We are in the Atlanta now waiting for our final flight. We are so close we can taste it! Literally.

Most of us had lunch at T.J.I. Friday’s here at the Atlanta airport. Sweet tea (Thanks, Atlanta!), burgers, salads and the like were welcome fare.

Now, some of the group are sleeping in the airport. Others are playing cards. We’ll board our final flight in less than an hour and we’re ready to see our families!

The group waits in Managua's Sandino International Airport this morning.

The group waits in Managua’s Sandino International Airport this morning.

Posted in Go!

We will get on the bus and head for the Managua International Airport in just seven hours. This time tomorrow we may be crawling into our own beds.

In so many ways it is hard to believe our time in Nicaragua is drawing to a close, but we are ready to return to our homes and families.

Posts to this blog will continue — we’ve done things at such a pace there is still much more to tell! And we will continue to meet as a group back on campus as well.

If you’re tracking our progress closely, we will return to Kansas City on Delta flight 2400 from Atlanta and are scheduled to arrive at 6:50 p.m. Thursday.

See you soon!

Tomorrow morning we leave for the rural community of El Limon. It is only 2.5 miles from where we are right now, but it may feel like a world away.

There is some apprehension among the group about spending the next four days and four nights with families we don’t know.

The primary concerns include:

  • Will I be able to communicate with my host familiy?
  • What will the food be like? What if it makes my stomach upset? (That is a particular concern because only outhouses are available in El Limon.)
  • What will our service project be and will my skills be useful? (The community chooses what they want our help with and we will learn the task tomorrow morning.)
  • Will my host family like me and will I like them?

In order to address some of those anxieties, our guides and a community leader from El Limon will determine who will stay with which families. That will ensure those with some understanding of Spanish will be spread among several homes, for example. We’ve discussed the importance of staying hydrated and communicating openly with someone you trust if health issues arise.

We’re signing off for now. Although there is electricity in El Limon, there is no Internet access. We’ll check in again on Sunday, Jan. 12 from Granada.

After the intense activity of the morning we enjoyed a buffet lunch and a visit to the artisan market in Masaya. After the market we got a nice surprise.

Inside Masaya Market

Inside Masaya Market

The Masaya Market has more than 120 different booths and is known throughout Central America for its artisan wares. Shoppers were predominately tourists — very few residents of Masaya shop there — and in some cases, similar or identical items were available at multiple stands.

Some of us bargained for deals, some didn’t buy anything, but everyone seemed to enjoy the place. There were children and old women who held out their hands for money, and about a dozen children who followed us offering “gifts” of palm, in the form of a flower, a cricket or a heart, for example. They hoped for money in exchange for their “gifts.”

It was hard to say no.

Next stop: Catarina. This community had more souvenirs and an AMAZING VIEW. But when we arrived it was raining and we couldn’t see a thing.

Several of us opted to sit and have a coffee at a restaurant, while others browsed in shops and tried again to catch a glimpse of the view.

It worked. We waited long enough to see Laguna de Apoyo, where we swam Jan. 2, the colonial city of Granada, where we will visit next week, and the huge Lake Nicaragua. It was truly stunning.

Our surprise view of Laguna de Apoyo and Lake Nicaragua.

The view of Laguna de Apoyo and beyond it, Lake Nicaragua.

The bus ride back to Quaker House — a little more than 40 minutes total — turned into an impromptu nap time for about half of the group.

The backs of heads of napping travelers.

Nap time after a full day.

After dinner today it was time to pack and prepare to leave Quaker House for the community of Matagalpa, then Esteli, El Limon and Granada.

I’m uncertain about when we will again have a reliable Internet connection but rest assured, posts will appear as often as possible.

Posted in Go!

Jenna Frick, posing with the evacuation route sign at the Masaya volcano

Jenna Frick, our unofficial safety officer, posing with the evacuation route sign at the Masaya volcano.

Jenna Frick is our unofficial safety officer.

In our meetings, she was the one asking questions about travelers’ stomach trouble, risk of parasites from local water and risk of botflies. (Answers: Possible, but easily treatable as long as medicine is taken early. None. All water we are drinking is filtered. Extremely unlikely. No participant in any previous trip has contracted any sort of illness from any sort of bite.)

Before takeoff on each airplane, the 21-year-old Zeta Tau Alpha member from Kansas City, Kan. carefully read the safety information in the seat pocket. And she listened with rapt attention to the flight attendants explaining safety procedures.

Today, entering the Parque National Volcan Masaya, each of us was given a sheet explaining the security regulations for the crater areas. Jenna read them to herself, but aloud, pointing out the following:

  • This volcano may erupt without notice since its activity is frequent.
  • Don’t worry guys, we’ll get helmets. (We didn’t actually get helmets, but a portion of the park was closed because of the level of recent activity related to volcanic gasses.

Helmets were mentioned third on the list and she may have been the only one to read about it.

Frick attributes her safety-consciousness to being the second-oldest of six children. She’s used other skills gained in that role while on the trip, too. For example, this morning, she French braided our guide Lucy’s hair in record time.

Frick is a senior majoring in biochemistry and education. She plans to work as a chemistry teacher. She serves on the Washburn Student Government Association and recently tied for first place in the bi-annual Nall Speak Off public speaking competition at Washburn.

Profiles of the Ichabods and their unique roles on the trip will continue.

Posted in Go!

iPad with wireless indicator onThere will be days while we are in Nicaragua that it will be impossible to share on this blog. That’s the reality of many countries today.

According to UNdata, in 2011 only about 10 percent of Nicaragua’s population had Internet access. When we are in El Limón, for example, there will be no Internet access. The village just got electricity a few years ago.

The Ichabods traveling to Nicaragua have been advised to leave their cell phones at home, to go on social media hiatus. To live in the moment for every second they are on Nicaraguan soil.

In past years, most have done just that, Ellis said.

While the technology exists that would allow us to transmit from anywhere the stories and photos of our experience as they happen, investing in it did not make sense for our purposes. I’ll have an iPad, a digital SLR camera and an HD Flip video camera. That’s it.

We’ll be posting stories and photos of our experience as much as possible along the way. Don’t worry, though, if we are incommunicado for a few days. We’ll be back.

Whatever we don’t get a chance to share while we’re gone, we’ll make up for it when we return to Topeka. And that won’t be the end of it. We’ll produce a video and share the lessons we learn in an upcoming edition of The Ichabod alumni magazine.

Stay tuned.



We will visit the highlighted communities including the capital city of Managua, Estelí, the third-largest city, Matagalpa, home of Universidad del Norte de Nicaragua, and Granada, one of the oldest cities in Central America. During our visit we will also stay in El Limón, not from from Estelí.

By this time in 26 days, a small group of Ichabods will be en route to Managua, Nicaragua. Just in time for the spring semester here in Topeka, we will return “as Nicaraguans,” says Professor Rick Ellis, who oversees Washburn’s Learning in the Community and established the partnership that allows the trip.

“We leave as Kansans. We come back as Nicaraguans,” he has told the group. Washburn partners with the non-governmental organization ProNica, which was established to build “sustainable cross-cultural relationships between the people of Nicaragua and North America using Quaker values.”

The delegation from Washburn will spend time in five cities. We will study the country’s history and the impact of the United States upon that history. We will work with residents of each community we visit, helping them to complete tasks that already are underway. We will live with families in the rural community of El Limón, learn about their lives and culture and, since most of us aren’t Spanish speakers, we’ll learn a lot about non-verbal communication.

iPhone with countdown app

Tara’s countdown app.

“I’m so excited! It’s going by so fast,” said Tara Phillips, who is a sophomore majoring in elementary special education from Lancaster, Kan. Tara has an app on her phone that counts down to our departure time by the second. “I’ve been ready for this since before I came to Washburn.”

About Nicaragua

  • The Republic of Nicaragua sits between Honduras (north) and Costa Rica (south).
  • In 2012 the country’s population was estimated by the World Bank at 5.992 million people.
  • President Daniel Ortega has lead the country since 2007. He also served as the country’s leader from 1979 to 1990.
  • Nicaragua’s currency is the Nicaraguan córdoba. As of Dec. 6, 2013 one córdoba oro was worth $0.04 in US dollars.
  • The weather in Topeka is frightful this time of year. While we’re gone, the high temperatures in western Nicaragua, where we are staying, are expected to be in the 80s. Overnight lows in the 60s are common. (Check for today’s detailed forecast.)
  • Learn more about Nicaragua from Lonely Planet
Nicaragua's flag

Nicaragua’s flag