A million reasons to visit (or live in) Granada, Nicaragua… here’s reason #1: The people– Nicaraguan AND expats…

I spent two weeks in Granada volunteering and exploring the old city, founded in 1524. After having a great experience volunteering with Building New Hope and being totally charmed by the city, I decided I could live some day in Granada, Nicaragua, for millions of reasons.

These were my classmates. Yes, for a short while I was a 4th grader at Escuelita Yo Puedo in Granada. Each morning I sat at this table with my three friends. The purpose of my being there was to make corrections in their notebooks and keep them on task. Otherwise I was a student myself, knees bunched up towards my chest on the miniature chairs, leaning forward eagerly perched on my arms on the little table, listening to Carla the teacher teach us about the poet Ruben Dario. I had never throughout the course of my American education, and not even while taking Spanish in college, learned a thing about this guy. But even my 8-year-old companions were able to let me know just what a big deal he was and how much he means to Nicaraguans. So I learned some awesome poems. My favorite one was about Volcan Mombacho, the volcano presiding over Granada, and it felt so great to be a part of it. To be sitting right where the author got the inspiration for his poem.

Being a volunteer / student in Carla’s class was an honor:

I was able to volunteer at Escuelita Yo Puedo thanks to Donna at Building New Hope who has lived in Granada for about 15 years. She first became attached to Nicaragua as a Peace Corps volunteer. Afterward she set up Building New Hope, and she showed me all around the city when I came to volunteer. I have a handful of people in my life who inspire me– Shane, teachers I’ve had and still keep in touch with, and now Donna makes this list. After spending ten days getting to know her and the people of Granada, I feel as if Donna is singlehandedly saving the entire city. She’s like the Bat(woman) of Granada. She arranges English tutoring for students of all ages (I helped with this), she feeds the kids on the street, she opened up an animal clinic that spays and neuters the strays (they get the complimentary flea and mange treatment, too), she set up music programs that sends teachers out to the barrios, she set up “Escuelita” for the little kids, the list goes on and on, but my fingers are tired from typing everything Donna does! Her animal clinic is beautiful, just a few blocks from the Calzada:

Despite being busy with being concerned with every aspect of life in Granada, Donna made time to invite me to her home, she took me out for chocolate chip pancakes (twice!), and we went for a boat ride around Lake Nicaragua (more about the boat ride later). She even offered to drive me all the way to a grocery store– an offer I never took her up on, because I was busy stuffing my face with all the amazing things to eat in Granada (don’t worry, I’ll get to that, too). Spending that time with Donna was inspirational. She keenly senses social issues and is assertive enough to do something about it. She is a person who turns her dreams for a better world into a reality (I know that is a trite sentence, but this is exactly what she does. While some people can only dream of making things better, Donna actually does it.) On top of all that, Donna did something that means so much to me, as someone who has volunteered abroad in several places– she was so grateful for my small contribution of time to her cause to the point where I was embarrassed– I was only able to stick around there for a little more than a week, and she made me feel that my tiny contribution of evening English lessons were very important and had a positive impact. I appreciate that, and I hope my lessons were as effective as she says. At the very least, I could tell the students had a good time. I did, too. On top of that expression of gratitude, Donna took the time to show me around the city– she’s aware that it’s easier for volunteers to contribute if they understand the new place in which they find themselves. It’s largely thanks to the time I spent with her that I can write so much about my perceptions of Granada– she went out of her way to show me what it is like to live there on a daily basis. Click here for more information about Building New Hope.

Tomorrow I’ll post reason #2.

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2 Comments on “A million reasons to visit (or live in) Granada, Nicaragua… here’s reason #1: The people– Nicaraguan AND expats…”

  1. Karen July 13, 2011 at 10:56 #

    You are on an amazing journey. I feel inspired by YOU! Keep writing, Marisa…I love to read about all you are doing and have done.

  2. Marisa LaValette July 13, 2011 at 11:52 #

    Hey Karen! These posts about Nicaragua and Granada are for you!

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