Instead of being overly wordy, I’ve decided to let the students reflect on each day of the trip in order to give you a better sense of what they are experiencing. Before their reflections, I will give you the highlights of what they saw and did.
Making a friend at the lagoon:
Meeting our old friend Jose in the Diria town square. We found out that Jose is going to University and studying communications and media relations.
Eating lunch with our graduates and their families.
Making new friends along the way.
Elsa’s husband showing us how to make pottery.
We ended the day by going to the Apoyo Lagoon and enjoying a marimba lesson.
Our sleeping beauties at dinner.
Our first activity Sunday was attending a church service in Diria. The church was big, and many people were attending the service with us. I have only ever attended a service when I was younger, so this was a relatively new experience for me. It was all in Spanish, so I only understood a few words. It was really beautiful to see so many people come together, I could really feel the strong sense of community this village has. At one point, we exchanged handshakes with the people in the pew next to us to wish them peace. A young couple and their little girl turned around, smiled and extended their hands with warmth. This struck me because without knowing us and without words, they wished us peace. We were surrounded by young children, all of whom were dressed in colourful apparel. It was overall a really beautiful experience, one I will not be forgetting anytime soon.
After lunch, we went to visit the home, workshop and pottery shop of a woman named Elsa. Elsa only had a third grade education, but she managed to send all her children through university. Her parents thought that education wasn’t very important and that knowing a trade was more useful, so Elsa only knew how to do pottery and grew her own business from there. She also taught her husband how to do pottery and we got to see him making poetry using the wheel. After hearing her wise words about her journey and her advice to us, Elsa’s wisdom led to the question: “What is the meaning of life?” Her answer was “Love yourself. If you love your eyes, you will never put smoke in your eyes. If you love your mouth, you will never put alcohol in your mouth. If you love your feet, you will never take the wrong path. That’s the meaning of life.” I found her pottery and her story so amazing that I couldn’t help buying multiple pieces. I would see one and I would think, “I have to buy this!” Almost all of us brought at least 1 piece of pottery, though most of us bought more than that because they were just so beautifully crafted. Some of us also got to try making pottery. Elsa’s daughter was also present in the home. Her daughter was 21 years old and already had a 4 year old boy and a baby in her arms. Even though we knew that people had children at a young age, it was still shocking to us because she would have had to get pregnant at our age, which is something unimaginable for us. The children were adorable and even though we didn’t speak the same language, we were able to communicate by hand gestures and a smile. The kindness of the family, the wisdom of Elsa, and the beauty of her work made it one of my favorite experiences so far.
During lunch, we invited the 3 recent graduates and their families to join us. After a lovely lunch of sharing laughs and some spanglish sentences between the 3 graduates and myself, time had flown by over our heads and we realized it was time to part. As the families were getting up from their seats, leaving the bus to travel back to their homes, Bernarda’s father had some words of thanks he wished to express to us all. Tears were streaming down his face as he spoke to us, familiar strangers, who’ve helped changed the life of his daughter, his family and so many other young girls through the scholarship program. Without ever meeting the people a couple of rows up from me on the bus, I couldn’t stop thinking that I have made a difference in their lives and that they have changed mine. It was moving to see a father show so much emotion in front of us, being that this country has so far proven to have a very “macho man” kind of mentality. His courageousness inspired each of the parents to get up and tell us how thankful they were, show their vulnerability and share personal bits of their lives. We are lucky enough to have Ms. Bousser and Dr. Perez with us on this trip, for without them we would have much difficulty in understanding their kind words of gratitude. Each of the three graduates from our scholarship program Maria Gabriela, Bernarda, and Cynthia wanted to leave us with a couple words of thanks as well. These girls spoke to us with such eloquence, giving us warm words of advice, encouragement, and genuine hopes and wishes for our futures. I couldn’t help myself from crying when Cynthia came up to speak because I realized that she was the scholarship winner that I had voted for 4 years ago when it was my first time on the Nicaragua scholarship committee. While all three girls spoke about how thankful they were for us students, and the students involved in past trips, I had to share how these girls have changed my life. They have taught me that making connections in life is what is most important. Creating a community beyond the borders of countries has fostered such an appreciation for life in me. I’m so glad that I got the chance to be with Cynthia, Maria Gabriela, and Bernarda and to get to finally thank them for the difference they’ve made in my life. I’ll forever be thankful for them and the people I have yet to meet in Nicaragua.