August 9, 2011 | Posted in 2011, Nicaragua, UNM | By

Dear Readers – the end is near and it’s time for the final chapter! But stay with us — the epilogue has yet to unfold.

Last Sunday, Brie caught everyone up to speed, but this Sunday (and Monday) I will purposely leave some holes in the story for our reflections post to cover simply because Kyanne is the heroine, so it’s best to hear it all from the horse’s mouth.

Last week’s excursion took us to Volcán Mombacho, the volcano shadowing Granada. Instead of traipsing around the forest, we went in style – taking the “zipline canopy tour” in harnesses, gloves, and hardhats. Our guides led us to platforms built in various levels of the tree tops.  We climbed the first one, but most of the others were connected via cables – so we were clipped on and went flying through the forest. Each ride on the line was a little different, especially when the guides had us try new things.

We learned the “Superman” is just as the name entails – arms out and legs behind you (practically free fall position). The guide helped hold us straight while we all zipped through like the man of steel.

Next, we were set upside down like trapeze artists…

And finally we were bounced along the crest and trough of a wave in the line. (My favorite – imagine a bungee cord)

All in all, it was an exciting morning… but since we finished early we ate out and went to the pool until dinner.

The next morning, we were refreshed and recharged for the start of our last project, a school improvement project in a community outside of Granada and towards the lake– called Los Cocos. This public school lacked government funding to repair the building, so it has been hindered by inconsistent classes.

Our main objective was to replace the rotted wooden beams supporting the roof and to remove and reinstall the zinc panels. Luckily, the leaking problem came from improper installation, so the panels were in great condition. We just needed to redo the roof.

Our second goal was to build a room for the kids’ toilet. When we started, it was completely open and unused due to lack of privacy.

We had seen pictures of the damage before-hand (see the first post), so we were all ready to tackle the logistics, but the implications behind these seemingly straightforward projects always manage to surprise us. When we started, we learned that holding class in this building was sporadic at best. When it rains, class is cancelled. When there is no water, class is cancelled. Even if it’s just too cloudy, class is cancelled (the rooms are too dark –leaky roofs at any time make electricity impossible). Some parents kept kids at home simply because the inadequate toilet. Many of the desks and books were ruined.

For this project, we received help from contractors outside of the local community. Every day, we rode together to the site and worked together to solve problems (i.e. power tools without electricity, laying support beams from the ground, upside-down ladders, pests and lunch!)

Through it all, we progressed slowly but surely. This Thursday was also Brie’s birthday. We had planned to celebrate after work, but Sam H got sick so we moved it to Saturday.

Saturday we made time to buy souvenirs in Masaya, a city known for its huge market. Overall, we had a good time, but we had a change of plans when Kyanne got sick. So Brie’s birthday was cancelled.

Sunday was a national holiday involving bull runs, but other than that – I can’t remember the significance of the event. Bulls are released in the cities and people watch and/or run with them.

Monday was our last day at the project site, and we ate lunch on site (like we did on Friday) to finish everything up. The sun was setting as we returned to Granada.

The thought of going home tomorrow is thrilling. Now that we have successfully finished our projects, we have to go back to our lives. After 5 weeks of day laboring in the sun, our air-conditioned classrooms will be a dream. I will miss the calm after work, waking up before the sunrise and considering sleep once the sun sets, but I will trade it back for the crazy long nights and frantic mornings of your average college student. Still, although our comfort is tempting, I can forever appreciate the simple thrift of rice, beans, fans and buses. All and all, I can say it was a great five weeks – I learned so much and still helped make a difference.

Tonight we will all finish our last minute packing and tomorrow we leave~ Here’s to a safe flight!

-Ash

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