Reflections of A Brigadista --
Adam Clark, January '05 delegation
I remember waking up in the back of the bus and seeing the lights of Bucknell, the end of our return trip from Nicaragua. We unloaded the bus in negative temperatures and several inches of snow on Seventh St. We had spent the week together in Nicaragua and each of us had learned so much.
We left for Nicaragua on Sunday January 9th. Looking back, it's easy to realize that even the returning members of our group did not know what would happen in the week ahead. Most of us were still learning each other's names. The day went smoothly and we were all so excited when we finally arrived in Nicaragua, drove through Managua, and unloaded our 50 pieces of luggage at the Jubilee House.
Our week in Nicaragua was complete with hard work, education and entertainment. This January, we continued work on outside walls of the Health Center in Nueva Vida. We added a thin layer of cement over a layer of Styrofoam on one side of the building. The Styrofoam and cement were added to provide some insulation for air conditioning in the medicine storage room. We tried desperately to learn how to throw cement at a wall and have it stick. Most of us returned to JHC covered in cement during the week. Some of us picked up where other groups had left off, laying concrete floor and installing electrical wiring in the Women's Center. Towards the end of the week we also began laying a brick patio outside the Women's Center. Back at the Jubilee house we began digging to install a septic tank at the T-shirt Cooperative. At first the thought of digging a 12' x 12' x 12' hole was frightening. Two days and 4-5 feet later, it was still frightening. We also added a layer of cement to walls around the T-shirt Cooperative, satisfying yet another requirement for their status as a Free Trade Zone.
During the week we heard from many Nicaraguans about the history and hardships of life in Nicaragua. We listened to a woman from the T-shirt cooperative tell her story. While Flory Perez translated for most of us, she talked about the dream of Free Trade for all Nicaraguans. We heard from a pair of American journalists who had many stories to tell about the Civil War in Nicaragua. They showed us a very powerful slide show depicting Nicaraguan families whose lives were disrupted by the Contras during the 1980s. We also heard from several speakers connected to the Jubilee House and the Center for Development in Central America. We learned a lot about CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) and the awful effects this policy will have on Nicaraguans.
We were given tours by Mike and Kathleen of Nueva Vida, Managua, and the Manuel Jose Lopez Cooperative where they cultivate the shade grown organic coffee sold by the Brigade. After the grueling and exciting ride up the mountain, the president of the coffee cooperative showed us exactly how they grow and process their coffee. We were able to see the new school in this community of El Porvenir (the Future). In a short day, we were witnesses to a way of life that was shocking to all of us. Each of these learning opportunities was a very important part of our Brigade. Each experience sparked emotional reflections for all of us.
We also enjoyed each other's company throughout the week, becoming a tight knit group within the very first days. We enjoyed an amazing dinner overlooking Managua, eating and dancing to the music of a small live band. On Friday night we danced and celebrated Amy Sutter's birthday at a dance club in Managua. All of us will remember the resort on the edge of an ancient, flooded volcanic crater. We spent a few hours eating lunch, swimming and getting some sun before heading back to a market in the city.
The January '05 Brigade is back on Bucknell's campus. We have gathered several times to reflect on the trip, share pictures and stories, and discuss what we might do as a result of our experiences. A group is forming to raise awareness and fight against passing CAFTA through congress. We are continuing our efforts raising money and helping the March '05 Brigade prepare for their trip. We would like to thank everyone who helped make this trip possible for us. I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity and to have the opportunity to share it with so many others.
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