Christopher Jones was a traveler on our UU and Friends Ecotour this year. It was his first trip outside the U.S., so we thought he could offer an interesting perspective on what it’s like to engage in an international cross-cultural exchange for the first time. Below are his reflections on his experience in San Ramón.
Glad to say that I finally managed to break out of our beautiful country for the first time to see a little bit more of the world. I was expecting the culture shock, I was expecting to feel a bit out of place, and was expecting the difficulty of communicating with someone without knowing their language, but the thing that took me by genuine surprise was the extreme kindness that, without exception, every single Nicaraguan showed our group. I thought that the people that we interacted with would be more standoffish or suspicious of the these “annoying tourists” but in reality the exact opposite happened. A fantastic example of this was during a road trip through the countryside on the way to visit a rural school that had been helped by the Sister Communities. We traveled for at least 2 hours, seeing hundreds of people along the way, through villages, on coffee plantations, and even a few hitchhikers! During the entire trip every person that I shouted “Hola!” to immediately melted into a timid smile; they seemed so happy and content with so little that it took nothing more than a simple hello to brighten up their day. These two kids in one of the small rural villages exemplified this attitude.
Another surprising aspect of the trip was the indescribable beauty of the mountainous landscape present throughout the northern part of the country. The plant and wildlife was incredible and knowing admittedly little about the country beforehand only added to the wonder. As a budding photographer the landscape and scenery was everything that I could have ever hoped for and more.
During the trip we were also lucky enough to learn about the local coffee trade and how the delicious drink we all know and love is created. I had no idea that the process had so many steps and was so intense to carry out! The trip made me vastly appreciate the hard work and thoroughness that goes into something that we could easily take for granted.
The last thing that I learned from the trip was the tremendous impact that organizations like Sister Communities of San Ramon can have on communities like the ones that we visited. During the trip we visited several schools to observe the effect of the financial assistance that these programs were providing. I was very encouraged about the way things were being carried out by the organization and was truly inspired by the work of the members of the Sister Communities and the teachers that maintain the school houses. It really felt like we could make a real difference in these communities and could see tangible effects fairly rapidly with the curriculum, the facilities, and most importantly the kids.
Overall the trip was an absolutely incredible experience that I feel very fortunate to have been a part of. Sister Communities did a fantastic job organizing the tours and I would like to give a special shout out to our guides Larry Gomez and Heyling Chavarria: you guys did an absolutely fantastic job and it was awesome getting to know you both. Hopefully I will make it back to this beautiful country again someday to add even more to these wonderful experiences.
Thanks so much to Chris for letting us see San Ramón through his eyes! We look forward to seeing you again soon! If you’re interested in having a similar life-changing experience, contact us!