas with the kids.  It only lasted about 10 minutes, but it was fun to see the kids enjoying it and getting the candy.  Afterwards some of us bought ice cream again.  It is so good!  Recreation day is tomorrow so I’m looking forward to that and gearing up to go home and share all I’ve learned with others.


Nica Day 8 – Coffee Day

Fri, Jan 13

Today was an early day. We were up and picked up by the bus by 7:30am. I got to sleep pretty quickly, but then woke up at 3am to go to the bathroom. Then I couldn’t go back to sleep so I tossed and turned for awhile thinking about a bunch of stuff – just starting to process everything. Thankfully, I didn’t see my scorpion friend again last night!




We had a good breakfast of eggs, rice, beans and squash-type of vegetable. Then it was time to say good-by to our families from the mountains. As I said good-bye to Lucia, I got tears in my eyes. I was just so touched by how generous she is (and the community is) with having so little material goods. They live a hard life with few creature comforts like couches, televisions and even not a lot of light. And still, they would give so much to strangers.


Our first stop today was at a cigar making store. Even though this stop was not on our original, there were a number of students who were interested in purchasing cigars so Anne worked in into our schedule. I took some pictures, but did not buy anything.


Next we visited SolCafe Coffee Mill which is a peasant owned coffee export company that works with equal exchange and other fair trade roasters. First we were able to view the dry milling process with Concepcion Mendez and Santiago Dolmus. When the beans first come into the mill they are usually about 45% water. The drying process is done by raking until the beans’ water count is around 12% which can take about 6-8 days drying in the sun. The rakers make about $7 per day. Then we were able to participate in a coffee cupping session with Cesar Zeledon which was really fun.Finally we had a presentation and conversation about Fair Trade with Santiago Domus of the Organization of Northern Coffee Cooperatives. It was interesting to finally have the intricacies of Fair Trade verses commercial traded explained and how the fair trade is indeed more fair to the farmers.


Next we went to lunch at a nice restaurant. Anne put our order in ahead of time and it was ready when we got there – which was good because it was almost 2pm. I got the vegetarian platter which was black beans, rice, and vegetables and was yummy! After lunch we made our way back (2 hour drive) to Managua. During our trip back the students had a discussion about what they had just learned about Fair Trade and then a general reflection about the mountains visit and the trip in general. I felt badly because I couldn’t really participate because I had to look forward riding on the bus.


We arrived back to Batahola and had a nice dinner with the family. Next we all went to Donya Carla’s dance class. She is one of the sponsoring moms and she moonlights as a dance teacher and scheduled a dance class for our final night with them.





Come to find out it was a Zumba class, but about 100% more intense than the ones in the states. One reason for this was because it was crazy hot! At first I went along just to take pictures, but then they persuaded me to dance too! Okay, it did not take too much persuading!! It was a blast! We danced various dances for about an hour. I got so sweaty. I still hadn’t showered from the mountains so I was crazy gross. When we got back to Donya Daysi’s house I finally took a shower and it felt amazing! First shower since Wednesday morning with 2 sweaty hikes and a dance class during that time. It may not seem long to someone else, but this was the longest time I have gone without a shower in my life. And, hey, I survived to talk about it! More grateful than ever for water to get clean.

Frostbite Prediction Run 5K 2017

Sat, Feb 4, 2017

Another prediction run!  For those who aren’t familiar, a prediction run is a race in which the winners are chosen by how close they came to the time they predict that they will finish.  This is the race where time (fast time that is) does not matter and folks like me have a fighting chance to win something!!  No watches or time pieces are allowed and you are on your honor.  This is my 3rd time running this race so you would think I would have an inkling now about how to predict this.  Of course, weather is a factor on how you run and this year was no exception.  This year’s race was super chilly at about 13 degrees at the start at 9am.  I must not have been feeling super speedy when I initially registered because I predicted my time to be 35:20.  Last year my time was 32:33, but it was a super nice day that day.  So when I arrived to pick up my packet this morning I was thinking I wanted to change my time to like 34 minutes flat.  I went over to do so, but the folks were busy getting the finish line set up and I felt silly bothering them about doing it. So my new plan was to just keep the slower time and just walk a bit during the race to try to get close to it.  Turns out this is harder than it sounds!  First of all, it was freezing so I wanted to just “Go”!  The thought of intentionally going slower when it is cold out is not a comforting thought!

So the first mile or so I ran pretty fast.  It was cold with the wind whipping my face.  It was nice and sunny with no clouds, however, and a real beautiful morning at the metro parks in Munroe Falls.  I actually was properly dressed (for once) with leggings, two-long sleeved shirts, my jacket, balaclava, hat and gloves.  Per my usual I was ready to shed my gloves at mile 1.  I then remembered my goal to be slow….ah.  So I chose to walk the hills.  I felt like I might have a slight chance, although I knew I had probably not done enough walking, so as I glanced back at the clock (they clock does not face the runners) as I crossed the finish line I was immediately mad!  It read 33 something.  Ah!!!  I was way off my predicted time!  I mean, this is a good thing in terms of running, but not good in terms of winning!  I was super speedy with a final time of 32:59 and I wondered what my time had been if I wouldn’t have walked!!

We waited around for like an hour for the results and I chatted with some other runners.  The waiting after this race is the worst because it is in an outside shelter so now we are not only cold, but cold and wet from being sweaty!!  They also have the prize pile at the end and it a free-for-all to grab some apparel.  I grabbed a cool jacket for Mike so that was a bonus.  We also got these cool arm warmers for our bling this year.  They are cool and they remind me of either Dr. Suess or “Where’s Waldo”.  I’ve never used arm warmers so I’m anxious to see if they make any difference. I think it is an odd area to want to keep warm, but hey, I’ll try anything for free!