Tag Archives: Nicaragua 2017

Nicaragua March 17

Dear families,

I believe you would have been so proud of your children today. Today was their final day in classes at La Nicaraguita, and their job was to graciously and patiently receive the outpouring of affection that was likely coming their way. And come it did. The students in the preschool and elementary school showered your children with hugs, kisses, high-fives, selfies and many keepsakes and hand-written notes that communicated their tremendous appreciation for two weeks of companionship and attention. Attached with this blog are pictures of each of the GS students with their respective classes.

Tonight, we party. That is, the host families and the schoolteachers join us at Rafaela’s house for a celebratory supper and banquet-style appreciation of all concerned. And, yes, in case you wondered, there will almost certainly be dancing.

Tomorrow, we get up early and head homeward to Philadelphia, by way of Miami. It is sure to be a bittersweet departure from Nicaragua, but at the same time we are all looking forward to coming home (teachers included). Consequently, this will be our final posting from Nicaragua. We hope you have enjoyed your children’s writings, as well as Cheri’s magnificent photos. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to learn and grow alongside your sons and daughters. ¡Adiós!

Tom (and Cheri)

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Nicaragua March 16

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March 16

by Tali

After a fun day at the beach with the Nicaraguans yesterday, we returned to our routine schedule for one final day working with the students at La Nicaragüita. Once again, we had another great breakfast together and sometime around 8:00 a.m., the sixth-grade class walked us to the school. The second I arrived in my classroom of five-year-olds, about half of the students sprinted over and attacked me with some of the biggest hugs ever. This case was the same for Alyssa, Maia, and Greg as all of their own students were overjoyed to have them in class for another fun day and showed their excitement through adorable embraces. (I assume the same was true for Niccolo, Alexander, Philip and Alex, but I didn’t see them on the other side of the school.) About a half-hour into class, the teachers informed the students that it was another mini-sports day. This meant that each student in first through sixth grade would take part in a variety of games, while the three, four, and five-year-old students would get to watch the older classmates compete since they were too young to join in. We played a few different types of games; one was a running race, one round of tug-of-war, two watermelon and cantaloupe eating contests, and soccer. All GS students took part in the running contest and tug-of-war, and while we didn’t win, they were lots of fun. Alyssa, Niccolo, and Alex played against three other Nicaraguans in the first round of the eating contest (Niccolo won) and Alexander and Philip played in the other one against four Nicaraguans. Niccolo and Philip led the GS team in two quick rounds of soccer. The morning was filled with great effort from all participants and spirited cheers and giant smiles on the sidelines. Once the sports were complete, we spent a couple more hours in the classroom with our students doing our respective activities. We finished off the morning with our final dance class with Roberto; he taught the eight of us a salsa dance routine.

We began our afternoon by having a delicious lunch at Rafaela’s house, followed by some time to relax before we headed back to the school for afternoon classes with the seventh through eleventh grade. Once we got to the school, we split up and headed off to different classrooms to spend time with the Nicaraguan students one last time in the classroom setting. Niccolo and Alex spent time with the eleventh graders, Alyssa and I visited the tenth graders, Maia and Greg worked with the ninth graders, Alexander was with the eighth graders, and Philip assisted the seventh graders. We had to cut our afternoon a little short and we returned back to Rafaela’s house to have an early dinner at 5:00 p.m. Right now, we are waiting to go back to the school to have a get-together with the eleventh graders and spend some more time with them before we leave Nicaragua.

It’s going to be a bittersweet evening with our peers, and tomorrow will be a tough day for all of us as reality sets in that we will be heading back to the United States very soon. We are all so lucky to have spent two weeks in this beautiful country with phenomenal people. It’s been a wonderful adventure and we’re all going to miss spending time together in Nicaragua. This trip is a unique and amazing opportunity and we have created so many memories together to hold onto and cherish for years to come.


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Nicaragua March 14-15

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by Alexander F.

Tuesday afternoon:

After a morning of sports and excessive heat, everyone was feeling somewhat tired, however we had to go out again for a similarly sports-filled afternoon. There were many games with the older classes such as panuelito (Nica version of steal the bacon), over/under, relay races, and, of course, chimbombas (balloons). For the games we participated in, the Nicaraguans won all but one, which was chimbombas. Later, we went to a meeting with parents of students benefiting from U-Nica, an organization that Cheri and Pauline (a former GS colleague) started in order to sponsor students at La Nicaragüita. Two of the students performed a traditional dance, and each family had a chance to express their appreciation for the scholarship. (If you are interested in knowing more about the program, contact Cheri. Several of our group are excited to pursue this.)

Wednesday morning:

We returned to our respective classes which were ending at 10:00 a.m. After we said our goodbyes, we headed off to the beach on the Pacific Ocean. The drive was fairly long, however it was made more interesting by conversations with some of the students of La Nicaragüita who were accompanying us (the 11th graders). After arriving at the beach, putting on copious amounts of sunscreen and having a quick snack, we headed out to the water. We stayed out, riding the waves and playing with Phil’s soccer ball in the water, and eventually returned to the shade. Around this time, the group began to split up. Maia and Alex paid for a horse ride on the beach and cantered off. At one point Greg and Cheri went shell hunting. Nicolo and Alyssa went on a long walk with Stephen (one of the Nicas), and Tali enjoyed the hammock in the shade alongside the Nicaraguan teachers. After I briefly went back into the water with Tom, we took several group photos. Before we went to the bus, however, someone in our group had paid a Nicaraguan vendor with an interesting product: his “singing” talent. Suffice to say it was interesting, and though his performance did go on for quite a while, his Michael Jackson impersonation was spot-on. We took the bus back to Rafaela’s where we had a delicious chicken dinner. From there, went straight to our next “encuentro” with the 10th grade at the school. More food and drink! In this party especially, there was a massive amount of dancing and we all left sweaty and happy. By 7:45 p.m. we were back at Rafaela’s, where our families picked us up to walk us home.

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Nicaragua March 13-14

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March 13 – 14

by Greg

With only three more full days remaining for our trip in Nicaragua, the truth that we soon will be departing is finally starting to settle in. Our days are definitely numbered, so it has become more and more crucial for us to take in every moment we have left.

Yesterday afternoon, we once again returned to La Nicaragüita to help with the older students. Early on in our classes, we were informed that a woman who was an abuela to a handful of La Nicaragüita students- and who lived nearby- had passed away less than an hour ago. Each class began to collect money to give to the mourning family as part of the Nicaraguan tradition of looking after one’s neighbors.  In the last class period of the day, Maia, Tali, Philip, and I all ended up in the tenth graders’ classroom and were talking with Tatiana and her friend Cheysa about love and romance (don’t worry, nothing weird). This was also when I found out that I should grow out my beard for a month because it would—according to Tatiana and Cheysa—look good. Maia and Tali both futilely tried to dissuade their Nicaraguan friends that I should stay clean-shaven, but they nor Philip was having any of it.

In the evening, we had another encuentro, but this time with ninth grade. They had really gone all out with the decorations with streamer chains, discotheque lights, and balloon clusters. They had even prepared their own playlist for us to dance to, but we were unable to hear it because we prioritized respect for the mourning family over our own desires to dance. Fortunately for us, the ninth graders had also managed to successfully setup –and receive approval for –a mini-fiesta at one of their houses for us to dance and sing karaoke at (and, yes, Cheri and Tom were both there). At the party, Tali showed off her impeccable dancing skills while the rest of us roamed about, still trying to nail down the Latin dance style. Some of the Nicaraguans were trying to teach Alexander and Philip some dance moves, but you’d have to ask them to find out how well it went (but I can say that it definitely would not have gone well if it were me). During karaoke, we sang both popular English and Spanish songs (like Love Me Like You Do, Locked Away Despacito, and Safari). Alex C was particularly emphatic when we sang Don’t Stop Believin’ together, and Cheri even participated when some of us sang our rendition of Te Fuiste De Aquí: a song she plays for her students when learning the preterite tense.

This morning, we returned to our usual classes at La Nicaragüita, but not to our usual schedules; today is el Día Deportivo (Sports Day) at La Nicaragüita, so both sections of the school get time to participate in some form of athletic competition (the exception being Alyssa’s grade with whom she had to stay back because they’re too young). The highlight of the games was the set of chimbomba competitions where each team had to run out to a chair –one by one –and sit down on their balloon to pop it (or have an older student or faculty member bounce them up and down on the balloon if they didn’t weigh enough to pop the balloon). Niccolo’s grade was pitted against mine, and we were saved for last in both of our teams. Niccolo had no trouble with popping his balloon, but I more or less barreled into my chair instead of stopping at it (spoiler: Niccolo won). Just check out the photo and you’ll understand my dilemma.

Following our classes, we went to the local health clinic to put up the posters we had colored in as well as clean up the walls. Niccolo, Alexander, and I ended up doing the majority of the taping-down-the-posters portion of the work as we’re the tallest students on the trip, so the others cleaned up here and there and had Tom help them re-make some bulletin boards about family planning and health recommendations for expecting mothers.

As I write this blog, we’re all recuperating the energy we’ve expended thus far during this exceptionally hot and draining day, preparing ourselves mentally and physically for the second half of el Día Deportivo in which we’ll be competing against the older Nicaraguan students.

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Nicaragua March 12 to 13

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March 12 -13

by Tom

I am sitting at the end of the long banquet table in Rafaela’s dining room which has become our gathering spot for all things communal: meals; chats; chilling out; card games; and … coloring! That’s right, on this day after lunch, while I am blogging, the students and Cheri are gathered all around the table with huge (3′ x 3′) line drawings of human figures, which they are coloring in with crayons. Two people are working collaboratively on each of 4 drawings, coloring faces, and hair and lips and clothing. These drawings are intended for the walls of the local health clinic, to add color, whimsy, and beauty to a space that will benefit from a touch of grace.

Reflecting on yesterday’s activities, the group has reminded me that after an amazing lunch of roast chicken in a tomato broth reminiscent of a Jamaican-style sauce, we had a far-ranging,  philosophical and wonderfully intimate group conversation on the porch. The conversation included all of us except Philip, who was actively playing with 5-year-old Joshua. Every few minutes, Joshua would burst onto the scene, holding some fresh evidence of childhood mayhem, with Philip in hot pursuit right behind him. What fun! For the rest of us, the conversation involved each person taking a turn sharing about some mild childhood accident or injury, usually involving an athletic endeavor gone wrong, or parental advice ignored, or some happenstance of fate coinciding with his or her unfortunate judgment. “Oh, yeah! Me, too!” someone would invariably say, to be followed by an even more outrageous example. This went on for a solid hour, with each of us sharing our own stories and reveling in the collective survival skills of our group, not to mention our species. By the end, it was roundly affirmed that we are definitely getting to know each other better through this bonding experience.

This morning everyone descended on Rafaela’s house at the customary 7:00 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the school week ahead. It seems that everyone in our group has fully adjusted to their homestay, and has figured out how to get their needs met, in terms of laundry, sleep, language and support. The table was lovingly freshened and set by Luis, and breakfast was provided by Ana, as usual. The second graders appeared at our doorstep promptly at 8:00 a.m., eager to hold our hands and escort us the two blocks to school. (Each day a different class gets the distinct privilege of getting to escort the George School students. When it is their turn, they are super-excited!)

With today being Monday, the children were simultaneously eager to be at school and decidedly unruly after a weekend away. On the preschool side of the street, Maia, Greg, Tali, and Alyssa got absorbed into their classrooms with nary a moment’s hesitation, welcomed back by their young charges as the beloved mentors that they have become. Across the way, in the elementary school building, Nicolo and Philip started downstairs, with the 2nd and 6th graders, respectively, and Alex C and Alexander F went upstairs, with the 3rd and 5th graders, respectively. After a short while, Alexander joined Teacher Roberto downstairs with the 4th graders, and I joined the 5th graders for the morning. I absolutely loved learning Spanish with the 5th graders, followed by English (Yes, I was asked to read aloud) and then social studies. (We discussed geographical and cultural differences between Nicaragua and the United States.) What fun to be back in elementary school again!

Today’s dance class added a new element: dancing cheek-to-cheek. Have we mentioned yet that dance is a required part of the Nicaraguan school curriculum? Suffice it to say, our group has done a great job of stepping outside of their comfort zones and learning Nicaraguan dance moves alongside the 6th graders. Tali has played a key leadership role in this regard, as a person for whom this is not outside of her comfort zone at all, thank goodness.

The rhythm of our lives here is starting to begin to feel quite normal. At the same time, our group recognizes that we have less than a week remaining in Nicaragua. Some students saw the weather report on the television, and they reported to the whole group that it snowed in Pennsylvania last week, and more snow is expected tomorrow!?! That is quite hard for many of us to grasp, given that the daily temperature has been 95. For now, we will keep our imaginations of wintry scenes at a comfortable arm’s length, and continue to enjoy the hospitality and grace of our tropical homes away from home for a few more days…

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Nicaragua March 11-12

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March 11 – 12
by Alex Cavallo

Yesterday afternoon after coming back early from painting “eco-baños,” we all went to the park. We played basketball for a while until we decided to throw around some frisbees. Tali, Alyssa, and Maia quickly started a circle and threw them around. The frisbee circle broke up when they opened the gate to the soccer field for us. Philip and Niccolo were the first ones on the field as usual; I followed close behind. We were also joined by our Nicaraguan friend, Steven, who proved himself to be fairly talented. We went back to Rafaela’s house and enjoyed a delicious meal as usual.

It was then time to say goodbye, but not for long as a few of us were going to mass that night. When I got home I put on my nice clothes and leather shoes and headed to church with Greg, Tali, Maia, Tom, and Cheri. Philip, however, did not like the idea of spending Saturday night in church. This was definitely not my first Catholic mass but it was the first for a few in the group so I tried to help them understand what was going on. It was fascinating to hear the same words I had heard so many times in Church said in Spanish. I got back from church and had an awesome chat for a few hours with my host family and some of their friends. 

This morning we got to sleep in a little bit before we headed off with our Nicaraguan friends to “La Catarina,” or “La Laguna de Apoyo,” a lagoon created by a volcano. It was very beautiful and breathtakingly large. There were horses and Maia was the first one to hop on, followed by Greg and Tom. We all bought some cold smoothie type beverages that really helped us beat the heat. From La Catarina we headed off to an artisan town (San Juan de Oriente) where potters make all sorts of pieces for sale. A friendly artisan showed us how they used dirt or clay found in different parts of Nicaragua to make natural colors. It was fascinating to learn a bit about the process.  

We then got back on the bus to go home. Greg taught the Nicaraguan students a fun game that we played for the duration of the bus ride. It was great to spend time with each other again. Tomorrow, we go back to our classes!

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Photos from Nicaragua March 10-11

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by | March 12, 2017 · 9:21 am

Nicaragua March 10-11

by Maia

Yesterday afternoon, after our usual post-meal, deeply philisophical conversation with Tom, we were picked up by the 7th-grade class and brought back to La Nicaraguita to celebrate the 26th school anniversary with the upper school kids. We performed the same acts as in the morning, except for an older audience. Tali impressed everyone with a dance, and Alexander and I had a blast playing guitar and singing for everyone. Niccolo and Phil did a great job juggling a soccer ball. The Nicaraguan students also had a variety of dances, songs, and acrostic poems to entertain us with.

After the “actos” were over, the party began. Silvia, a bright and energetic teacher at La Nicaraguita, started things off with a game involving “chimbombas,” balloons. Despite my complete lack of desire to participate, I was elected to compete in a relay race to pop two balloons. Poor Niccolo got sat on, and ran into by Alex and I, but in the end we emerged victorious. Then came a very intense game of musical chairs, which Alyssa came very close to winning. Niccolo and Phillip then won a game of “bando bando,” which involved finding objects in the room such as a woman’s shoe, or a belt.

Then we all danced for the rest of the afternoon, and returned to Rafaela’s house for dinner. My sister and her good friend came to pick me up, and we walked over to Alex and his brother Kevin’s house to watch a movie. We picked up Greg on the way, and we all went over as a big group. We all crammed ourselves onto the couches, and watched Ouija, a well-known horror movie but with dubbed Spanish. I was not at all scared by the movie, but the antics of the other students (involving a plastic spider) were much more frightening.

This morning we went to work with Habitat for Humanity, painting what they call “Eco-Baños,” a type of outhouse that purifies waste before it enters the ground, while using as little water as possible. These bathrooms were donated to each of 100 families in the community where we worked who also benefitted each from a house built by Habitat. Each house ($5000) and each bathroom ($1000) were constructed for free, but only after all family members attended various required workshops involving family financing, sustainability, and construction for making additions to their new house. We were divided into small groups, and each given a brush and a pan of blue paint. My group of 4 was able to paint two Eco-Baños in a few hours! It was fun work and the families were so greatful to see how we were able to add color to the concrete bathrooms. One of the residents was a barber and gave Alex a very cool new haircut!

On the way home we stopped at a local school to eat lunch, making sure to give all of our waste to the dogs that were anxiously waiting. Before coming back to Rafaela’s, we stopped at a supermarket where the Nicaraguan students showed us all the interesting candy and other treats they had for sale. I was very happy with my purchace of goat milk lollipops. Now we are looking at all of Cheri’s photography, and waiting to go to the local park. I’m excited to see how much busier the park is now that it is the weekend.

Check out Tali’s dance


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Photos from Nicaragua March 9-10

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by | March 12, 2017 · 9:07 am

Nicaragua March 9-10

by Philip

We took yesterday afternoon off to rest and practice on our performances. Niccolo and I practiced juggling the soccer ball for a little bit outside but it was too hot to continue. As a group, we practiced singing “Lean On Me.” Tom wrote down the lyrics and the chords and Alexander did a great job playing the guitar. Maia led the singing and I thought we sounded pretty good, but Joshua (age 6) didn’t like it.

After the singing, we played a couple rounds of “Mafia.” Maia was the narrator and I was the mafioso for the first round with Greg. We lost almost immediately because Niccolo was a good detective. The 8th grade Nicaraguita students arrived around 4:30 and took us the the school for a little dance session. Juan Carlos was the DJ and Tali led the group dancing and taught Alyssa. The students gave us some pizza with ham on it which was delicious.

After the dance party, I went to the park with my host brother Christopher. I met up with Alex and his host brother, Kevin. We played a little soccer in the the beautiful little arena they had. We won a couple games, but then we had to leave because were were only given a certain amount of time to play. I played some basketball in the park with some friends of Kevin’s friend, Joshua. I had a pretty good time and met someone who wanted to practice their English. His vocabulary was limited but his accent was pretty good.

We started the day with a big celebration for the 26th anniversary of the school. Each class said a poem by Rubén Daría, or a song or chant in support of the school and it was amazing. Interspersed in the performances of the school children we had our own performances. Alexander played a Bach piece skillfully on the guitar, Maia sang and played an Adele song beautifully, Greg read an original poem in Spanish with a great pronunciation and lots of subjunctive (!), and we all sang “Lean on Me.” The students loved our performances! We also performed a dance routine with some of the kids.

After the school party, we went to work with the Nicaraguita kids. The sixth grade, my class, was super excited to have me back in class. They kept asking me what my favorite food and favorite music was and I think they might be planning something with their teacher. The main teacher’s name is Amadilia and she teaches math and social studies. When they had English class, I wrote the classwork on the board and helped go over their sentences. It’s really interesting because most of the students make very similar mistakes including forgetting subjects and misusing verbs. We finished the morning with yet another dance routine that we practiced with another class. Hot and crowded, but lots of fun.

Check out our videos:

Digging ditch at Acahualinca School (from Wed.)

Nicaragüita School Song (from Friday)

Dancing at la Nicaragüita (from Friday)


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