NICA BLOG: I hope Nicaragua never leaves any of us
By SCOTT WARD
GRANADA, Nicaragua -- Internet has been hit-and-miss during our final few days here in Central America, so dispatches back home have taken a bit of a backseat to truly taking in all this interesting country has to offer.
I'm writing this at 10 p.m. MT in the sticky lobby of the historic Hotel Alhambra, just off of Granada's Colonial Square, and cars and busses beeping at pedestrians and horsedrawn buggies are within earshot, as is head coach Lyndsey Benson and the rest of her program as they "debrief" about 10 steps away.
They're talking about offseason training programs, the importance of hitting the ground running in August and doing their best to ensure next year's hosting rights to the Big Sky Conference Championship aren't a one-and-done thing.
It's an exciting and memorable scene.
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're about six hours away from our final morning-lobby meeting of the trip, which is set for 4:30 a.m. tomorrow.
At that point, we'll all pile into our bus for the final time -- and I do mean pile; there's an order that the last few people must get in, with me usually last because I'm a 5-foot-6 guy traveling with a bunch of volleyball players -- and we'll make our way back to Managua for the third time in the last week and begin the process of returning home and getting back to reality.
I'm excited to get back to Greeley and see my wife and daughter and have some Chipotle and begin to turn my attention toward the 2012-13 athletic season at Northern Colorado, which figures to be full of success, with this volleyball time primed for another November-December run.
I'm sad that this is over, though.
I was along for the ride when Northern Colorado Volleyball traveled to Eastern China in 2008, and that was an amazing experience, and I'm grateful for it. This trip has been completely different, though, in all facets.
I was "the new guy" in 2008 and barely knew anyone I was traveling with and was just trying to get my feet underneath me in the foreign-to-me world of collegiate athletics. Now, I'm a member of the team, and I have inside jokes with the players, consider the coaches friends and want nothing more than for this team to reach all its goals.
We've all been through a lot together this week -- not struggles, by any means … but there's been a lot to process -- and we'll walk off our United flight tomorrow afternoon at DIA a much-closer group than the already-close group that embarked this direction a week ago.
For the players, much of that "coming together" came on the volleyball court.
We finished 3-2 in our five matches here after our final match tonight against the Nicaraguan national team was rained out. We've been told all week that the rainy season is imminent, so it seems like we're about leave town just in time.
The opportunity to play against Team Nicaragua and Team El Salvador has been great. The El Salvador team is young and inexperienced, so we didn't have a lot of trouble with them, defeating them 3-0 and 3-1 in our two meetings, but the way they and Nicaragua played (very low error, lots of energy and passion) provided great lessons for the girls.
Our first match against Nicaragua came on a beach-side playground court in San Juan del Sur, and the raucous environment, jet lag and strong play from the Nicaraguans was too much, and we lost in four.
We played them again two times in Managua and won the first 3-0 before losing the second 3-1.
Everyone was excited for another shot with them tonight in Granada, but the match was moved to an outside court, in a high school courtyard, because of a religious ceremony in one of the two gyms in town. Once the skies opened, the match was very much in question, and it was officially called around 7 p.m. and we all headed out for great Italian meal to punctuate the trip.
We've had a few mishaps along the way, but nothing that was a trip-ender and nothing that should ever be considered an inconvenience after the living and life conditions we've seen.
The biggest and most dramatic issue happened to Jim Glenn, associate head coach Jenny Glenn's dad, who had his backpack (mochilé) swiped right after our match last night in Managua, and its contents included his passport. So, that wasn't good, but everything was taken care of today, and he'll be able to join us on our flight back tomorrow and won't have become a permanent Nicaragua citizen.
The Nicaraguan police (Natzionale Policia) weren't much help in the matter, but a very-fluent English speaker associated with the Nicaraguan National Team and a lady Glenn met on the flight down were.
All of our luggage was also strapped to the top of our bus yesterday in Managua and a rainstorm hit then, too, so some of our already sweaty gear gained an extra level of humidity. No sweat, though … (see what I did there?)
We've all dealt a little bit with "bubble guts," too, during our time here, but we're all in decent shape for our flight back tomorrow. I had never used that expression before in my life, but it's a term that volunteer assistant coach John Forster uses, and it's an apt description. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, think it over and you will.
I think everyone has done a good job of not drinking water out of the tap, but the ice in restaurants has melted nearly instantly, and that has all likely been made from water out of the tap. So, too, has the hibiscus tea that many have enjoyed during our meals. Ah well … lesson learned!
Other than that, we've all had a great experience in this country. China was great for everything it provided, and Nicaragua Trip 2012 will be looked back at in the same vein.
China served as a milestone for Benson's program. That's the kind of trip that "programs" take, and at that point she had the Bears well on their way to that distinction. This Nicaragua Trip has been more about building the program up, much like the country here is trying to do.
I don't want to compare the challenge of taking on the Big Sky or qualifying for the NCAAs with the challenge of finding food and shelter, but the horizons that have been broadened here in this country north of Costa Rica and south of Honduras will definitely pay dividends when the ball goes up this fall.
We're ready to be home. But we're not ready to leave.
Hopefully Nicaragua will never leave us.