The day begins with “Kevin” the rooster attempting to advance himself amongst the hierarchy of Roosterdom by perching high in a tree and crowing for all he’s worth. His crooning commences between 0400 and 0430. Off to the latrine and onto the court in the heat and humidity by 0600. Welcome to La Culebra, Nicaragua. No indoor plumbing for most, but a satellite dish on many a roof, this is a country of contrasts. Our high school group is from Camas, WA. We lead comparatively “very easy” lives to those in this community, whose homes line the only paved road from Managua to San Carlos, which is a 5 hour bus ride.
We learned that one can, with a joyful heart, acclimate to living with much less and be present in the moment. Most of the members of the community make a living from small, agricultural farms. We were hosted by a family whose mom is a teacher. She, her family, and many members of the community worked tirelessly to extend loving hospitality to each and every one of us.
Education is becoming more valued, and we watched the young children walk the edge of the highway in their uniforms each morning to school. They finished at noon, then the older students attended from 1 pm-5 pm.
To say that the young men of the community were in their element with 16 young women would be an understatement! Gender roles are very traditional, and it seemed to be a bit shocking for some members of the community to see all of us gals pulling our weight with shoveling, carrying, and lifting! The young men and many others worked very hard, and we finished the court in 5 days. The dedication was a happy event to celebrate the completion of something we hope brings much joy to the La Culebra community for many, many years.
I found that each person appreciated any attempt to “hablar espanol.” We laughed often, shared a worship experience, watched the slaughter of a pig, and ate gallo pinto with every meal! Throw in some spider bites, and it was a rich and full experience none of us will ever forget.
After saying our heartfelt goodbyes, we traveled to Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful resort at the edge of a crystal, volcanic crater to enjoy the water and cool breezes. The ability to travel and experience the beauty and contrasts of Nicaragua is a privilege we will cherish forever.
– Helen Lehner, Parent Chaperone
“From the community, I learned about the value of relationships and the ability to have empathy. Here, the people are so focused on getting to know us and learning about our lives. When I return to the U.S. I am going to try to put more effort into relationships and having empathy with other people.” – Rachel Blair
“The most difficult part of going home will be not seeing all of the friends I’ve made here in Nicaragua and knowing that I will not see them again. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be immersed in the culture of La Culebra and to live the way they do for a week. Life in the United States is so different and I will miss the uniqueness of the Nicaraguan culture.” – Mia Obegi
“This trip changed me by making me more confident and accepting. I realized it’s okay to reach out to others and spark conversations with others even if we don’t speak the same language. I also will be more patient and open when others come to the U.S. without knowing much English. I spoke very bad Spanish but the community was very warm and helpful even though it might have been frustrating.” – Kori Christensen
“I also felt like the trip changed me by showing how precious hard work and hospitality is. Everybody worked hard and the locals opened their arms and hearts for us. It improved the trip so much and now I realize it makes life great as well, so now I want to be nicer and work even harder.” – Brody Richards
“My high point of this trip was building the court with the locals. They kept me so entertained and attentive. They always asked questions about my life and I would do the same. I got to know the local people best this way.” – Samantha Flanelly
“What I learned from the community is it is super important to live in the moment. The locals move at their own pace and they value relationships more than items.” – Caroline Lehner
“My favorite memory from the trip was definitely the last night where the whole community gathered on the court and danced and sang for hours on end. All the kids were so willing to play with us and take pictures and that truly made me feel as if I were part of the community.” – Thomas Mooney