Upcoming Trips

High Schooler reflects upon his Thanksgiving Family Ecotour – Leave your smartphone at home!

Our Thanksgiving, week-long trip to Nicaragua was fantastic! Although I was not celebrating Thanksgiving with my family home in the United States, I celebrated it in another place I call home. This Nicaragua trip, majestic outdoor palace,  would be my second in the past two years. I was once again the only child going on the trip, but that did not bother me one bit as I knew that I would get to see the beauty of this country, instead of the increasingly robotic world in the U.S. As much as I do love my electronics, just like every other kid, I am starting to enjoy what the outdoor world can bring to us. You may think that people who don’t have as much as we do, don’t like it at all, but in places like Nicaragua, they do not seem to care. In fact, they appreciate the simple things in life and their motivation to become a more advanced society is astonishing.

I left for Nicaragua on the 21st of November which was a Saturday. Waking up was not that fun unless you think waking up around 3:00 to 3:30 is great. After that bit of drama, I was ready to reconnect with my many friends and hopefully make new friends. Just like any other high schooler, I wanted to take my phone along to communicate with all of my many friends, and to take pictures. Before leaving for the airport I asked my mom, “Can I possibly bring my phone to take pictures?” Already knowing the answer, I just walked to the car and waited to leave. After the six or so hours of flying, we landed at the airport in Managua, where I reconnected with the bus driver, Don Esteban. I remembered that last year I did not speak to him too much, as I did not know that much at the time.  But this was a new year and a new me, considering I had learned a lot more during the time that I was in the U.S. About two or so hours later I met more friends from last year at an organic coffee farm and eco lodge named La Finca Esperanza Verde (FEV).

During the few days that we stayed at FEV, we saw a vast amount of birds and animals including two or three-toed sloths, some toucans, howler monkeys, and plenty more. That was not the fun part of the trip, even though seeing all of the animals amazed me. The part that I considered the most fun was when we traveled to a school nearby to visit students, to play around with them and to help them learn. This was not the only school that we visited during the week long trip. At the first school that we went to, we handed out art supplies and blank tote bags so that they could decorate them.  We also handed out miniature sports balls which they really seemed to enjoy. After an hour or so of helping them decorate the bags, everyone went outside to toss the balls and to later play soccer. I, myself, was happy that we would play soccer as I am a soccer player. While playing soccer with the students and the teachers, I realized that I was at a disadvantage wearing mud boots, but that was what brought the fun to it since it was a new experience. Above is a picture of the students decorating their bags with markers and stencils that we provided them.

Other fun activities that I did during the time I stayed at FEV include; hiking up trails, learning about the coffee process and making tortillas. We also and visited an organic vegetable, fruit and herb garden to learn about the different types of plants. I enjoyed making the corn tortillas the most. That was because we saw the process of how they made them and we were able to make our own. Right after our tortillas were heated up, we waited for them to cool down a bit. Once they were good enough for us to eat, we could put honey and/or lime on top of them to give them a little more flavor.

Arriving in the town of San Ramon for the second half of the trip was fun as we saw the mountain ranges and a few coffee farms here and there. Before the arrival in San Ramon, we took a side trip to  Rio Negro, a school that is supported by my school, Chapel Hill High. The school lies on top of a mountain near coffee plantations. To get there, we had to go up steep, rocky roads and miniature rivers. Once there we handed out more sports balls and learned about their school. When we finished visiting the school, we continued our trip to San Ramon. Once we arrived at the town we went to the little town home where we would be staying in for the rest of the week.

Photo of friends from my trip
These are two friends that I had met on the first trip and made closer bonds with on the second trip.

Staying in the town was quite fun as I saw that it had changed a little since the last time I had visited. We went hiking to a tree where endangered birds lived, swam in a small pool, made necklaces out of native seeds, shopped around for touristy things and learned about the history and interesting places of the town. The night before Thanksgiving we baked two pumpkin pies for our Thanksgiving dinner with the same host family that we stayed with last time. We also brought cranberry sauce that they served on crackers. On Thanksgiving day, it didn’t exactly feel the same like it usually does when I’m celebrating it with my family in the United States. It had an effect on me because of how closely I had bonded with the many people I had met on the trip and the many familiar faces that I had seen.

All in all, this second trip was worth a lot more than the first one. I spent more time connecting with the society around me, forgetting about my electronics and enjoying people interactions. I realized that if I had brought my phone along with me, I probably would not have made all of these connections the same way. I strongly advise the students that are reading this to go on these types of trips even if you don’t want to because you are either too lazy to see a less fortunate culture or you want to stay home and be with your girlfriend/boyfriend, friends, phones and/or your game console. Phones are taking away our ability to talk to one another face to face. If you will miss your friends that much, why not take them with you? A game console is just another toy to keep you inside your house all day to do nothing, and your boyfriend/girlfriend should not mind that much if you are helping out others in need. In fact, they might actually like you more if you do these types of things.. Overall, I think that going to Nicaragua will help you understand the beauty of life, and what life has to offer. You might just make a new friend.

By Kendall Underberg


  1. Lonna Harkrader says

    This is a terrific story of your trip, Kendall. Leaving cell phones behind sounds like a great suggestion.

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