We had the opportunity to have dinner on Tuesday night at the Cafe de los Mimos, a project of the School of Comedy and Mime (website in Spanish). The school provides opportunity to homeless children in the Granada area, teaching them acting and circus-style performance.

The performance we saw was similar in style to Cirque du Solei with beginning skill. There was contortion, juggling, stilts, tricks of strength and wonderful acting with facial expression.

After the play, we heard a band perform. There was a lot of dancing. Music and dance are a big part of the culture here. As we saw in El Limon, even young children learn the basic steps and moves of several dances. There were very few wallflowers at the cafe. And there were professional dancers from Costa Rica who had come from a performance still wearing face makeup.

The show was a great end to a day exploring an amazing city. Our guides, Lucy and Aldo, have gone out of their way to make sure we learn about the country by visiting service groups as often as possible. For many of us, that way of exploring communities may become standard practice.

The band at Cafe de los Mimos.

The band at Cafe de los Mimos.

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Our work is done. When the center’s windows, doors, gate and trims were painted by about 11 a.m. today.

While several students spent time raking the front yard and sweeping the community room, three students helped Teo and Ishmalle, two community leaders, construct a concrete structure around the community water pipes.

The concrete will protect the pipes from erosion-related collapse and ensure access to the shut-off valve for years to come. In the coming days, a lid the two men will construct a lid to ensure animals — or children — don’t fall in the whole.

Travis, left, and Teo, center, work on the concrete structure to protect the water pipes.

Travis, left, and Teo, center, work on the concrete structure to protect the water pipes.

After the work was completely finished, several of us walked to Esteli to purchase thank you gifts for our families. Most of us chose treats such as cake, pastries and cookies.

In the evening, the community gathered at the communal for a dance and chance to share our mutual appreciation for the work and hospitality. For some of us trying to express our gratitude was emotionally difficult. For Suzie, the third-time visitor, it was especially difficult. “I have a second family here in El Limon,” she told them. And as she wiped the tears from her cheeks we knew she meant it.

The dance lasted for about three hours and everyone had a great time. It was fun to see the good dancers in the group get down — including Aldo, Lucy and Ashonte especially.

Three rows of people, outside in front of a window.

We did it! The group, after the work at the community center is finished.

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Aldo Marcell

Aldo Marcell

Aldo Marcell welcomed us to his home town of Esteli, Nicaragua today with a special opportunity.

We’ve gotten to know Aldo this week as he has guided us along our journey. We knew that the 35-year-old is the youngest child in his family and has two passions: plants and origami art.

Everywhere we have gone, Aldo has told us the names of the plants, flowers and trees. The Nicaraguan government recently tapped his knowledge for an environmental impact study related to a potential canal project and he is widely recognized for his skill in botany throughout the country. It’s been fun to watch him collect plants for his garden as we travel around the country, too.

“If I see something at a good price I act quickly,” he told us. He’s in the process now of planning and developing a garden at his family’s farm.

We’ve heard and seen a bit about his origami before today. But at his family home, just a few blocks from the hostel where we are staying, we were able to see the work of a master. (Aldo is very humble and would never call himself a master.)

“I am an enthusiast,” he said. “There are many people better than me.”

He was introduced to origami at age 10 and became serious about the craft at age 19. Now, he is invited to conferences and collaborates with other origami artists on projects. Suffice it to say we were all blown away by what our friend can create with paper, patience and skill.

Some of our favorites included original designs.

“I have seen Aldo’s origami five different times now. It gets better every time. I don’t know how he does it,” Rick said during today’s reflection. “I think it’s amazing. You have so much knowledge. You amaze me and I’m so glad to be your friend.”

We couldn’t agree more.

A table featuring a variety of boxes and vases made of paper with intricate origami.

Each of these items — and dozens of others we saw today — were made by Aldo Marcell.

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