Beautiful Bona Fide

By Maggie Otal and Jillian Doyle (the NoVa girls)
Photos courtesy of Anna Parker

Our week began with a ferry ride to the island of Ometepe. The boat ride didn’t seem too long but by the look of the sunburns and chaco’s tan lines you would think we sat in the sun for hours. When we made it to the island, all 15 of us decided to have lunch at the same restaurant. By the time we all ordered, we realized our waitress was also the one cooking all of the food. Regardless, we were all able to have a good meal and set out with full stomachs.

We caught our first of two buses and each of us shared a seat with either a fellow student or a local. Since the ride was about an hour, some of us slept while others enjoyed the musical stylings of Jon and Anya on the uke and sang along to “Hallelujah.” We didn’t have to wait long for the next bus, although, when it arrived, we weren’t sure we could all fit. We debated waiting for the next bus but it was soon brought to our attention that this was the last bus of the day. We packed onto the bus like sardines with at least 60 other people. The bus ride was long and sweaty, abd when we finally arrived, all of our stuff was thrown down to us from on top of the bus and we began our ascent up to the farm.

After adjusting from the long walk and getting lost a few times, we were all able to take in the amazing views that Bona Fide had to offer. Next, we got to meet one of the incredible staff members, the human embodiment of sunshine, Farah. Later that night we met the two resident interns, Sarah and Sam, and we got to spend some time getting to know them and get settled in.

The next day, the girls orchestrated an event in which they would each invite a boy to join them for a day of festivities and music that we called “country club night.” We all got dressed up and came up with creative ways to ask the boys (the most elaborate being a scavenger hunt that Anna set up for Bradley). We spent that afternoon listening to music, playing card games, and dancing. The next few days were more work-oriented; we had the opportunity to feed the chickens in the morning and a few of the options for work included field work, garden, nursery (plants, not babies) or helping in the kitchen. Getting to work with the locals was great; we got to know some of them and were able to have deep conversations and joke around a bit. We would work in the mornings from 7-12 and in the afternoons we would engage in workshops focused on things such as permaculture and agroforestry; two things that are embodied here at Bona Fide. Some of the more fun activities included lessons in salsa dancing and chocolate making.

We discovered lots of pros and cons to living without walls. Some of the pros included amazing views and a 24/7 nature soundtrack. Downsides included howler monkeys keeping us up at 3:00 am, and giant hairy spiders crawling around the room—big enough to leave some of the girls doubling up on the tiny twin beds.

Although this week has been great, we have come across some obstacles: the toughest was having to say goodbye to a valued member of our family. We love you Tori, and we hope you made it back home safely and are making a speedy recovery.

One of the brighter moments of the week was getting to celebrate the birthday of our very own Bradley Sabbar, a celebration that included a few random Mickey Mouse and wedding-themed balloons that popped within minutes, adorable, yet uncomfortable, party hats, and a delicious chocolate cake. The island helped us celebrate Bradley’s birthday by gifting us Hurricane Nate. We initially didn’t realize the severity of the storm and we were excited to have a day off from work. Thankfully, everyone was fine, despite a few fallen trees on the property as well as connecting with a tree house with the most AMAZING view. The next day was spent working on cleaning up fallen branches and trees, and a few brief games of real-life fruit ninja.

Although we have all enjoyed hanging around the farm, hanging out with the cats, dogs, and chickens, hammocking, slacklining, and attempting to master the aerial silks, we were glad to leave the farm for an afternoon to tour a chocolate factory where we enjoyed smoothies, ice cream, and lots of chocolate.

With the few days we have left at Bona Fide, we are excited to eat the chocolate we made in our workshop, learn the art of salsa dancing, and climb one of the volcanoes on the island of Ometepe.