Peru Vacation – Amazon & Cusco

Catch up on days 1 & 2
Catch up on day 3
Catch up on day 4

Day 5: Saturday, May 28

During the night, we had a steady rainstorm – the first and only rain during our entire time in the rainiest place on Earth. Robin had agreed to take us back to the canopy tower on our final morning, so we woke up around 5 to get there a little after sunrise. A cold front from Patagonia had blown through, so it was slightly breezy and chilly(ish) – possibly down to the mid-60s in the morning. (I think it typically ranged from mid-70s to mid-90s while we were there.) The four of us had the canopy tour all to ourselves, and we got to observe a lot more birds than last time. We saw toucans, gold and turkey vultures, three kinds of macaws, parrots, black-capped parakeets, golden pendulum birds, and more. The best part was seeing the colorful backs of the macaws as they flew around the canopy.

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Looking down from the top of the canopy
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Back at the lodge, we packed our luggage, ate breakfast, caught our Rainforest Expeditions transfer to the airport, and said good-bye to Robin and friends. I should note how awesome Robin was – we thought he was the best guide at the lodge. He joked with us, told stories, told us about his family and his ambitions (wants to learn Chinese), spoke great English, and was extremely knowledgeable. At the airport we ran into Tripper and Mary – two of our friends from Robin’s group. They’d left the Amazon early for a day in Puerto Maldonado, and they had the same flight back to Cusco as us.

Naturally, STAR Peru was late, but we made it to Cusco with no issues. Upon arrival there was a large bowl full of coca leaves (the same leaf cocaine is made out of) to chew on to help with altitude sickness. The leaves are also known to provide energy and help with digestion. Porters along the Inca Trail rely on them heavily. Although chewing the leaves was less than tasty, coca tea and coca candies were delicious! We got our bags, met our driver – Juan – who navigated the busy, narrow streets to Andenes Al Cielo hotel in Cusco. The hotel was beyond our expectations – very fancy with a big room and a nice view of the city. There were about three floors with rooms in a square around open foyer in the center and a beautiful rooftop deck. We checked in, enjoyed some coca tea, and spent a little time taking in the location.

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In the afternoon, Vanise, our travel agent’s wife who lives in the Sacred Valley in Peru and leads yoga travel tours, met up with us to pick up a couple of items we’d delivered from the States. She gave us a little impromptu walking tour of Cusco, and helped us exchange money at the money exchange shop with the best rates.

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We ate a delicious meal at Greens – Vanise’s recommendation – an organic restaurant – beet/cheese gnocchi and alpaca. (Guess who ate what?) It was about 150 sol ($50) for the three of us, which was one of our most expensive meals. Everything is so inexpensive in Peru. Vanise took us to the local market, and we walked through a beautiful Spanish cathedral covered in gold. We had to walk through a hotel lobby and outdoor square to get to it.

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After Vanise headed home with a giant VitaMix blender stuffed into her backpack that we’d brought to her, we walked around some more, taking forever to pick an inexpensive dinner spot. We settled on El Meson, which had a delicious salad bar and pizza. Our entire meal with two salad bars, a large eggplant pizza, and two bottles of water, was 40 sol ($12.50). Unfortunately tap water is not safe to drink, so you must buy bottled water everywhere. Juice was about the same price as water, and beer and Pisco sours weren’t much more.

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Back at the hotel we enjoyed coca tea and the rooftop terrace. Since we were at 11,000+ feet in the Andes Mountains in their winter, it quickly cooled down to the 40s.

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Peru Vacation – Amazon Day 3

Catch up on days 1 & 2
Catch up on day 3

Day 4: Friday, May 27

Robin’s group “slept in” until 5 a.m., and when Jerod and I first woke up, we heard howler monkeys very close by. Their sounds are both mystical and kind of horror-movie-scary at the same time. We took an early morning hike back to the clay lick to look for green parrots (which are smaller than macaws). We waited very quietly for about 30-45 minutes in the blind, then saw some parrots flying around and above us. They started to land in the trees and along the backside of the clay lick, so we didn’t get a very good view of them. But it was fun just to hear their squawks and begin to recognize the sounds of birds.

We headed back for breakfast and said good-bye to most of our group, who were on the three-day adventure. We really enjoyed all the others in our group – they were similar ages and fitness levels as us. Just us and our German friend Marina remained with Robin the last day. The four of us took about an hour hike to a giant ceiba tree – one Robin claimed was the largest in the world. After researching it upon returning home, I’m pretty sure some sequoias are bigger, but it was still huge, taking 24 people to wrap around it. We ventured around it a few times, took some photos, tried climbing the vines, and found a tarantula living below it.

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The hike was just as cool as the tree. Along the round-trip adventure we saw army ants, cicada mounds (where they live until they come out every 17 years), pocket monkeys, pale-winged trumpeters, a telephone tree (with a giant, deep echo when struck), a rubber tree, and lots of termite tracks and mounds.

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We got back to the lodge around 11:30 and rested in our hammock for a while, where we saw a giant lizard chilling right outside our room. We ate beef, rice, banana patties and salad for lunch, then watched another local soccer game. Just on our trek to the soccer field we saw several monkeys and a fairly large rodent. At 3:30 we headed out on the boat with another group to a local farm. We stopped at a beach along the river for a quick walk. I thoroughly enjoyed getting my toes in the sand. (The college girls swam much to our guides’ delight, but I was leery of the high lead content from all the river gold mining upstream.)

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Along the riverbank we also got to see capybara – and giant guinea pig-looking rodent – one of my hopes for the trip!

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Aside from a couple of emaciated dogs that Jerod wouldn’t let me feed, there was no one at the Infierno farm, so our guides gave us a tour. We started out trying papaya and banana, and we also got to see star fruit, avocado, hybrid citrus plants, Peruvian tomatoes, fish-eye chilies, coca plants, a beautiful Heliconia tree, chickens, and more. Unfortunately the farm had flooded about three years prior and washed away herbs and other low-growing plants. It was interesting to see how the plants were just growing amongst each other – no rows of plants like back home. We got to witness a beautiful sunset on the return boat ride.

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Back at the lodge we enjoyed beef stir-fry and noodle soup. We had no wi-fi, so Jerod and I actually indulged in a couple of drinks (the only thing not included at Posada Amazones) to pass the time. We went to bed around 9 p.m. and finally slept great – on our last night of course!

Peru Vacation – Amazon Day 2

Today I’ll continue with our second day in the Amazon Rainforest. Check out the first journal entry here.

Day 3: Thursday, May 26

We thought the last couple of wake-up calls were early – today, we got up at 4 a.m. for a 4:30 breakfast and 5 a.m. departure. We hiked down to the river, took a quick boat ride to another spot in the rainforest, hiked about 45 minutes to the Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake for the sunrise on a man-made catamaran.

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A couple of very strong locals from Infierno took turns paddling the boat for us. The first thing we saw was a black caiman (alligator) in the water. Our boat was able to glide up just a few feet away from it!

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We also saw a ton of birds – horned screamers, macaws, hoatzins, kingfisher, yellow and white herons, wren, red-caped cardinals, and much more.

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Although the lake is known for giant river otters, we were among the 40% that didn’t get to see them. At the turnaround point we fished for piranhas. Though they have very sharp teeth, they aren’t nearly as vicious as Hollywood makes them out to be. They are similar to sharks – they may bite you if you smell like blood – but otherwise humans are not prey to them. Several people caught yellow and white piranhas, which they threw back after taking a look.

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On our way back, it started to warm up as the sun climbed higher in the sky, so we didn’t see nearly as much wildlife.

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Garlic tree

Close to our lodge, we took the boat to the clay licks along the bank, where macaws come to lick and eat clay for the salt. We saw a few from a distance before heading back to the lodge for a quick snack of light sandwiches. It felt like lunchtime, but it was only 9:30! We took a 15-20 minute hike to the clay licks, where we hid out in a bird blind. We saw one macaw eating clay, and we got a better look and close-up cellphone shots with Robin’s telescope. He was great at holding phones up to the telescope to create a “zoom” photo.

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We also got lucky with a group of spider(?) monkeys that ran by us along the path!

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Our group got back to the lodge around 11, where we rested until lunchtime. Right before lunch we saw a group of pocket monkeys jumping in the trees and along the trellises at the lodge. Although I didn’t have my DSLR with me, we were able to get really close to video.

We had stuffed peppers, veggies, and potato cakes for lunch – delicious! We rested again (during the hottest part of the day) back at the room. It was nice to just lie in the hammock and listen to the amazing sounds. I decided I’d rather be blind than deaf in the Amazon. The birds, insects, howler monkeys, and other animals never stop talking and singing. Around 2 p.m., with an invitation from Robin, we ventured down to the back side of the lodge to witness a local game of soccer. They play hard, sweat a lot, and have FUN! A couple of guys in our group tried to play with them too. I imagine they were sore the next day!

At 3 we headed out for an ethnobotanical tour at Centro Ñape, which turned out to be a shaman showing us the plants he grows and uses for medicine. We were greeted by his friendly pet (wild) pig, who stunk to high heaven but was as friendly as a dog. We learned about quite a few different plants that helped treat symptoms of various diseases. We even chewed one leaf that made our tongues go numb and tried shots of 3 different concoctions known for healing. At first I was skeptical, but I do think there’s some truth to the medicinal purposes of plants. They even had several cabins for people to stay in and get treatment. Some locals visit the shaman, but people from all over the world also stay there.

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Back at the lodge, we had rice, coca (from coca leaves) chicken, veggies, and carrot soup for dinner. Although spotty at times, we actually had wi-fi there, so we could post photos and catch up with people back home.

After that was our night walk. We took the path down to the dock, and along the way we saw a lot of insects including a scorpion spider, wolf spider, and bullet ants, which we were told give a painful sting.

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At the dock we had a beautiful view of the night sky and had the opportunity to see constellations we don’t get to see in the northern hemisphere. Although the night walk was neat, we were a little disappointed with how little we saw. By the end of the long, tiring day, we were ready for hot showers and covered beds.

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Strange bug outside our room

We had to shoo away more bugs in our room than the previous night, but once I made it to sleep, I slept a little more soundly.

Peru Vacation

My husband and I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Peru for vacation at the end of May and beginning of June. I’ve finally had a chance to write out my trip journal and edit at 700+ photos. (And those are just the ones I kept!) Don’t worry, I won’t share all of those with you. But I did have such positive feedback sharing journals from previous mission trips that I decided to share this trip with you, too. It’s long, so I’ll be sharing one day at a time. Here are days 1 and 2…

Day 1: Tuesday, May 24

Last night we said our sad good-bye’s to Lil’ Miss K. Even though she knew we were leaving, I don’t think she had a concept of the length of time. We slept horribly and got up early for a 7:10 flight out of KCI, but unfortunately we had an hour flight delay. Our layover in Charlotte was only about an hour and a half, but we made up enough time on the flight to run to our next gate. We were the lucky few that barely made it – a lot of others on our flight had connections taking off about the time we landed. We flew from Charlotte to Miami, where we got Cuban sandwiches for lunch, then we departed for Lima, Peru. The flight was about 5.5 hours long. Our flight included about three rounds of snacks and drinks (including alcohol) and a big dinner. I saved back several items that I snacked on throughout the trip. We landed around 8:30 p.m., went through customs, said a “hallelujah” that our luggage arrived with us, and attempted to check in for our morning flight. After butchering some Spanish and not understanding a Peruvian airport security officer’s English, we finally figured out that the STAR Peru gate did not open until 3 a.m. We’d booked an extremely convenient, expensive hotel room at the Wyndham, which was attached to that airport. We got to enjoy very Western amenities and our first of several delicious Pisco sours at the hotel bar before heading to bed.

Day 2: Wednesday, May 25

We woke up at 5 a.m. to head across the street to the airport and check in for our flight. There was a long line, so we ran back to the hotel and ate from a big continental breakfast very quickly before heading to our gate. The rush was pointless – our flight was delayed about an hour. Then our flight was combined with another flight, so we no longer had a direct flight to Puerto Maldonado. We were a bit confused about what was going on with the language barrier – the English translations over the intercom were choppy and hard to understand. We quickly learned that delayed flights with STAR Peru were the norm. After all that, we got to sit on the plane for a couple of hours in Cusco waiting for our connection. Our total time, for what was supposed to be about an hour flight, was five hours. We finally arrived in Puerto Maldonado around 1.

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The airport had one runway, one baggage claim, and two waiting areas/gates. Luckily, despite the delay, there was someone from Rainforest Expeditions waiting with our names on a sign. What a relief! Not being able to communicate stressed me out, so having reliable guides was a lifesaver. We had to wait on the shuttle for one other flight to land, then Rainforest Expeditions took us and probably 10-12 other people to their office (right around the corner) so we could drop off luggage, check wi-fi, put on bug spray, and buy some water. From there, we had about a 45-minute bus ride (where we were given a snack of a mini banana and a few sugar-coated brazil nuts), then a 45-minute boat ride along the Tambopata River to the Posada Amazonas eco lodge, primarily run by locals from Infierno. The boat was relaxing and cool, and we got our first meal – a delicious rice/egg/vegetable mixture wrapped in a large leaf.

Our boat docked along the bank, we took a steep flight of wooden steps into the rainforest, and after just a few minutes of hiking, we saw a pack of monkeys! Although there are a lot of monkeys in the rainforest, you don’t just happen upon them like you may imagine, so it was pretty exciting to see them right off.

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After a 10-minute hike to the lodge, we had a quick briefing and were given just 10 minutes to drop off our stuff in our rooms and start a hike to the canopy tower before dark. The room was so nice! Two queen beds with mosquito nets, open air to the forest, and a simple, yet nice bathroom.

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There were 9 of us in a group with our super-knowledgeable and easy-to-understand guide – Robin. We saw such diverse vegetation on the 20-minute walk to the canopy tower!

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We climbed the 120 steps to the top of the tower, feeling it sway from all the people, then made the final ascent up a ladder for a fantastic view of the top of the dense rainforest. We didn’t see much wildlife, but we did catch a beautiful sunset.

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After climbing down, it quickly got dark, so Robin took us to see a tarantula living beneath a tree near the path. Despite my arachnophobia and its massive size, I wasn’t nearly as afraid as I thought I’d be, perhaps because we were in its habitat vs. the other way around, or perhaps because it obviously wanted to crawl back into its den to hide. Approaching the lodge we saw another giant spider – a Brazilian wandering spider – which Robin said was very poisonous. Only when we looked it up later did we realize it was the deadliest spider on Earth. Robin had actually grabbed our phones and taken a close-up photo only a couple inches away from it!

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We had a late dinner after the hike. All the food at the lodge was delicious! Tonight we had chicken pesto spaghetti and quinoa soup. I slept pretty poorly that night, not being used to all the animal sounds that never seemed to die down.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Wrap Up

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been back from Nicaragua for a week and a half. It’s hard to go back to “normal” life, and I pray that I don’t slip back into a lifestyle where I take what I have for granted. Did you know that people who make over $40,000 are richer than 99% of people across the globe? Hearing that really put things into perspective for me.

Here’s a bit about our travel day home, if you’re interested. If you have any questions about Project H.O.P.E., what we did, the people of Nicaragua, or anything else, please let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, July 25 – Some of the group had to leave for the airport around 4 a.m., and others didn’t fly out until about midnight Saturday night. We were lucky to have a mid-day flight. I woke up around 7, had a dry cinnamon roll, and packed up my stuff so the Project H.O.P.E. maids could clean out the rooms for the next group arriving that afternoon. We all hung out in the cabana and the kitchen until mid-morning. (They brought out some fruit and eggs a little later on, which I was grateful for since the cinnamon roll didn’t fill me up.) We quickly said our good-byes and hopped on the bus for the airport.

I snapped this on the way to the airport - typical Nicaragua driving
I snapped this on the way to the airport – typical Nicaraguan transportation

When we flew in to Nicaragua it was late and I was disoriented, so I didn’t really get a feel for the airport. This time I realized how small it was – just one two-story building and one runway. Check-in went smoothly, then we found out our flight to Miami was delayed a couple of hours, because the plane was coming from Miami, where storms had been passing through. I was pretty nervous that we weren’t going to make our connection. Jerod and I split a small wrap in the airport, and we had a smooth flight with one beverage and no snacks (thanks, American Airlines) and landed in Miami around 8:30 p.m. (6:30 Nicaragua time).

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Beautiful clouds over the Atlantic Ocean

Our connection to Kansas City left at 9:30, so we only had an hour to get through customs. We ran through the airport, only to have to stop and wait through a long line at the immigration kiosks. Then we had to pick up our bags…but our bags hadn’t even appeared on the conveyer belt yet. I found someone at the American Airlines information desk and notified him that there were 21 people still waiting on bags for a flight leaving in 30 minutes. He made a call and found out it was delayed 20 minutes, but he was able to delay it another 10 minutes or so. He told me to gather our group when we got our bags, and he’d make sure we made it to our flight. When I found the group, several of them had already gone ahead (every man for himself!) so that plan fell through. Once we made it through security and re-checked our bags, there were staff there letting people to Kansas City through, so I think he did pull some strings for us. He was the nicest American Airlines staff person I’ve ever dealt with. I was one of the last of our group to arrive at our gate – making it just in the nick of time. Unfortunately there was no time for dinner.

Thankfully we had a smooth flight to Kansas City. Once we arrived around midnight, everyone split off pretty quickly with a few hugs, ready to be home. My bag never arrived, so I filed a report, and Jerod’s dad took us home. When we got home I immediately went to Little Miss K’s bedroom and picked her up. She barely opened her eyes and really had no idea what was going on, so I got to hold her in my arms while she slept for about 10 minutes. The next morning she clearly had no idea I had held her, because she was thrilled to see us! I was so happy to see her, too.

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I missed this little girl so much!

We had an incredible trip – one we’ll never forget, and one I hope to be life-changing. Again, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And if you are considering going on a mission trip, JUST DO IT! You may regret never going on one, but I promise you won’t regret taking that leap. Oh, and my bag arrived at our door two days later with everything intact.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 7

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

Friday, July 24 – We ate breakfast quickly and headed to the village a little earlier than normal to say our good-byes. We only had about 45 minutes there, and I started crying as soon as we arrived as I saw the kids run to Abby – I knew how much they’d miss her (and the rest of us), and maybe more importantly, how much I would miss them.

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Our family arrived at the community center (minus Jorge who couldn’t get off work), and there were lots of hugs and a few more tears. We walked to their temporary home since their Project H.O.P.E. house hadn’t yet been started aside from post holes, and we were lucky enough to have the interpreter Evelyn follow along with us. Since we had her with us in the beginning, we decided to go ahead and pray together and talk briefly. We told each other we’d continue to pray for each other and that we were so grateful to have met each other. Even after Evelyn moved on, we were still able to communicate much better than our first visit to their home. They opened their rice sacks of clothes and seemed to enjoy looking at them. We gave Sebastian a small board book of Lil’ Miss K’s that was in both Spanish and English – he knew immediately that it was just for him and wouldn’t let anyone else look at it. It was adorable to see how he clung to it! We gave him a couple other small trinkets too, and we gave Gizelle another apron, Jorge a donated baseball cap, and Estphanie a pair of cute pink converse sneakers, which she seemed excited about. Even though they have almost nothing, they gave us gifts too – a brightly-colored Nicaraguan napkin holder and a hanging key holder that says, “My God, where are the keys?” in Spanish. Earlier in the week we gave them a photo of our family.

Us with our Nicaraguan family
Us with our Nicaraguan family

After watching Sebastian play for a bit and taking a couple more selfies with them, he headed back up to the community center for a few more minutes. Estphanie and I played some clapping games, then we exchanged many more hugs and had to leave. I remained composure until we got on the bus, when I saw several other ladies crying too, and we saw them all waving vigorously good-bye. It’s hard to believe we’ll soon be going back to our normal, comfortable lives, and they’ll still be in the village, where they’ll be doing the same thing over again next week with another group of missionaries. I only hope we touched their lives half as much as they touched ours.

Next, we headed to Granada, a big tourist city in Nicaragua. It took about two hours on the extremely hot school bus, so the drive was pretty miserable. We arrived at a boat dock, had a bathroom break and bought some tasty roasted cashews from vendors, then hopped on about 3 boats for a tour of Lake Nicaragua. We got to navigate through some semi-narrow canals filled with what looked like a type of lilies on the water – it reminded me of a picturesque rainforest that would be on Discovery Channel – it was absolutely gorgeous!

Beautiful boat ride on Lake Nicaragua
Beautiful boat ride on Lake Nicaragua
Local fishermen
Local fishermen

About 15 minutes into the boat ride we started seeing giant homes on the water … we finally found where the few rich people in Nicaragua live. Halfway through the boat ride we came upon an island that inhabited a handful of spider monkeys – I’m not sure if they were native to the island or if they were placed there for the tourists, but they were definitely tame. They recognized one of the boat drivers and hoped onto his boat for a while. It was kind of surprising to see well-off Nicaraguan tourists on the boats too.

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The boat driver picked this pod from a tree and it opened up in a beautiful flower

After the boat ride, we went to an open-air restaurant overlooking the lake where we had chicken, steak, or pork entrees. The best part of the meal was the plantain chips, which were kind of like sweet French fries. It was nice to have a bit of time to relax and unwind after a week of work and an emotional morning. After the restaurant we went to a market, where we had about an hour and a half to shop – not nearly enough time, especially for my cousin Cyndie, who had 6 kids to buy for. Most of us bought fruit smoothies, and even though we took a risk with the Nicaraguan water, none of us got sick that I’m aware of. I bought a dress, sandals, and baby hammock for Lil’ Miss K, a couple souvenirs for our niece and nephews, Nicaraguan coffee, and a woven bracelet for myself.

At an open-air restaurant in Granada
At an open-air restaurant in Granada
View from the restaurante
View from the restaurante

After we left the market we had to endure about 2 more hours on the hot, uncomfortable bus back to basecamp. It might have been the worst part of the entire week – I felt pretty bad by the time we got back. We ended the evening with steak, which was probably my least favorite meal of the week. Every night we had a different kind of fresh-squeezed juice – my favorites were the watermelon juice, dragon fruit juice, and something similar to limeade. The passion fruit juice, which we had a lot in Haiti, was also delicious. They also had a dark purple juice that tasted like cinnamon that a lot of us didn’t really care for. And because we wanted to continue with the trend, we stayed up just a bit later than the previous night, going to bed after midnight.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 6

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

Thursday, July 23 – We started off the day with egg casserole, muffins, fruit, and the obligatory rice and beans, then we headed to the village for a shortened day of work. Jerod and I decided to focus on our family today rather than building homes. Building relationships with the people is just as important, and we wanted to make sure to do that. After our morning worship, we found an interpreter to talk with Gizelle and find out more about her, her family, and her walk with God. We found out that she grew up Catholic and was baptized as a baby, and her family is going to church regularly outside the village (by foot or by bike). She wasn’t ready to be baptized as an adult, as she was still studying the Bible. (We gave them a Spanish Bible a couple of days prior.) Gizelle studied journalism and wants to help people look up information(?) – she plans to find a job once the home is built. She also told us how grateful they were, because without Project H.O.P.E., it would have taken many years to save up enough money for a home. She said she couldn’t imagine leaving Sebasian like we’d left Lil’ Miss K, and that she would have been constantly worried about him. Overall we had a nice, fairly long talk.

After our conversation, I was planning on going up the mountain with another team member to get a good overall photo of the village, but the taxi, the hike, and the water tower climb ended up being no-no’s, so I worked on blocking with Gizelle for a while instead. Abby and I had previously joked that we were tough and could mix concrete by hand, so she stopped by the house and asked if I wanted to give it a shot. The guys were more than willing to give us their shovels, take a break, and use us as entertainment, so they watched us mix two batches of concrete. After about 30 minutes we were happy to hand the shovels back over. Despite what the guys said, we both thought we did pretty good – our time wasn’t that much slower than theirs!

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Abby and I working on mixing concrete
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One row of completed homes in the village
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A little girl outside her new house
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A garden a man planted in the back yard of his new home
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A rocking chair and porch added onto one of the Project H.O.P.E. homes

We had lunch at the community center, then had a shortened women’s Bible study. At the end, each woman got to keep their notebook and they were all given aprons made by the women at Plaza Heights. I took photos of the women in their aprons – a lot of them liked looking at their picture and were very grateful for the aprons. Next was a quick, very crowded children’s Bible study, where they got to do a craft, color, and eat gummy worms. During the Bible studies, the men played the Nicas two quick games of baseball and won both games this time! Jerod grabbed a ladder for me and we climbed on top of an abandoned house near the community center, which overlooked the entire village, Lake Managua, and the volcano, so I could get my photo. Like lemmings, several people followed suite and joined us to take in the gorgeous view.

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A view of the village from above
A view of the village from above

We left the village around 2 and took two buses down to a lake for baptisms. We had two people – one Nica baptized by Jim, and Hunter from our group, who was baptized by his step-father. I don’t think they could have had a more beautiful setting for a baptism – it was pretty neat to witness.

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The beautiful setting of the baptisms

Back at basecamp we cleaned up and ate a delicious dinner of sea bass, veggies, and mashed potatoes. It was my favorite meal of the trip. Evening service was really emotional for myself and several others, I think. Between Holy Communion and awesome music from Nate, I just felt really close to God.

We quickly packed rice sacks full of donated clothes we’d brought for our families, which turned out to be hectic and disorganized. It was a let down going from such a touching service to a stressful process. Some of the guys did have fun putting on crazy outfits, which lightened the mood a bit. Luckily we’ve already made plans to make it go smoother next year. We stayed up until almost midnight – but we’re enjoying each other’s company more and more every night.