Nicaragua Garden Construction Challenges GSE Members

Genie Lee, News Editor

8 students visited Nicaragua in an effort to help schools in the country develop campus gardens from March 30 through April 8.  The trip was sponsored by the Global Student Embassy (GSE).

Junior Maddy Doane, a veteran of GSE sponsored trips, said, “…we helped finish building their garden so we can promote sustainability, so when the wet season comes, they can start planting crops and so they can use that food to eat during school.”

The trip provide to be physically demanding for the students.”It was labor intensive,” said junior Maxine Gill.  “We had to hike up long stretches of road. That was really difficult. There were a few people who didn’t react very well.”

According to Doane, this year’s trip was particularly challenging. “Last year, we went to Ecuador during the wet season so a lot of the farms we went to, there was already crops planted on it so we basically harvested the crops and weeded. But this year when we went to Nicaragua, during the hot and dry season.  We had to make the bed so that when the wet season came, they would be able to plant in the beds we just made,” said Doane.

Junior Kelsey Levante suffered from heatstroke during the trip. “In the 3 and a half work days, it was 90 degrees. We had to wear long pants because it wasn’t socially unacceptable for girls to wear shorts, and we were out there doing work in the sun and I was assigned to pickaxing,” Levante explained

Levante said the experience helped her “appreciate living in [Moraga].”

Gill agreed that the trip provided a new perspective. “It was eye-opening to see different communities and how students our age live in Nicaragua and just to see the environment, like the hostels we were staying at. One was funded by a cock fighting ring which is legal there,” said Gill.

“It’s really life changing, just to travel out of the country and to be in a 3rd world country. It’s very different from how we live out here and it’s just amazing to see different culture and how they live and it makes you appreciate just how much you have back here,” said Doane.

The students stayed in a town called Granada, where “there weren’t paved roads in a lot of the places we went and there was gray water running down the street and litter everywhere. People didn’t have wifi in their homes. They went to local parks to get wifi,” said Gill.

Spanish teacher Concha Martinez, who was working with GSE for the 1st time, said, “It was great to see them talking to the locals, to the kids and some of them using the Spanish they have learned and some of them trying to learn new Spanish completely. They were very interested in asking questions… As a Spanish teacher, I kind of encouraged all the ones that are taking Spanish to talk a lot,” said Martinez.

Although some students were unable to communicate in Spanish, Gill said, “The people there were really welcoming… We got to know the Nicaraguan students very well and I don’t speak Spanish at all but we were still able to communicate through just joking around and we taught them how to play ‘slide’ and I taught them how to tap dance.”

“It was a lot of fun to see the kids in a different environment,” said Martinez.

According to Levante, students in next year’s GSE trip will be “either going to be Papaya in Ecuador or somewhere in Guatemala.”