Day 9 – Lessons of Love

When we arrived in Nicaragua we were assigned three missions: pour concrete to build a sidewalk connecting the homes to the school, painting the school with new paint to improve student pride, and spending time with the pequeños. Today was the finale of each mission. Sitting with the group this morning adding final touches of blue, we were serenaded with Christmas Mass rehearsals of “Gloria” accompanied by the djembe. We will never look at a sidewalk the same. 10 days has gone so quickly and tonight was an example of the family we have seen here at NPH and the family that we have now become a part of.
One of the special traditions of NPH is presentations by the pequeños as they say goodbye and thank you to their new family members…us. Returning to Casa Madre Teresa (our home during our visit) from the presentations is a happy yet somber walk. There is the tug of being ready to return to Seattle, but there is also the tug of a newly found home and the formation of special friendships that have just begun. There is something about putting your hands in the soil, sitting with pequeños of all ages, walking amongst their fields, using their tools, and listening to their music that continues to pull you in ways we will continue to unravel as we begin to face the reality of heading home to the US.
This morning I [Bri] woke up with such comfort; I felt as if I was home, that I belonged here. The long days of hard work and intense heat has broken down any barriers that keep me from feeling like an outsider. For most of us clothing choice is determined by the “smell test” and every meal we share is the most delicious food we’ve ever tasted on a simple plastic orange plate. We’ve learned it is much easier to simply eat with our hands. This trip has been so much more than a service trip. It feels like global engagement has taken such a powerful role in the education of our students and it has been meaningful to contribute while also gaining a better perspective of what is going on in the lives of current Seattle University students.
Today at lunch we sat with the littlest penqueñas. Before every meal the little girls take turns leading us in prayer. You can imagine what it would be like to hear a 7 year old decide what she’d like to pray for… what she would like to pray for today is her sister to pay better attention during the blessing.
Love is found everywhere here. You see it witnessed by the boys walking with their arms around one another whether they are heading to the soccer field or to go work. You see it as everyone gathers to say a blessing for every meal. You see it in the loving expressions of the tias and tios (aunts and uncles) as they gently nudge the pequeños.
For us it is holding a pequeño on our laps as we watch the presentations each night in the Ranchon, playing soccer endlessly, pressing their hands into the sidewalk that will be a new path to school for them. Love is found in the shouts of “Hola Hola”, “Buenos Dias”, and “Como Estas” wherever you go. When language challenges dissolve and a pequeño grabs your hand and laughs out of sheer joy when you mess up a word. Love can be expressed without words and we have truly experienced that at NPH.
Now to learn how to actually speak Spanish and plan a return trip next year.

pwob christamas

pwob group

Take care,

Kristen Kirst (Director of Advancement Communications and Marketing at Seattle University)

Brianne Vanderlinden (Assistant Director of Special Events at Seattle University and is a 2007 SU graduate.)


Day 8 – A Day of Light: 12/21/13

Saturday, Teamwork, Awe, Relaxation and Stars

Hi, my name is Nick Elam, and I am a senior, Strategic Communications Major.

Today was our second and last tourist day. It was a great way to begin to exit our journey and spend some time seeing more of this beautiful country.
Our day started out at 8 in the morning, driving through Rivas and San Juan del Sur, to arrive at our final destination, Playa Hermosa. Before arriving at the beach, we got to see a few parts of Rivas and San Juan del Sur, two of the larger cities in Nicaragua. The market in Rivas was chaotic and full of life. Our van, Vincent VANgo, was bumper to bumper with taxis and other cars, as we tiptoed through the market. After leaving Rivas, we drove to San Juan del Sur, a tourist town for Nica that sported a presence of Gringos. It was beautiful all the same, and the bay was a spectacular site. After winding through a few more streets and neighborhoods, we approached the gate to the private beach area, paid our fees and entered the jungle-engulfed rode until we found our day’s paradise, Playa Hermosa.

This past week has been full of teamwork. It amazes me how quickly our group has developed into a team. We all supported each other, as each person has gone through their ups and downs. Today was in honor of our team and the effort we have committed to; a well-deserved gift.

Playa Hermosa is beautiful. It is tucked away in Nicaragua’s western coastline and separated from the busy, public beaches in San Juan del Sur. The secluded beach has a small inn, restaurant, massage area, hammocks, bar, surf equipment and few people. It was a day in paradise for us PWOBers. The water was warm enough to stay in for as long as you like, and the waves were large and perfect for surfing. The coast was lined with Nicaragua’s beautiful jungle; you could see every color of green in the tall canopies. I felt like I was in a beautiful landscape portrait.

Everyone got to do themselves today; we were all together and alone at some point. It was a great time to begin the process of reflection and meaning making for these past few days. Naps in the hammocks, body surfing, and eating some delicious food were a few of the treats we spoiled ourselves with. Before dinner, we made time for a reflection and sharing. For me, it was great to see how 13 people, few of which had known each other before, came together to give ourselves to another community, and ultimately form our own. This group is truly a gift.

After dinner our night ended with some light, both above us and below us. It was a clear night, one of the few that we have seen in our time in Nica. The stars here are impeccable, nothing dilutes their brilliance. To bring more light to our day, the ocean had another treat, marine phosphorescence. As you waded through the water at night, looking at the stars, you could see little particles of light shining in the water. The world has a funky way of illuminating beautiful adventures such as this.

The light in this day (the sun, stars, and phosphorescence) speaks to how brilliant and bold this journey and place truly are! …So grateful to be a part of it!

pwob beach

pwob sunset

Day 7 Dec 20th 2013 by Maria Hernandez, School Psychology graduate student

Today has definitely been a day of ups and downs for the group. After the amazing and relaxing day we had sightseeing yesterday, everyone woke up feeling really tired. On top of that it seemed that today was the hottest day we’ve had here so far. Still, we dragged ourselves to the worksite and continued our work knowing that after today there is only one more work day before we leave.
Our word of the day today was gratitude and it came in handy anytime we were complaining about the hard work we were doing. Needless to say, we got through the day and were able to finally finish the entire sidewalk project! Although I did not help on the sidewalk project today it was still a great sense of accomplishment to know that I had been a part of the end result. We were also able to finish putting the first coat on the second school building. After finishing with both projects we came back to the volunteer home covered in paint and dirt. On top of that I felt like my clothes were completely stuck to my skin from the humidity and sweat. Not a pretty picture.
PWOB paint
However, the day was made complete when we went to dinner with the girls today and played a great game of cards. Afterwards, we were able to watch them practice for the night’s holiday presentations. It never ceases to amaze me how the pequeños at NPH come together to do performances that showcase the variety of talents they have including dancing, singing, and playing instruments. It is great to see how the older and younger kids unite on these performances to bring happiness and smiles to the huge family they are a part of, a family of which I feel more and more a part of every day I spend here.
pwob play

Day 6 Dec 19th 2013 by Helen Packer (Junior Humanities for Leadership and Creative Writing major) and Lindsay Mannion (Senior Humanities for Teaching and Spanish major)

Today was our first tourist day and a chance to explore some of the cities close to NPH. On our list: el Volcan Masaya, el Mercado Masaya, la Laguna de Apoyo, and Granada. At 8:30 fourteen of us piled into a little white van.
Laguna de Apoyo provided the chance to check off a bucket list item we didn’t even realize was on our bucket list. Apparently, after thousands of years volcanos collapse and form lagoons. That meant that we were all swimming in an old volcano.
By the time we reached Laguna de Apoyo the van had started to feel like a real Nicaraguan bus. We were now holding sixteen people, after we picked up Audrey’s friend Fatima and her brother Freddie. Our van (nicknamed Vincent Van-Go) teetered down the steep incline to La Abuela, where we stopped for lunch and swimming. La Abuela looked out right over the water and our sixteen person table sat right up against the dock, precariously close to the edge. After being packed tight into the van, everyone was excited to jump into the water.
PWOB water
The water was cool and refreshing in comparison to our sweaty days of work. We cooled off and laughed about the fact that we were swimming in an old volcano.
In the second part of the day we drove down to Granada and took a boat tour around Lake Nicaragua. The lake contains a lot of tiny islands, mostly filled with private houses. On one tiny island, which was about the length of our small tour boat, we met a family of monkeys and became better friends than we were intending to! The mama monkey, Lucy, hopped aboard our boat, prancing up and down the aisle in search of food. She jumped up on to Fatima’s lap and climbed from seat to seat, jumping on people’s shoulders. Our guide gave Lucy some crackers to snack on and she wiped her hands on Helen’s shoulder. Helen wasn’t too happy about that. Lucy posed for some selfies with Sam. When it was finally time to go, she seemed hesitant to leave the boat.
PWOB boat
We finished the day with a several-hour dinner in Granada. After all the days of hard work, it was nice to have a day off, even if it was packed with activities.

Day 5 Dec 18th 2013 by Kyla Terashima, Sophomore Nursing and Spanish Minor

Waking up today was a struggle to say the least, with all the work we have done our muscles ache with every movement and our skin is burnt red from the scorching Nicaraguan sun. Yet the beauty of NPH is the pequeños keep our spirits high and make the back breaking work well worth it.
Despite the aching of our bodies, anticipation for tonight’s posada was in the air and it did not disappoint. We joined the pequeños in a night of singing, dancing, and piñatas. Piñatas in the states may seem like a time for candy and some harmless fun. Here at NPH though, piñatas are serious business. The boys have no problems diving onto each other for a small dulce or fighting over whom next gets to take a swing at the life-size paper tinker bell. However, in this simple moment of whacking a paper-filled box, relationships are formed. We share smiles and broken conversations with the pequeños, learning more about them each day and them learning about us. Screams of joy and laughter continue to fill the ranchon until the last piñata has been torn to shreds. I don’t think a single person left without their hearts filled, even the often shy tias, who oversee the girl’s houses, couldn’t help but crack a smile and join in on the fun.
As the stars and moon shine bright in the clear sky it’s obvious to me the pequeños of NPH have become our family. They barged their way into our hearts and have made no plans to leave. While our skin tones and cultures are different, we have all found a place to call home here at NPH.
Con mucho querido, buenas noches from our family to yours.

Day 4 Dec 17th 2013 by Sam Asher, Junior Theatre Major

I can’t promise this to be the most fluid blog anyone’s ever read; today we poured concrete and my arms feel like they may fall off any minute. Be patient with my mind as it bounces from place to place in describing the experience of this wonderfully sunny day at the NPH Campus, Nicaragua.
Our team woke up before 7AM today so we could hit the worksite by 8AM. We had the biggest concrete pour of our project today and successfully completed it. This left our whole team ready for a siesta by the time 4PM rolled around. Granted, the peqeunos we were working with were a little bit annoyed we couldn’t finish the entire sidewalk that evening. However, after about twenty minutes of “No podemos trabajar mas,” they got the idea that we could not and would not continue. Sometimes you have to know when to quit.
Regardless of how tired our bodies were, we had a visitor for dinner this evening. At 6PM we all checked in with each other over a cup of coffee. At 6:30, Marlon Velasquez – the national director of NPH – came to share a meal with us. During our time together, he explained that NPH was built on the foundation of being a family, not an orphanage. Respect to this property, land, and community was built through hard work by the pequeños for the pequeños. He told us how visitors come and go, but the ones who have the best time are the people who interact most with the kids. If you talk to the pequeños about the right things you’re “in,” but if you give them the tiniest ounce of pity… well, you’re probably “out.”
Even though my Spanish is broken, useless, and sometimes flat out wrong, I feel like I’m a part of this family. After three days of mentally exhausting myself to get words out, I think the peak of speaking a foreign language has started. They call me “Harry Potter,” and tell me I know Spanish well, I’m just too afraid to use it. Que bonita, Nicaragua.


Day 3 Dec 16th 2013 by Audrey Farber, Senior Philosophy major

Today began with our daily discussion on the word of the day. It was determined that our new word would be “devotion”, and with this word in mind we were to go about the day devoted to the present moment and in full participation with the work at hand. In the midst of discussing this word we were interrupted by the sight of cows walking past our door to the pasture that PWOB fenced using Neam trees during last year’s trip.
After breakfast we headed out to our worksite. The group divided into two so that we could continue working on the sidewalk and begin work painting the school house. The school house is being painted a beautiful blue color that resembles the blue portion on the flag of Nicaragua.
However, the highlight of the day came after dinner. Today was the first day of La Posada, which is a Christmas tradition that NPH practices where the children and staff reenact the night Mary and Joseph were seeking shelter and were denied many times before being accepted into an Inn. We were honored to experience a night of this very special tradition which included dancing and piñatas. The children presented choreographed dances in costumes to Christmas themed music, and afterwards they all enthusiastically tried to get the most candy from newly hit open piñatas. The night ended with yummy candies and cheerful smiles all around.