Ready, Set, Ometepe!

Last weekend, the PDs embarked for Ometepe Island, located in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe is home to two volcanoes, Maderas (extinct) and Concepcion (active). The purpose of our weekend retreat? To reflect, refocus, and conquer Volcán Maderas!
The month of March ushered in spring breakers from 6 differed colleges and the start of Semana Santa, Holy Week. PDs were scattered among the different groups and later among different countries (USA, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama) as we took our Holy Week holiday along with the rest of Central America. After reuniting in April, we were ready for a weekend away to reconnect and reflect upon our last few weeks. We ferried from Rivas to Ometepe and took the bumpy road to Finca Magdalena, a pretty hippy hostal located at the base of Volcán Maderas.

After checking in and chilling out, enjoying the beautiful sunset views and local flora and fauna, we gathered to recapitulate the events of March. We discussed things we learned from our weeks with spring breakers and how we can use that to shape our summer volunteer sessions. We gathered ideas on summer volunteering opportunities and are getting so excited for the new groups we’ll be hosting in May and June. Amira also encouraged us to think about our goals for the rest of the year. With only a few weeks left of April, Summer Sessions, and then July’s arrival of new PDs, the rest of our year will be over in a flash!
Saturday morning, with a 6:00 am wake up call, we conquered Maderas. Below are some photos of the weekend.

Traffic jam on the way to Finca Magdalena

Emergency plan

Kickin' up dust with the volcano smoking in the back

Kelly helps Ian clean up at the top of Volcán Maderas

Eerie view from the top

View of active Volcán Concepcion from Volcán Maderas

Thanks to PD Ian for all the photos!

Jan Margaret

cone day

To reward strong attendance in literacy and math classes yesterday, we took twelve students to Volcán Masaya National Park for the afternoon. A standard spot for tourists, this volcano is active, smoking high into the sky and topped by a giant cross. Although it’s just a few miles outside of Managua, these kids from the rural areas of Cedro Galán had never seen a volcano before, much less hiked to the sulfury summit.

As the micro wound it way up the side of the volcano, we pointed out the dried lava and volcanic rock from past explosions. The chatter amongst the kids was hilarious as they bounced in their seats and discussed how ugly it was and how they wished they could witness an explosion and float away on the rivers of lava! We arrived to the top, clambered out of the car, and peeked over the safety wall into the gaping hole that led down “into the center of the earth,” as a few little boys claimed. After photos at the rim and a short hike to the cross mounted above (where we could barely breathe because of the sulfur!), reactions were divided. Some students continued to exclaim “¡Que tuani, que bonito!” while others thought it was “feo” and just far too smelly to be worth their time.

The ride down the volcano was concluded by a short visit to the park museum and then a return to Managua. In typical Manna fashion, we tried to tie this expedition to either math or literacy by insisting that it was Cone Day! A volcano is a cone, funnels are cones, and… ice cream comes in a cone. So we wrapped up the attendance celebration with an ice cream party in El Farito. And we learned that ice cream cones drip wayyy too fast in the heat of Nicaragua!

All in all, it proved to be a unique day for these twelve math and literacy students. Though Nicaragua is called the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes, the majority of these children have never had the chance to come in close contact with either. So whether they called Volcán Masaya “feo” or “bonito,” we were blessed to stand beside them as explored such a notable and powerful (and cone-shaped!) part of their nation.


cerro negro

Very few of us would jump into action at the offer to hike an “about to explode” volcano – but we were uncharacteristically brave this weekend! Or perhaps we were just characteristically unaware and uninformed. Regardless, on Saturday morning Mose, Nikki, Christina, Jed, Michael, and I hopped into the car – ready to roadtrip it to León and face the wrath of volcano Cerro Negro. After arriving to the (really sweet!) hostel and wandering the winding streets of this colonial town, we met up with Wilbur, our guide… and our soon-to-be new favorite Nicaraguan man.

Wilbur (self-described as “short and brown”) led our crew to the foot of Cerro Negro… and then essentially straight up it. The mountain is literally a black sand dune rising 2,400 feet into the air, rockier on the “climp up” side and finer on the “slide down” side. After an hour and a half of trekking uphill and exploring heat vents in the crater, breathing in sulfur, and sticking our hands in oozing hot nooks and crannies, we prepared ourselves for the slide/fall/run down to the base. And it was awesome! – (although it lasted less than five minutes). With the adrenaline pumping and shoes full of sand, we felt like we were flying…

In the car on the bumpy ride back to the hostel, while joking with Wilbur and trying unsuccessfully to clean the grime off all exposed skin, we spoke of what a matchless experience the Cerro Negro hike was. The whole place had felt wild, almost outer-space-like. There were no other humans around; no signs or ropes or railings. We hadn’t filled out a waiver or signed our lives away. It was just simple… call the random Nica guide and then explore. In such a straightforward and minimalistic procedure there shines forth an unpretentious simplicity, one that has ceased to exist in the United States. And we found that refreshing; yet it would have been nice to know that "the volcano will explode any day now."