La Isla Bonita

After leaving the heat of Leon, my group got on a ferry where we made out way to Moyogalpa, the first town you hit on Ometepe Island. Ometepe is an island that was formed from two gigantic volcanos that now sit smack dab in the center of the island.

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Volcano Concepcion as seen from the ferry

Our time on Ometepe involved a homestay with a family in the pueblo of Los Angeles. I was placed in a house with my tour guide, Estaban and another woman named Vesna.

Our lodging was…let’s just say basic. The water didn’t really work, my window was nailed shut, and the bed was not so clean. I survived and it was just two nights, but The Ritz it was not.

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My bedroom at my homestay.

The woman who lived in my house had two grandsons who lived next door. The older one, Kevin, had taught himself English. He wants to be a dentist and was a blast to talk to.

The second day of our time on the island the whole group went on what they call the “lazy tour” which is really just a tour of the island. It’s the lazy tour because we were all too lazy to climb one of the volcanos for nine plus hours in the blistering heat and filthy mud. I said give me lazy any day.

The trip included stops at Charo Verde, a beautiful nature reserve, the mysterious peteroglphys, a stop next to the beach for lunch, a stop to see some super freaky monkeys, and finished at the refreshing waters of Ojo de Agua, a pool made from natural spring waters of the volcano.

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Monarch butterflies at Charco Verde

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Scary monkey showing his teeth at me!

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The petroglyphs

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The refreshing waters of Ojo de Agua

In the evening we all had dinner at one of the families houses before heading to the village of Moyogalpa for their annual festival. This was similar to a street fest and happens one weekend per year. These is music and drinking, similar to what you may see at a street fest in the states, except there was also a running of the bulls type of activity. We missed most of it by the time we arrived.

Although the island itself was really beautiful, this festival was probably my favorite thing we did while on the island. Some locals from the families came with us and we all just had a blast hanging out.

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Kevin and Esteban at the festival

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At the Moyogalpa festival

Well, almost all of us. Unfortunately one member of our group (the anonymous one) was very unhappy and had a miserable time. She pretty much pouted and walked around with her arms crossed the whole night. None of us could really figure out why, but we didn’t let it stop our fun. If anything I think this night and our time on Ometepe brought the rest of us closer together.

I really liked Ometepe but wish I had a little more time to explore. Next time, though, I’d probably opt for a hotel.

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Made a new friend in Ometepe

“La Isla Bonita” -Madonna

Categories: Nicaragua | Leave a comment

It Was So Hot Outside, You Could Fry an Egg

Oh Leon. I wanted to fall in love with you, I really did, but you are just too darn hot!

I had read so many amazing things about the city of Leon from several bloggers and people in my Go Girls group. People talked it up so much that I originally wanted to spend about five or six days in the city before moving on. Because I was on a tour, I was only given two days and that ended up being more than enough.

It’s not that the city didn’t interest me or there wasn’t a lot to do or see. It was just so damn hot I was depleted of all energy and could only focus on one thing: keeping cool.

Most people in my group decided to go volcano boarding the morning after climbing Telica. While it sounded like a very unique thing to do, climbing another volcano the morning after cutting the hell out of my legs on a volcano the night before just didn’t appeal. Instead I headed into Parque Central. It was really beautiful, but all the seats in the shade were taken. I did enjoy taking some photos of the park and cathedral though.

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Leon Cathedral

Instead of walking around much longer, I headed back to my hotel and spent a good portion of the day nice and cool in the pool. I don’t regret it for a moment!

Later in the afternoon some of us went on a city tour. My absolute favorite part of the tour, and possibly of all of Leon, was going to the top of the cathedral. It was gorgeous. Completely white (we couldn’t wear our shoes) and absolutely stunning views in all directions. The contrast of the bright blue sky against the stark white roof made for some beautiful photos. I could have stayed up there all day!

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On top of the cathedral

Leon, and all of Nicaragua, has a fascinating history. Leon was a very important location for the revolution. I learned a lot about the Sandinistas and the fight against the dictatorship, but I think I still may need to read a book or two to fully understand it all. We went to a museum where we were told not only the intense history of the revolution, but also many crazy Nicaraguan myths. They just kept getting weirder and weirder!

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A representation of a soldier in the revolution.

That night we had one of my favorite meals of the whole trip. Esteban took us to eat good at a place in the street. There was a big grill with all kinds of delicious food being cooked and big tables to sit at right smack dab in the middle of the street. A nice breeze had finally come along and we had a great time hanging out outside, right behind the cathedral. The little girl of the people cooking the food was celebrating her second birthday and we decided to celebrate right along with her, singing happy birthday and inviting her into pictures. She even shared her birthday cake with us.

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Delicious street food

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Felix Cumpleanos a Ti

After dinner we went out for a few drinks at a bar near the park. When morning came I was so relieved to get out of that crazy heat, but if it were just a little cooler I could easily have fallen in love with Leon.

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Roar!

“Wasting Time” -Dave ¬†Matthews Band

Categories: Nicaragua | 1 Comment

It’s Not a Hill, It’s a Mountain, As You Start Off The Climb

When my tour group arrived in the city of Leon, one of the girls really wanted to climb an active volcano called Telica. I’m not really sure how it happened but somehow the entire group decided to go. At this point I had had my fill of adventure activities. Canyoneering, ziplining, and some other hikes were enough for me. I didn’t want to go but also didn’t want to stay alone in a new city at night by myself. I probably asked ten times if the hike was an easy one. I was assured it was (it wasn’t!), and that I would be just fine (I also wasn’t)!

In order to get to the base of the volcano we took an hour and a half ride on the bumpiest roads/trails/rocks I have ever experienced. Plus we were squished in to the back of a truck which didn’t help. But the view from the bottom was pretty great.

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View from below

 

We got to the base of the volcano, feeling really carsick, and as I looked up all I could think is “no way”. In my mind there was no possibility I could climb that thing. At this point though I had no choice. Up and up and up I went. I’m not gonna lie. I hated every single minute of it. While climbing on these unsteady rocks trying desperately to catch my breath, and keep up (which at some point I just gave up) I vowed to never go hiking volcanos again. I really was miserable.

And then…I fell. I fell hard, scraping both legs like crazy with blood dripping down. I’m pretty sure the scars will be there forever to match one I got while canyoneering. Our hiking guide was way at the front and had no idea I fell. Luckily Esteban, my tour guide was by me and there to help.

And then…I cried. I was hot, tired, car sick, scraped, and overall just unhappy. Esteban asked if I wanted to go back down and said he would come with me, but I had made it this far and I was going to reach the top of this thing, even if it killed me.

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On my way up, looking back down.

I went slowly, especially since both legs were stinging, and gradually made my way up, taking breaks probably every three minutes. But up and up I went and finally I made it!

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Saying moo at the top.

It took me a few minutes to catch my breath again and realize I was at the top, but once I did and looked around I was able to focus on how absolutely beautiful it was. I mean stunning. Possibly the most spectacular view and surroundings I’ve had on the whole trip.

And that’s when the camera came out. I’m sure lugging my heavy camera and lenses did not help me one bit on my trudge up the volcano, but once I got to the top I was so thankful to have them with me.

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The crater

I spent a ton of time shooting up there, plus it was sunset which made it even better. From the top you can actually look into the crater of the volcano, with smoke flying everywhere. Unfortunately we couldn’t see much lava, but it was still quite a sight. There was no rail or anything in terms of safety. Yet another thing that would never be allowed in the US, but we were all careful. Just being up there really was quite an experience. The sunset up there was spectacular too.

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Sunset on Telica

And then it was time to go down. In the pitch black. On crazy steep rocks. There is no actual trail, just rocks, so getting down was tricky, but I did it. Then another 1.5 hour drive of carsickness, and finally safe and sound and very ready for a shower, back at the hotel.

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Another sunset shot

So this hike was definitely not my thing and I would never do it again, but in the end was it worth it? Yes, I actually think it was.

“I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” -U2

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You Can’t Keep a Spirit Down That Wants to Rise Up Again

Before my photography workshop ended, I started to get a little worried about traveling on my own in Nicaragua for two and a half weeks before starting Spanish school. I knew there were many places in Nicaragua I wanted too see but wasn’t sure about how to get to them. Though I am very independent, the thought of being totally on my own started to make me panic a bit.

I decided to look if G Adventures, the tour company I went to Costa Rica with, had any tours in Nicaragua. Not only did they have a tour, but they had one that started in Granada the day the photography workshop ended. It was perfect. I emailed and was able to get myself a spot on the tour. This 12 day tour would start in Granada and from there head to Leon, Ometepe Island, San Juan del Sur, and finally end back in Granada. They were all places I wanted to go.

This group had 9 people, a father and his 16 year old son from Austin, two women traveling separately from Canada, a woman from Seattle, one from Australia, a man from England, another woman from Chicago, and me. Plus we had our hardworking leader, Esteban from Costa Rica.

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The gang

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Our leader hard at work

 

To tell the truth, I wasn’t so sure about this group at first. One of the girls rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning, and I just wasn’t sure about the rest of them. My instincts about the one girl were correct and I had a very hard time dealing with her the whole trip. The rest of the group felt the same. (She won’t show up in any pictures because she refused to be in any; she will remain anonymous). The rest of them, however, I ended up absolutely adoring. We had such a blast together and I left the trip feeling as I have gained even more good friends.

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At dinner

Our first two days were spent in Granada. Even though I had already been in the city for a week, I still enjoyed my time. Together we went on a tour of many of the surrounding areas including Masaya volcano and market, Catarina, and San Juan del Oriente. I had been to all these places already, however at the end of the day we got taken to swim in Laguna de Apoyo, which up until this point I had only seen from above. It was so nice and refreshing to finally dive in! I was also excited to finally try some of the restaurants I had walked by many times since all of our food on the photography workshop was homemade.

Pottery at San Juan de Oriente

Pottery at San Juan de Oriente

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Laguna de Apoyo

I will be honest, when the tour first started I felt a little defeated. I had this big plan to come to Nicaragua and roam around totally on my own terms without a schedule or a plan. I had so much planned out in Peru and wanted more flexibility this time. I felt like joining a tour was a total copout and I wasn’t as brave as I thought. But then I started thinking about how many people I know who would pick up and go to Latin America for six weeks without knowing a soul (also for the forth time). Not many. Just the fact I am out here doing it, whether with a tour or not, is pushing me out of my comfort zone and allowing me to explore the world. If being in a group puts me at ease a bit, so what? I didn’t let my defeated feeling keep me down and ended up having an amazing time on this leg of my adventure.

As I go I am realizing what kind of traveler I am, and while I don’t think I would enjoy a big bus tour with forty people, traveling with a group smaller than 15, even if they are complete strangers, works well for me. G adventures is perfect for this. I don’t think I will ever travel the way bloggers I read and admire like Adventurous Kate or Nomadic Matt do; not knowing where they will stay the next night or what country they will be in next week. They have that total spontaneity in them. I do not, but again, that’s ok.

In the past, Spanish School has also worked well for me, giving me a routine and several opportunities to meet others. We’ll see if that is the case as well when I head to Matagalpa.

Part of traveling is learning, not just about the world, but about yourself, and I think I am doing just that.

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At Masaya Volcano

“Pendulum Swinger” -Indigo Girls

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Could You Take My Picture?

During the photography workshop we packed in photo shoots everyday. We were up and often at our destination by 5am most days, trying to get the best light and sometimes sunrise. We usually had a break in the middle of the day, which often included us hanging out in the amazing pool and getting coffee, then off to another shoot for the afternoon and evening. We went to so many locations, I can’t possibly talk about all of them, so I will focus on a handful of favorites.

The Barrios: Two times throughout the week we visited barrios, or neighborhoods in Granada. Many of the students we worked with lived in these barrios. Walking through the streets, witnessing all the life that was going on, made this my favorite destination to shoot and to experience. The people of this barrio were so incredibly warm and friendly. We always asked before taking pictures, but most people would smile and even pose, excited to have the camera pointed their way. They would want to see the photos taken, and the smiles got even bigger when their reflections smiled back at them on the screen. The people living here do not have a lot and live in conditions I couldn’t imagine. They are so incredibly hard working and they just amazed me. So many of them were truly people to admire and I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to capture their images.

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Lovely girls

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More beautiful children

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I was mesmerized by this boy

Santa Ana: Santa Ana is a farming community outside of Granada that Empowerment International serves. Here we got to milk cows, see plantains cut down, and watch daily life go on. My favorite part of the visit was watching a grandma and her grandchildren watering the crops. The two kids were having a blast playing in the water.

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Playing in the water

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Watering the crops

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Mooooo!

The Market: The market in Granada is hectic, lively, strange, and incredible. Everything is sold from toothpaste to fish to mango. It is crowded and loud and easy to get lost. The participants were paired with a kid who was familiar with the market so we could find our way. We asked all kinds of people in the market if we could take their photo and almost all were very willing participants. The market made for some great photography, but also a great way to experience the Nicaraguan culture.

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Woman in the market

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Sandia anyone?

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Sharing a moment

Masaya and Mombacho: These are two very different Volcanos. Masaya was visited first for a sunset shoot, where Varina really helped me understand how to get the smoke from this active volcano to look just right. Mombacho is only reached by special trucks that take you way up in the cloud forest. The vegetation is so dense and lush. Due to lighting, it was one of the most difficult places to shoot, but we all enjoyed the challenge and the chance to spend time in the cool air up there.

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Masaya at Sunset

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More smoke at Masaya

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The lush greens of Mombacho

The Isletas: The Isletas are a series of 365 islands that are found throughout Lake Nicaragua. They are all different, some housing private residences, others with restaurants and bars and even one with a hotel, and some with just wildlife including the famous “Monkey Island”. While on the boats we also captured many people rowing along in canoes, a few swimmers, and some fisherman ready for today’s catch.

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Gone fishin’

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Row your boat…

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Hey there monkey

Laguna de Apoyo: Laguna de Apoyo is a lake in the crater of a now extinct volcano. It is gorgeous with a great view of Mombacho volcano in the background. We visited two areas overlooking Laguna de Apoyo; Cueva de Tigre for sunset and Catarina for sunrise. We had a blast playing around with silhouettes during sunrise.

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Mombacho in the distance.

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Sunset

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Playing with silhouettes

These were only a few of the thousands of pictures I took throughout the week, but ones I am proud of.

“Take a Picture” -Filter

Categories: Nicaragua | 3 Comments

We’re On Each Other’s Team

I think I’m still processing my week with The Giving Lens and Empowerment International. I feel it will be almost impossible to sum up the experience in a few blog posts, but I’m going to try my best.

The one week workshop in Granada was exhausting, eye opening, intense, difficult, but above all else, wonderful. The professional photographers that ran the workshop are Jay and Varina Patel. It was their third time coming to Nicaragua with The Giving Lens and it was immediately clear how passionate they are about being here. You could tell instantly how excited the kids they had worked with before were to see them. They are both outstanding photographers. You should definitely check out their work.

 

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Jay and Varina, our fearless leaders!

The participants making up the team were from all over the US, Canada, and one guy from Australia. The group got along really well and I met so many great people who share a passion for photography. I found this to be a very unique experience that people coming from many walks of life could share.

As I mentioned in my last post, the entire week the participants were working closely with the students side by side. We went to almost all the shoots together. From our first day walking around Granada to our last day having pizza together and wiping away tears while saying goodbye, we were truly a team.

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The whole team

I loved the kids that we worked with. They were funny, intelligent, hardworking, and patient. They often taught us way more than we taught them, about photography and life. They have so much potential and I truly feel they will do great things.

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Selfies with the kids!

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The girls ready to shoot.


The non profit we worked with, Empowerment International was also great. They do so much for the community and their efforts should not go unnoticed. Their staff was so accommodating and went above and beyond to make sure things ran smoothly. The staff was also full of amazing people we got to know well and had so much fun with. They added so much to the trip.

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Margarita and Pamela, two of the fabulous women of the Empowerment International staff

Not everything was perfect, but that is part of travel. Two of the girls had their money stolen from our first hotel, so after two days there was a lot of scrambling around in order to put us in a new hotel. The girl I met up with in Costa Rica, Justine, and I were left behind the very first day of the trip due to some miscommunication about where and when we were all meeting. There were some other hiccups along the way, but not everything can run perfectly in a trip that requires as much organization and planning as this one did. We all lived through it and made the most of it.

I went into this trip hoping to become a better photographer and have a good time. Those goals were met and surpassed. I learned so much about photography and shot in manual the entire week which was a big step for me. I now understand certain capabilities of my camera that I had no idea about before. In just one week the amount of knowledge I gained is unbelievable. A big thanks to Jay and Varina for all their help. In addition to the photography, I had an amazing time, feel I participated in and was part of a great non profit, met amazing people, and got a better understanding of life and the culture of Granada, Nicaragua. Overall, this trip was very successful and I am thankful for all the great memories it has given me.

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Me and Josseling

“Team” -Lorde

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Lend a Helpin’ Hand

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Students and their cameras!

After finishing a week long experience with The Giving Lens in Nicaragua, a nonprofit that offers photography workshops but also a chance to work with the local community and local nonprofits, I wanted to take a little time to reflect.

Before I get into my experience I wanted to talk a little about my previous travel and volunteer experience. I have recently become more involved in the travel community by becoming a member of Go Girls of the World, as well as their local Chicago meetup. I’ve attended the Women in Travel Summit in Chicago as well as various other events. One topic that comes up often is voluntourism.

When people hear the term “volunteer” especially in the context of travel, I think most people think of a great selfless act people are choosing to partake in. Recently, however, there has been controversy surrounding the idea of voluntourism that is being discussed in the travel community. Often, a problem arises where people will go somewhere to volunteer without truly having an understanding of the area they are traveling to. While the volunteers can walk away feeling good about themselves and feel as if they helped or even tried to save those they were working with, they often cause more harm than good. The volunteer walks away happy and fulfilled while those they aimed to help walk away with more of a mess to clean up. Instead of being the selfless act it was meant to be, it actually turns into more of a selfish one.

For example, I read about a group that went to build homes (a common enough volunteer activity, one that I have also taken part in) but had no skill in doing so. While the volunteers slept at night, what they had built had to be taken down and redone properly if the house was to stay standing. When the volunteers woke in the morning they were none the wiser and continued to build the structurally unsound houses that would again need to be fixed. I’m sure this has happened many times.

When I went to volunteer in Guatemala in 2009 at a school, it never occurred to me I could cause more harm than good. I went to teach the students each day, hoping and really feeling like I was making a difference. Looking back, I’m honestly not sure if the goal of helping to educate the students was really accomplished. The students enjoyed my company and I think their math skills did improve, but trying to teach reading in a language I barely spoke was pretty unrealistic.

I have kept in touch with the organization I worked with and they no longer have volunteers at the school in Guatemala. They do fundraising and have invested in the community. They now are able to staff the school with local teachers who speak fluent Spanish. This helps everyone in the community. They are now self sustaining which was the vision from the beginning, I just wasn’t aware of it. When I visited the school by the same organization in Peru, I was sad to see there weren’t volunteers. When I think about it now though, I’m able to understand that this is actually a very good thing for their community now that it is self sustaining.

When I got to Nicaragua, I was curious what the volunteer portion of our trip would be like. It was actually very different than I expected, in a positive way. We worked with a local nonprofit called Empowerment International. They run many educational programs as well as a variety of clubs for the kids in Granada, including a photography club. I figured we would visit the kids a few hours each day, helping them with the basics of photography, then go off and do our photos shoots. This was not the case at all.

One of the Empowerment International students taking photos.

One of the Empowerment International students taking photos.

The students we worked with were actually part of our workshop. They went to almost all the photo shoots with us. When the participants were up and ready to go to a location at 4:30am, so were the kids. They got the same teaching by Jay and Varina Patel, professional and amazing photographers, that the rest of us got. Many of the students have been doing photography longer than I have and are way more advanced than me. I had a lot to learn from them. Many have also been published in magazines here in Granada. Throughout the week the workshop participants really didn’t volunteer at all. Instead, we shared our experiences and passion for photography, working side by side. It was fantastic. I think everyone, students and participants alike, all left feeling positive about the interactions and relationships formed in the group. It was a truly unique experience.

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Another Empowerment International student posing for us!

Going forward, I would not hesitate to do something like The Giving Lens again. I will, however, have to think about other types of voluntourism trips. I would need to consider what kind of impact I would actually be making, and whether, in the end, I was truly doing good. If you are considering volunteering abroad I would urge you to do the same.

 

 

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It’s Oh So Quiet

After finishing my G Adventures tour it was time to make my way towards the border near Nicaragua. I had bought my bus ticket online and was assured it would be waiting for me at my hotel. Well, no ticket. Dee, my G adventures tour guide, called the company for me and they said it would be waiting at the bus station in the morning. Again, no ticket. The ticket purchased online was $75. I had to buy another ticket if there was any chance of me getting where I was going. Luckily the ticket only cost $10 at the station.

I’m sure the $75 ticket was for a nice bus. The one I ended up taking was not nice at all. No AC, ripped up seats, and very old. The bus stopped on the side of the road dozens of times to pick people up. I had no idea where I was supposed to get off. I read the ride was about 3 hours. It ended up taking almost 6! Nobody spoke English and I was very grateful for the little Spanish I knew. I luckily got off where I was supposed to and got a cab to the farm I was going to be staying at. Definitely not my favorite travel experience, not to mention one I paid $75 too much for, but I did make it there in one piece!

The farm I stayed on is called Cana Castilla. It is beautiful, very secluded, and very, very quiet. Almost too quiet. It’s too far and secluded to get to town easily so I felt a little bit trapped at the farm. No TV, barely any wifi, no pool, and so few other guests made me feel very isolated. I should have just enjoyed the quiet, but this city girl had a hard time getting used to it. I did get to play with a baby sloth though, definitely a unique experience that I would never have in the city! There were also monkeys, frogs, butterflies, chickens, roosters, and all kinds of wildlife roaming around. They quickly became my friends.

My baby sloth friend,

My baby sloth friend.

My monkey friend.

My monkey friend.

My rooster friend.

My rooster friend.

My first night there, there were only two other guests. They were from Morrocco and so interesting to talk to. I was grateful to have them around. The next day, Justine, who would be on my trip with The Giving Lens arrived. I was again thankful to have company. We explored the grounds, took photos, chilled in the hammocks and played with the dogs.

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The farm grounds.

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My dog friend.

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Flowers.

By my third full day I was very antsy to get off the grounds of the farm and the Costa Rica World Cup game was the perfect opportunity. The owner of the farm drove Justine and I as well as another guest to a small restaurant in the town of La Cruz to watch the game. There were about five other people around when we arrived, but within a few minutes a bus full of fans appeared, all with their Costa Rica spirit and loud noisemakers. It was definitely the noise and excitement I needed.

Go Costa Rica!

Go Costa Rica!

Showing my Costa Rican pride!

Showing my Costa Rican pride!

Even though Costa Rica lost it was still such a fun and unique experience to watch the game in this small town with these great fans. It was a wonderful end to my Costa Rican experience.

“Quiet” -Bjork

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We’re All In This Thing Together

In Costa Rica I took my first ever group tour. I had been on day tours and even weekend tours, but I’ve never spent an entire week traveling from place to place with the same group of people and a guide.

I got lucky but I also did my research. I used the company G Adventures, which has a very good reputation. One thing I really didn’t want was a huge bus tour with 40 other people. G adventures does not do a big tour like that. The biggest group you can have is 16, and our group turned out to only have 10. G adventures also uses many local guides, has some activities included, but many more you can choose from, and some meals included, but again, there is often choice. Another thing that led me to G Adventures was their belief you shouldn’t have to pay more for traveling solo. If you travel by yourself, they will pair you up with another solo traveler which means no single supplement.

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The group arriving at Monte Verde

As I said, there were 10 people in my group. I happened to be with a very young group, I was the oldest, but it was also a very fun group. There were 6 people traveling solo, more than I expected, one pair of sisters, and one pair of friends. It was also 9 girls and 1 guy, which was an interesting dynamic.

Our leader, Dee, was amazing. If all the guides are as good as she is, then G definitely hires the right people. She went out of her way over and over again to make sure everyone was having the experience they wanted, felt comfortable, and felt safe. She is American, but has lived in Central America for several years. Dee knew lots of locals and took us to places that a big tour bus just would not have gone, such as the local hot springs. Throughout the whole trip I saw very few other tourists, way less than I expected, and I have to compliment both Dee and G Adventures for that. They really did try to make it a more authentic experience and not just herd us around from place to place.

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Dee, our fearless leader

While traveling in a group, you are with the other people a lot, although you don’t always have to be. Dee almost always organized a group dinner, but it was not mandatory, and once in a while people chose to go to meals on their own, which was totally fine. We did a lot of activities together, for example our entire group wanted to go zipling, plus there were included activities such as the coffee farm, hot springs, and nature walk. However, a lot of us did separate activities too. It was really up to each person to decide what they wanted to do, which also made the trip great.

Of course group dynamics play a role in any type of group activity, and when you are with people for a full week or more it is very important. For the most part our group just got along. We were from all over, the States, Canada, England, Australia, and Switzerland, but that just made it even more interesting. Not everyone in the group was best friends by the end, but overall everyone got along and added something to the trip.

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Before ziplining

Another thing I have to commend G Adventures on was room pairing. Everyone, including me, was very happy with their roommates. They seemed to pair us by age, as my roommate and I are both in our 30’s, but otherwise I guess it is kind of the luck of the draw. It just happened to work out really well and my roommate, Diane, and I got along great!

If anyone wants to travel, can’t find anyone to go with, but doesn’t want to be alone, I think a G Adventure trip is the perfect solution. After experiencing this first trip with them, I really cannot say enough good things about them and would not hesitate to go on another tour with them soon.

“in This Together” -Luciano

 

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Let’s Go To the Beach

The final destination on my tour before returning to San Jose was Manuel Antonio which is a beach town. After checking into our hotel, which was called Hotel California (I actually stayed at The Hotel California!) we took the public bus that headed straight to the beach. I’ve obviously been to the beach before, but with maybe the exception of a beach we went to on my family cruise in Mexico, I’ve never seen such a gorgeous beach!

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Manuel Antonio public beach

We had a great lunch and wandered around the town a little before heading back to the hotel for some pool time and later a great restaurant in town for dinner, complete with crazy lightening shows!

The following day it was an early start as we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park for a wildlife walk and more beach time. The wildlife once again did not disappoint. We saw a deer cross right in front of us, amazing looking crabs, toucans, and sloths from a distance.

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A deer crossing our path.

Once we got to the private beach in the park, which is even more gorgeous than the public beach, there we’re naughty raccoons all over trying to steal everyone’s food. They were often successful and even managed to steal a bag of chips from my friend Teela!

 

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Naughty raccoon

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The beach inside the park.

As we walked out of the park I saw one of the craziest things I think I’ve ever seen in nature; a skinny, but long green snake grabbed a frog and swallowed it. It was just one of those things that you couldn’t believe was happening. The poor frog’s legs were hanging out of the snake’s mouth. Thanks to Skye for the picture!

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Poor frog…

The last activity I did before heading back to San Jose was go on a Catamaran. It was a blast. The guides on the boat were so entertaining and kept us happy the whole time. With Bob Marley as our soundtrack for the day, we went out to sea, saw dolphins jumping in the water, went in the water for some swimming time of our own, and had once again stunning scenery. Seriously gorgeous!

 

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On the boat

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Beautiful scenery

Overall, Manuel Antonio had a very different vibe than La Fortuna and Monteverde. It is a beach town and you could feel it. It was extremely laid back and chill. It also seemed to be the most touristy of the places we visited, but considering I feel I actually saw very few tourists on the whole trip it wasn’t too bad. I could see travelers wanting to hang out here for a while. While I am not a huge beach person (I get restless sitting on the sand all day but I do love being in the water) I really enjoyed this part of the trip and the whole beach vibe.

“Starships” -Nicki Minaj

 

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