The January 2008 delegation has arrived safely in Lewisburg.

Read the emails they sent to family and friends about what they did each day in Nicaragua.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Friends and Supporters of the Bucknell Brigade:  
It's 3:45 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.  We arrived safely and exactly on time in Managua at 12:45 p.m.  
It was a long day.  We left Bucknell at 1:30 a.m. and made it to BWI at 4:15 a.m.  The lines were long at check-in and we barely made our flight at 6 a.m., but it did work.  The transition in Atlanta was fine and everyone got a chance to eat.
We were met at the Managua airport by Bucknell alumnus Josh Fisher who is volunteering at JHC and helped us load all the bags on the little yellow bus and drive to JHC on the Ciudad Sandino side of Managua.  
We're in the middle of an orientation to the Jubilee House Community and the work we will be doing, and will then have dinner.  Everyone's healthy and happy, if a little tired, and will be ready to begin work tomorrow!
Everyone sends their love to family and friends back home.
Ian Oliver, Co-Leader
January 08 Bucknell Brigade

Monday, January 7, 2008

Dear Bucknell Brigade family and friends:   Gillian and Emily are going to give you an update of our first full day's activities:

I had the opportunity to work in the medical clinic today helping translate for Dr. Stechschulte.  I was both excited and nervous about doing this because although I've studied Spanish for a few years I'm not 100% confident in my speaking abilities.  However, after the first patient came in my nervousness disappeared.  While it was an incredible experience being able to communicate one on one with the various Nicaraguan mothers, children, grandmothers, etc. who came to the clinic seeking the doctor's assistance it also made me realize how much we take for granted simple things like rubber gloves and the availability of certain medications in the U.S.  I truly enjoyed speaking with the Nicarguan patients and doctors and am looking forward to the amazing week ahead!


Gillian Nordquist (p.s. I love you, Mother! :)


Today the group that stayed at the complex (we live very close to where they are building the new spinning co-op) had two jobs: make the blocks that will be used to build the walls to the building and also to put together the pillars that will be filled with concrete to finish off the structure.  The blocks were made from scratch.  We spent time filtering rocks and sand/gravelish stuff into a screen, then combining the newly purified sand with cement mix and water.  This mixture is put into the molding machine, which then is pushed down to make cement blocks.  John and eventually Evan and some others were taught to do the task of running the machine, which they said was pretty difficult.  We then, after finding out the first few times that the blocks were indeed wet and very fragile, moved them into the sun to dry out.  It was very strenuous work but also very fun getting to know everyone, including the native Nicaraguans, and laughing when we made mistakes...which was often.  The language barrier is there, but everyone has a good sense of humor and it isn't as much of a burden as it is entertaining.

The second group was responsible for putting together pillars for the building by tying together bars in a cube-shape with re-bar (which all day I called rubarb).  These are actually metal reinforcing rods to strengthen concrete.  The task of actually creating the re-bar cage was a totally different thing.  Strips of the steel wiring were to be hammered out until they were perfectly straight (and let me tell you, not easy...though one of the Nicaraguans showed us up when a piece was competely bent about 5 times like this ^^^^^^ haha...he hammered it out in less than a minute).  We had a good time talking and laughing here as well, while also trying to practice the little Spanish we as a group know.  Good day overall!

After the hard day of work, we decided to reward ourselves by walking across the street to a small shop where they sell ice cream for about 7 cordobas (40 cents U.S.).

You'll want to look for updates tomorrow!  We'll be visiting the Managua Municipal Dump at around 8:00 tomorrow morning!


Emily Rath (P.S. love you fam/friends)

We're off downstairs to hear Josh Fisher, Bucknell '04, who is spending a year here collecting anthropological research data for his doctoral dissertation, talk about his project.  Everyone's in good health and doing fine.  More tomorrow. 

Ian Oliver

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dear Families and Friends:

Good evening everyone! Grace speaking. This morning we were woken  up at 7:15 and ate breakfast and then headed down to Managua city dump. Let me just say that, what I saw far exceeded my expectations, and definitely not in a good way. We took the bus there, and on our way we picked up a woman who had lived at the dump for three years. We arrived at the dump and it was at least a mile of trash piled six stories high. 200 families make their living digging through the trash and rummaging through useless garbage only to find a few pieces of plastic or aluminum or any other valuable items that they could sell. There were young children also working there. A few little boys walked up to our group and I noticed that none of them even wore shoes. Just completely barefoot. The piles of garbage were unimaginably tall. The woman who was showing us around told us about the many disasters of children being run over by the garbage trucks due to a lack of supervision or carefulness. In the air, vultures swarm the dump. Malnourished dogs and cows also eat the garbage, as well as people. People dig through and when supermarkets drop off their trash, people eat the rotting food to survive. I could say a million more things. But I know that no matter how much I say, I cannot replicate the experience. The woman told us that there was a pain in her chest when she came back to the dump. She said that it really made her nervous now that she finally was able to make a better life for herself. Overall, the experience was like nothing I've ever done before or anything I will ever do. To see people make livings off the trash that we needlessly and thoughtlessly throw away each day was completely shocking.



Today was our second "work" day. After coming back from the dump, we all worked for about 2 hours. About 8 of us went to the clinic, and the rest of us stayed here to work on the future spinning co-op. After lunch we worked until about 5:30. I have never done a lot of manual labor, and today was a great learning experience. I learned to bend metal wire that was used with metal rods to make re-bar cages. I also carried cinderblock that had just come out of the manual press to a place in the sun where it could dry. The neatest thing that I did today was make the cement for the cinderblock. Nicarguan men and women who work with JHC taught me and other brigadistas to mix two types of soil, add water, and mix it all with our shovels. However, even though this was fun today, I can not immagine having to do this everyday all day in the Nicaragua sun,  or in the United States, for that matter. Making cement for cinderblock, cinderblock for walls, and walls for a building requires more hard work, sweat, and time than I ever imagined. I can't wait to see (literally or photographs) the finished product.

I hope you are having fun Mom and Dad. You'rer the best! Love, Jolinda 

All the best to everyone -- we're doing well - tomorrow will be another learning/working day.  Tonight we're having a small concert by a local folk music group that's just starting now.

Ian Oliver

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dear All:  Alena Beerman will be writing tonight's update:

Hi everyone!

So today was once again a very exciting day!

We started off the day with our usual delicious breakfast, and then an economist from Nicaragua came in to talk to us about free trade and the impacts he feels it has on both the Nicaraguan people, people of all of Central America, and the United States.

Focusing specifically on CAFTA, he discussed the economic framework for Central America and the importance that is placed on international agreements. It is placed directly below the Constitution, followed by the public law and then common law. For this reason, the agreement greatly impacts the Central American people. For example, he discussed rice and how due to subsidies given to the United States that the price of U.S produced rice in Nicaragua is cheaper than Nicaragua produced rice.  Therefore people tend to buy the U.S rice, which increases unemployment for the rice producers and therefore results in increased immigration, drug trafficking, insecurity, etc. He also touched upon pharmaceutical drugs and the fact that the difference between prices of brand name vs. generics medicines can be the difference between life and death for the Nicaraguan people. Overall, it was very eye opening to acknowledge the power that the U.S has and realize that we are the superpower of the world and perceived that way. I think we all found it very interesting to learn about this all from an entirely new and different perspective.

Afterwards we were supposed to have a discussion with the vice mayor of Ciudad Sandino but due to a schedule conflict he couldn't make it. Since it was a hot beautiful sunny day, some of us took the extra time to go swimming in the JHC pool while others just relaxed, read, etc. It felt a lot like vacation! Then, we ate again! And finally we got ready to go to work.

The entire group all went over to the clinic in Nueva Vida today. Some of us worked with the medical prescriptions, some did translation work with Dr. Don, while the majority of us helped level a cement wall in the clinic to help with insulation. It was quite messy and hard to get the cement to actually stick on the wall, but a lot of fun! I think most of us came back very dirty and looking forward to shower time.

After we all showered and got ready we went to a great restaurant in Managua (buffet style) where we all had a chance to relax, talk to each other, and eat another delicious meal! This was our first meal outside of JHC since we arrived so it was exciting and a lot of fun. We just got back and are getting ready for bed since tomorrow we have another exciting day going to El Porvenir.

That's about it. We'll write again tomorrow!

Alena (PS - hi mom and dad...everything’s fine with me too...miss you guys and I’ll write to you again soon!!..xoxo)

--- Everything's fine here -- more tomorrow -- Ian Oliver

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dear All:  Everything is great here -- we're halfway through today!  Coralynn will write today's update:

Hi all.  We're pooped and filthy, but happy and healthy.  We had a wonderful day, first driving 3 hours up to El Porvenir ("the future"), a community up on a mountainside that runs a coffee co-op.  In fact, it's the co-op whose coffee the Brigade sells as a fundraiser in the U.S.  Perhaps you received some as a holiday gift?  Most of us got a tour of the co-op -- from beans on the plants to sorted beans in bags ready for export.  The coffee plantation was beautiful.  This is "shade" coffee, so the plants grow beneath big trees.  One of them was giganta-normous and, we were told, about 500 years old!  The ride up and back went from highway to dirt "road," the latter being very dusty and bumpy.  While I write this, your loved ones are taking showers and collectively rinsing off pounds of dust/dirt.  El Porvenir is an interesting contrast to Nueva Vida (where the clinic is), in that it is a more traditional rural community in which people subsist to a high extent on the foods they grow and other materials they find in their natural environment.  While most of us toured, a few people worked in the clinic:  Dr. Don gave examinations, and a few others helped with meds.  Tomorrow is another "work" day for the Brigade; we expect again to be making "re-bar" (I don't know how to spell it) reinforcements and cement blocks.  Adios a manana.

- Coralynn (Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Anthropology at Bucknell)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Today's report comes from Muyambi Muyambi, a first-year civil-engineering student from Uganda

Dear Friends and Family,

Just like most of the days we have been here in Nicaragua, today was challenging, interesting and very rewarding. Early in the morning, we went to the sewing cooperation, mainly operated by women, we walked around the area and later had a talk detailing how and why the cooperation was formed. After all this, a few samples of the clothing made in this cooperative were brought to us to buy, and obviously most Bucknellians responded with vigor and bought almost all the samples. Personally I was pleased with the organization of the cooperation, knowing that it put some income in people's pockets and maybe one day, poverty will be a story told by our grandchildren.

Later on we headed for construction work, which is the challenging part, but nonetheless, I love it. A few people worked on fixing wire to rebar rods while others worked with making bricks. I personally was making bricks, which meant collecting sand, mixing it with cement and water and then putting it in the machine. This whole process is truly amazing and when we looked at our results, we were even more rewarded with the inner joy of accomplishment. All I could see as we worked was that communal joy of working together despite our cultural differences and I hope as many people as possible could have this experience we are having.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hello family and friends,

Today was a fun-filled day with a lot of time spent on our precious school bus!  Our first stop of the day was the Masaya Volcano National Park.  The volcano crater that we saw is still active so smoke was coming out the top.  We could climb up a really long set of stairs to see inside the crater.  Not only could we see inside the crater, but we were also able to see more of the beautiful Nicaraguan landscape. 

The next stop was into the town of Masaya.  As we were driving through, we noticed that it was a lot bigger and more infrastructure than most of the towns that we had already seen.  Masaya has the longest running feast for its patron saint through the months of October and November.  One of the celebrations included men dressing as women in a parade.  In Masaya, we visited Pedro Guerrero who is a local potter but known on the international stage where he has been awarded for his work.  We watched a demonstration of how he makes his pottery on the wheel and also how he uses his own techniques to make his pieces unique.  We were able to buy some pottery as well, so maybe some gifts from us when we get home :)

Afterwards we left Masaya and went to the Laguna de Apoyo, which is actually a lake that formed inside a volcano crater.  We rented a space at a youth hostel right on the lake, and this place was beautiful.  They had different levels of sitting, kayaks, a wooden raft, and noodles to float on.  The water was the perfect temperature, and was definitely needed to perk us up after our drive.  It was a wonderful way to spend part of the afternoon!

Then we went back into Masaya into a craft market where we browsed and mostly bought hammocks, jewelry, bags, among the many other crafts that the artisans there had for sale.

As we are writing this e-mail, we feel that it is 11 pm instead of only 7:30 pm because of all the things that we accomplished today.  We are all doing well and greatly enjoying our time in Nicaragua, and dreading the cold weather when we get back :)

We love and miss you all!

Elizabeth Cavallari and Kylie Brandt 


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