Note: Each year a group of Union College international rescue and relief student spend the spring semester in Nicaragua, learning about global health, tropical diseases, jungle survival and running medical clinics for remote villages. Learn more about the IRR degree program.
This year's group of eight students, led by instructors Andrew and Kalie Saunders, left Union College on January 10 and will spend the next three months in the Central American country.
These updates are written by international rescue students and published with minimal editing.
March 5, 2018
by Matt Hundley and Colton Baker
Colton basically died this week. He was juggling class with his leadership week, and on top of everything, he is finishing up his homework for Norway. #ColtonToNorway2018!
Besides Colton's week of excitement, the rest of the group had a very interesting and relatively relaxing time. The week started with our Ministry of Health paperwork being approved and then unapproved during our plane ride from Puerto Cabeza to Bluefields. As a result, a week that was planned to be the group working in the hospital turned into a week of observations in the different clinics around town.
We had three groups of two split between three different clinics, two clinics that remind me (Matt) of an urgent care, and one that was a psycho-social clinic. The doctors in all of the clinics were amazing and very informative. It was very interesting seeing the different sides of healthcare in Nicaragua. Instead of working in the hospital taking care of people who are all sick or in need of assistance, the clinics place more emphasis on keeping the public healthy and less on a tertiary form of health.
This is not saying that in the clinics we did not see sick people. In the first clinic Connor and I visited, a man fell on the floor and had a seizure. But the majority of the patients in the clinics were people who were relatively healthy. Most patients we observed were pregnant women or children who needed a worm treatment—both very common in the clinics.
Friday was a little different compared to the rest of the week. In Nicaragua, traditional medicine is accepted by the Ministry of Health. Instead of observing one of the regular clinics, our whole group observed one of the natural health clinics. It was very interesting and the people were very informative. They told us about some of the health benefits of many plants that grow here in Nicaragua. I believe a majority of the class really enjoyed learning about it.
Saturday has been a really relaxing day. Everyone has been preparing for this upcoming week of survival. I personally think it will be a fun week. If anything, I view it as a lot of free time to spend swimming in the ocean.
Kim [Rodriguez] and I had a different experience. As Matt pointed out, I had a very busy week between data entry for the clinics, two chapters per day in classwork, modeling socioeconomic data for a class in Norway a week after we return from Nicaragua ... and all of the duties, responsibilities, and decisions that came with being the peer co-leader for this segment of the semester.
Gabby [Vizcarra] and I chose to split responsibilities. As she was in Emergency Care class with five other students, I was behind a computer with Kim taking the Development, Logistics and Analytics class. It felt natural for Gabby to focus on safety, security, and directing our fellow students in transit and at clinical sites. I, on the other hand, focused on logistics, finances, and scheduling.
It was a tough week and I was worried I wouldn't be able to complete all necessary tasks. However, by Friday night, I had accomplished a series of successes. Kim was instrumental in this, dedicating extended hours to data entry and everyone on this year's team deserves a shout out for being cooperative and understanding of the challenges we faced this week. Everyone did their part in cooking and cleaning with minimal fuss. It was awesome. Bravo Zulu.
Colton has received an incredible opportunity to further his education and career by attending a month-long workshop in Bergen, Norway studying systems dynamics in development. This is the study of behavioral changes in complex systems, specifically socioeconomic outcomes in response to the complex inter-relations of GDP, policy changes, and other related factors. This opportunity came on short notice and offers a very fortunate chance to network and learn from experts in this field. However, Colton needs $2200 for travel and living expenses during the workshop. Please consider donating at the following link to ensure he can pursue this opportunity.
The team rented a large house in Bluefields this week—six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, two kitchens, air conditioning and hot showers—a real luxury right before survival week. The team is spending three days in the jungles near Bluefields learning how to survive, then three days on a small remote island in the Pearl Keys before heading to Little Corn Island, a small Caribbean island about one mile wide and two miles long, just 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua. They spend 24 hours anchored off the island to understand and respect ocean survival.
February 26, 2018
by Gabby Vizcarra and Jorrdan Bissell
This week’s Gabby's Gab will be called “Babies, IVs, and Surgeries ... And also shots in the butt!”
This week our group was split into teams of two for hospital rotations: Jorrdan [Bissell] and Ashton [Lair], Matt [Hundley] and Connor [Marek], and Gabby [Vizcarra] and Kyle [Dahms]. Colton [Baker] and Kim [Rodriguez] were taking the Development Logistics and Analytics course from Andrew and Kalie [Sauders], our instructors.
Fortunately, both Kim and Colton expressed great interest and enjoyment in what they were learning, though the same cannot be said for the amount of data entry they have to do yet (sorry guys!). However, the group can't wait to hear what they discover from their analysis. What's even more exciting is knowing they will be sending their data to the Ministry of Health for Nicaragua. They will then send the data up the ladder to eventually reach organizations like the World Bank and the World Health Organization to be included in global reports. That's so awesome! Their data will ultimately have some impact on how the larger organizations run their programs in Nicaragua. Great work Colton and Kim!
Meanwhile, the hospital teams were sent out to work in and observe three different departments of the Puerto Cabezas hospital: obstetrics (OB), emergency room (ER), and the operating room (OR). OB consisted of supporting the mothers in the later stages of labor until their adorable infants were handed to them. This also meant that most of us got to catch some babies!
Ashton, Kyle, and Gabby each delivered two and Connor delivered one. We’re hoping that Matt and Jorrdan will have a chance this week to catch some as well, depending on how many children are ready to come out into the world.
Besides being the first people to touch and welcome the newborns, even more humbling events occurred when a new mother asked Ashton to name her son. Ashton had been there to support the mother through the entire process of giving birth, and so she wanted Ashton to have the honor. Ashton decided to name the child Donald, after her grandfather who had passed away last year.
Later in the week, Kyle delivered a new baby girl. Since Gabby and Kyle both stayed and supported the mother, the baby girl was named Gabby. Naming a baby is a huge thing in Nicaragua, one that is usually celebrated by the entire family. It typically takes months to name an infant, and they make it a big deal out of it. To have the honor of naming a child and have a child named after you is a special honor that one does not forget.
This week, a group of plastic surgeons and various other OR personnel (mostly from the U.S.) were operating out of the hospital. This allowed us students the opportunity to watch a variety of cleft palate surgeries. Although the days in the OR were long and students only observed, it was amazing to see the work these teams are doing here. The group is from Global Passion Ministries, and they also trained Nicaraguan doctors how to perform the surgeries.
It was particularly rewarding for Ashton and Jorrdan to watch the operation on a 9-year-old girl from our first village, who Dr. Caldera helped bring into contact with the surgery group. It is very evident that she has gone through emotional trauma because if her condition because she would cry whenever anyone tried to look at her lip. We knew her life was being changed as we watched the surgeons form her a perfect new smile.
Exciting things happened in the other departments as well! The ER was full of people who needed stitches, blood tests, IVs, shots, foleys, and casts. Everyone got to do a variety of these things and had a great experience doing so. We found out that most of us still have our IV skills (except Matt and Connor, who both missed some IVs and were given grief about it by the ER nurses), and that many people need shots in the nalgas (Spanish word for buttocks).
Unfortunately for one student, shortly into the morning on Wednesday, they turned from ER provider to ER patient.
Yup, that was me (Jorrdan). After waking up with general malaise in the morning and starting out the day in my ER rotation, my malaise turned into headache and fever. When I was brought to Dr. Caldera, I was pale and feverish, so he had me go through triage as a patient in order to get blood work done. Turns out I inherited the Bissell legacy of contracting dengue fever (my brother contracted the same thing two years ago during his IRR experience). That took me out of commission for the next few days as I rested and attempted to maintain my body fluid levels. Thanks to many prayers, the expertise of Dr. Caldera, a comfortable bed, the kindness of my fellow IRR companions, and wonderful-tasting* oral re-hydration salts, I have recovered well. In the end, I rate it a 10/10 would not do again...
*denotes the use of sarcasm
On Friday, we chartered our own private jet.... well sort-of. In transitioning from hospital rotation in Puerto Cabezas to hospital rotations in Bluefields, we went by plane. The planes only hold 12 passenger, so our group of 12 this week (including Dr. Caldera and Nathan Wahl who is helping with hospital rotations) bought out the whole plane. Arriving in Bluefields, we were welcomed to our own mansion, where we have experienced hot showers for the first time since arriving in country. We are soaking in the luxury since after this week will be survival week.
On Sabbath, a few of us went to church here in Bluefields, and were again welcomed by the caring hospitality of the people here. In the evening, some students went to dinner in town where they met a tucan.
This week will be our last week of hospital rotations, and marks the second half of our trip (Friday was the exact halfway point). Next week you'll get to hear about everything from Colton and Matt. So that concludes this week’s Gabby’s Gab.
February 19, 2018
by Ashton Lair and Kim Rodriguez
Naksa! (“Hello” in Miskito dialect.)
Another week has come and gone and, let me tell you, there is much to tell.
Monday was the start of the infamous annual river trip—the trip where we boat up and down the river doing medical clinics for remote jungle villages. Luckily, ours was a lot shorter this year—one week instead of two—and was supposed to be uneventful. But this is IRR. Uneventful doesn't happen.
Anyway, we got all of our medicines and bags loaded into the pangas (which were roughly 30 foot canoe-type boats with an outboard motor) and we were off! We had been told that the trip would be no more than four hours. But, alas, it was not meant to be. We headed out onto the water and everything was going fine. My (Ashton’s) boat was working perfectly fine, but after about 5-10 minutes, we realized that we had lost sight of the other boat. We stopped and waited for awhile and after another 10 minutes saw them in the distance moving very slowly. It turns out their motor wasn't working properly.
Our wonderful drivers worked on it for a little bit and thought they had fixed it, so we started up and tried again. Unfortunately, the problem, in fact, was not fixed. In short, we all sat in our respective boats in the middle of a river during midday and waited for a solid four hours until help and a new motor arrived.
The weather wasn’t terrible at least! When it wasn’t raining, the partly cloudy which helped spare us from the searing heat of the day. Luckily our host here in Puerto Cabezas, Pastor Earl, is one of the coolest people ever and personally boarded a boat with a motor and some other men and came to our rescue. It took a little bit to get the motors exchanged, and by the time they were done the sun was beginning to set.
The goal had been to get to Kukalaya (the village where we would be hosting the clinic) before dark. Obviously, at this pace, it was improbable, if not impossible. At least the boat was fixed So, because third time is the charm, we headed out once more, but still not without hitches.
Some boats were heavier and couldn’t move as fast, so our boats got separated a lot. And once it got dark, our poor drivers didn't know where to turn off from the river to get to the village! So our no-more-than-four hour boat ride turned into about an eight or nine-hour ride. And, on top of that, we got wet. Very, very wet. And cold. But we got there safely and that's all that mattered!
Once in the village, clinics went smoothly! Everybody was so happy to have us there and were incredibly friendly. It was a great experience for us to see the strength these villagers possessed. A few people from a neighboring village even walked to us to receive treatment. We were able to treat a little over 200 villagers, which was both exciting and humbling. Working in these clinics, traveling to these villages, and seeing how these people live definitely makes us realize just how blessed we are.
On Thursday we boarded the boats once again to return to Puerto Cabezas. Miraculously, this trip was actually uneventful—aside from getting very wet once again, Kim losing her sunglasses in the water, and the clouds not blocking the sun like last time. Our skin ranged from lightly toasted to tomato-red burnt. The tan lines are strong with these ones.
On Friday we did our last clinic of the semester. There is a food distribution center for kids not far from where we're staying, so we packed up and headed out there to help as many as we could. The workers were prepared for us and had even set out tables and chairs for all of our stations. It went well and we helped about 150 people.
Sabbath was a wonderful day of rest. Some of us went to the Adventist church, some of us stayed and slept in and enjoyed the comfort of our beds, and Gabby [Vizcarra] and Matt [Hundley] went with another mission group staying with us to help with their first day of clinics.
They assisted in the triage process for the group, who do mostly dental procedures and cleft-palate surgeries. They're pretty cool people and have a passion for what they do and helping others.
Later in the afternoon, we all went to a swimming hole where we could do some cliff jumping! It was so fun! The pictures are pretty great. Gabby spent a solid 20 minutes trying to convince herself to do a front flip off the cliff. It took two tries. The first time she didn't fully commit and just kind of fell into the water with a surprised, "WOAH!" The second attempt was successful though!
Jorrdan [Bissell] also did a flip but over-rotated and landed on his side with a sickening slap on the water. His side was red for the rest of the afternoon. He’s okay though!. To end the afternoon we all jumped off the cliff together! It didn't end well for all though. There is still a debate over who pushed who, but Kyle somehow landed on both Matt and Connor. Everyone is fine though. We didn’t need to put our rescue, clinical, diagnostic, or emergency extrication skills into action, so it's fine.
Today (Sunday) we attended Verbo’s nondenominational church service. Let me tell you, that was a good time. It was very loud, but the energy and the passion were so palpable, it was almost overwhelming. The majority of the service was just singing at the top our lungs and worshiping. It was a beautiful experience. And what made it cooler was that the songs would do a verse in Spanish, a verse in the Miskito dialect, and also in English. So we got to learn some songs in Spanish and Miskito, but also got to sing with the familiarity of English.
And as an added bonus there was cake at the end. Kalie [Saunders], Kyle [Dahms], and I (Ashton) thoroughly enjoyed that part. 🙂
We spent this afternoon re-sorting our medications and prepared them for storage for next year. It took way longer than expected but it's beautifully organized and packed, which is at least satisfying. Tomorrow we start our hospital rotations here in Puerto Cabezas. We’ll be alternating between the emergency room, operating room, and obstetrics units. Hopefully, we'll all be able to have some cool experiences, such as catching babies.! Hopefully it’s a lot less “catching” and more “gently cradling as it slides out slowly and gracefully.” Obviously, I (Ashton) haven’t spent much time with babies. This will be fine.
February 12, 2018
by Kyle Dahms and Conner Marek
Yo yo! It's your favorite tuani [cool] tag team, Kyle and Connor! We're back with some more dope updates!
First, to start off our tuani agenda, we had a trip to Puerto Cabezas and that took like a long time... literally 18 hours. You think potholes are bad in the states... you don't even know what potholes are unless you've been to Nicaragua. Not so dope.
What was super dope, though, was that when we arrived the wonderful people at Verbo had some amazing spaghetti ready for us. And we got to watch the last bit of the Super Bowl! Let's go Eagles!
You thought we were done travelling? Well think AGAIN! We had another six-hour bus drive to Francia Sirpi. Except it wasn't really the six hours we intended. We kinda got stuck on the way. T'was a serious setback. Actually, some other people were stuck, so we helped them. Then we got our bus stuck.
Much sweating and lifting of heavy rocks happened that night. However, all that sweat and heavy rocks got us unstuck! It was righteous to see our main bus driver, Bill, get that bus up that hill. We finally arrived in Francia and had a wonderful greeting after getting stuck again on the way up to the compound—literally 50 feet away.
We got an introduction to the famous Arc (large dorm built by IRR) that we would be staying in for the next five days. You should have seen the toilets... they are like the best thing in the whole world. Don't worry we got pics.
Then we went to bed ASAP to get rest for our first day of clinics. Before we talk about clinics, y'all should hear about my man, Dr. Caldera. He's a boss. Best doctor in the world. Very tuani. Pretty much none of this trip would be possible without him around to help us. You'll be hearing a lot about him in the next couple updates.
For clinics, our squad was broken up into a couple of different sections: we had pediatrics, women’s health, general, pharmacy and triage. We were fortunate to have help this week from Gabby's parents, who are both doctors, and their family friend, a pediatrician. The first day, well, it was a little crazy because we didn't 100 percent know what we were doing, so we ended getting to see about 50 people.
Also, we want to give a huge shout out to the pastor who hosted us in Francia. Bernie was such a down to earth and humble dude. He made our stay tuani and he made us really feel at home.
Wednesday we started off the day heading to the clinic in Francia again for another dope day of clinics. Some of us got to do some pretty dope stuff that day. I [Connor Marek] got to perform a surgery where a woman had a lipoma on her back and wanted it to be removed. It was kinda gnar, but pretty dope and tuani. I got good practice with a scalpel and a suture.
Jorrt [Jorrdan Bissell] also got to perform a surgery that we thought was another lipoma, but we were wrong. It happened to be a sebaceous cyst and that was pretty gnar as well. So just a little bit of a surprise there. Kyle [Dahms] started an IV, and it was super dope. Kim [Rodriguez], Colton [Baker], and Gabby [Vizcarra] are masters at triage. If you need some tips, ask them.
Matt [Hunley] was working in pediatrics doing some major work. And Ashton [Lair] was back in the pharm filling prescriptions and throwing out drugs left and right like a boss. Our squad, is the best squad.
For the next two days, we got to go into another village called Santa Clara. Since our bus was stuck—again—we had to walk... annnnnnnnd the hike was like over an hour. Unless you were in pharmacy; they got rides. Pharm people were not popular on those days. Lots of us got our shoes super muddy and wet. Especially Kim.
We saw a lot of people over those two days in Santa Clara—like more than 200! Can I get a doooooope? Friday was awesome. We were all in get-work-done mode. We even started to run out of medications we saw so many people. Oh, and the super great part was that one of our patients was a baby girl named Tuani! Best part of the week.
Though the week was exhausting, it was an incredible experience to be able to provide some kind of help and medical attention to the two villages. We all got to get our hands a little dirty and gain some super valuable experience in the health field.
On Saturday we had a wonderful service in Miskito, Spanish, and even English. It was really nice of them to invite us to their service and it was a great day of rest—until we had to leave for another long, bumpy, and dusty ride back to Puerto Cabezas. Not so tuani.
Kyle and Connor, aka us, were just getting plain angry at those darn potholes. We were glad to be back for a good night of rest. I'm, I being Connor, am pretty sure that we all went and passed out after we got back.
So now we are on to Sunday and we had a relaxing and chill morning. Then after lunch, we had to sort all of our meds. That took a good 2-3 hours of nonstop fun right there. Then after we got to go to Los Pinos for some amazing and tuani ice cream. Like literally it was so dope. This concludes our super tuani report of last week's awesome events. Stay tuned for more! Ok, bed time.
February 5, 2018
by Matt Hundley and Colton Baker
We moved back to Verbo Mission this week! After just a few weeks, our team has already begun to consider Verbo our home away from home. We like to see it when we are tired and are ready to leave it as soon as we are rested.
Everyone has begun to find their independence, especially after a week of Spanish lessons. Several students chose to use their new found Spanish vocabulary—approximately twenty words any given individual can stumble through—to get a bus driver to politely drop us off near our destination . . . and travel more.
With the trip to Puerto Cabeza just ten hours away, the weekend opportunities were short. Several of us found ways to maximize our good times by traveling to Managua for a little sightseeing, while others used the time to visit the Pacific Ocean at San Juan del Sur, and yet others thought it best to catch up on some sleep and enjoy the quietness of Verbo Mission without everyone buzzing around. Also, we began our regimen of chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that, as a side effect, can really do a number on your stomach. All-in-all, the week was pleasant, peaceful, and a chance to get the last bit of rest in before the jungle shows us who is boss.
To start the jungle section of our stay, we will be taking an 18-hour bus trip to the eastern coast. The bus was supposed to be here at Verbo yesterday, and we are supposed to be leaving at 2 a.m. It is currently 8 p.m. and no bus is here yet. It has also been raining on the east coast, and to top everything off it is expected to rain all next week.
Overall, This past week was very relaxing. We are all glad that we had a rest week before we start the stressful weeks.
Editors Note: We received word they left at 3 a.m. and made it safely and uneventfully to Puerto Cabezas. Then, after a short rest, they traveled 73 miles to a small jungle village Francia Sirpi, just two hours travel from Honduras.
January 30, 2018
by Gabby Vizcarra and Jorrdan Bissell
The Jort Report: A not-so-boring week learning Spanish
As an added effort to immerse ourselves in the Spanish language, the students were divided up between three houses with local hosts. This gave students the opportunity to experience what everyday life is like in Nicaragua.
The excitement started soon for Kyle [Dahms], Connor [Marek], and Jorrdan [Bissell]. While setting up Jorrdan’s bed, a mouse exited the box-spring and the hunt ensued, assisted by Fiona, the host’s pet Chihuahua! Sadly, the mouse escaped.
The excitement was not limited to the one house. Kim [Rodriguez], Gabby[Vizcarra], and Ashton were treated to tours around the city of Managua and even a super-dooper cool surprise trip to the Masaya Volcano… at night!
Colton [Baker] and Matt’s [Hundley] house quickly became a chess tournament hot-spot, and Matt would like to note that he beat Colton multiple times…
Other notable experiences included Jorrdan finding a scorpion with him in the shower, Kyle a spider in the shower, and Connor having “Baby Shark” permanently engrained into his head. In total, we learned just how hospitable everyone here is, and are all very appreciative of the generosity and kindness of our new Nicaraguan families.
We called on Dr. Caldera a few too many times this week. Since Kim is fluent in Spanish, she decided to make the week a little more interesting—she fell in a hole. Upon inspection, we discovered that the wound was much deeper than expected (for those who are queasy, please skip the rest of this sentence) because when Dr. Caldera applied pressure, some adipose fat tissue excreted from the hole in her leg (not the preferred fat-loss method). Poor Kim, but it was very fun to watch. Ashton, Kalie, Kyle, and Jorrdan experienced getting sick. Gabby got bit by a dog. Matt and Jorrdan watched Dr. Caldera remove an ingrown toenail, then proceeded to perform the next removal (Matt administered local anesthesia, Jorrdan did the cutting). And, to cap off this week, Colton fell through the stairs. Poor Dr. Caldera, we sure are keeping him busy. Oh well, cheers to the new week!
Although we went to COVANIC [see editor's note below] to learn Spanish, we learned more than just vocabulary. With classes in the morning, we had the afternoons to practice and study with the students on campus. We also ate in the cafeteria with students of COVANIC. The barrier of language did not stop us from making new friends. Fast friendships were made through broken Spanish, broken English, and a bunch of gestures. We began to teach them English from the lessons we learned that day, but the lessons turned quickly to merely getting to know each other. No longer was knowing Spanish the goal, instead it was communicating with new friends.
This week we learned that language is more than grammar, it’s culture, food, and most importantly friendships. Life can be measured by how many things you’ve done, how much you own, or goals accomplished. Or it can be measured by relationships formed. Although we may never again see the new friends made, our lives were enriched by the hospitality, the games of futbol, the laughter, and those can never be traded away. This week we learned much more than Spanish. We learned that with tasty food, a few games of futbol, and using a little too much Google translate, close friendships can be made.
The “Baby Shark” thing was a song that one of the staff families, during Spanish week, played to entertain their one-year-old. He loved it and would listen to it for hours, meaning those of our students that were staying in the house were forced to listen to it over and over again. They’re still singing it now two days later. Obviously, it made quite an impression.
COVANIC (Colegio Vocacional Adventista de Nicaragua, or Adventist Vocational School in Nicaragua) has more than 250 students in its primary and secondary schools. The Adventist church in Nicaragua oversees 17 primary and eight secondary schools and has nearly 137,000 church members worshiping in 504 churches and congregations. Learn more at convanic.com
As of Monday evening check-in, all students are well and injuries healing.
January 22, 2018
by Kim Rodriguez and Ashton Lair
This week we went back to class like normal students. In Travel and Tropical Medicine class, we learned about all the diseases you don’t want to get sick with if you travel—like leishmaniasis, Chagas’ disease, malaria, and STIs.
On Wednesday, we had an evening class after supper. As we were sitting down for the lecture, suddenly we all hear this scream. “AAAAHHHH! HOLY [long pause] COW!”
To give you a little insight as to what kind of scream this was, think of the little scream R2D2 makes in Star Wars and make the tone a little lower.
Anyway, we all watched Gabby [Vizcarra] practically fly out of her chair and run away. It turned out that a baby tarantula was chilling on her notebook. And even though it was a baby, in our opinion, it was too big to be an acceptable spider.
This was just about the most exciting thing for our first week of classes, aside from Dr. Caldera, of course! He has been teaching IRR students in Nicaragua for some time now and has been a wonderful asset and teacher.
For the weekend, we split up a little bit. Five of us (Kim [Rodriguez], Gabby [Vizcarra], Colton [Baker], Connor [Marek], and Jorrdan [Bissell]) went straight to Granada after class on Friday so that they could get up early the next day and hike the volcano, called “Mombacho.”
Quick fact: The Mombacho Volcano is 1,344 meters high (4,410 feet). It took three hours to hike up and two hours to come down. It was a tough hike, but they made it through.
The quintet stayed in a beautiful hostel close to the center of Granada and enjoyed a pool, good food, and dance lessons (ask Connor about his Bachata moves).
Ashton [Lair], Matt [Hundley], and Kyle [Dahms] decided to stay and rest before heading out to Granada in the morning. They went straight to their hostel, called The Monkey Hut, right on the shore of el Lago de Apoyo (Apoyo Lake). The rest of the group met up shortly after and enjoyed swimming in the lake, sunbathing and a wonderful pizza dinner in town.
Now we’ve moved locations for the week. This week we will be taking Spanish classes in the morning and then practicing what we’ve learned throughout the afternoon and evening with the host families we are staying with. Kim is already fluent, but the rest of us that are going to struggle. Whatever, Kim. Anyway, it should be a good week overall. We’re excited to learn what we can and we apologize ahead of time for completely butchering the Spanish language. It is not on purpose.
Wish us luck!
January 15, 2018
by Connor Marek, IRR major from Nebraska and Kyle Dahms, IRR major from Oregon
We left Union College at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 10, and our plane landed at the Managua airport around 9:00 p.m. Connor [Marek], had already lost his wallet, or so he thought. Thanks to Kim [Rodriguez, IRR student from Illinois] and her amazing Spanish speaking skills, the wallet was retrieved.
AHHHHHH! Oh sorry, Kyle [Dahms] just fell. Moving on, after meeting up with Doctor Caldera and his sons [who run a medical clinic in Puerta Cabezas, the teams base of operations for most of the semester], we drove over to the mission compound. We were greeted with an amazing meal made by our wonderful cooks, who are super duper.
After a long day of traveling and craziness, we finally got to go to bed. The next day, we went over our course syllabus and talked about the many cool things we would be doing here for the next three months. Later we went into Managua and we were able to go to the mall for a bit. Kyle [Dahms] got a crepe. It was dope. We got back from the mall just in time for dinner and just spent some time acclimating to the weather, which is amazingly hot...
On Friday, we were sent into town on a little scavenger hunt to try and see some of the super awesome things in Managua, and also because Andrew and Kalie [Saunders, IRR instructors] were already getting tired of us... Not because they were trying to find a good Spanish school for us...
Later in the night, Colton [Baker, IRR major from Nebraska] taught us how to play Resistance [board game] and it was really intense. Jorrdan [Bissell, IRR major from Alabama] and Andrew [Saunders] may have almost cried due to the intenseness.
Matt [Hundley, IRR major from Arkansas] had a close encounter with a huge spider. When the spider jumped, Matt jumped and Matt almost cried. Thankfully, Sabbath is now here and we got to sleep in and rest. For a little bit. A majority of the group decided to travel to Masaya to check out some rad views and explore the city. The people really liked Kim [Rodriguez] around this area.
The market was dope and a bit sketch, but we made it out alive. Bus rides are fun. Just saying. If you think being crammed into a tight spot is fun, then yes, a Nicaraguan bus is the bus for you.
By this time, Gabby [Vizcarra, IRR major from Illinios] is really, REALLY, starting to miss her cat, Alex. We need to find one soon. Ashton, however, is a crazy dog person, and thankfully there have been many good dogs around. We played more Resistance. We may not trust each other anymore...
Now it is Sunday and we were seeking adventure. So, we went to Granada. We were not able to hike a volcano. We were bummed. Depression had hit us like a punch in the face. We still ended up having a fun time in central park.
We had the most amazing and dope food ever. Fish tacos are dope. Some of us explored the market area, checking out bracelets and stuff, while others decided to climb up to the top of a cathedral. Dope views. Like, wow.
By the way, it's Kim's [Rodriguez] birthday! Yay! We celebrated with some delicious homemade pizza, and a really, spectacular, amazing, stupendous, tres leche caramel cake! Our time here so far has been amazing. It's only going to get better from here though. We're all so excited and can't wait to experience what else is to come. But tomorrow we start classes... Pray for us...
FYI: Dope means cool. So does Tuani.
Editors Note: Masaya is a town 18 miles southeast of Managua, the capitol and known for its artisan markets. The city sits at the edge of Laguna de Masaya, beyond which rises Volcáno Masaya, which can be visited on day trips from the area. Unfortunately, when the volcano gasses are strong or blowing the wrong direction, they close down the Volcano to tourists.
Granada is an old historic town that was named in 1524. It is approximately 26 miles from Managua.