Hola somos Grace y Romi! Today, we woke up to a decadant breakfast of pancakes with fruit-not your typical rice and beans. With breakfast came a show as we fed the resident turtle some delicious watermelon. After breakfast and a show, we ventured out of the bowl of Matagalpa to El Castillo de Cacao where we got to follow how a cacao bean becomes an all natural, organic chocolate bar. This process is completed daily by only two women who craft over 600 bars of various chocolate each day.

After buying most of the store, we traveled to the home of the hostel owners (aka hostel Mama/Papa) to a jungle/coffee plantation tour and lunch. What we thought was a tour became an exciting excursion through the jungle, which none of us expected. We were surprised with the layout of the plantation, because it was very different from the traditional images associated with the word “plantation”. The plantation itself was not coffee trees in rows, but coffee trees scattered among other native Nicaraguan plants, forming a tight and lush jungle. Although muddied and hungry, we were happy with the gorgeous sights Matagalpa had to offer as well as the knowledge the tour guide bestowed upon us. Though we faced an unexpected challenge, we all kept positive and worked hard to complete the adventure. Lunch was a Nicaraguan barbeque accompanied by the Mama and Papa’s lovely dogs and children.

We then visited an entrancing wildlife sanctuary where we saw native butterflies, orchids, and frogs. We returned to the hostel for dinner which our in-country staff provided for us. They got us dishes from a local restaurant that specializes in Central American cuisines. Stuffed, we had our nightly pow-wow which was full of love and appreciation for each other and our tenacity and athleticism in our jungle excursion. Being the leaders of the day was made very easy by our companions’ attentiveness, perserverence, as well as their compassion and respect for one another. We learned that it is truly a positive attitude that keeps others inspired to continue despite hardships. It has been a great experience to be leaders of the day, especially during such a surpising and eventful excursion.

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Shoutout to Pete Gleason for instilling in me an appreciation for nature. Because of you I greatly enjoyed our hike through the Nicaraguan countryside as well as got very excited about the frogs and caterpillars (I identified the monarch caterpillars and the Nicaraguan milkweed) and tell Professor Bill that I appreciated the orchids because of him (there were 45 different kinds at the sanctuary). Also, tell the Sweet Anne Marie as well as Sheri that I will bring them some chocolate and coffee. They have XXL shirt sizes here, don’t tell Ed, it’s a surprise. Do not let my cat die.      -Grace

Hi Ema, Aba, Omer, and whoever else is reading this blog. I miss all of you and want you to know I am having the best time and enjoying every minute of this trip. I am having a super fantastic time getting to know everyone and already have sisters and brothers for a lifetime. Nicaragua is amazing and beautiful and I am sure you guys would absolutely love it. I’m doing great so no need to worry (even though I’m sure you will). Don’t worry I’m bringing some Nicaraguan treats home for us to enjoy. Love you all so much! -Romi

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