Hola from Jinotega, Nicaragua, our home for the past week and home for the days to come! My name is David Kang and I was the student leader of the day, also known as “El Lider del Dia” here in-country, for our very first “fun day” – a day focused solely on exploring and adventuring the realms of Nicaragua. No speakers, no academic seminars, no workshops…but that doesn’t entirely mean that we stop thinking about our trip and its purposes altogether. Today, students were asked to reflect upon the question of the day: “What is the purpose of my trip to Nicaragua? What can I do to ensure that my experience is as meaningful as possible?” And through our expeditions, explorations, and adventures today, we unraveled several different interpretations to this question at our nightly meeting today at a very interesting location (trust me, we don’t normally hold our delegation meetings at this hotspot).
As the roosters of Jinotega began their morning ritual of clucking and cock-a-doodle-doo-daling, members of our delegation were already brushing their teeth, changing into comfortable clothing for the day’s activities, and packing their backpacks for a day of excitement, anxiety, and adventure. By 6:30 A.M., all 26 of us (including the Global Glimpse leaders, coordinators, and bus drivers) were on the vibrant and colorful Nicaraguan bus ready for an adventure of many. During this 3 hour bus ride, we blasted music from home and added a cultural twist to our playlist by constantly playing Nicaraguan songs – as Denis Vallejos, one of our two in-country coordinators said, “Have fun!!”
3 hours of tunes and endless sightseeing through the window served to bottle up our energy and prepare us for our first activity of the day: shopping at the bustling, tourist-filled Masaya market. Through this experience, we learned the art of haggling and some of us, especially me, were given yet another exceptional opportunity to utilize our Spanish skills and practice, improve, and solidify. Almost every single Glimpser left the market with bags and bags of Nicaraguan crafts and gifts – family and friends in the states, expect some authentic Nicaraguan souvenirs when we arrive home!
After visiting the Masaya market, the Global Glimpse coordinators decided to surprise us all by swinging by Papa John’s for a little taste of home. The pizza was incredible – or perhaps it was because it didn’t have beans or rice affiliated with it – and in some ways, better than pizza in the states. Don’t get me wrong, the hostel food is absolutely delectable and cultural (we’ve had things ranging from chicken and pepper kabobs to Nicaraguan tamales to fried chicken to rice and chicken tacos), but sometimes, the repetitive theme of the food can make something as ordinary (to us) as pizza seem as rare as finding genuine gold in a river. We relaxed for a bit in the upscale pizzeria and appreciated our atypical exposure to air conditioning before heading to the most exhilarating and heart-pumping activity of the day: exploring the famous Masaya volcano.
The visiting of the Masaya volcano kept our hearts racing because, frighteningly so, it is an active volcano with records of explosions in April of 2012. But this is when the question of the day popped into our minds – why? What could we do to make this trip meaningful? Yes, we could perfect our Community Action Project and strive to transform the Jinotega community for the better and enrich their community youth programs. Yes, we could pay attention during academic seminars and workshops and think critically while doing so. Yes, we could create unique ways to teach our Nicaraguan students at our weeknight English classes. But what we emphasize as a team is to take personal risks that can help enhance the experiences of the trip. Yes, to take healthy personal risks in order to make the best of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So as the 24 of us coughed and wheezed, we made the extremely lengthy journey to the edge of the foggy crater: a thirty second walk across the parking lot (we actually thought we were going to hike the entire way up!) We breathed mysterious gases and dust, but we laughed, smiled, created. We laughed as we saw each other struggle to breathe correctly with the thick air. We smiled as we took photos, threw rocks into the crater, and saw with our very own eyes the crater of a Latin American volcano. We created new memories – memories of the volcano, memories of the fun day, memories of each other. And for that nightly meeting? We had it right there at the Masaya volcano.
And as the day proceeded to end, I began to realize piece by piece the purposes of our trip to Nicaragua. The responses from the beginning of the trip were straightforward and vague: “To help people…to travel…to live life in another country.” But today, I have an underdeveloped but somewhat clear vision of the purposes of this trip. Yes, we’re here as the youth and future of America to think collectively and create ideas, projects, and opinions in order to advance Nicaraguan society. Yes, we’re here to learn to appreciate the comforts and luxuries of our American lifestyles. And yes, we’re here to come home with a broader, more developed perspective of our global community in order to help advance our own country as well. But all in all, what I’ve learned as a member of the Jinotega delegation is that the purpose of this trip is for growth. Exploration. Exposure. Through the past week of English classes, shadowing high school students, visiting various Jinotega primary schools, learning about industries and business, taking self defense classes with young Jinotega girls, and exposing ourselves to our partner organization, Club Infantil, I’ve seen my fellow delegation members grow and mature as nightly meeting discussions become lengthier, Community Action Project brainstorming becomes more in-depth, and academic seminars and workshops breed more and more questions in our minds. We are a team of America’s future generation of leaders – of doers – and we are determined to make a lasting impact on the citizens of Jinotega and Nicaragua as a whole. We are determined to come home as different individuals with different perspectives on the world, on society, on Nicaragua. And we will come home with a mind of questions, answers, ideas, intellect.
It’s a bit surreal to think that in a mere 12 days, we’ll be headed back for the states and living our separate lives again, but we’re ready to keep up our positive attitudes and enjoy each and every one of the next 12 days. They’ll be tough, but I think we’ve built ourselves a strong and undefeatable team of inspired and motivated young individuals who crave action.
Take care! We can’t wait to share our experiences here in Nicaragua with you.
P.S. Mom and Dad, I miss you two! Have some fun while you can.
(Photos will be posted in a separate blog post tomorrow!)