It’s a surreal feeling to realize our time together as Glimpsers is coming to an end. Today was Final Reflection day, and as we hiked up all 850+ steps of La Peña de la Cruz, it was both a physical and emotional challenge for us all.
La Peña de la Cruz is a series of concrete steps built into the face of the highest point in the western mountain ridge in Jinotega. Constructed in 2012, the steps took a year to complete, and the winding stairway leads to a large metal cross at the summit. Legend has it that the locals were afraid the mountain was growing and that it would eventually fall onto the city. To stunt the mountain’s growth, a priest brought a cross to the top and held mass. According to the story, the mountain stopped growing. Thus, every year, the locals make the long hike up to hold mass.
Right from the start, there were mixed feelings about this hike. Some had wanted to climb it from the moment the trip began, while others were dreading the exhausting and inevitably steep hike. Personally, I was nervous because of my deep-seated fear of heights and steep, unstable places from which I could possibly fall. In the end, though, today was probably the most rewarding day of this trip for me.
The 800-meter hike up took only about 40 minutes, but after such a long and physically demanding day yesterday, it was still a considerable struggle for some. The path of concrete cut through swaths of beautiful greenery, and a fine mist hung in the air as we reached higher and higher altitudes. Whenever we’d stop to take a break, an awed silence would fall as we really took in the view. It was a breathtaking experience, especially when we finally reached the top with our backs soaked with sweat and our legs burning from the incline.
Up so high, the cool breeze kicked into a gust. The trees cleared to reveal a pavilion and, finally, the metal cross at the top of a pile of boulders. The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction brought the group together as we celebrated by climbing up to the cross and taking countless photos to remember the euphoric moment. A layer of clouds still cradled the city below us, left over from the slight drizzle, but the diffused sunlight set the whole scene aglow. It was the perfect backdrop for us to begin our first reflection of the day.
After the clicking of cameras and crumpling of snack wrappers died down, I divided the group in two. One group would close their eyes, sit down, and make a circle around the pole holding the pavilion up. The second group would encircle group one and wait for a prompt from the activity leader. When the leader would say something along the lines of, “Tap someone who inspired you,” the outer circle would move as people tapped shoulders and patted backs. After all the prompts were completed, the groups would switch.
I was in the inner circle first. With my eyes closed, I could only focus on my other senses. It made it all the more powerful when a series of taps would go across my shoulder blades at prompts like, “Tap someone you made a meaningful connection with,” or “Tap someone you’re going to miss.” I could feel all around me, too, that my fellow Glimpsers felt the same rush of emotion. When the tapping was over, I couldn’t help but notice that throughout the activity, whether I was receiving or giving taps, I couldn’t stop smiling.
We left La Peña de la Cruz after completing the activity, heading to lunch and then getting in some last minute souvenir shopping. When we all returned to the hostel, we held our second reflection of the day. First, we opened with asking for students to share their favorite part of the CAP. We then all made a visual map of our time in Jinotega, highlighting five of the most impactful moments for us. After this, we made time to share our appreciation for each other by participating in the Big Love activity. We each wrote our names at the center of a piece of paper, and, sitting in a large circle, we passed the paper to our right. Every person had thirty seconds to write something they loved or appreciated about the person whose paper they received, then immediately pass it on when time was called.
This was one of the activities I had to lead. I was nervous but extremely excited to bring out the unity of our group. When we all finished, got our own paper back, and had one or two minutes to let the kind comments sink in, I could tell that the activity had succeeded. We each took turns sharing our favorite comments, reading and rereading the things people saw in us that we hadn’t truly realized were appreciated.
As that seminar ended, we hurried to dinner on our tight schedule and went straight to La UNAN for English tutoring. Today was our last day, so we had a potluck planned for the second half of the night. The UNAN students and Glimpsers alike had the liveliest of times, eating, enjoying the festivities, and breaking open a piñata. When it came time to say our goodbyes for good, tears were shed and heartfelt embraces were shared. For the first time today, it really hit home that we were so close to leaving.
Upon returning to the hostel, we had our last Nightly Meeting. I asked everyone to really dig deep and think about our time here. The point of today was to sum up all the previous days with as much thoughtfulness and care as we could. Before I passed the torch on to the next Leader of the Day, I read to everyone something I had written:
Once upon a time, 17 different students were assigned to the same Global Glimpse delegation. Most of them were strangers to each other. They all came from different backgrounds, different lifestyles, different experiences. But they, along with two Global Glimpse leaders, a site manager, and a program coordinator, plunged into the Nicaraguan culture together. They danced together, ate together, laughed together, and climbed mountains together. They learned and taught and fell in love with Jinotega together. And they found that within their individual differences emerged a commonality: they were family.
Now, as their amazing adventures together come to a close, as they sit in a nightly meeting together one last time, they are faced with the daunting task of saying goodbye. They’ve spent almost 18 full days in each other’s company. They’ve made unforgettable memories and friendships together. They’ve changed each other’s lives, an irreversible changed, and each of these 17 students will undoubtedly go out there and change the world. But for now, it looks like the ending of a chapter. They, we, are going our separate ways. We have made so many connections that we now have to leave behind. It feels wrong. But what we have to realize is that even though we won’t be able to see the endings of each other’s stories, even though some of us might be saying goodbye for a long time, it was amazing to have met each other at all. This chapter we shared is a most special chapter. We have altered each other’s stories significantly. And this is not goodbye. Continue the spirit, we say. So, really, there is no real ending. This is not the ending to our story. It is a statement: The journey, the experiences we’ve shared, the love, it never ends.