After a week’s stay in the beautiful home offered to us in Leon, it was time to say goodbye to the sweet city and our wonderful housekeeper María. Getting a little extra sleep that night after our time walking in the sun all week was much needed, for both our muscles and our sunburnt skin. We packed our bags and walked about half-a-mile with all of our luggage to our driver taking us back to Managua. To fulfill our last day here, we overshot Managua by about a half an hour to shop at the Masaya. After an hour of scenic, and a nerve wracking drive through the country we finally arrive and to eat our last lunch together out in Nicaragua before we spend the next couple hours at the local market. The Masaya has an abundance of shops with everything a tourist would hope for, and just in time for Christmas, it was the perfect place to find unique gifts. Our ever-so-kind driver watched our belongings during those few hours of shopping, then proceeded to drive us back to Managua where we spent the next few hours enjoying the last hours of each other’s company. We share our last meal together over a nice dinner at the Best Western, followed by our last team meeting to sum up all the work we accomplished over the course of the week. As some of us took separate flights home the next morning, we said our goodnights and goodbyes after our meeting and knew we would see each other again when we returned back to school after winter break.
Today was an amazing experience I will be able to talk about for years to come. We had the opportunity to kayak through the Main Groves of Nicaragua. Many of us chose to do tandem kayaks and the girls proved to be triumphant as we relaxed and paddled through the groves, showing great communication, while the boys struggled, but eventually got the hang of it. We kayaked to a point where we pulled off the groves and took a short walk to a beautiful private beach. Here, we spent most of our day relaxing in the sun, walking along the water, and getting sunburnt. Personally I am afraid of the ocean, but I was able to get quite far out from the beach with the motivation of everyone supporting me and urging me to conquer my fear. Even though I never went under a wave, Polly and I had a great time body surfing in the waves. As we headed back through the groves, the boys finally had their moment of connection and were able to successfully stay fluid in their motions for much of the ride back. We all headed back to Leon in the Jeep Land Cruiser and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and getting to bed early after an amazing week!
This morning I woke up to an amazing traditional Nica breakfast of eggs, gallo pinto,and toast with marmalade. Breakfast was quick because we had an early interview in Roger Deshon with a previous microloan recipient. Today was our last day in the community and for me, my last time with the people I had grown so close to over the last 2 years. I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to talk to many of the entrepreneurs that I had worked with last summer and was touched to see how greatly these microloans had impacted their lives. Each person had their own unique story of how they were able to improve the lives of, not only themselves, but their family and community as well. It was a sweltering hot day under the Nicaraguan sun but the reaction of the community members made me want to be there every day. It’s very hard to believe that I may never have the chance to see these incredible people again, but I am truly excited to give new students the chance to form the relationships that I did.
As the sun rised, the house was silent, and Suenos de la Tierra was becoming a reality. Everyone awoke to the satisfying breakfast prepared by María. After everybody got ready we continued to our first task which was to find shops that Leycar could sell his paintings in. Leycar is a young local artist in Nicaragua that relies on the profit he makes on his paintings to support his mom, dad, and young brother. After searching relentlessly to find shops that seemed intangible we finally walked to Roger Deshon to continue our Microloan interviews. Within these interviews we invested our time in getting feedback about our program, and how this program has affected their lives and the community. There were many heartwarming stories that gave us contentment of all of the hardwork that had been put in. The woman pictured in the photo above is Andrea Sanhante, a women who has been very successful within the micro loan program. She sells tortilla, beans, and cheese to the community members in Roger Deshon. Sitting through Andrea’s interview we were inspired by her work ethic, and her ability to multitask with her career, and her family. It is amazing to see how the program impacted her small business. She has said that she has increased her profits by nearly 50%. We hope to maximize her profit, her lifestyle, and her environment through the micro loan program. We are looking forward to hearing more from her progress within her small business, and are looking into possibly investing in her business a second time. As we approach our final work days my hope is that we may continue to work hard in order to better their lifestyles, and may they continue to influence us through culture, language, and happiness.
Today we began the task of gathering data on the micro loan project we started three years ago in Rodger Deshon. Bright eyed and bushy tailed we dragged ourselves out of bed at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for another day in the hot and humid Nicaraguan sun. First we met Juan Carlos, our Spanish translator for the day. He graciously accepted to be dragged along as we walked miles around Rodger Deshon to interview previous micro loan recipients. Our first interview was with Amaria Jarquim. She used her micro loan to help fund her tortilla business, and also used some of the money to start the transition to buying clothing. She spoke of how the loan was such a blessing, and what a positive impact it has had on her life, and especially the lives of her children . The second interview was with the community leader Guillermo, who used the loan to help expand his pig butchery business. Following Guillermo was Marta Israel Gomez. She ran a tortilla business and used the loan to help purchase more raw materials, but unfortunately had to use most of the loan for hospital visits for her daughter had been hit by a motorcycle. The next interview took place with a worker for Yahaira Flores. The micro loan we supplied had enabled Yahaira to employ the neighbors, and created enough supply that the employees were able to make more money. Though the relentless sun and humidity threatened to completely exhaust our team, we made it through many micro loan follow up interviews, yet the results were overwhelmingly positive. Those who received the loans in Rodger Deshon were using the money to expand their businesses and were able to improve their quality of life, which solidified our reason for traveling here and providing micro loans. A very satisfying lunch followed the interviews, and from there we proceeded to take a tour of one of the local cathedrals. Many pictures and selfies followed since we were able to climb to the very top to get an assassin’s style view of the entire city. A prison tour and mythology lesson followed the cathedral. Tired and fatigued from a long day of walking in the scorching sun, we listened to bizarre, odd, and crazy tales of Nicaraguan mythology. Finally, Garret and I concluded our day with a romantic rooftop nighttime dinner, ice cream, and a water raid of the local grocery store (well I guess the rest of the group was there too).
After a night of much needed rest, there was no better way to wake up then to a scrumptious breakfast prepared by our gracious and genuine housekeeper María! What was planned for the day was a historical tour of the history of Nicaragua. Franciso, our history tour guide took us throughout the building where they took congress members when Somoza was assassinated. He also took us up to the rooftop where we could see the entire city, which was breathtaking. It truly was an inspiring recount of their past seeing what they have been through, and how they are dealing with the repercussions of people’s actions, especially those of their dictators. After the tour, we got to walk through the town some and headed out to Roger Deshon, where we previously have given out the micro loans to. While walking into the town we were kindly greeted by Guillermo the town chief and children awaiting our return. It was visible that Guillermo truly cares about his community, and feels like the micro loans we have funded have been a huge blessing catalyzing growth and spurring opportunity for the people. After taking with him we realized the extent of work we needed to do, mostly in the form of locating people and talking with them. After heading to El Carbón for dinner we headed back to the house we conveniently lost the location of and after went straight to work researching past micro loan applications and talking about the next steps. To make up from the lost time flying here we needed to get up early to talk to make the most of each day. We have a great team, and I feel so blessed to be here right now sharing our stories to you!
This is my first time out of the country and it is amazing. It is almost unreal, I feel like I am watching myself experience this culture, a sort of out of body experience. I had researched what it would look like and how people would be, but being here is just much different than I had expected. The life and color here is amazing. However, at the same time I see the huge culture differences. The children want to draw your attention while the majority of the adults will just pass you by. The huge Christmas celebration was very interesting and there were young men and women in a small parade. I am so excited to see more, and really get a great experience!
Touching down on Nicaraguan soil brought back many fond memories of my experience with microfinance in the Dominican Republic. Being our first day in Nicaragua, we took it fairly slow. Our host mother, Maria, is exceptionally generous and has offered all of us incredible hospitality. Finally, we ended the day with a nice dinner and a trip to the super market to stock up on supplies. I am very excited to see what the rest of the trip will look like.
I was amazed that we had actually gotten to Nicaragua, for after 64 hours traveling through the US, my hope was dwindling down. Once we unloaded from the airplane, the harsh heat hit us like a wall. To feel it though was surprisingly sweet, for with it came the realization that we had made it and we could now meet the people who we had been working closely with abroad. Driving the hour and a half from Managua to León (where we were staying) was eye opening into their world and culture. We were generously greeted by our housekeeper María, who welcomed us with open arms. This was just a foretaste of the affectionate spirit that we encountered the first day. The terrain was green and beautiful and the town was full of life. We walked through celebrations and while enjoying our first meal in town, fireworks went off, which symbolically displayed the importance of us being here. My first impression of Nicaragua was that it was full of life and amiable. I can’t wait for our adventures here!
Getting off the plane after 64 hours of traveling I was a little dazed. After I finally settled into the house in Leon, I noticed the beauty of Nicaragua. The culture definitely shocked me into awe, and I instantly fell in love with the genuine people. The architecture of the 1700’s was something that was unexplainable, and I embraced the environmental change. I am looking forward to learning more about the history of this Central American country, and cannot wait to endure all of the problems that this trip throws at me. Adapting has been necessary and my expectations have been shattered in every way. My attitude towards this trip continues to flourish, and I cannot wait to have my perceptions altered through cultural realization.
Today we finally arrived in Nicaragua! Although I had no window (just a convenient wall that was where my winder would have been), sneaking glances out other people’s windows made me excited. The county is lush and beautiful. Right now I can hear Spanish music drifting in from parties in the street. Our house here is exactly what you would picture for an image of a Central American country, house featuring giant plants in our living room space and an airy, open layout. The streets and house share their own charm with a mix of Spanish-Colonial architecture styles. Overall, it’s great to experience so far and the people seem very nice. However, it’s hard to see poorer people in the streets and some of the repairs needed throughout the city.
We landed in Managua this afternoon and took an hour and a half drive to Leon from there. The scenery on the drive here was a good way to take everything in and get used to public mannerism of the cities. Once we found the house, a lovely woman named Maria greeted us at the door and toured us around the home she is renting out to us. We set out for a little self-tour of the area and grabbed ourselves a nice lunch and got to enjoy the sight of some traditional street Christmas celebrations from everyone around the city. There were little shops set up all around the plaza and a fun parade going on with non-stop music and bell ringing to be heard from any side of the town. We are now back in our beautiful home as Maria is sleeping upstairs. We’ve enjoyed the sight of fireworks form our rooftop since we got back the evening from walking around. We can still hear the music very clearly from the celebration as we’re circled around in rocking chairs discussing our agenda for the week to be as efficient as possible with the shortened time we have here.
Last Saturday was a national holiday for Nicaragua, so Dawson and I had some trouble following our original to-do list for the weekend Leon was weirdly empty, and a few of our meetings fell through since so many people were in Managua celebrating. We improvised, though, and ended up having a productive few days around Sonati instead. We worked on materials for the last microloan workshop which is rapidly approaching, and Dawson hired a translator to help him get photos and video of loan recipients in Roger Deshon. Sunday afternoon we headed to the bus terminal to head back up to Ocotal, only to realize that there were no buses running from Esteli to Ocotal. We decided to at least get to Esteli and then we enjoyed an evening there with some new friends we made traveling. Early Monday morning we finished the trip to Ocotal and have since been hard at work getting paperwork translated and completed for Rainforest Alliance.
It’s been a productive week in Ocotal! Yesterday Dawson and I met with the largest producer to begin the Rainforest Alliance certification process. We filled out some initial audit paperwork and are now just waiting for a few other documents from his farm. It has been awesome to get to know these people and experience their wonderful hospitality. And of course, we’re getting to try a lot of coffee! We then went to explore the churches and gardens of town while we waited for our partner Claudia to get back to us, and later that afternoon we met both of the other two producers. We began the same paperwork with them, and then set up a meeting with our entire group of farmers for today. It has been incredible to see the commitment and effort from our partners on this project, and to hear their stories and what this certification can do for them and their community. Looking forward to the next steps!