Nancy Martin visited San Ramón on one of our cultural immersion ecotours in February, with the group Active People on the Move. Below are her reflections from her trip.
For the past several weeks I have been able to think and talk of little else but the seven days I spent in Nicaragua on a SCSRN trip, although I’ve not had time to sit down and pull those thoughts together. I keep returning to the question we were repeatedly asked near the end of the trip, “What was the thing you liked the best?” Even after letting the impressions settle in for weeks, I cannot decide what was best—how does one rank experiences so different, each arresting in its own way?
Most of all, I have lasting impressions of the people we met: They had little in the way of “things” but great wealth in their characters including their creativity, ingenuity, generosity and sense of community.
I was fascinated to learn the time, hard work and expertise involved in growing and producing both coffee and cocoa/chocolate, products that have been important to the pleasures my life but taken for granted.
It was difficult to leave La Finca Eperanza Verde, where we spent our first three days. There were more vistas to be seen, more walks to be taken, more delicious meals to be eaten on the porch surrounded by flowers and hummingbirds, and more quiet nights to be spent in our comfortable beds.
The same need for more time emerged however, in the city of San Ramon and at the cooperatives we visited. I fell in love with the family that provided my bed, breakfast and, sometimes, lunch—all delicious and fresh. Although I do not speak or understand Spanish, we managed with gestures and the few words I knew. The hostess, Ivania, treated me with the care usually reserved for a parent or a child. Her granddaughter and I were friends from the time I crossed the threshold of their home.
Our visits to the women’s cooperatives to see traditional weaving, products being made from recycled paper, and seeds turned into beautiful jewelry were both interesting and inspiring, all three testimonies to the women’s ingenuity, persistence and artistic skill.
Probably the most memorable visit, though, was to a school that a group from the Triangle Area is helping to support through SCSRN’s Rural School Partnership (RSP) program. We had brought craft materials for projects that day and to leave for the teachers to use later. As the materials were being placed on a table at one end of the classroom, the excited children gathered around it as if a vacuum had swept them up. Yet, there was no pushing or shoving, no gathering in of materials to prevent others from getting them. Instead there was sharing, helping, laughing and creativity as they produced their puppets and collages—so different from the individualism and competitiveness of most children in the U.S. Finally, a group of students proudly performed two traditional dances for us in new costumes purchased with RSP support. I was glad to know dance is a regular part of the school curriculum, one of its efforts to maintain the country’s unique culture.
Our experience was also enriched by learning about efforts of SCSRN to replace cooking stoves that expose women and children to dangerous levels of smoke inhalation and that cause many burns for children; and a parallel effort to replace latrines with ones less likely to cause water contamination. The willingness of families to let us enter their homes and yards to see the stoves and latrines was touching. They have little but their dignity and pride are strong.
A delicious lunch at the Matagalpa coffee shop and a lesson in tempering chocolate concluded our visit in San Ramon but not the trip. Our last day in a gracious hotel in Granada plus a boat tour on Lake Nicaragua complete with a family of monkeys begging for food as we passed their island home, gave us a taste of a different Nicaragua but one in which the spirit of the people remained the same. One bit of serendipity was a festival of some sort with traditional dancing on a raised stage near the cathedral. It was gorgeous.
So, what did I enjoy most—Every minute of the trip!