Bob and I are on our second trip to Nicaragua, this time to contradict T.S. Eliot’s quote, “The journey not the arrival matters.” We are building three latrines and a hand washing station at the primary (and only) school in the little pueblo of Casas Viejas. Our first trip to Nicaragua was a joint venture with Water for People and El Porvenir. On our second trip Bob and I are going it alone with El Porvenir. Since our Costa Rica life borders on Nicaragua and the hotly contested Rio San Juan, we’re a bit anxious, but mostly excited to help our El Porvenir neighboring villages with their basic needs.
My partner, Bob Burnett, has come up with a great way to help those in need and have a wonderful vacation tour at the same time. Here’s his letter about our trip appearing in the Tico/Nica Times this week.
Dear Tico Times:
Nicaragua is the large, mysterious country that lurks across Costa Rica’s northern boundary from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Río San Juan currently divides the two nations. I wanted to learn more about Nicaragua by seeing it from the inside.
For $1,020, not including travel to Managua, I found a ten-day, all-inclusive tour to a rustic village called Casas Viejas in Matagalpa, about two hours north of Managua. Included were all meals, mostly home-cooked, an interpreter, guides and transport. The package also included a night at Selva Negra Resort, which features a German menu; tours of Managua, Grenada, Masaya, Matagalpa, Dario; three nights in Managua; and the chance to work.
El Porvenir sponsors tours that let people like us expats in Costa Rica, and others, express our feelings toward helping out our neighbors in need. My group of four volunteers helped villagers install a waterline, a basin sink and three latrines at the elementary school in Casas Viejas.
When the work was finished, residents threw us a fiesta, with speeches, music, dancing, poetry and a stuffed piñata. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Their homes of adobe, wood and brick reminded me of homes that Costa Rican campesinos used 30 years ago.
Catelina and Marcos from El Porvenir shepherded us through the whole trip, from pickup to departure, to make sure we were safe and comfortable.
Accommodations are basic, but we always had hot water and air conditioning at night. Work was hard, hot and dusty. I carried Hemingway’s “The Green Hills of Africa” with me, and the Matagalpan landscape looked just like his descriptions of east Africa.
A tour like mine, with its many options, can satisfy people who like a taste of the “hardy life” and might be curious to know more about our northern neighbor.
Sitting on the porch Of Chepita (our cook in Casas Viejas) and Jose’s (our village crew chief for the project) house, we hatch our dream of starting a little tourist retreat while eating wonderful typical food and enjoying the cool breezes and gorgeous view of the valley below. From left Catalina- our guide, driver and cook, Jill-volunteer, Marlon our El P leader, Connie-volunteer, Chepita-cook, daughter, Jose-village chief, front Bob-volunteer
Next post – The vision materializes.