For over a week, rising seniors Jess Rosenbluth (Gladwyne, Pa.) and Ali Schaefer (Las Vegas, Nev.) along with rising junior Maddy Evans (Glenside, Pa.) gave step-by-step accounts of their time in Granada, Nicaragua. The trio worked with Soccer Without Borders as volunteers of the Spring Infusion camp, which helps provide soccer equipment and instruction to youngsters in Granada. SWB's mission is applied all over the world and Penn State women's soccer has been a great supporter of SWB's commitment to bringing soccer to all young girls in impoverished areas.
Written by Maddy Evans, Sunday, May 22
What an amazing week! As I sit on the plane waiting to take off out of Managua, I cannot believe this week, which I so highly anticipated, is already coming to a close. Reflecting on this trip, with the desire to tell EVERYONE about it, I'm realizing more and more that much of this experience simply defies description. What I am able to relay in a blog barely scratches the surface of not only the many feelings involved but also the innumerable valuable lessons I have learned. After spending nine days in Nicaragua (the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere, behind Haiti), I was given the opportunity to reevaluate my needs versus my wants and truly appreciate the little things. I quickly realized just how lucky I am. Soccer alone has provided me with unbelievable opportunities and this trip has enabled me to view many things that go along with being a Penn State women's soccer player with a whole new appreciation. From a supportive system, gear and facilities, to cold cups of water at practice - we are so unbelievably lucky.
With Granada possessing a few very touristy, Americanized areas, it was possible to endure this week very comfortably. At the very beginning of the week, however, the staff of Futbol Sin Fronteras challenged us to "live locally." Our administrator Mary explained how she knows that when she gets back to the states, one of the first things she'll do is spend $4.00 on a Starbucks Chai Tea Latte. For many people in Granada, this amount of money could be more than an entire weeks worth of work. She is well aware of the fact that she doesn't need this, but while in Granada she misses this most. We were asked to consider the things that we are able to possibly give up. What's your Chai?
Yet another thing that is so evident to me after this trip, is how much the beautiful Nicaraguan culture allowed Ali, Jess, and I to simply enjoy each others company. On the way to the airport this morning we were noting how we feel like we have learned more about each other in these past ten days than we have in our past couple years together. Instead of, for instance, going out to eat and texting half the time, or being distracted by smart phone games, videos, iPods, etc., we were able to completely focus our energies and attention on the people surrounding us.
Throughout this trip, it was difficult for me to grasp the idea that this lifestyle (which we, in the scheme of things, only got a very small taste of) is another's day-to-day reality. Comparing two very different cultures (American and Nicaraguan) there are obviously parts that make each very special. Despite high poverty levels in Granada, very few people seemed miserable - As Vegas realized this, she noted something that seems to ring very true in Granada - happiness is a choice that we are able to make, minute by minute. The attitude in which we choose to approach our given circumstances can make a word of difference. Throughout this trip we were fortunate to meet many people who simply enjoy life for what it is and for that we are thankful.
Furthermore, we have come to realize that a language barrier and astoundingly different backgrounds are but small factors when it comes to building strong relationships and leaving everlasting impressions. I look forward to further reflecting on this unique experience and continuing to grow from it. As I return home to the states and venture forward with school, soccer, and whatever life throws at me, I know that I will forever hold this trip with me.
On behalf of Ali, Jess, and myself, we are so very thankful for this ultimately life-changing experience. Adios!