Alternative Spring Break in Nicaragua

Time is already flying by and Spring Break 2017 is just another week in the past. I am sure you have spent some time reflecting and sharing your fun adventures that have happened over break. I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with nine peers and two chaperones from Cal Lu for an Alternative Spring Break trip to volunteer in the community of Santa Julia. Our goal was to assist in the building of two pilas, concrete water holding basins, for families to have easier access to water. Although our main focus was helping with the pilas, our group learned and gained far more than we had expected to from the individuals of the community.Our journey began the first Sunday of break when we arrived at our hotel after a shuttle ride to LAX, two flights and a bus ride through the capital of Managua. The hotel we stayed in was not like any typical hotel you would expect to see in California. Our rooms were basically three levels of cabins. Three girls were on the first floor, three were on the second, and the four guys had the top floor. The floor boards were so thin that you could hear everyone talking and conversing around you. At the hotel we were not guaranteed showering water. Nicaragua is currently in its dry season, which means water availability is limited. In order to shower, we had to jump in the pool, lather up outside, and dunk buckets of chlorine water on each other in the bushes to rinse out the soap. We were also given one plate and one fork to reuse for the entire week. We had to bring our plate and fork with us for every meal and there was one bucket available in order to wash our utensils. The twelve of us enjoyed these changes and challenges because it exposed us to a lifestyles of simplicity and minimalism. Yes, we were only there for a week, but by the end of the week our only worry was making sure we had our forks and plates in hand.Working with the community for the week provided our group the opportunity to not only assist in the building of pilas, but it also allowed us to gain an experience of bonding with the community members and each other. Each work day began with three hours of work. We helped carry buckets of sand, gravel, and water to the worksite where it would be mixed to make cement. We then set down large bricks, which provided the foundation of the pila. Then we used the cement to fill the gaps between the bricks. Each day we built up the sides of the pilas, so by the end of the week the walls were complete. After our morning work hours, we ate lunch which was provided by the community members. We were always given a combination of rice, beans, veggies, meat, and plantains. Following lunch, we did a bit more work and then listened to some stories from the community members. The stories gave us a idea of the struggles the members went through before they were a part of the community today. There were memories shared of slavery, inequality, and love. Each individual who shared a piece of their life, exposed our group to some of the harsh truths within the country.Work hours didn’t always mean working. I spent ample time with the children in the community. We played hide-n-seek, tag, and soccer. I taught hand games such as patty cake and ran around and explored the community through the guidance of the children. I must share that these youngins were so happy with our presence there. They were eager to share their games and toys and they were very respectful. I spent one afternoon running around a dirt field with about seven kids and every time I sat down to do something, they would bring me a piece or cardboard or cloth to make sure I didn’t have to sit in the dirt. I didn’t mind sitting on the ground, but they wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as I could be anyway. Spanish was also the first language within the community. I am not very fluent in Spanish, but communicating with the children was easy because they like to show you what they are talking about. They don’t have to say much for you to understand what is going on. I felt a real connection with each child. Time with the community was precious.Not only did I love the community, but I loved getting to bond and work with my Cal Lu peers. There was such a positive spirit within the group. Everyone showed great communication and teamwork and there was no shortage of laughter. Every hour brought more to smile about and I cherished the happiness I shared with the group. Following our five day work week, our group experienced a cultural day on Saturday. We went to a local active volcano, went on a boat ride around coastal islands, and did some city exploring of Granada. My entire spring break experience was very special to me and I only hope that my life is comprised of such experiences. If you have the opportunity to explore a new place, please take the opportunity to do so. You never know how it can affect you in positive and enlightening ways.

All photos provided by myself.