It is ALL a different time, place, and experience. A trip to Nicaragua.

In August of 2011, I went on my first SYRV Adventure to volunteer in rural Nicaragua. Among many things, the 2011 trip showed me that others, in this world, live with a fraction of the things that I had recklessly disposed of. It showed me that even though one has less, it was possible to be equally as happy, if not more, than one who has "more". The trip opened my eyes to the beauty of the people, places, and wildlife in Nicaragua; and it inspired me to return, this time with a few friends, on another SYRV Adventure in May of 2012. I expected my experience to be textbook similar, but I was in for a surprise.
During the trip, I had remained largely close-minded and unfocused, fell to the homogeneity of the group (,to no fault of the group), and didn't find the reflection and inspiration to be as great. I realize, now, that I had been, metaphorically, looking in the wrong direction. It's only been a few days after returning and I am still in the mode of reflecting and digesting all of my thoughts and emotions. While both trips have been a key conduit for my thoughts to materialize, my experiences were vastly different and I've come to realize that it is ALL a different time, place, and experience.

In the past few months, my time was absorbed by my MBA program at Loma Linda; specifically, I was working on my final project, the field practicum. Having turned in the field practicum days before my departure to Nica, I began to feel a weight drop off my shoulders and at the same time, I began to ask myself what my next endeavor(s) would be. This uneasiness of my future really hit me hard on the trip and I needed some time to sort out my thoughts. With the high energy of the group and constant activity, it was difficult for me to "slow my row" and accomplish this. After returning from Nica and realizing, once again, how difficult people had it there, my future actions will focus on helping others.

Part of traveling with SYRV is the fundraising for water filters. The water filters cost $30 each however, there are other purchases such as a lunch for the dump yard, replacement water filter parts for older units, and materials for the kids. I have never held a fundraiser before and decided to do so at a friend's house (Thanks Double B's!) in Manoa. All said and told, my 2 friends, Nate and Kimmie, who I have shared many waves with, and I, were able to provide over 25 water filters and the group provided over 40 water filters, total. As I drove home that evening of the fundraiser, I was stoked to have hung out with my friends but, more importantly, I realized that my friends were invaluable, would be there for me, and that I would be there for them.

Like the previous trip, we tested the water from a few wells and found that some families had access to clean water and others did not. We discovered that a few of the wells outside of Rancho Santana, a beautiful vacation resort, were contaminated and as a result, we donated water filters to the schools in Limon, a pediatric health center, and daycare center.

After a few days at Rancho Santana, SYRV Adventure X officially began. We traveled north to Mechapa, primarily to do research, donated a few water filters, and spoke with the kids about the garbage in the ocean. We found that while families and schools close to the roads had clean water, those situated away from the road did not have the same luxury. One of the highlights for me, in Mechapa, was teaching the youth how to surf. It was a really good vibe that brought me back to the first time I stood up on my longboard. One of the older boys asked if I had a computer and after talking with the others, it seems that he was asking if we could provide computer training at the school - not a bad idea. If anyone has ideas or is interested in traveling to Nicaragua to provide computers and training, please hit me up. I am interested. From Mechapa, we drove to Chinandega to sponsor a lunch at the dump yard and to Jiquilillo to spend some time with the children at an orphanage. There, one of the other travelers, Meghan, led a creative writing class that allowed the children to express themselves and through their stories, one could hear their discomforts, tribulations, ambitions, and dreams.

After a few days in Mechapa, we shuttled south to Gigante. There were 25 more families that needed water filters and during this Adventure, we were able to provide them with the units. SYRV also spent time checking on water filters previously distributed and found that one nozzle needed a replacement - a clear testament to the durability of water filters and the dedication of SYRV to providing quality products and services.

After a few days in Gigante, we bussed over to San Juan Del Sur. San Juan Del Sur is a port city that offers many souvenirs, coffee shops, and wonderful eateries on the beach. At this point in the SYRV Adventure, there was no volunteering left and travelers were encouraged to enjoy themselves, eat good food, shop as much as our wallets could offer, and relax. While San Juan Del Sur and Gigante are delightful places with more amenities (hot water and AC, to name a 2), they aren't places that inspire my soul. Nevertheless, if you haven't been to either, I encourage you to visit and take up the sights and sounds.

I find that SYRV or outfits similar to SYRV provide excellent venues for one to interact with those who receive your donations. You hand off the products and services to the people. You get to look into their eyes and feel their experiences. You interact with the children who have and know of very little, yet, have so much. You shake the calloused and weathered hands of humble men and women who view the gringos as wealthy and powerful, yet it is they, we can learn from. In each of the Nicaraguan people you meet, if you look really closely, you can see a reflection of the person you are. On this trip, regardless of my distractions, I was reminded to be humble and to ALWAYS improve.

Nate, Kimmie, and I spent a few days after the volunteering, close to Rancho Santana, so that we could surf Playa Colorado, Playa Santana, and Panga Drops. Walking back to the car, one day, from Playa Colorado, I couldn't help but notice all of the plastic bottles, foam pieces, spray cans, and other trash that littered the coastline. I began to pick up a bottle here, a plastic bag there, a bed rail, a shoe, and I soon became frustrated because I didn't have enough hands to collect all of the trash. As I stopped to reorganize my hands and the trash that I had just picked up, I remembered some sage advice that Monique Evans, Executive Director of SYRV, shared with me as I spoke about my future endeavors. She mentioned to be passionate, have fun, and while the big picture can be overwhelming like the endless trash on the beach, however small your actions may be, like picking up a few pieces, matters; and I should be proud of what I do. Thanks Monique, I will always remember that.

SYRV X did not inspire me in the way that I had expected and I'm still feeling a little distracted, as though something that will test my courage, is coming my way. But as the days go on, I'm finding that my memories are still there, waiting to be digested; there are lessons that are waiting to be uncovered; and that fortunately, inspiration does not have just one form. This past year has been quite an interesting journey for me. One thing I have realized is to be present in the moment, even with distractions, because some of the most beautiful things in life cannot always be reenacted.


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