Three girls, eight days, too many meals per day, and just enough cups of coffee, all whilst visiting five amazing projects; two water projects, a pre-school, a community centre and a trek.
02.08.2012 - 16.08.2012 35 °C
The eight days went at the speed of light and yet we did so much.
Thursday, day 1 (the day of travelling): we were on the road by 5:30AM, a super long day of driving for Becky and Leanne; I misplaced my driving license in the UK just before I left so I was there as the Spanish speaker, navigator and the money counter.
We travelled all the way up to San Juan del Sur in Nicaragrua, with a hellish two hour border crossing that saw me conducting two very unsuccessful arguments in Spanish with firstly a customs official (about how much the Nicaraguan visa should cost; they over charged us) and then a police office (about whether or not we needed extra car insurance to cover Nicaragua; which we didn’t, but we were forced to buy anyway).
When we finally arrived in San Juan at 4:30PM we rushed into a hostel and down to the sea for a well deserved swim.
Friday, day 2 (happy Ventures): today saw us up at 5AM for another quick dip in the sea before our 6:30AM start to drive up to El Parajito in Achuapa to visit Romeo 5. We were super excited to meet our first group and it was awesome to see them; there were three people from Alpha 3 (my phase 1 group) in Romeo 5 and was lovely to speak to them, and see them enjoying second phase. We didn’t go directly up to their village with them, we stayed at the bottom of the hill for a music festival and then had to do the 1.5 hour climb in the dark later that evening.
Saturday, day 3 (the first taste of real Nica food): we got up early and had an amazing breakfast of rice and beans, spaghetti, tortillas, a delicious salty cheese and a small cup of very sugary black coffee; I absolutely LOVE the food, it is amazing. We had slept the night at the village community centre, but we were cooked for by the mum at the PM house, who was lovely to us.
Following breakfast we went along with the group to their work site, took some photos, did some interviews, chatted with the guys and did a little bit of trench digging; Romeo 5 are building a water system. In phase 1 the group dug most of the trenches, and in phase 2 they have been finishing trenches and were about to start laying pipes.
At about midday we took a delicious packed lunch and descended the hill, getting back in the car and droving to see the trekking group in San Martin. We met the trekkers at about 4:30PM and were received with a whoop of delight (unfortunately they were whooping the food we brought with us, rather than our arrival but it was a nice welcome all the same).
We had a nice evening with them, and it was lovely to see Neil again (my fellow PM from phase 1), and to see some more of my old phase 1 group getting on well and really enjoying trek; the whole group was in high spirits and it was great to see them doing so well.
Sunday, day 4 (the day of five meals): we got up even earlier than usual to the banging of mess tins (the trekking alarm clock), at 4AM. We had breakfast with the trekkers, took some photos of them heading off down the road and then off we drove to see Charlie 1!
The Romeo’s are our 10 week Raleigh groups, the Charlies are a little different. They are on the ICS programme, a new programme the UK government are running where the group spend the full ten weeks on one project, become fully immersed in the community and do all the planning and implementing of the projects they run.
We arrived at about 8:30, just in time for second breakfast where we ate rice, beans, tortillas, eggs, cheese and coffee, finished off with another coffee and a special Nicaraguan cake. We spent the day (a rest day for most groups), visiting a local waterfall with Charlie 1 and Romeo 5 together (where we ate a packed lunch of tortiallas, tomatoes, cheese and then cake and mango for desert.
After the waterfall we were invited to a local house for coffee, corn-on-the-cob and the most delicious chicken soup (complete with chicken-on-the-bone, chicken-liver, different varieties of squash, cabbage, corn on the cob, plantain; and various other surprises), it was the best dinner I have had in ages. Unfortunately though (or fortunately, I have still to decide) our mum (the mum of the house we were staying in), had not been told we were eating out, so at 9PM when we got back we were treated to a second dinner, which was also delicious and also included chicken; which despite us having twice in one day most ventures have only once a week; we are being treated like kings, they must think we are important!
Monday, day 5 (a very girlie evening): we took photo’s with the Charlies, worked with them for half an hour and then we were off again to visit Romeo 6, our school building project.
At Romeo 6, with 3 female PMs on the project, we were 6 female staff on project for 24hrs and 6 girls sharing a home stay (girlie sleep-over alert!!). We arrived just as they were finishing work and said hi to the ventures before they headed off to their family homes for dinner. We went to the staff house and had a relaxing evening with the girls, we again were fed fantastically by the family, and we walked up a small hill to watch the sunset before playing a few games of cards and having a good gossip.
Tuesday, day 6 (mafia and birthday cake): we worked for a few hours with Romeo 6, took photo’s, chatted to the team and it was again brilliant to see some of my old Venturers from phase 1, particularly hearing the gossip that two of them got together!!
Then quick as a flash we were then off again, this time to visit Charlie 2 (the other ICS group), who are also building a water pipes for another village.
We arrived very late with Charlie 2 (after an unexpected medi-vac called us back to one of the Romeo groups), and having to leave at first light the next morning we were worried we wouldn’t get to see the group, but fortunately they live very close and get together every evening for games of mafia! We joined in, and we got birthday cake (delicious).
Wednesday, day 7 (the run down Cerro Negro): we had to leave at first light, to ensure we got to Cerro Negro with time to climb. We got there at about 11AM, after a long drive down a dirt track with a very pretty view (and no sign posts, so I was constantly asking for directions), we did our food drop from the trekkers and then we climbed Cerro Negro.
It was a hard climb, but a phenomenal view and a super fun run down the hill after.
We ate a speedy lunch and hoped back in the car to drive back to San Juan del Sur for the compulsory evening swim. We almost didn’t make it, due to police officers making our lives miserable (and testing my Spanish) with spot checks (asking to see triangles and fire extinguishers) and imaginary violations (that we had to pay for, obviously); but we drove into San Juan at 5:30 and rushed into the hotel and down to the beach to get in our swim before dark.
After a glorious dip in the sea, we went out to dinner and started planning our entry for “Romeo’s got Talent” (don’t ask), will share the finished result shortly…
Thursday, day 8 (travelling home): another long day, leaving at first light. The border crossing was easier than the first time and the drive went smoothly with us arriving back at fieldbase in time for some MaxiPali shopping, and a very good dinner.
It was a crazily hectic 8 days, but I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it, or a better team to spend it with; the girls and Bravo 3!!