By Anna Dlott, Mitzvah Corps Nicaragua El Castillo 2016 Participant
This week as been a mix of excitement from the first moment we all landed in Florida to our first time playing bananagrams. After a night of introductions and getting acquainted, we took the short plane ride to Managua, Nicaragua, but this was just the beginning of our travels. During the five hour bus ride to San Carlos, a small city where we would spend the night, we took a break at a restaurant, trying some typical Nicaraguan food, such as a drink made of corn, chocolate, and cinnamon, and a tortilla made from “young,” or unripe corn. Once we got to San Carlos, we ate a restaurant where we quickly learned that the locals don’t use menus; they already know what they want once they get there!
The next morning, we took a boat ride to El Castillo. It wasn’t a typical boat ride that you might picture; we were seated very closely to one another and shared the space with many locals from El Castillo and the surrounding towns. With them, they brought many necessities not available to them in their towns, items that are only accessible by making this trip across water. The boat ride took about three hours.
When we arrived in El Castillo, we settled into our hotel, Nena Lodge, where a woman named Mimi has been helping to take care of us. We enjoyed free time on the porch of the lodge, doing yoga and playing fun games. We met representatives from the Fundación de Río, who shared the purpose of the service project we would be working on – helping to provide locals with running water – and how it is necessary not only to help the community, but also to protect the river.
When we got to our work site the next day, it was pouring down rain, but we knew we had a job to do. Our job was to dig narrow tunnels, knee deep, to fit pipe lines for a water system that would eventually bring running water to 34 homes. Alongside us, a representative from each family helped us dig, put in the pipes, and then cover them up with the dirt. For all of us, it was eye opening to see how these people lived without fresh water or a direct water supply line. Hopefully with the conclusion of this project, their lives might be a little easier.
After another awesome lunch, we got to explore and learn more about the culture of our home for the next week. We went to the Fortress of El Castillo. It was really interesting to learn the history behind this part of Nicaragua. I think an aspect that surprised us all was that the history wasn’t very old compared to the United States. Although many of us do not speak Spanish, the locals have been very open to teaching us some Spanish terms; if all else fails though, a smile is always welcome.
Even though our group only consists of ten people, we all have grown closer and enjoy each other’s company. We might be small in numbers, but our group is mighty and filled with hard workers, which is very important because the work we are doing truly requires all hands on deck.
Over the next few days, we will continue working on this project, as well as visiting the local high school and a chocolate plantation, canoeing, and hiking. I think it is safe to say that we are all enjoying our once-in-a-lifetime experience!