Ripley Carlson


Every summer for as long as I can remember, I have gone somewhere, usually with my family. These places have included Australia, Spain, France, Israel, Holland, Canada, and Nicaragua. Although all of these places have left me with lasting memories, some more detailed than others, I have learned the most from my trip to Nicaragua.

I took the trip this past summer, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was embarking on this adventure with one of my best friends, and though we were both a little worried, we were looking forward to the new experience. It started on June 27th right after school ended by going to the Miami airport to meet our group. My first impression of this group was a little unnerving as I wasn’t sure I would get along with everyone. However, these thoughts were obliterated as soon as I got to know the people better. These connections began on the three-hour plane ride to Managua International Airport, in which they made sure that I was not sitting next to my friend so as to meet new people. Our first night was torturous; the heat was seemingly unbearable as we were cooped up in a crappy hotel without any sort of air conditioning except a small fan. None of us got any sleep, however the next day completely made up for this. We spent the day gliding through the rainforest on zip lines and getting beautiful views of the countryside.

On the third or fourth day, once we had gotten to know each other a little better, we went to the island where we would be staying and saw, for the first time, the conditions we would be living in for the next month. At first they seemed horrendous. No running water, no showers, no beds, and most importantly, no air conditioning. However, once settled in, we quickly got used to the heat and by the first day of work were no longer complaining about our conditions. The two volcanoes crowning the island were amazing, with the clouds surrounding them being the halo of an angel. The work was not nearly as hard as we had expected either, and we quickly settled into a routine. Work on the weekdays and excursions to various places on the weekends. The weekends were meant as a relaxing time. They included trips to lagoons on top of volcanoes, and trips to ocean beaches. They were the most fun part of the trip to me. In the town, not only did we get the rewards of improving a schoolhouse, but we also got to see how other cultures lived, make friends, and improve our Spanish. The children in the town were just as intrigued by us as we were by them, which led to a very welcoming and interesting atmosphere. On the first night in the village we were welcomed by a town-wide party in which they introduced us to some of their native dances and people, including the leaders of the town. From then on, we began to bond with the children and teens of the town, as well as the adults; especially those who helped us with the work every day. The hardest and largest achievement of the trip came towards the end when some of the group climbed the smaller of the two volcanoes called Maderas. After two or three exhausting hours of climbing in the mud and puddles, we finally reached the top completely exhausted, only to find that there was no view at all. The lagoon in the volcanic crater, as well as the top of the mountain was completely surrounded by clouds lending to absolutely no view and an utterly disappointing summit. However, despite the lack of a view, we were still happy to have made it. If not in the moment, then certainly afterwards when looking up at the mountain and realizing that just a few short hours ago we had been at the top. In contrast, the worst part of the trip was when one of our group members was sent home because he contracted the mosquito-borne Dengue Fever, and become very sick.

The final few days of the trip were spent in beautiful San Juan del Sur on an amazing beach with light blue tropical and very, very warm (by New England standards) water. There was even a surfing lesson to top it off! In the end we had to fly home, and though I was sad to see all my new friends go, I was happy to know that I had had a great time and that at the same time I had learned about what life was like in other cultures.

Overall, I view the trip as a learning experience which helped me realize just how lucky I am. I have always taken for granted the fact that I’ll be able to wake up in the morning, go turn my faucet to brush my teeth or take a shower and that water will come pouring out of it. Before this trip it had barely crossed my mind as to what it would be like to wake up every morning without running water, and have to pour the water over myself instead of take a true shower. I also never considered how lucky I was to have something as simple as a floor to walk on instead of just packed down dirt, or at best, concrete. Although I have readjusted to the life of Lexingtonians, I will never forget my experience or be as ignorant of my conditions as I was before last summer. I think that everyone should make this trip or one like it sometime during their lives so that they can gain some perspective on the life they live and how different it is from the way everyone else lives.


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