Today marked an important date for the group- our first fun day! (In title alone- there was certainly fun on other days) Despite the schedule specifying an extra hour of sleep, our rest was cut short by an unexpected five o’clock awakening, both literally and figuratively knocking on the hostel door. With the day now wrapping up, I can tacitly admit that as leader of the day, the early awakening was a real blessing in disguise. To get the group to loosen up, even if just for a day, someone had to be holding the weight, and all the extra prep I could squeeze out of the precious morning hours helped to lighten the load. After we got dressed, chowed down on some quick frosted flakes and fruit salad and conducted the ceremonial guessing of the fruit juice’s contents, we boarded our first bus, bound for a local chocolate farm.
Our tour began with a brisk walk through the store, a display case of various chocolate products from around the world, with the Castillo de Cacao chocolate itself standing as the centerpiece. From there, we followed the life of the humble cocoa bean as it slowly morphed into its final product. We moved from room to room, each space housing an increasingly large piece of industrial machinery. At first, the equipment occupied little more than the corner of their respective rooms, but near the end of the tour, they were composed of sprawling, complex parts, designed to weigh, inspect, grind, mix, and finally pour the chocolate. The journey’s fitting, final step was the intimidatingly simple wrapper assembly process, which our tour guide played off very casually. After giving it a shot, it was clear that in order to produce 700 bars of chocolate a day, the farm’s two workers needed to be as efficient as the machines they worked with. After our tour, we were treated to coffee and chocolate, then introduced back to the gift shop, which was promptly cleaned out. In the very possible outcome that none of the chocolate survives the plane ride home, you have my word that it was delicious.
Returning to the bus, we settled in to the bus driver’s increasingly familiar playlist. By then, the entire group had the songs memorized word for word for at least the first five. The comforting routine of the music provided ample contrast to our next destination, Cascada Blanca, a waterfall overlooked by a restaurant, which, at that point, we had only heard about from our Program Coordinators. While we were told the water would be murky and the depths dangerous, what we couldn’t have expected was the beauty of the waterfall… or the high-pitched screeches of the bats in the cave behind it. Despite this, the next few hours flowed remarkably smoothly, with different groups lounging on the massive rocks near the base of the falls, conducting photo shoots at picturesque locations, and dipping their feet in the water to cool off. The heat of the day ended in a timely fashion as a heavy rain set in, and we crowded under the restaurant’s tin roof for shelter. None of us knew it then, but this was to become the battleground for a historic Uno card struggle, referred to later as “World War Uno”. No clear victor was determined before the rain let up and, in the distance, Matagalpa’s beautifully striking peaks and jungle revealed themselves.
Back at the hostel, the air of relaxation continued, lazy card games peppering the halls as the sun set and the rain began to fall again. Dinner and the nightly meeting could only suspend the leisure for an instant before it descended, this time included Chepe, the adored son of the hostel’s owner and our 24th Global Glimpse delegation member. Even as I type this, a game of War is raging just a table away, the conversation composed of equal parts Spanish and English as each party tries to learn the others’ language. It’s refreshing to know that even just five days into the trip, I’m told we’re all learning our new tongue in leaps and bounds. By the end of the trip it may be difficult to hold back an accent! Although today was officially titled fun day, the bonds we strengthened will no doubt be essential in tomorrow’s start to our Community Action Project.