The sun lingers behind the foggy mountains. On an uneven hill and with makeshift goal posts, my companions and I showed the Nicaraguans how to play soccer. It was Los Blancos versus Los Colores. “OYEOYEOYEOYEOYE!” I shouted when my teammate Jessie scored the winning goal for Los Colores! It was the first soccer game played in the village and I was sure that it would go down in history. A week ago, we, the BuildOn volunteer team arrived to help with the construction of a school. The mission of BuildOn is to encourage self-reliance through education. Although I accomplished such a major goal, creating long-lasting friendships was the highlight of my journey.
On June 23, we were dropped us off at the bottom of the mountain, where the men from the village awaited for our arrival and loaded our luggage on their horses. As we anticipated our two mile uphill, I took in the majestic mountains, crisp blue sky, and the smell of wet mud and fresh horse manure. After what felt like forever, we reached our destination: Dulce Nombre. Children ran up to greet us while reserved adults and teenagers stayed in their positions and timidly waved. The welcoming ceremony was far grander than I expected. Festive dances and heartwarming poems made tears spring from my eyes and laughter bubble from my chest. A witty fourth grader recited her poem, “In heaven there is God. And on earth, there are gringos who never stop helping us.”
After the ceremony, we realized that at six o’clock, the night would already dare to steal our sight. Without hesitation, my host brother Jaime and sister Maria greeted my roommate Brittany and me. On the trek towards home, our siblings skillfully squished down the bumpy mud path, while Brittany and I stumbled behind them. As we advanced further into the village, we came before an elegant architecture. We found our sister-in-law, Reyna cooking and nephew, Jaime cooing in the arms of his grandmother Christina. We were shown to our room, which to my surprise belonged to Maria. Although they could have simply placed us in their living room, they chose to share an intimate space with strangers. Not long after, Christina began greeting us with loving embraces and kisses.
Friendship was not only found in my family, but it expanded to the rest of the community. One day on the worksite, as I shoveled quick spurts of soil out from what was to be the latrine, five year old Harold wandered over in awe. Before I knew it, a handful of children gathered around and observed me. I overheard Jabalí asking my brother for my age. Wanting to make conversation, I took my chance and asked, “¿Y ustedes, cuantos años tienen?” They showed shock before they doubled over in laughter, for the Chinita spoke their language. By the end of the day, I was playing games and communicating in broken Spanish with my newly made friends.
I went to Nicaragua to give time and effort into making a difference, but I received so much more in return. They not only provided us food and water, but also shared their love and friendship. They accommodated us with the best of their rooms, their cooking skills, and even small things like Chicles. They did not observe us from afar; instead, they joined us in a game of soccer and taught us how to make rosquillas. They taught us their language and that ‘tuani’ is the coolest adjective that exists in Nicaragua. My tuani friends will always be with me in my heart.