Day 14 - The Last Night

Today was a wonderful day. Waking up around 8 we sleepily trotted to breakfast, where we ate a delicious bowl of cereal with fresh bananas.

After breakfast we climbed aboard the most amazing bus in Grenada; complete with air conditioning and spacious seating. With no more than 15 minutes of riding with the windows down and a refreshing warm breeze, we approached our first destination. The outlook was truly beautiful. Even through the thin layer of fog, the giant lake shimmered. A faint outline of Granada stood in the distance along side the base of one of Nicaragua´s many volcanoes. We entered the bus once again, after many photos, and drove to our main event for the day.

Location: Masaya Market. Mission: buy as many gifts and souvenirs as possible. The market was a blast. Many of the stands sold the same items, but their prices were different. The unmarked price tags of the items put our bartering skills to the test. For those who could not speak Spanish, the sellers pulled out calculators in which to debate priced with. The market was so busy and because all the stands looked similar, it was easy to get lost in it large maze shaped aisles.

After an hour of franticly shopping, we stopped for lunch. The food arrived quickly for it was ordered in advance and we ate slowly. After the meal full of delicious chicken and beef, the team roamed the market once again. Venturing farther into the stands I found beautiful paintings and well crafted pottery. Later a few people ran into an exotic fruit stand, and shared weird tropical fruit with the rest of the team. Among the interesting colored fruit was a bright pink dragon fruit and a fuzzy looking leche.

After returning to the house we went out for a fancy dinner and watched fire dancing street performers. At the moment everyone is lounging in the sitting room, quietly talking, and trying to enjoy the last few moments in Nicaragua.

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Day 13 - ZIP!

As Emily is a bit busy and too worked up over past blogs, I took up my extra duties as Tech Lead and decided to help on the blog. Stretching my fingers before I sat down to work the magic, I busted out the following blog…enjoy!

Cuddled tightly in my sheet and surrounded safely within my mosquito net, I had one of the best sleeps of my trip. It all came to a rushing end when I was awaken bright and early (which mean 8 am for me) by a pair of bright blue eyes telling me that I will be missing breakfast if I don’t get up right now. It took a few more tries for Madeleine before I woke from the dead but only with the promises of a hot cup of coffee. I later sat down at the table with a plate of rice and beans (as per the usual), eggs, bread, and of course, that hot cup of coffee.

Before long, the morning rush began. The team was only given an hour before we were going to leave, so both rooms were in a fury of movements. The girls’ bathroom became the popular spot as nine girls rush in and out with a few boys here and there picking up supplies from the med bag. We finally all made it onto the bus with much herding from the chaperones and Madeleine.

The bus was definitely one of the nicest we been on since we set foot on Nicaraguan soil. It came equipped with window curtains and something that I didn’t even know existed in this country, air-conditioning. Alas we were finally en route towards Momoba Tours for a great day of zip-lining and hiking. We arrived at the bottom parking lot in which our group of American teenager passed around sunscreen and bugspray like it was today’s hottest new thing.

Like the pack of animals we are, we piled into trucks operated by the company to the next station up the volcano. Let’s just assume these were the safest trucks we were riding and of course we were all wearing seat belts…..yeah right, I’m just kidding. It was a bumpy ride up to the top but when we finally arrived, we were greeted with an amazing view and guess what? Free coffee because this tour company that was located on a volcano was also a coffee plantation.

We harassed up tight and I signed my rights away on a waiver. Sorry, Mom! We took a short walk down to the first platform and before we know it, we were on our canopy adventure. We zipped from one platform to another with employees buckling in us in and taking us off the line. Some people got the hang of zip lining quick and well, others just hung. Some came to graceful stops and some just crashed into trees. Our adventures even included tight-roping and ropelling. And I’m glad to report after a very exciting day, that everyone is home and safe.

At the end of the tour, it started to pour. That coming from a fellow Seattlite, it was definitely pouring. We were drenched within seconds yet we still made the next leg of our trip. We all piled onto even more buses and made it up to the next lodge. It was so steep going up the road that two of the three vehicles, got stuck in the mud. Still we all made it up to the very cold top of the volcano. We rushed into the lodge to which we enjoyed a very tasty lunch. We decided to skip the 2 mile hike because we were all wet and quite miserable. So miserable that I swear Lucia’s lips were turning a bit purple.

We rode a single bus all the way down the hill before getting on our own bus to take us home. From there, we parted ways to spend some free time either hanging out back at the house or exploring the grand city of Granada. Most shops were closed considering it is Sunday, the international day of rest. Some of the students did some sight-seeing and made it up to a church tower to experience “the best view of the city”. As one of the students, I stand by that statement as I was blown away by the scenery of mountains on one side and city on another.

We met at our meeting spot before we head back to Claudia’s for a bit of down time before dinner. Before long, we were rushed out of the door and onto the streets as we made our way towards the restaurant. We reserved a table earlier so by the time we got there, we had our seats ready to sit in. The hostess came around for orders and finally, our food arrived. It was great Mexican as we all wolfed down our meals like it was the end of the world. With our bellies full, we stopped on our way home at an ice cream place. Room can always be made for dessert so we ordered our cones and sat in frozen bliss. We arrived home with everyone in a state of food coma before we each crawled into bed and under the safety of our mosquito nets to put an end to our very long day.

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Days 10, 11 & 12 - The Days of the Broken Computer

I apologize for the lack of blogs but because of the broken laptop, it has been hard to find working computers. As an attempt to catch up to date, I will combine the highlights of the 3 days following the home stays into one blog. With the new location, Asi es Mi Tierra, came bad weather. Differing from the usual quick downpour, the rain is constant and light. The rain and wind has had multiple negative affects, Not only are we constantly wet, but the faulty power is constantly out in the lab, making teaching a difficult act.

Day 10 7/13/11

It was hard to say goodbye to the families come morning, especially for the team members who do not speak much Spanish. Many people promised to return to the house for final goodbyes before leaving the island for good. Once at the lab we began teaching scratch. It was surprisingly easier than expected. Our goal was to teach the students how to have conversations between their sprits. After a general explanation in front of the class, the Spanish speakers drifted around the room, helping to explain the process one on one. We ate with our usual pairs for lunch. However the standard rice and beans become less appetizing everyday. We continued with our daily routine, going to Spanish lessons after lunch and teaching English in the afternoon. We returned to Asi es Mi Tierra as hungry as can be but had to wait over an hour before grubbing on our chicken dinner.

Day 11 7/14/11

We woke to what seemed like to perfect meal, pancakes and syrup. However the syrup was really honey and not one could finish the overly sweetened breakfast. In the time before we left for school, many people washed clothes. Every inch of the clothes line was full, though no clothes were dry by the end of the day due to the rain that began around 11. We continued the scratch program at the school, the out come was similar to they day before. After lunch with our partners, we attended our last Spanish session. We thanked our teachers before entering the lab and teaching fairly teach savvy Nicaraguans the basics of scratch. After waiting around for an hour in the rain, we attended a goodbye party. The ceremonies were full of thank yous and national anthems. We were given a wonderful juice and a rather strange waffle textured dessert. During the presentations, our Nicaraguan students brought us the key chains they had bought for us. They were a pleasant surprise. Next the classroom was filled with bombing music. The chairs were cleared out and the floor was filled with dancing people. We danced for quite a while before returning home and unwinding in the comforts if the hammocks.

Day 12 7/15/11

Today at school the Nicaraguan students shared their power points. It was very interesting to see their families and houses in the photos. It is strange to me how most of the people on Ometepe do not smile for pictures. Because our original plan of kayaking today was canceled due to expense and chance of rain, we returned to the beautiful ojo de agua. For lunch we ate a picnic styled meal brought by our partners. There were many events taking place at the pool. People swam, bought jewelry, and even tried to catch the baby fish that had gone unnoticed at the pervious visit. I climbed to a beautiful view point overlooking two volcanoes and fields of plantain trees for as far as the eye could see. The light warm breeze was truly blissful. Back at home the Nicaraguan girls brought us dresses for our goodbye dinner and dance number. It was rather funny actually because all the girls were very dressed up, though they were dinning with boys in casual shorts and T shirts. We ate dinner at Bens Café, It was a buffet styled meal with rice, beans, flour tortillas, shredded chicken, and a coleslaw salad. Our dance was held in the same location in the back room. The dance that had started with many pictures, ended with equally as many hugs. It took forever to leave as everyone hurried to say their last goodbyes. It is hard for me to think that I will probably never see these kids again. It’s a pretty sad thought because we had formed such strong bonds over the last two weeks. But I guess that’s why face book was created, huh? Once back home, everyone packed their bags and immediately went to sleep preparing for the early start the next day.

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Days 7, 8 & 9 - The Staying of Homes

The students have just returned from their home stays, feeling well connected with the families, but craving real showers. Because every TSC members experience at their home has been so different, we thought it would be a fun idea for each team member to write a little paragraph about their three days away from the rest of the group. On Sunday we traveled to a lovely tropical pool called ojo de agua. The following weekdays we taught in the computer labs (thought the loss of power created many problems) and helped in English classes. We were even taught to dance be the Nicaraguans at night! This unique blog will cover all those topics, each in a different person's perspective.

Zem Zem

My homestay was so great and an event I would honestly never forget. I had a great time with the family including the children and Marcelina Castillo, the woman of the house. Rice and beans were the main foods eaten in Ometepe Island and the homestays but they served rice and beans differently each time so it was pretty interesting and tasty each time. The baked chickens were just amazing, one of the best I have ever tasted in all my sixteen years. The main drinks were coke and lemonades which are freshly squeezed and again, it was just plain amazing. My room smelled fresh, I had a great mosquito net and I felt safe. Shelby was my roommate and I was the one who translated for her and helped her with Spanish during the homestay! I have to say, I felt like an expert using so much Spanish. We watched a lot of television with our families and during the night, we would come out and play rough soccer with many other teenagers in the neighborhood. We laughed a lot with our families and shared many funny moments, everyone in the household were completely nice and fun to communicate with. If I could, I would do homestay over AND OVER AGAIN. The food’s amazing, the people are nice, and its fun. What more could you ask for?

Lynna

Even before the homestay started, there was trouble. Walking down the hill from the Finca was definitely not my favorite part of the trip. With a duffel bag heavier than me, I trudged down those rocky slopes. It weighed me down so much that I had to pull over every few seconds to catch long-lost breaths of air as the hot sun beat down on my back. Luckily, a nice Nicaraguan man saw me dying on the side of the road and decided it was time to step in. Given an offer I could not refuse, I happily spat out my broken “mucho gracias” and watched in amazement as he lifted my bag onto his shoulder like it was nothing. We finally arrived at our meeting place (I was, of course, last) to which he dropped the bag off at my feet and continued on his way without even a backward glance.

Not long after, I found myself unpacking in a room I was sharing with Annie. We were at one of the Nicaraguan students whom we were partnered up with named Selena who was decent at English. We were excited to learn that she was a proud owner of many pets including a family of dogs containing new puppies that could hardly walk. Even more surprising was her pet squirrel that I met for the first time when it jumped on my back and got stuck on my dress before I could stand still for Selena to pull him off.

The rest of the homestay went as planned without any more squirrel attacks. We walked to school with Selena and walked back with her. She even came with us to the afternoon teaching sessions to which she was not in class to play volleyball as she waits for us to finish up. She and the rest of the family were wonderful hosts, always making sure we were well-fed and always asking us if we needed anything. It was sad to leave the comfort of a home but alas, we said our goodbyes… then we saw each other at school the next day.

Bob

I did not have the opportunity for a home stay. I stayed in a central location where I could instead visit all the houses easily. There was a wide variety of home situations but all shared some commonalities. First, the families felt tremendous responsibility for the welfare of the students. If they weren’t home on time, they came asking. If they wanted to go out again, they had to go with somebody from the family. Second, the families were incredibly thoughtful with the students. They tried hard to find things to do with them. When the lights went out, I walked around to make sure all was fine and it was. My favorite family experience that night came when I walked in and was watching Sophia and Emily playing a cards in the candle light with the family. The first time I visited Madeleine she was making tortillas by hand . I saw Seth and Hugo doing laundry on a rock with instructions from their mom. Third, they tried their best to be accommodating in any way possible. The funniest time was when one student had done his laundry and gone out to school . The grandmother of the family decided it wasn’t clean enough and washed in all again. I will say no more than that all were well cared for and loved by their families. I will let the students say the rest.

Charlotte

On Sunday, all of us, including our Nicaraguan partners, went to a place called Ojo de Agua. Ojo de Agua is a big pool type thing. We went swimming and there was a rope swing off of a tree that many people went on. There were two pools, one was big, and the other was much smaller. Connecting the two pools was a waterfall that was pretty cool. It was fun going to Ojo de Agua because all the families from the Nicaraguan students came and you could tell they were all excited to be there.

Adriana

I had the opportunity to spend three days with a Nicaraguan family while in Ometepe Island. I was able to experience the Nicaraguan lifestyle at least for those few days. Everyone was very welcoming since the beginning and made me fell like another family member.

The family has a rice field and that’s how they make their living. Early the morning the dad and the boys would go to tend their field, while the girls would do all the house work and cook. The boys would come back at noon and have lunch, and would have the rest of the day free since the kids were on vacation this week. On a regular day however, the boys go to the field in the morning, they come home have lunch and get ready to go to school. That´s when made sense the school hours made sense to me, because they start at 12:30 which gives the student enough time to work before they go to school.

Georgina who is the older sister was the one that spent most time with me. She would sit and have breakfast, lunch and dinner with me. That was one of the most interesting things I noticed that my family didn´t seem to have meals together; everyone sort of ate when they came back from work. Juan was the second to the youngest kid of the family and he has an amazing talent with doing nails. I was lucky enough to get my nails done by him not once but twice, and I have to say all the girls were jealous of me. I also had a great connection with the younger kids; they followed me around everywhere and even went to school with me one day just to hang out. I took advantage of the time I spent with those kids and taught them the colors in English using crayons. They are now able to identify at least 10 colors.

All in all I had a wonderful time with my Nicaraguan family and I have been visiting them even after our home stay was over. I feel like I have made a long-lasting relationship with all of them and I hope to keep in touch with them.

Amy

My home stay was a study in pantomime. We exhausted the few get-to-know-you phrases I could say in Spanish within minutes. Fortunately, the international language of futbol soon eased the uncomfortable silences, and everyone was happy that the US women beat Brasilia. The TV was the centerpiece of the small house, and there was a steady stream of family members and neighborhood children who filled the five seats in the front room, which was half living room, half store. If a football game wasn’t on, it was a Mexican novella (soap opera) or a news show. We ate with plates in our laps in this room, eating delicious food cooked over the wood fire in the dirt-floored kitchen appended to the back of the two-bedroom house. When the power went out on the second day and silenced the TV, in the evening we simply sat around in the dark for a while with long periods of silence. I finally went to bed at 7:30 and read by flashlight for a while. The entire family was asleep by 8:00.

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Day 6 - The Last Night at the Finca

We woke at the usual time to a very unusual situation. Things in the Finca had taken a turn for the worst as we discovered that some of our items had been stolen from our room. In the middle of the night, a person had searched the hostel; taking all items of value. The thief took Lynna’s backpack. Left in its place was her wallet, stripped of money and containing only her identification. Though she still has her duffle bag of clothes, she must go without her camera and other belongings. Good thing Lynna is a positive person. Nothing else was stolen, and everyone is safe.

Because today is the weekend, the students do not attend school. Instead we took them on a hike to a waterfall. Although the hike was only 2 miles, it took us over two hours to complete because of the intense heat. I found it amazing how some of the Nicaraguans who were hiking in jeans and sandals, made it up the mountain faster than some of the TSC members.

The hike was beautiful. The beginning was a wide pathway with little shade and a gradual increase in elevation. Cows laid casually in the path, not bothering to look up was we passed no more than 5 feet away. As we hike father up the mountain and farther into the forest, the atmosphere changed from a dusty bare path, to a shady narrow path full of life. Gecko’s and lizards scurried from the path as we stepped and exotic birds filled the trees creating many unfamiliar sounds.

Once at the waterfall, everyone stripped down to swimsuits and went swimming in the small pool the waterfall poured into. The water seemed extra refreshing because everyone was so hot. We sat at the top of the hike for quite awhile, enjoying fresh watermelon and cookies.

For lunch we took the bus to a hotel and ate a delicious buffet meal. Man was it good to eat pesto! We returned back for our last night at the Finca. Everyone packed at enjoyed their final snooze in the hammocks. Tired from the hike, everyone feel asleep quickly, anxiously awaiting the home stays just around the corner.

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Day 5 - Blanco y Yo (just for Madeleine)

Hey everyone. This is Sophia Liu writing the blog since we all decided that it would be fun if we had other people write the blogs too.

So, to start off, the trip so far has been a craze…a bit like a rollercoaster (as you probably know from the past blogs by Emily). Today, we finally got to spend some private time with our buddies. Like the day before, we woke up at 8am, ate breakfast at 8.30am and then left at 9.30am.

When we finally arrived at the school (a little after 10 but it was okay) we taught the kids how to upload the photos that they took yesterday with their given cameras. We taught them how to use Microsoft Picture Manager (I think that’s what it’s called and it’s where you fix the photos that you took so it’s a bit like editing the photos) and then some of us started teaching the kids how to use PowerPoint before the electricity completely burned out when we had 10 minutes left of the lesson (we end at 11.30am).

Since so many of us were devastated (not really of course…) the boys decided to go and play volleyball outside in their small court (where they also played soccer and basketball and other sports but I’m not so sure about the other sports). And that was when the electricity decided to work again. But then it shut down and you could hear (almost) everyone scream out ‘YAY’ from the other side of the school.

At about 12, we finally went off to lunch with our buddies and groups of 4 (some of us 5, adding a chaperone). We met at the Mano Amiga (which is also where we are taking our Spanish lessons) and heard a small talk from the ‘boss’ Roberto about the community and what he was doing to help the people in Ometepe Island have more resources.

And then we went off to the lake/river. We stayed for about 45 minutes maybe, playing in the water and relieved to be in cold air for about 45 minutes. After that we went off to the lake to go fishing! That was probably the highlight of our day and of course, I can’t miss the fact that we were finally allowed to swim! The water was cool yet warm at the same time and it was absolutely bliss!

After about 45 minutes of playing/fooling around in the water with our buddies still, the canoes/kayaks finally came. 5 in total if I remember correctly. Off we go to sea! The view was absolutely amazing with the clear horizon in the somewhat close yet far distance and the volcano somehow felt like it was towering over us, the king, yet it was also far, far away. The breeze that came through while sitting on the boat was, once again, amazing beyond the point of description.

Then came the hard bit: fishing. Although, I have to say, Hugo has a nack of catching fish! He stole everyone else’s fame on the same boat as him with catching all 6 fishes. He was awesome. Although I have to put a note in here to say that Madeleine was actually the first person that caught a fish, boosting her ego (as she kept on repeating herself over and over again as Hugo caught more and more fish). I don’t quite know how much fish we caught but I am positive that there was at least over 15. I somehow felt bad since the Nicaraguans couldn’t take anything home. Still, it was a nice day.

We returned home with pouring rain soaking our bodies in a mere seconds (not joking there!) and blurring our vision to the point where we were just blindly walking. Dylan did the honor of running back to the Finca with the laptop. We all got back to the Finca with puddles of water landing on the ground with every step we took. Some of us got straight into the room (as soon as Lynna unlocked it) and changed into dry clothes while others of us decided that jumping into the shower was the priority; it pretty much depended on the person. So like that, our day came to a quick and super wet end with another group meeting, talking about what we are going to be doing tomorrow.

Thanks for the attention and can’t wait to get back to Seattle!

Blanco y Yo

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Day 4 - A Night in the Dark

Today we woke up to the same breakfast as before and followed out our usual routine of getting ready and leaving at 9:30 am. Today school did not start until 12:30, but our partners (the ones we are working with) came to school early for our lesson. The students crowded into the hot computer lab where they were given name tags to color. While coloring their name tags Lynna and Madeleine presented their PowerPoints. They explained that they students would be making their own PowerPoints and that there are many different effects that can be added to make them creative and fun.

Next the students were given their own cameras to take photos with. They ran around the school in excitement, taking pictures of their classrooms, soccer fields, and friends. Not much time passed before we departed for lunch. Many TSC members ate pasta today. They said it was nice to eat a food they were familiar with for a change.

A cool thing about Nicaragua is the vast variety of fruits. Every day we drink a different juice with lunch. I’ve already drank lemon, mango, orange, pineapple, star fruit, and even beet juice. Most of them are delicious, but the beet juice was not a big hit.

After lunch we had our first Spanish lesson. There were 2 or 3 students per teacher. Most of the teacher did not speak any English, and it was very interesting to hear the language being taught all in Spanish. The first part of the lesson was about grammar, but the second half just had a conversation completely in Spanish. The second half was the most helpful because you were forced to pay close attention and try very hard to understand, causing you to learn many new words.

Once Spanish lessons were over, and we were back at the Finca, we were once again asked to teach English. However, this time teaching was much easier because we were teaching English one. Andrew, a Peace Corps volunteer, wrote a list of questions on the board. The questions included “what is your name” “how old are you” “do you have any siblings?” There was one TSC member per group of 4, and our job was to ask the questions to the students and help them answer correctly. This was one of my favorite parts because it was very interesting to see how very basic English is taught and the students were very enthusiastic making it very fun to teach them.

After the English class and a competitive game of volleyball we returned to the Finca. On our way we stopped at a small homey café owned by an English speaker. We enjoyed refreshing snacks, such as juice and ice cream.

Back at the Finca things got a little complicated. The power was out, and because it gets dark around 6 or 7 in Nicaragua, finding things was quite difficult. We ate dinner by candle light. The dim glow of the candles created the perfect peaceful atmosphere. But soon the candles burnt out, causing for an early bedtime.

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Day 3 - Nicaraguan Lunch

Our first official day began at 8:00 am. We enjoyed a breakfast of rice mixed with beans, an eggs and meat dish, fresh fruit (all with thick peals of course), and fried cheese. After our feast we gathered things and set out for the school.

The school located a mile or so from the Finca, consists of multiple buildings with one central concrete volley ball court. As we sat in the school, the students welcomed us with dance and drink. The drink was bright red and fizzy; it was unbelievably sweet. After the introductions and the singing of both national anthems each student was put in a group of four for lunch. TSC members with no knowledge of the Spanish language were paired with Nicaraguans who took English.

We went to the Nicaraguans' houses for lunch. In my group ate a fantastic meal of rice, and an entire fish, complete with a head, fins, and eyes! To be polite, everyone ate everything, despite the meal being huge. The strange thing is that the Nicaraguans only ate a plate of watermelon. I felt bad that they made us such an expensive delicacy for us, but could not afford to eat it themselves. We did however pay the families money for the food. We watched the wandering chickens, dogs, and ducks as we ate.

Back at the school the team members joined a game of volley ball. Playing the sport with the students was the perfect way to interact with the students without speaking. Speaking to the students is a little difficult. It is hard to find a conversation topic that lasts for more than 2 minutes. After the general “what is your name?” and “how old are you?” it is hard to find a longer conversation topic. However it got easier to communicate as the day progressed because everyone became more confident with their Spanish.

During our volleyball game it began to rain. This is not the average Seattle rain; light and constant. The Nicaraguan rain is lasts only a short time, and it is extremely hard. If one does not find shelter they are soaked in literally minutes. Though the Nicaraguan students ran for shelter, the TSC members continued the game of volleyball in the rain finding it cool and refreshing. Unfortunately, because the air is so humid, our clothes we never fully dried.

Next the team was asked to help in a English class. We revised their paragraphs and tried to hold a conversation in English. After the class we went to the computer lab. We showed our partners, the same ones we ate lunch with, our personal PowerPoints before asking them to try making their own with sample pictures already on the computer. It was difficult to explain PowerPoint because we were never taught Spanish words about technology.

Once we were back at the Finca we read, napped, and played various games such as checkers and jenga. For dinner we ate a delicious combination of rice and red sauce. Before bed we enjoyed a peaceful star gaze outside the Finca next to the coffee plants. It was cooler than the night before making it easier to sleep. Oh, and not to worry, Charlotte was back to her perky self in the morning. We think she just had motion sickness.

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Days 1 & 2 - The Trip

We finally arrived at our destination, The Finca Magdalena, after a tiresome 23 hour commute. We traveled from Seattle to Houston, where we had a 3 hour layover before boarding our next flight to Nicaragua.

There are two immediate differences between Seattle and Nicaragua. The first is obvious from the second you leave the airport. The humidity amplifies the 85 degree weather causing for our team to become very tired and very sweaty. The second difference is not as noticeable. Flying into Houston or departing from Seattle one finds the view from the airplane filled with glowing roads and building lights, but when we landed in Nicaragua we were welcomed by large green forests and farm lands. The change in landscape is refreshing.

We all gathered into our next means of transportation; a rickety short bus with fold out seats. Our luggage was placed in the back of the bus and strapped to the roof. After a hour or so we arrived in Managua where we ate our fist Nicaraguan meal. There was variety of foods to choose from including chicken, potatoes, fried plantains, and of course rice and beans.

In another couple hours the bus reached Lake Nicaragua. The weather was unbelievably hot and the cool lake water so tempting. However the ferry arrived with no time to spare. The sky deck of the boat provided the perfect light breeze as we enjoyed the beautiful view of Ometepe Island. The giant volcano looks much bigger in real life than in the pictures. The sun set at an unusually early hour creating a pink sky and a cooler temperature.

The team loaded off the ferry and onto our next bus around 6 pm, though the darkness suggested it was much later. After 45 minutes the paved road turned into a rocky and bumpy obstacle coarse. Unfortunately one of our crew members, Charlotte, got sick on the ride. But not to worry parents, she is being well taken care of, and drinking lots of water with her Pepto-Bismol.

We are staying at the Finca; a cozy hostile complete with hammocks and running water. We are split into two rooms; one for the boys and one for the girls. Each person gets their own cot and mosquito net. For dinner we each got a plate of chicken, rice, beans, coleslaw, and tortillas. Its was a feast! However no one ate the coleslaw, just in case it contained bad water. After dinner, everyone took showers. Though the showers only consisted of a stream of cold water, they couldn’t be more refreshing.

At this moment, all the team members are unwinding and relaxing in the comfort of the Finca. They are day dreaming of their adventures tomorrow at the school, while swinging in a hammock.

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The Final Preparation

With only four days till departure, everyone is busy. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week the team participated in a computer bootcamp. We were told to collect 20 pictures of our lives and bring them into the workshop. The pictures were used to create PowerPoints and photo essays which we will show to the students in Nicaragua. Our main focus in creating the presentations was to display the many effects and photo alterations that we are hoping to teach the students. Unfortunately the third day of bootcamp was canceled because the computers at Washington Middle Schools could not download the program Scratch. However, the team members were still emailed a list of instructions and tasks to complete using Scratch. On Friday everyone is meeting for the packing party, where we will pack the giant tubs full of supplies such as soccer balls, computers, and any liquids over 3 ounces.

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Team Retreat

This weekend our team took an overnight trip to Cle Elum. We stayed at the beautiful house of Dick and Taffy. The team bonded over various pool games, such as volley ball and water bad mitten, and enjoyed long and meaningful talks in the relaxing hot tub. After the pool fun we all gathered in the backyard for some bocce ball. This game consists of a starter ball, which can be thrown anywhere in the yard. Each team of two then tries to hit the starter ball with their heavier and more colorful balls; whichever team gets their ball the closest to the starter ball gets a point. We all enjoyed bocce ball and decided take it to Nicaragua with us.

Later in the night we experienced our first of many dinners together. We feasted on spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad, and swapped funny traveling stories. Cleaning up after dinner went fast because there were so many helping hands.

After clean up we ventured into the forest surrounding the house for a little hike. We didn’t make it far before sitting down on some logs to rest. Realizing it was getting dark we walked back to find a campfire waiting for us. We all sat around the camp fire and ate smores. For our second dessert we had a luxurious chocolate cake. We ate it watching videos from past TSC trips.

First we watched the Ecuador video, and next the Nicaragua video from last year. The video was full of funny highlights of the trip and the perfect sing along music. Seeing where we were going boosted everyone’s excitement for our own trip.

At night we stargazed from the hot tub/pool before returning sleepily inside. We climbed into our sleeping bags and started watching The Hangover. The movie was turned off about one third of the way through, when the boys went upstairs to go to bed. If you were like me, you didn’t even realize the movie was turned off because you were too busy sleeping.

At 9:30 everyone woke up and enjoyed a delicious breakfast of pancakes, bacon, pineapple, cereal, muffins, and orange juice. We cleaned house before gathering in the living room for our important trip meeting. At the meeting we talked about what to pack, airplane procedures, foods you shouldn’t eat in Nicaragua, recommended medication, the home stays, and so much more. Each student was also asked to share their personal goals for the trip, this gave the chaperones and trip leads a better idea of what activities to focus on. The meeting was long, but very informational. Afterwards all the kids enjoyed one last swim in the pool and a tasty lunch before loading the cars to leave.

The retreat was extremely fun, and allowed the team to bond before leaving for Nicaragua. Also a big thank you to Dick and Taffy who generously let us stay in their home. You guys are amazing.

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