Coming into this service trip, I had no idea at all what to expect. Now that we are at the halfway point of our journey, I am so very thankful that I approached the trip in this way. I realize that nothing I could have ever pictured would have matched the greatness I have witnessed by being a part of this experience. Not only is the scenery of Nicaragua absolutely breathtaking, but the people who live and work here have such beautiful, kind spirits that totally match the magnificence that I’ve seen throughout the countryside. In just a few days, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many friendly and welcoming individuals—each and every one full of their own unique personalities. While it has been incredibly difficult to communicate at times because of the English-Spanish language barrier, everyone has been incredibly patient and understanding with us all. On the first day here, someone from another team said to a few of us, “Don’t worry about speaking Spanish. I’ve found that two things translate effortlessly: smiles and hugs,” I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now that I’ve been here for a longer period of time, I realize what great advice that was! Even though we don’t always know what the other is saying, I think the group as a whole has bonded significantly with the Nicaraguan youth we have been spending so much time with, because we all understand things like smiles and hugs.
It has been so interesting and inspiring to get to know these youth and their stories; it makes it even more worthwhile to know the people here on such a personal level and be able to help them in whatever way we can all while spending time with them. I am a firm believer that everyone on Earth has a remarkable life story to tell and the people I have met this week have been even further support of that.
As a person who has done virtually no international travel, or really been outside of their comfort zone whatsoever, I think this trip has been completely perfect to start out and get a good grasp of what it’s like to be in a place totally different from the home one is used to. Even though there are quite a few differences between the culture of Nicaragua and the culture of the US, the similarities in relationships and interpersonal interactions are without a doubt the same. The balance between alike and unalike works really well to make it easy to adjust to an area that isn’t quite like home. Yes, the climate is different here, I’ve traded a mountain scenery for one with exotic trees and volcanoes, and the money I use at home holds an entirely different value here, but overall, when you step away from all of that and look only at the people, and their spirit—we are all much more alike than we are different. While I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot of things from both the Vision Nicaragua workers and the Nicaraguan natives that I hope and strive to take home with me to the United States. Some of these things are the sense of endless compassion and faith I have witnessed, the prioritization of the event—rather than the time spent on the event, and the uninterrupted positivity that flows through the mission center, the area of Bethel, and most every other place we have been to thus far! (And if there’s any way I could sneak a suitcase of Estela’s rice and beans home that would be a good bonus too!)