We are Maria Nazarova from Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, CA and Roy Tongilava from Mills High School in Millbrae, CA. Our day started early as we woke up before dawn, nearly an hour before the first rooster called from atop his perch to tell the people of Nicaragua it was time to start another day. Today was the reality challenge of working like a local, so we banged on all the doors to wake up our peers so they could join us on our day filled with activities common to the locals in Matagalpa. Still groggy with sleep, we piled onto the bus which was driven by Javier to begin our journey to a farm called La Canavalia. The bus ride took nearly an hour, during which we ate breakfast as well as caught up on our sleep.
When we arrived at la finca, which translates to the farm, we met Don Luis and Melba, who gave us an overview of the work that is done there and information about a cooperative they run known as ADDAC. We learned many things about the farm’s philosophy of eco-friendly agriculture and the desire to diversify the foods in Nicaragua. After the inspiring speech, our delegation split up into three groups, each made up of seven people, to take on the day’s tasks at La Canavalia. One group went to work with the fertilization of the soil where people collected cow manure to help the young cocoa trees grow. Another group went to clear fields of passion fruit where they got to try the sweet fruit. The third group worked on carrying sacks of soil to a new location to plant more seeds.
Although the workers performed their duties with ease, the work was back breaking and tested the limits that we would go to in order to commit ourselves to the reality challenge of working like a local on a farm. We all worked hard, but at times we realized how difficult it is to keep working through the fatigue. Everyone stayed strong, even though we needed water breaks unlike the workers that were used to doing this type of intensive labor every day. After working for approximately four hours, the groups reconvened at the eatery to enjoy a hearty lunch with the workers they had just met. At this time, we were able to talk to the workers about their daily lives, their families, and what they had wanted to be when they grew up. It was really interesting to find what the workers had to say, but also a reality check to find out that they only made enough money to support their families. Once lunch was over, it was time to say thank you and goodbye to our new friends and head back to the hostel.
The ride back was tranquil because many people were in deep sleep after the long day of work they experienced. Sore and happy to be on the way to getting clean once again, the guilt of privilege latched on to some of us as we realized that despite the fact that we got to leave the farm, the workers would have to come back the next day and the one after that. It was hard to see people working so hard for less than five dollars a day in return. It was nice to have an hour to think about what we had just endured and how it would impact us in the future. At the hostel, we were glad to wash away the sweat from the day’s work under the cold shower. Next, it was time to do some research for the CAP or community action project. The researchers headed into the heart of the city to find out the best ways to make benches, tables and a fence for an organization that makes seed jewelry called Las Mujeres del Plomo. They worked hard in the internet cafes to ensure that we had all of the right tools and materials on our lists. When they came back, everyone met with their English tutoring groups to plan out the agenda for the lesson later in the day. We enjoyed a dinner of quesadillas and gallo pinto before walking to San Luis School for our English class. The two hour long session of teaching English to Nicaraguan people of all ages seemed to go smoothly for every group in the delegation. Afterwards, we headed back to the hostel for our nightly meeting so that we could pass the leadership torch to the next pair, Cassandra and Siedah.