It has been 4 days already since we returned from Nicaragua, but the people we met, the connections we made, the experiences we had all remain with me. I understand now why it is sometimes referred to as the “Third World” as it truly is another world over there. We were a week without internet, a week without phones, just us, the Nicaraguans, and nature. And it was amazing; connecting with nature, seeing the gorgeous view of the mountains and valleys around us during the days and the stars at night, not tainted by the light pollution of cities.
We spent our days building. Building a kitchen for the FUDEGL (Fundacion Denis Ernesto Gonzalez Lopez) community center for agricultural sustainability, mixing cement, laying bricks, and lots of carrying, carrying sand, bricks, and water, but more importantly we built connections. We built connections with Sergio and Pedro Montoya, the construction workers who taught us all about construction and a whole lot more, with Sandra Lopez, the founder and president of FUDEGL, with Carmen and Maylin, our incredible kitchen staff, and with Francisco, member of FUDEGL and our personal translator.
The evenings, however, were the most crucial part of our days. Waking up at 6:30 am we worked until around 4 pm, and then followed up work with learning sessions with our AJWS trip leaders, Aaron and Rachel. These sessions were intended to teach us about social justice, and inspire us to do something about it on our return to Maryland, and in the setting of being in the midst of poverty, it worked perfectly. Every one of us was involved in the group discussions, bringing up great points about the issues we have to deal with and how to deal with them. These learning sessions completed our trip, and made it something we can utilize every day of our lives.
Shabbat in Nicaragua was something else. Our group consisted of a wide range of religiosity, from those who had never kept Shabbat before, to those who had never not kept Shabbat before. Still, we all came together and everyone was able to learn from each other and to celebrate Shabbat in the way that suited them. As one of the people who keeps Shabbat consistently, I know that this Shabbat will always remain in my memories as one the best I’ve experienced.
We are back in school now, back in the middle of the semester, but Nicaragua and the people we met there, the things we experienced there, remain with us and influence our thoughts and actions every day.
by Yaakov Cohen