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I sit in the weathered rocking chair resting on the front porch of my Mellow Yellow Nicaraguan abode, gleaming at the brightly colored flowers and trees that reside in the garden. My attempts of wrapping my head around the fact that it has already been a month here runs parallel with my attempts at wrapping tamales. A place that was once new and foreign so quickly transformed into my home like the time lapse of a butterfly’s transformation. Even my body is evolving. My newly calloused feet have become familiar with all the rocks on my path, not thinking twice where to go.

Project WOO has pushed me out of my comfort zone in which I was so tightly snuggled like a hermit crab on Playa Gigante, residing in his shell. It all started when I moved in with a family of five, not speaking a word of each other’s language. Those first awkward silences are now spaces of comfort, filled with playing guitar, sharing laughs, dreams, and views of religion(the world?). I would like to give some credit to my Spanish teacher who has been incredibly helpful and fun to learn with. But I still use charades as if it’s a language of its own.

Working with the community has been a blast- learning and teaching the importance of family and working together, patience and the idea that timelines are really just guidelines or nonexistent. I’ve been participating in beach clean-ups, community wide surf days, (the amount of face painted butterflies competed with the actual population of the creatures), summer camp songs and games and teaching English. I have sat in the sand with kiddos, filling plastic bottles with trash that will later be used as building material for a new school kitchen.

I find myself most looking forward to the days where I get to work in the garden with Juan Ramon and Herman, two civil war revolutionaries that found peace in their organic creation. We help water, rake new beds, transport plants, and I even planted my own cacao tree, which I named Violet Nectar. We also play guitar and drink fresh homemade tamarind juice with tamarinds picked from trees on the beach. And we paint! Last week, Juan Ramon and I painted a big sunflower on a stone for the garden. I’ve also learned a great amount about the US’ historic involvement in Nicaragua, past and present- I’ve definitely had prouder moments.

As for upcoming projects I am trying to jump start a story hour once a week for the kids, an English class for local restaraunt owners, and a surf day for women only. My time here has been truly amazing and not all just work! We have had great adventure hikes up mountains that look over the beautiful coves. We’ve picked star fruit off of trees on the beach,. I have gone on 5 a.m. fishing expeditions, catching fish with nets, and surfing expedtions too! There is plenty of time for drawing, writing, and reading. There is also a beautiful outdoor yoga studio I find myself at quite often. I love my sunset runs and kicking back with the locals. I even got the opportunity to learn some typical nica cooking and sewing with one of Gigante’s local women (and comedian)-Lucia… a truly beautiful woman!

This weekend three other volunteers, Lisa, and I traveled to Granada for a change of pace and some exploring. We explored the beautiful city, experiencing the poetry festival, seeing the lake, and taking a chocolate making class. I even got to rehearse my poetry and eat food that wasn’t gallo pinto!

Although it was a great experience, there was no better feeling than returning backto Gigante and its tranquility and peace. It is nice to be somewhere where I can recognize the beautiful smiling faces.

Moving into my second half of volunteering, my mind and heart are fully exposed, feet and fingertips toughened, and a growing determination to make a lasting impact here in Gigante. Thanks for the support and love!

Maddie