Eat, play, dance! :)

Hello!!!
So to recap these past couple of days, I will start by saying this trip has gone by WAY too quickly. Friday, we worked only in the morning because that was the actual day of Dia de la Madre. We had lunch with the staff of the Jubilee House and learned more about the organization and their personal lives. It was nice to get more insight with the members individually and delve more into their motives for coming here and working with this specific community. The locals are truly wonderful. Maggie, Velia and I got to do house visits to check on the babies! We held two adorable ones and met a 15-year-old mother who was supposed to have her baby that day.
After lunch, we relaxed for a decent amount of time before dressing up and going out to dinner. They had live music and dancing which made the night FANTASTIC!! We even got the boys (who were embarrassed to dance due to the day prior) to join us on the dance floor! It was a marvelous night spent dancing bachata, salsa, meringue and more!
Today, we went with Becca and her kids to meet Pedro. He is a 4th generation pottery maker whose craft is not only unique to his family but also his local region. The clay can only be found where he lives and it takes 16 steps to complete his process. He made beautiful pottery which we saw after the demonstration. We all bought at least one piece while Juwon practically bought the whole store! After, we went to a overlook and took pictures of a lake called Laguna de Apoyo. We spent lunch eating down at the lake and swam for a solid two hours after. It was amazing! The water was fresh, the smiles were plenty, and the laughter was exuberant. It was a beautiful day in general. We went to a market that was very old in architecture on the inside, but full of life and colors inside. There were purses, shirts, gizmos and gadgets, keychains and more! We spent an hour there and then ate dinner to the scenery of a sunset. The whole day, I sat in the very front and spoke with our bus driver for the day, Luis. He was a sweet, middle-aged man who had four children, he was one of 12 children, and only was in Managua for his job. I learned so much about him and spoke in Spanish the whole time! I felt like I’ve improved just after one day. I’ve been feeling pretty accomplished lately, not going to lie.
It was a day well spent, and the third to last day of these exotic adventures.
Now, we are relaxing, journaling, listening to the sound of pounding rain, and reminiscing.:)
Besos y abrazos!

Live. Life. Laughter. “Dia de las Madres”

Just like any other morning, it is 7am and Breakfast is already at the Table while the boys are struggling to get out of bed & while all the girls are eating or already done. Lol. Some things will just never change between us Puksta Scholars. Hehe😉 As we wrapped up breakfast (Which was some MORE Gallo Pinto) we changed it up a little bit this morning and had a presentation from Mark who’s a representative from an organization here in Nicaragua. Mark has been here for quite a while now, if I remembered right he’s been here since like early 1980’s, therefore he’s experienced a lot, and knows a lot of the rich history/culture of Nicaragua. Therefore, Marks presentation was about the Political, Economic, and Social structure of Nicaragua since the early years, till today. Within that Mark also described how it has changed from than to now. Let me tell y’all something! Get Ready! Mark knows he’s stuff he doesn’t play around! He was non-stop talking for about an Hour about all this information and knowledge he had, he could go for days. But were all glad we had the chance to ask Mark some questions and get more informed about the Country were in.

As we wrapped up the presentation with Mark in the morning, we made it to the Clinic in Nueva Vida, and had about 2 hours of work. But…….. In those 2 hours we were preparing for the beautiful Mother Day celebration that the Clinic hosts every year for all the Mothers and Families located in Nueva Vida. Just getting to the clinic today was a different vibe than the other days, because we knew what we were all doing and it was for an amazing cause. So imagine a tiny room with 10 Puksta Scholars getting present bags ready, blowing up over 200 balloons, and sweating up a storm. Not a good image right? But trust me, we look good doing it!😉 We like to embrace the hot and humid weather. But we basically set up the place for the Mothers Day Celebration and were ready for 2pm to come to see this event come to life. Before moving more onto what happened during the event, this event is really special because not only do we have the chance to actually talk and get to know these families from the community, but also the organization JHC were with this week, personally wanted us at this event again, since last year everyone had positive things to say about us. As the event started up, you heard the Latin music play in the background, you saw the moms and their families come walking in, it was just an amazing felling. All the seats were filled up from mothers from ages of 15 to even 82 being the oldest mother at the celebration. You heard Laughs, babies cries, and Joy across all the families their. For the celebration we did a couple of fun competitions between the moms like who had the biggest belly out of all of them, who was the youngest mom, who was the oldest mom, and even a dance competition that not only the moms did, but 4 of the boys (Juan, Enrique, Greg, & Juwon) were there partners!! (They were amazing!! They were a little nervous to get up there and dance away, but all of our boys have some hidden moves in them!! But the winner at the end of the Dance Battle was…[drumroll please…] JUWON & his partner! lol) But getting back to where I was at, being able to celebrate this special event with the Mothers from Nueva Vida was a great opportunity not only for us to get out of our comfort zones, but for the families to see that we care for their community and actually want to hear their story. They all loved our presence there and us actually being able to interact with them was a huge plus. As the event came to a close and we started to pack up all of our stuff I see my fellow Pukstas, & start to think how proud I am over every single one of us, and how far we have came into this trip. We may have 4ish days left, but after todays wonderful day and me writing this as the Rain is pouring down, I can say how much we’ve all bonded with each other and became just such a closer family than we already were and I would not been able to come back to Nicaragua with any other family than PUKSTA. I’m off to bed now and I hope y’all are enjoying our Blog!! We have 4 full days of packed action so keep reading so you can find out what’s going on!

-Memo

p.s. Shout out to my Mom, Dad & Brother back at home!! Miss y’all!!! & I’ll see y’all Tuesaday!😀 Los Extrano.❤

p.s.^2 Shout out to my Big Brother Juan on the trip with me! Don’t know what I would do with out you sometimes broski!!!

Sadness, Laughter, and Joy!

Hello Family and friends,

            As everyone else has said we are still doing okay and enjoying our experience here in Nicaragua. Today has been really emotional and interesting due to the all the activities going on. To start the day we had breakfast in the Kairo House (okay some of us because the guys a.k.a. Greg, Tyler, and me decided sleeping is more important than waking up early to eat lol) After we were all ready we headed directly to the “Nueva Vida Clinica”.

            Today was a day full of service work, as soon as we arrived at the clinic we started to do a lot of construction work. Tomorrow the clinic is having a special event for all the mothers in the community to celebrate Mothers Day in Nicaragua. The purpose of our work was to help the clinic clean and prepare the land for the celebration. The work consist in raking leaves/trash from the property, moving big logs, and the rest of us loaded a big trailer with a pile of trash that has been sitting in the clinic for a while. I was part of the team loading the trash so I’m going to tell/give my prospective of the experience. As we loaded the trailer we ended up actually taking the trash to “La Chureca” (the landfilled where people from Nueva Vida work for a living) we did a total of three trips. This was a unique and humbling experience for the ones who went to dump the trash with me. We had the opportunity to see the other prospective of someone actually living in the city and not as a tourist. As we drove thru the city we saw the culture, daily activity of the town, and the way people work for a living. To speak for myself it brought to me a lot of emotions seeing a lot of poverty, seeing the way the people live next to the “Chureca”, and actually working in the “Chureca”. To be honest it was hard to take in what we saw and experience. I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience this, it helps me appreciate all I have back home my family, education, and all the little things we have that we take for granted. Below are some images we tock of the day.

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The Group in Acton!

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On our way to La Chureca

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 IMG_3920                             IMG_3913

After a long morning of working hard we had our hour lunch break at the Jubilee House. After we returned back to the clinic the group had the opportunity to sit down in a circle and talk to Yesenia one of the health promoters that works in the clinic. As we have done construction work we haven’t had a chance to connect with the clinic but talking to Yesenia change that for us. She gave us her background of her life and how she ended up working at the clinic, and a little of what she said “Every since I was little I been working with the community with issues and I love helping people and I love what I do” She also gave us a background of what she does for the clinic and the programs the clinic provides for the clinic. Since she is a health promoter she goes to the community to talk to the families about the current issues and installs programs in the clinic. For example one program is the mothers program, where the clinic helps pregnant mothers by giving classes about pregnancy. Also after the child is born they try to implement the mothers to give breast-feeding to the child for 6 months. If they do so the clinic gives the mothers a free doctors consults to the baby for one year. That is a little of the conversation we had but I’m sure when we get back we can tell you more.

Another thing I want to add is that Juwon and Velia were in an adventure today. They had an opportunity to go to San Juan a city about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Managua. They had a chance to talk to El Povenir a non-profit organization that helps communities with projects that the community needs. For example bringing clean water to many communities in Nicaragua. As some of us know Juwon is the founder of Life Soap, which supports to donate money to developing countries to provided clean water to the communities. This was an awesome opportunity for Juwon to go visit one of the communities and learn about the current projects El Porvenir is working. He had the chance to connect with the community, kids, and families he is helping.

           After the conversation we continue to finish the construction project as most of us got to paint the doctor’s offices and the rest finishing taking the trash to “La Chureca.” By the end of the day and all the hard work we were all looking rough, we were full of dirt from head to toe and everyone had their shirts full of sweat. You can say it was an interesting ride back home!😉 That concludes our day, sorry if it was a little long. Have a goodnight and we love you all.

Besos y Abrazos

-Juan Flores

P.S To my family I Love You all and miss you!!

P.S. I proud of my Little Bro Guillermo, I have seen you grow, step up, and get out of your comfort zone in this trip.

 

Broken Promises but Lots of Love Coming Your Way :)

As Maggie wrote so beautifully, Nicaragua has many wonderful things to offer and we are using our time here to soak them all up…unfortunately in doing so we have not been unable to keep our promise of blogging every night. But today is your lucky day because we finished early J and it is my pleasure to update you all on what we have been up to for the last couple of days!

Join me as we travel back in time, all the way to Sunday…

Sunday was a busy day. It was our last full day at Brazos de Amor in Jinotepe and we had a lot on the schedule. After breakfast we headed into Jinotepe’s downtown area to shop for supplies for “La Despedida,” which is the goodbye celebration Brazos de Amor held for us. It was a really cool experience to travel downtown and see the markets, as they are so full of life and rich in culture. Next we went to watch a soccer game where some of the older boys were playing against another team from the neighborhood. We lost but it was a really good game and the talent for fútbol (soccer) here is incredible! After the game we returned to Brazos de Amor and started getting ready for the despedida and worked on finishing the construction projects we had started earlier in the week.

Since we had the retreat for the older kids, we wanted to do something nice for the younger kids so Maggie, Mel, Juwon and Velia took them into town where they went to an arcade and had tons of fun! The rest of us stayed at the children’s home and helped make chocolate roses with the older kids to give to the staff in appreciation for all of their hard work!

 Ok now to the fun part…

The despedida was filled with laughter and happiness. We had pizza, soda, ice cream, rice krispie treats (made by the hands of the little kids J…yum)…you know all the healthy stuff!😉 Some of the kids from the community cares program as well as several from Brazos de Amor had prepared a musical performance for us, which was the cutest thing ever! There were several kids who shared what they learned from the leadership retreat and it was nice to hear what they took away from the retreat because we were able to see that we had actually had an impact on their lives. We also got to hear from the staff and some of the community members who thanked us for our time in Jinotepe. We reciprocated the love and shared some moments from the trip that were special to us and thanked everyone for their generosity and for welcoming us with open arms.

The rest of the despedida consisted of us hanging out and doing activities with the kids. One activity we had planned was to make giant bubbles… which just turned into a giant bubble bath! Needless to say the bubble juice ended up all over the floor and all of the kids (including us scholars) started playing in it! We were drenched and we made a huge mess that took two hours to clean! At the end of the day the recorded vote on the bubble activity was declared as the best idea ever and completely worth it!

Monday… 

Monday morning was bittersweet as we left Brazos de Amor for Managua. On one hand we did not want to say goodbye to the children, whereas on the other hand we were excited for the work that we would be doing in Ciudad Sandino. It just seemed as if our first week in Nicaragua had gone by too fast and we all wished for just a little more time in Jinotepe. We had created such strong relationships with the kids, especially after the retreat, and then it was time to say goodbye to them when they had really begun to open up to us. There was definitely a sense of sadness as we left Jinotepe and we miss the kids immensely.

When we arrived in Managua we went to the mall and ate breakfast (a.k.a. Burger King) and then Nestor and Cairo took us on a tour of the city and shared some of Nicaragua’s history with us. We got to visit several of the city’s landmarks including the presidential palace and learned that the president doesn’t actually live there because he prefers to live in his own home and spend the money that it would cost to maintain the palace, on the people who need it the most. Next we got to see one of Managua’s largest lakes and walk along the pier. In the afternoon we traveled to a really awesome park and just relaxed. Later in the evening we got to go to a professional basketball game where two teams were competing for the championship! We had a blast at the game and the most surprising thing…it was free! We ended our journey at one of Nicaragua’s most authentic restaurants, good old-fashioned Pizza Hut!😉 By the time the game had ended only fast food restaurants were open and so pizza for dinner it was!

Tuesday (Today)…

This morning we woke up and traveled to the Jubilee House where we received background information on the organization, toured the property and got straight to work making pumice bricks and wire support structures for the new building that the Jubilee House is planning on building. We also visited a landfill located in Ciudad Sandino, which was an utterly humbling experience. Due to the high levels of poverty in Nicaragua many people rely on the landfill as a source of employment and some may even reside in the landfill itself, as they have nowhere else to go. Overall it was a heavy day in the sense that we were physically exhausted, emotionally drained and still processing our transition from Brazos de Amor. We closed out the evening with a wonderful reflection led by Maggie and went to bed with a better sense of each other, why we are here, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for all of those who helped us get here and allow us to help make our dreams come true!

No promises on when our next blog will take place but we will try to make it soon! Until then we send lots of love and best wishes your way!

-Sophia

P.S. Hi Mom, Dad, Chaac and to the rest of my lovely family and friends J

P.P.S. I wrote this post Tuesday night but didn’t actually get to post it until Wednesday morning!

 

 

 

 

 

WE’RE STILL ALIVE… and thriving (:

Hello Friends and Family!

First and foremost I would like to sincerely apologize on the behalf of all of the Puksta Family here in Nicaragua for not updating this blog for the past couple of days. It is difficult to bring ourselves back to responsibility and adulthood when we are having so much fun at Arms of Love!

So… updates, updates, updates… where do I begin…

Thursday was a full day of playing with the children both from the Community Cares program and from Brazos de Amor. We played freeze tag, colored, and of course got our butts kicked in soccer…. again. Many of our strapping, young scholars took on the feat of various construction projects around the property. We can now proudly say that Arms of Love is home to a freshly painted gate, and not one but two beautifully renovated basketball hoops. Finally, many of us had the privilege of participating in interviews with the families who are a part of the community cares program. This was a way for this organization to assess the positive aspects of this community as well as talk about ways in which Arms of Love can better serve the community at large. This is also a way in which we can hear and share the stories behind the families and individuals in Jinotepe. This way potential partners and sponsors are not only supporting a wonderful organization, they truly have a connections with the service that they are doing. 

Friday was another busy day at Arms of Love for all. We started off the day bright and early with a beautifully prepared and always delicious, breakfast. Many of us moved on to continue the construction projects that had been started the day before, some of us helped the staff members with cleaning, and some of us continue to participate in interviews with the Community Cares families. It is truly amazing to see what we all can accomplish when we have such diligent work ethic and a supportive Puksta family to make the days full.

Friday night after dinner all of the Puksta Family hosted a Leadership Retreat for 19 of the older children at Arms of Love. We stayed at a picturesque retreat center in Jinotepe. We have been planning activities that revolve around the themes of team building, trust, and communication for months now. It is safe to say that I was just a teeny bit nervous for how the retreat was going to play out. In the end we all felt like the Leadership Retreat was a grand success. The children were able to get to know each other more, practice teamwork in a variety of settings, and have intentional conversations about how the retreats’ themes relate to leadership. We all felt that we were able to plant seeds in the minds of these children on how to be a leader in their own community in the way that makes sense to them. Saturday afternoon we all came back from the Leadership retreat with a renewed sense of community and purpose.

Saturday night was an experience…an experience that I can only hope to do justice by way of this blog. We all went to…. wait for it…. the circus! Yes, a real Nicaraguan circus. What is the circus like here you may ask? Well, there are common aspects between a circus here and a circus in the states: the enormous stripped tent, faint scent of childhood dreams being fulfilled, and the promise of way too much cotton candy. There were a few aspects that were unique to a circus in Nicaragua, such as monkeys roaming around the “bleachers” before showtime, and a live version of “So You Think You Can Dance” where all of the participants have not yet celebrated their 7th birthday. Despite having a sore bum from sitting on plywood for 2 hours, the laughter of all of the children made this one of the best nights we have had thus far. Sometimes we all need a night where we can laughed till our stomachs hurts at inappropriate jokes. We topped off a fun filled Saturday with a engaging reflection that filled our hearts with the blessings of this trip and thoughts of how to maintain the connections we have made here in the future.

Well that is all of the updating I am responsible for thankfully. I promise you all back home that we will do our very best to update this blog every night, but please keep in mind that we are all so infatuated with all that Nicaragua has to offer us in these two weeks that we do not want to miss a second (or in my case 30 minutes). We are all safe, healthy, and anxiously awaiting our return to the States with full hearts ready to share amazing experiences. 

Buenos noches,

Maggie

P.S. Momma say hi to Lucy for me.

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P.P.S. Oh yah- Hi Momma, Papi, Marina, Faith and Joe. Love and miss you all very much!!

Return to Arms of Love, Day 2 (kind of)

Hello family and friends!!! Today was our first full day here in Nicaragua, hence the “kind of” part in the title of this post. Being one of the two newbies of the group, I thought it only appropriate that I write about my experience for this first day.:)

Today, Maggie (the other newb) and I tutored some children during their English class. It was fantastic. It really helped me see how teachers handle language barriers. I’ll say, there is a LOT of explanation that needs to be done when trying to explain why certain things are the way that they are. The kids are wonderful! There are no words to explain how much their smiles light up everyone’s day. They have so much heart… and energy!! In this humidity, I would’ve expected a little less enthusiasm, but they are 100% all of the time! It absolutely blows my mind. Granted, I probably was that enthusiastic as a wee one, but currently my energy level is sub par. It’s going to take a few nights to adjust to the heat and lack of air flow in our bedroom. I was really dreading all of the bugs we would be experiencing, but since the rain has not started yet there are very few. It’s a big relief. I hope the rainy season will start after we leave. Bugs freak me out a little. Although, I am oddly calm when I am not in my comfort zone.

On a different note, today felt like such a blur. There were so many things happening at once. We woke up around 7 and ate gallo pinto (beans and rice) along with other yummy goodness. While the AOL children were out and about, the families from the community feeding program kept us company. We interviewed the children’s parents (mainly just moms) to try and further create a profile of each family, their lifestyles, and share that with foreigners who want to further culture themselves. It truly was a beautiful thing to hear more of their stories and be at their eye level. I was able to practice my Spanish, but I spoke very little during the interview. I mainly practiced my Spanish with the kids from the program and AOL.

It was very hard to process everything that was happening. We played games on the basketball court with the AOL kids after they were finished with school from soccer to capture the flag. I caught myself thinking about service, though. I spoke with Maggie about my observation that it seems like we, as Americans, are always in other countries at places like children’s homes or elsewhere (making us seem all high and mighty, yet I still feel resent towards us because we are willing to reach out to other countries but not fix our own issues. I also don’t know many people (if any) that travel to the US to help us with our local issues. At the same time, do we have too much pride to ask for it, or have we built up that many people to not want to assist? Anyways, maybe I’m ranting. Just some food for thought:)

Overall, here is what I have gathered so far: humidity will be a common theme along with exhaustion, but the feeling of accomplishment will be just as present making it all worth it.

Besos y abrazos (kisses and hugs),

Chand

Round Two: Day 1

Good Morning Everyone!

We arrived in Nicaragua last night and made it safely to Jinotepe! Surprisingly, the temperature is not too hot and its not super humid… yet.😉

We will have more updates coming your way soon but for now we just wanted to let everyone back home know that we arrived safe and sound!

-Sophia Velez