Wednesday was a very long day. We started it off with a visit to the Cultural Museum of Nicaragua. Unfortunately this museum lacked the four things one hopes for in a museum: (1) air conditioning (2) benches (3) an interesting tour guide (we’re pretty sure ours was hung over) and (4) toilet paper, soap, and paper towels in the bathrooms. Although we tried none of us caught anything that was going on and could only manage to stare blankly at the few artifacts around us. After the hour long tour we went upstairs to have a ‘chat’ with a man who I think was the director of the museum but am not completely sure. He encouraged us to move our chairs into a circle to encourage conversation, telling us how much he prefers conversation to lecture. He then proceeded to talk at us for 30 minutes after which he begged us for questions claiming he really wanted to start a discussion. After each question he talked for at least 15 minutes. 5 minutes before we had to go one of our students asked him a question which he spent over 20 minutes responding to until, after many attempts, our professor was finally able to cut him off more or less politely. I’ve never liked Profe more than in that moment!
After the museum we had lunch at the same place we had eaten at on Sunday, which was very exciting for all of us because the food was not sketch at all and the building had air conditioning. We were all in heaven!
The afternoon was filled with college things. We visited a university and got to have a chat with the students. It was really interesting to hear how things are different in our countries and learn from each other a bit. It was also just a fantastic experience to interact with the people. It feels like we barely got to speak to anyone on this trip so it was great to use our Spanish skills while also making connections with other people around our age. The only frustrating part was that they really struggled to understand the basic premise of Wheaton. It’s so different from anything they are used to. They seemed to think we are being exclusive, keeping non-Christians from a good education. Part of the problem was I don’t think they fully grasped how many colleges there are in the States, since there are not nearly as many in Nicaragua. They also didn’t fully grasp the community we strive to create and how most non-Christians (heck even many Christians) don’t want to live by our Community Covenant. It was difficult because we weren’t expecting to have this talk so we weren’t prepared to defend our college. Unfortunately I think they got a skewed view of what Wheaton College is. At the end of our discussion Freddy (one of our planners/guides) gave us a speech about how can we be light among light as “just something to think about”. It was very frustrating because he seemed to be looking down upon us and our university and we didn’t get a chance to defend ourselves. I fully understand his point but I also know that Wheaton College is exploding with ministry opportunities while also ministering to its own people. Just because someone has accepted Christ doesn’t mean he or she does not still need to be ministered to. So that was my little rant… sorry about that I guess I’m just pretty protective of my university. It doesn’t have it all together but it does have some things right and I love it.
Anyways, after our chat and a quick tour of the campus we stopped at a little snack shop on campus to grab a drink and chat more with the students. That’s when it happened. Out of nowhere a storm hit. It was unreal watching it come in. We could literally see it coming towards us and people begin screaming and running for shelter. It was hilarious! Luckily our snack shop had a roof so we were all safe and got to watch in amazement as the rain continued to pour. The unfortunate thing was that we ended up stuck in that spot for a half hour while we waited for the rain to stop and/or our bus to find us. This, as well as the crazy traffic we hit when the bus finally did find us, put us behind on our schedule. We showed up 45 minutes late to dinner.
Dinner was pretty funky Wednesday night. Instead of eating at the hotel, which is what we usually do, we went to a typical Salvadorian restaurant for pupusas. A pupusa is a corn tortilla type thing that they fill with meats or beans and fry. That is a really poor description but it’s the best I’ve got. I had mine with beans, cheese and sausage type things while some other people just had beans or had chicken. After you get the little patties you put something that looks like coleslaw but has a more tangy taste on top. It looks really sketch but tastes pretty good! Overall it was definitely a good experience.
The frustrating thing was it took a long time after each order was placed for them to make them, since they make them fresh and its just a few ladies doing it. It wouldn’t have been so bad but after our first round we waited, thinking we were done and waiting for the Quiroa family to finish (they eat like central Americans- always taking their time). After 10 minutes of waiting we figured out we could order seconds so a bunch of the guys wanted to do that. Basically that made us take another half hour to finish up eating.
It wouldn’t have been so bad except I had made a skype date with Sam for 8 thinking there was no way we could get back later than that from dinner that starts at 6. Plus, if you remember, it was Wednesday and that means 9-9:15 Party. We got back at 8:50 and I was rushing to get a hold of Sam while also setting up the party. Jessie and Jacob helped a ton and I already had worked on a lot of the decorations in advance so it was pretty easy to set it all up but still quite comical.
The party was definitely a success. Every single student on the trip came and most stayed for the whole time. I was surprised that they all humored me and came but I think they were pretty curious what the crazy girl was talking about. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves though. We had Christmas music playing as well as clips from the movie Elf. We had a giant bag of “Christmas candy” that we found at the party store plus red and green balloons that people could blow up. Why balloons? Because the lame party store didn’t have any red and green streamers or other decorations so balloons were the only option! It was a goofy fun touch!
The hit of the party though was the ornament decorating. Everyone got to decorate ornaments and tape them onto the Christmas tree Jacob cut out of the green paper we bought. The funny thing was, to save time Jacob cut one half of the tree and traced it to cut the other side of the tree. Unfortunately he didn’t flip it over when he traced it so we had matching halves. It made for a very interesting tree- way better than a normal one would’ve been! I’ll put pictures on facebook so you can all bask in the awesomeness.
After the party I was finally able to talk to Sam which was good and then I got to go to bed. I was exhausted!
Our last full day in Nicaragua- YAY!!! The week was long but it still went by fast (just like this whole summer). In the morning we met with 4 Nicaraguans from the dump who are fighting against big companies for basically poisoning their workers. All of them are sick with some kind of cancer because of the chemicals used at the plant they worked at. Two of them had worked at the plant for 14 years and two for more than 20. They all started working between the ages of 14 and 16 and would often work from 7am to 10 pm in the factories and farms. The chemicals used on the fruit (mostly bananas) have been banned in the US for about 50 years because its so dangerous and harmful to humans. That doesn’t stop these huge corporations (many of them from the US-ever eaten a Dole banana?) from using it in Nicaragua and other poor countries though. I mean really, who cares if a few Nicas die when there is a profit to be made? I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more disgusted to admit I’m a United States citizen. Way to go US, you win again and none of us ever know at what cost. We’ve really done a number on Central America and the majority of us have no clue.
We were supposed to do something else at the same place after our talk but it didn’t work out so we came up with plan B- another mall. This mall (my third in Nicaragua) was pretty nice but I didn’t have the energy to pretend to shop for a half an hour so I just sat on a bench and worked on writing my blog update to you guys. We were supposed to meet at the entrance at 11 so I packed up my stuff and headed down there with the group. The Quiroa family wasn’t there yet but we’ve come to assume they’ll always be 10 minutes later than the time they tell us so we weren’t too concerned. It was a pretty nice place to wait since there was actually a breeze going through that section and it had a few benches to sit on. One student was with the Quiroa family but the other 14 of us were all there on time, chillin’ while we waited for our professor to return. After 20 minutes I started to get upset. I like to think of myself as a fairly patient person but this trip has taught me that I still need to work on that, a lot. If you guys could be praying for me this last week of the program to be patient with our professor and his family that would be much appreciated.
At the mall we said goodbye to Raquel who had been with us since we crossed the border. She might be the single sweetest person I know. She was probably in her mid twenties and always had the biggest smile on her face and you can’t help but smile to when you look at her. Throughout the week I had commented on a bracelet she was wearing and she said she made it herself. She also always had funky earrings, which she made herself too. Since she knew I liked them she brought me a bracelet just like hers and when we were saying goodbye in the mall she took the earrings out of her ears and gave them to me to remember her by. I almost cried I was so touched. I will never forget her kindness.
We went back to Granada and checked into a new hotel for our last night in Nicaragua. Granada is closer to the border and its where our bus driver lives so it just makes sense. Plus the hotel there is in a safer area so we were able to go out on our own. We had the whole afternoon and evening free which was so exciting! It felt like we’d been go-go-going all week and never had time to decide what we wanted to do.
A group of us went to find the Cacao Museum we had seen last time we were in the area but hadn’t been able to go to. It was beautiful and smelled fantastic! A woman explained the basic history of chocolate and how its made, which was very interesting. We each got to try some tea made from the shell of the cacao seed and it was actually really delicious! There was a workshop where you could make your own chocolate that sounded really interesting but it was kind of expensive and took two hours so we just settled for our little adventure and went back to the hotel satisfied.
After hanging out in someone’s room for a bit and having some alone time (where I worked on this blog again) we met up again for dinner. We decided to go back to the Museum because it was a cute little restaurant too and after being there we were all craving the chocolate crepes we had heard about. We had to go there first since it closed at 6:30 so we enjoyed our crepes then went to a pizza place for “second dinner”. We really just wanted to place an order for delivery but somehow it got all mixed up and they had us sit at a table for a half hour while we waited to take our pizzas back to the hotel. There was a nice breeze in the restaurant though and we were with fun people so the wait wasn’t too bad!
After pizza we all just ended up hanging by the pool. It was so nice to dip my feet in after a long day in my tennis shoes! It was definitely a great bonding time for us. We all ended up sharing photos of our siblings so we finally got to put a face to the names we’d been hearing for the past month and a half. It was really cool because there is one boy on our trip who kind of keeps to himself and can be a little snotty/standoffish to the rest of us but I got to have a long conversation with him. I just kept asking questions about his family (he is one of 9 kids so there were many to ask) and we were able to have a really nice talk.
Friday at 7:08 we departed from Granada toward San Rafael! It was a beautiful thing… :) It took us about an hour and a half to reach the border then we spent 2 hours doing border things. At about 8 I started to have to pee so the wait was extra killer for me. When we finally got to the Costa Rican side I paid 25 cents to use a restroom and it was glorious! Haha
We hit some major traffic in Costa Rica and barely moved for about an hour and a half. It wasn’t so bad for me though- I was glad for a break from the bumpy drive! Plus by that point I had joined Jessie in reading the last Twilight book. I had tried to sleep but kept getting woken up so I decided to read the end again over her shoulder. It was nice because its easy to read and it drew us in so we weren’t focused on how long it was taking to get back.
We got to our houses around 6:30, which was a pretty reasonable time. My family asked me lots of questions about the trip and was pretty excited to have me back. Montserrat and her family were over when I got there and stayed for dinner. Plus Montse stayed the night because she spent the weekend with us (the schools are on winter break right now so she doesn’t have a lot of studying to do).
I woke up Saturday feeling sick… awesome. It just a cold, which I’m pretty sure came from the intense change of climate I had in Granada. It was so hot in Nicaragua but Thursday night I was right under the air conditioner and was freezing all night. Plus I was worn out from the trip so basically I’m not surprised that I got sick.
I probably should have stayed in bed and rested on Saturday but my family was going on a trip that they wanted to take me on and I felt like I should go. I’m glad I went because we had a good time but by the end of it I was pretty miserable. They made me take a rest after we got back, which I was very relieved at because I don’t think I could’ve done anything else. I couldn’t sleep but put my earbuds in and listened to Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors which was so relaxing in my dark room! I could tell I was really tired because I didn’t move at all for an hour, which usually I can’t do.
But I guess I should explain the things we did during the day that helped wear me out. The reason we went out in the first place was that my host parents needed to drop off some supplies they were donating to a rehab center their church is connected with (it’s a little over an hour away). It was kind of awkward to go there because I felt like an intruder since we didn’t stay long enough for me to do anything other than look around. It would have been cool to hear more about it but it was fun enough seeing my host parents get all excited about the mission being done there and greet everyone with big smiles.
Next we went to see the big church in that town because it has Costa Rica’s “Little Black Virgin” (like the Virgin of Guadalupe but in CR- basically every Latin American country has one). It was cool to see, definitely a different experience than anything I’ve ever really done. We had to wait in line to see the apparition, which was in a small black stone. We also saw the fountain that the people say is blessed but we didn’t go very close because I think my mom was a little skeptical of that. They were selling bottles right before you enter so people could take some of the blessed water home. Very new for me.
It was only 10:30 by the end of our time at the church so we ended up driving another 45 minutes to the nearby volcano. We didn’t spend much time there, just walked around a little and took some pictures. It was very different from the other volcanoes I’ve seen here. Apparently its usually raining up there but it wasn’t when we were there and there were barely any clouds at all so we could see everything clearly. It was pretty cold though- my body was so confused since now I’m used to Nicaragua temperatures of blazing hot every day!
So that was basically my day. That night I hung out with Montse and she really enjoyed playing with my computer. She had a little too much energy for my sickly self though so after awhile I had to retreat to my room for a little peace and packing. Its so strange that I’m already packing up to leave- I just got here! The time with my host family has flown by and I’m sad to say goodbye. They have taken such good care of me and its strange to think I’ll probably never see them again.
Sunday- a day of rest
I was supposed to go on an outing with my family all day on Sunday. I woke up at 5 because the plan was to leave the house at 5:45 and I knew there was no way I could do it. I really wanted to go, especially since I knew how excited my parents were to take me on the trip (it was with a group from their church to a parade on the beach, apparently they go almost every year). I knew it was better to stay though because I didn’t want to bring the celebration down and since we were taking a bus with the group instead of driving individually I wouldn’t have a way to come home early if I was feeling awful.
I’m so glad I stayed. I went back to bed for another 4 hours then got up, had a leisurely breakfast and finished up my packing. As soon as I hopped into the shower the phone started ringing off the hook and then someone was at the gate. Lilo (our dog) was barking and whomever it was called out her name and then mine. I was so confused because I didn’t recognize the male voice but they obviously knew I was the only one home with Lilo. I got out of the shower and wearing only my towel went to check it out (looking through the window sneakily trying to see who it was without them seeing me). Then I heard Jessie’s voice and it all made sense. Apparently my parents had gotten worried because they called and I didn’t answer so they called Jessie’s mom. It was a pretty hilarious moment when I answered the door in my towel and they suddenly understood why I hadn’t picked up the phone!
Now I'm at Jessie's house using her internet to work on my paper. I'm already way past the page minimum now I just need to fine tune it and I am so ready to cross that whopper off of my to do list! :)
Hope all is going well in the states!