Saturday, March 23, 2013

Nicaragua - work and play days

On the days when we didn't have campers, we did some work projects and some fun outings.
We scraped and painting a small building, picked up trash, and reorganized the art room (and didn't get bit by the poisonous snake that was living in one of the storage bins). I led a crew of teens in constructing a gaga court, perhaps the first gaga court that Nicaragua has ever seen. Gaga involves 10-25 players slapping a tennis ball with their hands off the foot-high walls of a wooden court with the goal of hitting another player's feet or lower legs. If you're hit, you're out. It's deceptively simply and delightfully fun especially for younger kids.
Local welders had prepared metal joints for us to frame our octagon-shaped court with but after cutting wood and drilling holes, we suddenly noticed that our octagon only had 7 sides! Much calculation and recalibration later, we realized that the welders had made the frames the wrong angle and we had to content ourselves with a heptagon instead. Fortunately, the game worked fine regardless and I had the privilege of playing and losing Campo Alegria's first ever gaga game.
Another morning was spent making puzzles. Strange, but necessary. When all the puzzle pieces have been dumped in the same bin, you have to put each one together to know if all its pieces are actually there. After doing a dozen puzzles individually, we spent an hour on a communal puzzle only to have it missing more than 30 pieces. What a let-down.
Some afternoons, a group of Chop Pointers would walk or drive down the beach to teach English at the local elementary school. It was a fun chance to see every day life and to reconnect with some of the children who'd come to our first weekend of camp.
On our play days, we went to a beach on the Pacific coast where my buddy Helon and I tried unsuccessfully to surf and eventually settled on a long game of beach volleyball instead.
Another day, we took a truck to the top of an inactive volcano called Mombacho and hiked around the peak in the cloud forest. It was lush and beautiful, with amazing views of the lake below.
We were greeted on the way down with a little surprise: a sloth, sleeping in a tree above the trail!
We did some tourist shopping at the market in Masaya, a lovely old building full of colorful nicknacks and souvenirs. I'm not a big shopper but I appreciated the culture and the color and the lack of beggars in an area that is clearly created for wealthy visitors.
I don't have photos of the 2.5 kilometer zipline that we took down a mountainside on another morning out, but I can tell you that the aerial views of the ocean and the woods and the countryside were unforgettable. We cruised through trees full of monkeys, over coffee plants, past an impressive rock face that must be a magnificent waterfall in rainy season, and towards a giant white statue of Jesus, similar to the one in Brazil. It might be the closest to flying that I've ever come and I loved every minute of it.

Nicaragua - camp days

On both weekends that I was in Nicaragua, we welcomed approximately 30 kids to Campo Alegria for a weekend of fun, good food, and Bible stories.
The first group of kids came from the village just a mile down the beach from Campo; the Chop Pointers run camp programs for them every year so those kids knew what to expect. The second group, however, was from a village close to Managua, the capital, and they have never been to camp before. For most of them, seeing Lake Nicaragua was the most water they'd ever seen in their lives and they wanted nothing more than to play in the waves all day long.
The camp programs have educational aspects too. The campers spent 2 hours in science, learning about UV rays with special beads that change color in sunlight and learning about wind with homemade windmills.
They also learned basic English, culminating in a loud and rambunctious game to help remember their colors.
There was sports, arts and crafts, play on the beach, and the ever-amazing game of gaga (more on gaga in my next post).
And the zipline - harnesses, carabiners, ladders, a platform, a push and an electrifying ride down the sand dunes! A few kids were too scared to try it, but the majority loved it.
During the camp weekends, I floated from group to group, activity to activity, helping out where needed and taking photos for the camp photo slideshow (on camp's higher quality camera, hence why I don't have many photos from those days). Some mornings I led chapel with a translator and with a crew of Chop Point students as the actors in our little Bible dramas. My favorite was when they all played sheep in the parable of the Ninety-Nine and the One Lost Sheep.
I enjoyed interacting with the Nicaraguan kids, but more than that, I enjoyed watching the Chop Point students, many of whom I've known for 4 or 5 years, make the step from camper to leader. It was great to see them comforting kids when they got hurt, encouraging outsiders to join in, and simply making kids laugh. I was proud of them. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Back to Haiti

I am back in Haiti, back to teaching and bike riding and hugging small children and walking the dusty roads. Nicaragua was fantastic and I will try to get some photos and stories up here soon.

For now, I leave you with this: the view from Campo Alegria where I've been staying for the past 18 days.