By McKaylee Smith, 12th grade
Over Spring Break, I had the privilege of visiting Nicaragua with three other students for our senior trip, a trip we had been anticipating for months. Finally, after much preparation, Jane, Mia, Lindy and I boarded a plane with Mrs. Brady, Imagine’s central administration officer, and set out for Central America.
Our senior trip would not have been possible if it were not for Mr. Preston Emerton, the former Middle Years Programme Director at Imagine. He worked closely with my class in our freshman and sophomore years, especially throughout the Personal Project process, and so he was kind enough to invite us to Managua, where he currently lives with his wife and three children. On the first night we arrived in the city, we were able to visit a festival at the American-Nicaraguan School, where he currently works.
Photo: Ziplining with Mr. Emerton (far left) and his family!
On our first weekend, Mr. Emerton’s family, Mrs. Brady, Lindy, Mia, Jane and I made the one-hour drive to San Juan del Sur, a beach town. I was immediately struck by how beautiful San Juan was- and how uncrowded. Having visited the beaches of San Diego, I was awed by the empty stretches of sand at San Juan, unencumbered by beach towels and screaming children. Colorful boats were anchored nearby in the harbor, and beachside restaurants pumped energetic music throughout the night. We would later visit Playa Hermosa, which was even more empty and starkly beautiful.
In San Juan, we went ziplining on a mountain overlooking the ocean, surrounded by monkeys, sloths, and the occasional toucan in the nearby trees. The ten of us also sailed a mile or so up the coast in a small fishing boat, which was piloted by two Nicaraguan men that spoke no English and were very nice. On our final morning in San Juan, we rode horses along the beach in a surreal experience that left me with great memories and horrible tan lines.
Photo: Various activities ranging from horse-back riding to relaxing on the beach!
Back in Managua, Mr. Emerton introduced our group of four students to Rosie, a senior at his school. Rosie welcomed us into her home, where we would stay for four nights, and busied herself with showing us around Managua and its localities and introducing us to her classmates. With Rosie, we were able to tour Granada, Catarina, and Old Managua and to hike Volcano Masaya. We are very appreciative to Rosie for being so accommodating and to her friends Sasha, Isabela, Magda, Sebastian, and Sugar for their kindness.
Photo: Posing after lunch with Rosie and Sasha!
Jane, Mia, Lindy, and I attended these students’ school for a day, during which I went to Spanish class and Environmental Science with Diana, another senior. At the American-Nicaraguan School (ANS), students are taught in a manner that will allow them to attend American universities, and so all of the classes are taught in English except for Spanish class, and American culture is often mentioned. All of the students, particularly the older students, are proficient in English. I was very impressed to observe the water diversion lesson in Environmental Science and to see that the students not only understood the terms in a foreign language but were engaged in the lesson as well.
We also were able to volunteer with the ANS Pink Club, which raises money for cancer treatment for women. With the club, we filled and hid 2,000 plastic Easter eggs on school grounds. Furthermore, we helped with the 4th grade Walk-a-Thon, attended a Francophonie celebration, and received a tour of the large and beautiful campus of ANS. On Wednesday, our group visited the Operation Smile office, which provides dental care for low-income individuals, especially cleft palate surgeries. We volunteered by talking with prospective patients (in Spanish, of course) about proper teeth-brushing technique.
We had many opportunities to practice Spanish while abroad, although the ANS students spoke English well. We visited several markets in Managua, and I practiced Spanish by attempting to barter (sometimes unsuccessfully) with vendors for the odd keychain or other knickknack. While many shops and restaurants accepted dollars as well as the local cordobas, their workers only knew basic greetings and numbers. It was a challenge to understand local colloquialisms and rapid Spanish, but I thoroughly enjoyed taking my knowledge from class to the streets of Nicaragua. Some of my favorite practice sessions were trying to interpret our group’s favorite Latin American pop song (“Encantadora”) or attempting to understand a street performer as he serenaded us with a classic song from the country, “Nicaragua Nicaraguita.”
After eight days of fun and four hours of waiting at the airport due to a delayed flight, we returned to Dallas on Saturday. I am so thankful for my school’s and my family’s efforts to give me this amazing experience. I already miss gallo pinto, the rice and bean mixture served at every breakfast.The memories of friends made, the food eaten, and the sights seen will definitely be cherished for years to come. I hope I will be able to return someday.
Slideshow: More photos of the girls exploring the beautiful country of Nicaragua