NICA BLOG: With Managua in rearview, we move to SJDS
By SCOTT WARD
SAN JUAN del SUR, Nicaragua -- Northern Colorado Volleyball had its first of six exhibition matches today, and the results weren't what the program was hoping for -- the Nicaraguan national team won 3-1 in a raucous environment at a sports park here in SJDS -- but the rest of the Bears' first full day in Nicaragua was great.
A quick breakfast at our hotel in Managua got us started, and then we all loaded into a tour bus that had EXACTLY the right number of seats for everyone associated with the trip.
There are 28 of us traveling in Central America this week and the bus had 30 seats, which allowed our guide Brooke to have a seat for the three-hour ride, and the driver. It's always a good thing when the driver gets to sit behind the wheel …
And the old joke of putting someone on the roof of a car, or something like that, when there's little room inside the vehicle didn't work here, as the top of our bus was already taken -- with all of our luggage, strapped as tight as could be with a assortment of bungee cords.
Northern Colorado Volleyball spent a lot of time during its stay in Central America assisting with the Casa Llanta Fund. To learn more about this program or to provide a 100 percent donation, click here.
We made our way through the city and into the countryside and passed a lot of "real Nicaragua" on the way, and the site wasn't pretty.
The country is beautiful, but there so much dilapidation and poverty in plain sight that it was tough to see and think about how all the people we saw have lives that are so very different from all of ours. The heat here is oppressive, and just that alone makes me hurt for nearly everyone we saw.
I'm writing this in a completely up-to-date villa, with access to a lukewarm pool and amazing food just a two-minute walk away. And there's air conditioning blowing my hair as I type.
When we walked into our villas here at the Palermo Hotel and Resort, it was hard to fathom that it was happening on the same day where just minutes earlier we saw toddlers walking through alleys with diapers and nothing else; huge fields of dirt with a single woman in the middle, trying to find money (crops) deep within the ground; teenagers knocking on our bus door at a stop sign trying to sell us impressive plates of pistachios.
If you've ever seen an episode of MTV's 'The Real World,' then you know a little about what our accommodations are like for the next three days. There aren't color-coordinated rooms, or fancy Jacuzzis in the back, but it's definitely an oasis in the middle of the actual Real World.
But … enough about that.
After getting settled in our villas, with two rooms in each and various numbers of beds, the team and coaching staff went on a zip-line canopy tour of the jungle near the resort, while the rest of the party headed into town in the flatbed of Brooke's truck. We saw many people doing the same while we drove from Managua earlier in the day, so it felt like the "local" thing to do.
Although, I also saw a guy this morning with his chest hair shaved into a cross. I don't think I'll be taking part in that, though.
The match with Nicaragua was later in the day -- under the lights! -- and the entire event was one of the most unique things I've ever been a part of.
When I was in town earlier in the day I saw a handwritten sign marketing the match (whoever wrote it called us "Universidad Colorado," but it was still cool to see) and saying that it was scheduled to start at 6:15.
Brooke told us after we got back, though, that we would be leaving our resort at 6:30. Those two times obviously don't match up and was an indicator of the type of night we were in for.
We got to the park around 6:30, and the players started to warm-up by playing "pepper" with some children who were on the court and then progressively turning the action into something that more resembled their Butler-Hancock pre-match routine.
After an hour of that, however, the Nicaraguan team was nowhere to be found. Their coach called Brooke around 7 p.m. and said they were three kilometers away (about a mile), but they didn't show up until around 8:15.
The match started around 9, and the Bears looked like a team just 24 hours removed from a long flight and finishing up a day that saw them bus for three hours, zip-line through a canopy and then get some pool time in outside the hotel lobby.
Nicaragua won the first game before Northern Colorado claimed the second and then shot out to a 6-0 lead in game three.
The Nicaraguans awoke from there, though, and closed out the match, much to the delight of the 500 or so fans in the stands, walking along the sidewalks or peering in through the chain-link fence.
It was a great experience, though, and I have a feeling the teams will be a little closer matched on Saturday, when we're scheduled to play them again, in Managua.
Tomorrow the rest of us are going zip-lining, the student-athletes are going to take part in some community outreach (a mobile book bus and a dental ministry) and then we're all headed for some beach time and a nice meal in downtown SJDS.
Rice and beans (really good – Brooke was right!)
Something with tortillas and sauce and tomatoes … and stuff (also good!)
And fresh coffee
Baked fish in a scampi sauce (not Kelley Arnold's favorite)
Rice pilaf (where are the beans?!)
Really soft rolls
Chicken with a really good sauce
Fresh O.J. or iced tea