Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Final Day

Saludos para los aficionados de la brigada,

As would be expected on our last day in Nicaragua, it began in an explosive manner. By explosive, we mean that we had a chance to visit an active volcano. This was part of our tourist day in Nicaragua. The boys trying to get the most out of their experience decided to sprint up to the highest viewpoint at the ridge of the volcano. For returning Brigadistas, the volcano view was immaculate.

Afterward, we travelled to San Juan del Oriente, where we met a world-reonowned artist Pedro in an unassuming village street. There, he explained his pottery techniques while creating several pieces in front of the group using a manual spinning wheel. We then had the opportunity to buy pieces from his gallery, where the brigade nearly cleared out the entire shop.

Then we entered paradise at Laguna de Apoyo that formed from a dormant volcano that caved in. From the moment the brigadistas stepped off the bus they fell in love. We ate, swam, kayaked, and made merry.  You continued to see the sense of community in the Brigade as Sarah gave Nigel the last of her hamburger. It didn't stop there, the fun continued all the way to Masaya Market & a traditional Mexican restaurant in Masaya.

Now we find ourselves back at JHC, packing up, reflecting on our amazing experience. That is what we hope to share we you all tonight with our blog post.  For Zach, he learned this trip was an opportunity to do more than just service, but learn about the Nicaraguan community, so we can educate others on campus and within our individual communities on the history and current situation in Nicaragua. In addition, the friendships formed here have been an additional blessing. For people like Nigel, even as a senior he is happy to say he has found another group with whom he feels he can be himself around. Not to mention it has served as a full circle experience by returning to the place he came to his freshman year. Kolbe, through both the literal lens of his camera and the figurative lens of service, feels that the the Nicaraguan culture of national pride that transcends pervasive poverty has cemented a potentially life-long interest in the region.  

Our adventure in Nicaragua will not end like the breakfast club, instead we are more united country to country, poor to poor, and brigadista to brigadista.

Nica love,

Da Boyz

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hola otra vez!

After an exhausting couple of days at El Porvenir, we recharged and were ready for a day back in Ciudad Sandino. Today started off at 8 am with a question and answer session with Becca, Kathleen, Pat, and Kathy from the JHC. We learned about what originally brought them to Nicaragua and some of the challenges associated with life away from their family and friends in the US. We were interested to learn about their thoughts on US involvement in Nicaragua and they had some great suggestions. At the end of the session, we received informational pamphlets and were reminded that the JHC operates primarily on donations and we were encouraged to continue our fundraising efforts for this incredible cause.

We headed back to the clinic for our final day of work. Arielle, Jasmine, Abbey, and Traci helped out in the pharmacy throughout the day and all agreed that it was an awesome experience. The rest of the crew picked up paint brushes and continued painting the fence/walls outside the front of the clinic. It is starting to look incredible! The bright and cheery colors make a huge difference and make the clinic look more warm and welcoming.

After lunch, a few of the boys joined some of the JHC men for a casual game of softball and the rest of the crew cheered on from the sidelines. After the game, we all headed into the dorm building for a BANDANA FASHION SHOW!!! The goal was to model the crazy bandanas that all of us had been wearing throughout the week. Meredith laid down sheets as a makeshift catwalk. Zach, Kelsey, Mia, Maho, Arielle, and Heather strutted their stuff and everyone died of laughter. Mia, Kelsey, and Zach won the grand prize (a gift certificate to the Freez). For their performance, Mia and Kelsey wrote a hysterical rap to the tune of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song:

"In Managua, Nicaragua with the Brigade
In Jubilee House is where we spent most of our days

Workin' at the clinic, sweepin' the ruff
Comin' back for lunch to chill with Bea and stuff

When a couple a times we went out to explore
Saw the market place and rode a tractor

I got in one little hammock, yeah i slept there
We said we're lovin' the times we spent down here"

After we finally stopped laughing, we headed back to the clinic to finish up our paint project. When the final coats of paints were applied, we stepped back and admired our work. It looked GREAT! We are currently getting ready for a night our at the discoteca! The girls are primpin' and the guys are pimpin'.

Arielle and Jasmine

What are we listening to now? Here's a link!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day 5 & 6 - El Porvenir and Leon

Hola amigos,
A lot has happened in the last forty-eight hours. We went to a sesame plant, had a sleepover at El Porvenir, and explored the city of Leon.

JHC recently acquired a full-scale sesame processing plant. We had the opportunity to get a tour of the plant and help with some of the maintenance for the plant to prepare it for food and safety inspectors. Some of us helped with repainting the outside walls. Others helped put up new screening around the porch and did yard work around the plant. We had one of the local people cook us a delicious lunch. The highlight of lunch was experiencing drinking Pepsi from a bag. After lunch we had a quick tour to learn about the process behind sesame production and we walked through the production line.

After we finished our work at the sesame plant, we headed to El Porvenir, the organic coffee co-op produces coffee that we can drink at Bucknell. We took a bus from the sesame plant to halfway up the mountain before meeting a tractor to pull us up like cattle to the top of the mountain where the co-op is located. On the way to the halfway point, we had to make various emergency stops to allow Jen and Sarah to relieve themselves. Many of us thought we saw our lives flashing before our eyes as we were pulled up the extremely steep and bumpy slope. To keep us calm, Mia was using her beautiful voice to sooth us by singing about Maho. When we arrived, we had a delectable dinner cooked by some of the local women using completely organic and locally produced food. Because of the isolation of the community, the families that live on the co-op property are very close and work hard together to run a successful and completely organic co-op. It was so organic, we were not able to use any bug spray!

After dinner we had a quick talk with Rene, the co-op's president about the history of the co-op and how they run operations. We then proceeded to set up our hammocks for us to sleep in on the porch of the storehouse for the harvested coffee beans. We then proceeded to shower down with a large pack of Wet Ones before changing into our sleeping clothes. Tired from the trip, some of us quickly fell asleep while others tremmored in fear of the bats slap-boxing above us and tumbling out of our hammocks. Kolbe was lucky enough to make contact with the bats as they whipped past his face in a fit or rage. Many of us were abruptly awaken up the crowing of the roosters at 2 a.m. This surprised us because we thought they did not crow until sunrise.

Approximately 5 a.m., we all woke up to the bright orange glowing in the horizon beyond us as the sun began to rise. Ariel was lifted up like Simba during the sunrise. After enjoying the beautiful sunrise over the mountains, we had breakfast, again made by the local women. Then we took a tour of the co-op and learned about the various plants they grew (bananas, cacao, avocado, and coffee). The hike led us up to a beautiful gazebo that served as a lookout over the countryside where we could see landscapes to Honduras and Ecuador. During our tour, Nigel heroically stepped in as our translator when Paul had to go rescue Mike's trapped truck on the side of the mountain. After talking to our guide, Juan Pedro, and taking many photos, we headed back to the community and took a tour of the worm farm, man-made lake on the property, and the coffee processing machine. Before we left, we had a quick lunch and got one final view of the amazing landscape before us. This time, half of us had the opportunity to hike down the mountainside, while  the other half rode on the tractor with the water and backpacks.

After a dusty and bumpy descent, we made it to the bus with little injury and lots of pride. Piling our sweaty and dirty bodies into the air-conditioned bus, we headed off to the beautiful city of Leon. A short while later in Leon, we were able to see the old cathedral and explore the outdoor market in small groups. A part of our group found a delicious smoothie bar that made various types of smoothies with fresh fruit. Zach and Maho thought they were so good that they ended up a little late back to the bus because they returned for another smoothie. Others of us were able to get ice cream bars from a local Eskimo vendor and many enjoyed nice cool beverages while we waited. We then boarded the bus for some great times, laughs, and ZZZZ's on our ride back to JHC.

These last two days were some dirty ones. However, it was unanimous! The DIRT was WORTH IT!!!

Nica Love,
Maho Fujita, Abbey Brundage, and Sarah Emrich

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 4

Hola familia y amigos!
This morning we started our day with another speaker, Jenny Atlee. Jenny came to educate us about the  current situation in Honduras, one that few of us knew about. We focused a lot on America's involvement in foreign affairs. It had a specific impact because she also provided us with information about how each of us individually can become involved. Being here it's hard to feel like we're having much of an impact, especially after experiences like the dump. Dr. Steve reminded us that above the entrance of the clinic is a plaque that reads, "Bucknell Made This" and even if sweeping a roof or painting a wall doesn't seem like much, we're apart of something that spans a much longer time than our 10-day stay and we should feel great pride in that. Providing immediate aid, for example after Hurricane Mitch, is very important but we're upholding a long lasting establishment that will better the Nicaraguans more than we know.
Today was our first full day at the clinic. Again, we split up into our assigned groups to work on the roof, painting, or in the pharmacy. Our brigade's spanish speakers have been paired with those interested in medicine to translate and work with labeling prescriptions and doses for the patients. One of the biggest sentiments taken from the pharmacy is something we've learned in many settings in Nicaragua so far - nothing goes to waste. We've come to realize that in Nicaragua something is used and reused and only disposed of when it can no longer serve a purpose. In America, after we're done with something we're very quick to throw it in the trash when really it can still be useful.
Lo siento, we won't be able to post until Thursday because we are off on an adventure to El Porvenir! Hasta Luego!
Mia, Alyssa, and Kelsey (From left Lindsey, Kelsey, Alyssa, Mia, and Erin "JHC")

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 3: Adventures in Nueva Vida

Today was a roller coaster of emotions.  All of us were excited to go to Nueva Vida and knew that we had a full schedule for the day. Before going to the clinic at Nueva Vida, we made a visit to the dump. The dump is basically farm land that was sanctioned  by the mayor's office to be the home of the trash of the entire city of Ciudad Sandino and Nueva Vida. This dump was unlike anything that we had ever seen before. For as far as we could see was piles of picked through trash where the only things remaining were plastic bags and rubble of burned trash. The most surprising aspect of the dump was that herds of people could be seen digging through the mounds of garbage and chasing after the incoming dump trucks in order to be the first person to pick through the newly dumped trash. The people in the dump were searching for anything of value that they could use or sell. Many people actually make their living in the dump, searching for plastic, glass, or metal that they could sell. The people in the dump represent the most impoverished population of Nicaragua. Walking through this place we felt as if we were intruding to a lifestyle that didn't belong to us. From the gestures of the people in the dump it was clear that we were not wanted.

After that humbling experience, I'm pretty sure we can say that everyone was excited to head to the clinic for our experience with hands on work. Before getting started on the various projects for the door, we were given a tour of the clinic which has grown tremendously in the past few years due to the Bucknell Brigade. For very little, if any cost, the clinic gives residents of Cuidad Sandino access to doctors and pediatricians, western and herbal medicine, dentists and hygienists, family planning, counseling, and more. Today we were split into three working groups. Two people (Heather and Zach) were sent to the pharmacy where they aided the pharmacist, Daniela, in filling prescriptions for patients.  A second group was responsible for sweeping and painting the roof in order to prevent rain water from finding its way into the clinic. The remainder of the Brigadistas were out front painting the wall and gate surrounding the clinic to make it look for cheerful and inviting for patients and the surrounding residents. Everyone got something different out of their individual experience but especially given the morning we had, it was hard for us to see how our projects were impacting the community. After having time to reflect, we have a new mindset and are beginning to realize that even our small contributions can have a much greater additive impact than we could have imagined. We are looking forward to a full day at the clinic tomorrow with our new optimistic mindsets.

Nica Love,
Traci, Heather, Thuyvan

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 2

Sunday, March 9

Day 2 in Managua

For our first full day here in Nicaragua we got a chance to tour and learn more about its capital city, Managua. A member of the Jubilee House Community, Becca, graciously took our brigade around the city sharing pertinent history, along with interesting personal experiences. Standing atop a ridge overlooking Lake Managua the Samosa cruelty against the Sandanistas. Below is a picture of the lake's memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives. From there, Becca and our leaders led us single-file through Managua's local marketplace which was an eye-opening experience for us all. The market is filled with everything from produce, to shoes, to iguanas for dinner. Some of us within the group felt a bit of discomfort as we snaked through the narrow pathways, feeling somewhat intrusive of the native people's everyday living and working atmosphere.

We then continued on to the Revolution Plaza where Becca highlighted the political revolution and liberation of the Nicaraguan people. In the plaza is the Palacio Nacional, the perished cathedral, and el museo, which we got to tour.

Our awesome bus driver, Luis, then carted us off to an awesome and small local restuarante. There we got an opportunity to try some authentic papusas. Papusas are fried corn tortillas filled with either beans, cheese, vegetables, or "chicken".

After lunch the group headed to Managua's mall, which provided a stark contrast against the marketplace visited earlier in the day. The mall consists of a lot of American brands which only the richest can afford. Crossing the overpass, we then walked down to Mangua's new cathedral which surprisingly was gifted by our very own Domino's pizza company owner. While the old cathedral mimicked Spanish architecture, this new cathedral situated across from the mall, is quite modern and surprising in appearance.

To get a bit of air conditioning and a look at Nicaragua's nicer spots to grocery shop, we got a chance to shop in the local grocery store. There we got to finally try our hand at the cordoba exchange rate and buy some local snacks and drinks. Refreshed, we headed to a small community culture center where we got to learn about the community's efforts in education, religion, and influential figures. We then got to take part in what is called a "peasant's mass", which was entirely in Spanish and very similar to a Christian mass. After our long day, we finally hopped back in the van and headed back to JHC for yet another incredible meal.

We covered a lot of Managua's grounds, history, and culture today and after reflection have come to the conclusion that gaining knowledge and information will much enhance the work we have planned for the remainder of our stay here in Nicaragua.

Nica Love,
Jen Gerard and Erin Jankowski

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 1 at JHC

The people who live here are wonderful and are so excited to have the Bucknell Brigade here for the week.
All of the meals are being prepared by chefs on the compound with the freshest ingredients. Lunch today was delicious consisting of the standard rice and beans along with beef stir fry and the biggest avocados we have ever seen. After lunch, being so tired from a long night of traveling, we had some time to relax and almost everyone took a 2 hour nap. I don't think I have napped that well in my entire life. Then, feeling refreshed from our nap, we got a short lecture from Mike on the purpose and history of the Jubile House Community followed by a tour of the compound. We learned about how JHC has helped establish more sustainable economic opportunities for the community including a women's sewing cooperative.  Following the tour, we were given a short while before dinner to relax where some of us explored the pool and others sat around and talked and played some card games. Dinner was fantastic yet again and we were served falafels and 3 kinds of homemade humus with fresh veggies. It's gotten us excited to see what the meals are going to be like for the rest of the week because we can't imagine them getting any better.  We have all been bonding as a group and can tell that the week will be a lot of fun!

Tyler and Lindsey