Summer Trip Day 26: By Dawson Bean


I can’t believe that it is already day 26 of our 42 day trip! My time here has gone by so fast and yet so slow at times but it’s moments like tonight that I am soaking up this experience while I can. I am laying on my bed in an oddly sweltering night listening to so many foreign and familiar sounds. There are dogs barking in the black of night, gecko’s chirping, the constant chatter of the newscaster on TV in the house next door, my house mom working on her TV interview videos, and my host father listening to “piano man” by Billy Joel and the Beasty Boys (even though he cannot speak any English) as he cuts down porcelain to create fake teeth for his dental clients. It has been so fascinating to be surrounded by people with such different jobs and culture than I am used to back home. I have also been very pleased with how well the communication and overall connection has gone so far. The parents enjoy talking with me and speak in terms that I understand which has been so helpful. And I have absolutely adored Francisco, the four year old Grandson of my host parents. He has the cutest laugh, smile, and baby voice. Unfortunately I still can’t understand him for the life of me but I appreciate it all the more; we still have a blast playing soccer together every night. Never did I think that I would be doing a house stay in Nicaragua and yet here I am. I feel more and more comfortable and confident in my Spanish and overall understanding of the culture each day. I am so excited for the progress that we will make on our Rainforest Alliance Certification this week!


Summer Trip Day 21: By Annalee Cocker

This week has been a whirlwind of sun, bus rides, and bee stings! After leaving El Limon Dos and the Pacific Coast we began a 6 hour long journey from the south end of Nicaragua up to the north. As we traveled up to Ocotal, we watched the landscape change from dry and unyielding to a mountainous terrain filled with fruit trees and life. Ocotal is one of the safest cities in Nicaragua and also is known for producing the highest quality coffee in Central America. We fell in love with the Guardarbarranco Project during our coffee farm tour when we had a chance to meet the farm owner and several workers while learning first hand what it took to work in a coffee field. We ate fresh bananas and oranges during the tour and even got to try unrefined sugar cane straight from the stock! Even more importantly, we were able to to form a partnership with the Guardarbarranco Project in order to help the coffee farms become Rainforest Alliance certified. Although the coffee tour involved a hike through the untamed jungle of Nicaragua where a bee stung me on the tip of my toe and a plant I brushed up against caused my skin to burst out in rash, it was one of the best experiences of my entire life and I am looking forward to being a part of this incredible organization.

Summer Trip Day 17: By Annalee Cocker

Seventeen days into the trip and we finally made it to the coast.  Waves crashing, stunning sunsets, and monkeys at the local restaurants- this is something I could definetly get used to. After being stuffed into the backseat of a taxi with our luggage piled around us, plus 2 hours down a windy dirty road, we made it back to our familiar cassita and jumped into the ocean.  This is the place to relax.  We soaked up every minute sun and slept in a cool room for the very first time, making this the first good night’s sleep I’ve gotten during this trip! Waking up well rested, we prepared for another partner meeting and it was back to another day of work in Nicaragua.

Summer Trip Day 13 : By Jenna Wiegand


Annalee and I spent the afternoon riding a chicken bus to La Calle Real — standing up in the aisle of a crowded chicken bus, full of colorfully-clothed people, passing savannah trees and dry grassland, with blue-purple volcanoes in the distance, hot as hot. Sweat beaded up my lip and drenched the back of my tshirt, wind whipped the flyaways tucked into my headband. After forty-five minutes of riding in silence with my thoughts, the rolling scenery, and the quiet lull of dozing Nicaraguans and murmuring bright-eyed, uniformed school kids, I started straining my eyes for signs of the Calle Real bus stop. Annalee moved to the seat just behind me and we both started conferring over which stop was ours and if they even knew to stop at Calle Real. After a few nervous half stops, we glimpsed the distant roadside pottery stand that signaled the La Calle Real entrance, and made our way to the front of the bus to hint that we wanted off. The bus rolled to a stop just long enough for us to step to the dusty ground before it picked up speed again, leaving us two white girls, gringos, alone in a dusty and deserted portion of Nica countryside. Thrilled that we had navigated our way to La Calle Real on our own, we picked our way through the now-familiar gap in the wire-and-wood fencing and began walking the dirt path into the community.
Seeing school at recess, we walked into the school yard, aware of the immediate stares an.d comments and some vocal “hellos” to our “holas”. After a few non-responses to our search for Mercedes, the school principal, we decided to look for Keidy, one of the students with the best English, to translate for us. Then one of the teachers came out of the classroom we had just inquired in, and with poor Spanish we told him that we had come to see Leycar and were hoping that Mercedes and a translator could come with us. Directing us to follow him, he found Leycar’s two brothers and a thirteen-year-old girl with “good” English and told them all to go with us, even though that meant leaving their classes and they had no idea what we wanted. Thus began our walk to Leycar’s house.
We tried to explain our plan and talk to our young guides as we plodded down the dirt and gravel road, across a sage brush field, and past two good-sized pigs tussling in the dry fields, but it was dripping hot and the conversation was faltering. We finally arrived at Leycar’s, and immediately his family pulled out plastic lawn chairs for us, even whipping one with an old towel to clean the dust off. First through our little translator, and then just with Spanish ourselves, we explained that we wanted to buy all of Leycar’s paintings. The lack of emotion on his face when we told him of this gargantuan purchase was a little unexpected, but the shock of it all was subliminally evident in the repeated clarifications of “Todos?” and the wide-eyed look on the younger brother’s face. After twenty minutes of Leycar and his father painstakingly taking the worn canvases off their frames, Leycar’s mother joined to help roll up each painting and secure with clear duct tape or strips of dark red cloth that she cut from her rag pile. Soon I had a bundle of canvas rolls sticking out of my backpack and we asked “Cuanto cuesta?” and then counted out $280 in fresh twenties to place in Leycar’s hands. We explained again our plan to sell them in the states and help him support his new business, and our plan to be in contact with him through international texting and Facebook. We asked if any of them had questions for us, and Leycar immediately said that this was good. After promises to stay in touch, wishes of good luck, and some “hasta luegos”, we departed with our little entourage — and a backpack of oil paintings — back to school.
Back in the schoolyard we thanked our little translator and tipped her a few cordoba, then waved goodbye to Leycar’s brothers as well and headed back out to the highway. We caught a passing bus like pros and began our rolling trek back to Leon, realizing how surreal this trip had been and enthusiastically dreaming for all that we could do for this talented young painter in the middle of a hot, rural, Nicaraguan village.

Summer Trip Day 10: By Sean Justus

Today we decided to go to the beach. As we made our brief taxi ride to the beautiful Pacific Ocean I sat anxiously awaiting the warm water. When arriving in the small beach town we decided to get a quick lunch. While the lunch tasted amazing, I left the outdoor dining area with over a dozen bug bites. On to the water we go. Seeing the massive waves of the ocean made me giddy to get out in the water. We all changed into our swimsuits and jumped in the waves. Arriving in the warm water, we all noticed the strong current that tried its best to pull us under. Playing in the big waves made me feel like I was five again, jumping over and into waves for hours. After several hours of playing in the water we trekked through the sand to a lookout where we could see miles down the beautiful beaches of Nicaragua. After many pictures we all came down from the lookout. We arrived at the main street of the town and awaited a bus. The first bus we saw kindly told us we couldn’t have a ride. However, the second bus let us on and we made our way back to Leon!

Summer Trip Day 7: By Madison Balanay

Started off an early morning with Sean, Dawson and I, as we left for a day in Chinandega at 7am. After a quick 30 minute drive, we found ourselves on the Amigos for Christ compound. We were greeted with friendly hellos and smiling faces as we walked through the property. After hearing the agenda for the day, we loaded the buses to our first adventure. We ended up in a small community not to far away where Amigos for Christ has made a feeding center. That morning we got to watch the grand opening and danced and played with the kids in the village. After a few games of soccer and hits at the piñata, we said our goodbyes and made our way to the buses for another ride to our final destination. We arrived to a village called Valle Los Morenos which is made up of 25 families at the base of San Cirstobal volcano. We worked along side Amigos helping them dig trenches for the water pipeline so that this community could have clean water for the first time. We jumped in the trenches with our pick axes and shoves and found ourselves covered in dirt, rocking out to the music playing through the boom box. Not the mention Dawson dug out a 150lb boulder! The fun truly wasn’t over until we got stuck in a sudden down pour of rain that caused us to be not only muddy but soaking wet. We couldn’t help but laugh when we saw each other on the bus. So glad we got the chance to work with Amigos for Christ and show my teammates what I have done in previous years. Overall I would say we had a pretty fantastic day!

Summer Trip Day 5: By Dawson Bean

Just had quite possibly one of the best days I have ever had in Nicaragua! We spent the day in a remote village called Calle Real and played soccer with the local kids, worked on a garden, developed our project plans with the community leaders, and spent time getting to know an awesome family that we are working with. To top the day off we had a great dinner and had in-depth conversation about differences in cultures and how traveling abroad opens your eyes to so many different perspectives. It is truly amazing to note the differences in people when they are opened to what life is like for other people around the world. I am so thankful to have been opened up to this ever since I was a kid and I urge everyone to travel to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world countries because you can learn so much from each of the different experiences. I can’t believe this is only day 5 of my 42 day trip in Nicaragua!


Day Eleven: By Annalee Cocker

I woke up at 7:30am to the sound of a rooster crowing and the crash of a steady stream of water hitting an already full bucket. Only half an hour until our busy day was going to start but to my delight, there was a bag full of fresh pastries waiting in the kitchen for breakfast. I grabbed a croissant, threw on the cleanest clothes I could find 11 days into our trip, and crammed myself into Yader’s van for our trip out of the city. Today we had an extra person traveling with us who was going to be making an additional stop with Rachael and me to show us a town he had been working closely with over the past several years in conjunction with the Children’s World Relief Fund. Our first stop was in the Santa Rosa community where everyone else was going to check in on the community garden we had planted over the summer and have lunch with some of our old friends, while Rachael and I continued forward. We arrived in Calle Real about half an hour after we had dropped off the rest of the group in Santa Rosa and began our meeting with the primary and secondary school principals. With Michael translating for us we discovered that this was a town of potters that unfortunately lacked the business skills to profit from their work. About 40% the town would make large, gorgeous pots and vases by hand and then sell them for only C$10 when it took C$10 to buy the materials. The people who bought the pottery would then turn around and sell it at the market for close to C$400 per pot while the workers struggled to make enough money to eat. Michael went on to tell us that the community wanted to start a polytechnic school where they could learn skills in woodworking, agriculture, cuisine, and beauty. We also found out that the community has been trying to get a pottery wheel so that they can be more efficient and improve their skills in ceramics. Rachael and I spent close to 2 hours learning about the possibilities this town possessed and the ones that were just were out of reach for them. We were able to see one of the communities’ most experienced potters complete a pot using the skills she had been defining for 65 years. We left Calle Real with a plethora of new ideas that could help bring new opportunities to the artisans of this this community. When we arrived in Santa Rosa again, I found the rest of the group gathered a familiar table finishing up lunch. We were back at Paula’s house (or as she liked to be called “our Nicaraguan Mama”), a place I had stayed for my very first days in Nicaragua over the summer. This was the house where I had spent any extra time I could find lounging in the hammocks, eating fresh mangos, and trying to decipher the fast Spanish words of Paula’s family. As soon as I got out of the van, Paula gave me a huge hug and made jokes about all of the dancing that took place over the summer. Unfortunately, we only had a little extra time before the whole group needed to depart so Rachael and I rushed down the street to visit the children we had played with so often last time. I was so touched that the young girls remembered me and that they were so excited to see us. It felt like we only had a chance to say hello before Yader’s van came bouncing down the dirt road to pick us up and take us back to Leon. We all said our goodbyes to the incredible group of children that repeatedly beat us in outdoor sports games and piled into the van.

After an hour of whizzing in and out of traffic on the bustling highways of Nicaragua we arrived back in Leon to get ready for dinner. It was an exhausting, emotional day filled with the touching kindness of children, the sadness of saying goodbye to old friends, and the excitement of new possibilities.