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Two years volunteering in Nicaragua

Well, this past weekend I celebrated my second anniversary of my arrival here in Diriamba, Nicaragua and what a great two years it has been!

In the past two years I have meet more people and have made more friends from all over the world than I
did in the last 25 years living back in the USA. I have met and have so many local Nicaraguan friends and acquaintances as well as many friends and volunteers from Spain, Taiwan, Mexico, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Poland, England, Sweden, Italy, Argentina, and the USA.

In the past two years I have seen so many beautiful sunsets and sunrise; I have stared at so many stars and constellations both at night and early in the morning (typically around 5:00 am); I have watched so many cloud formations against the backdrop of beautiful blue skies than I have in my entire life (and I am 58 years old!….Shhhh… don’t tell anybody..they say I look much younger).

Besides seeing most of the major tourist and non-tourist destinations in Nicaragua including Granada, Ometepe, San Juan del Sur, Leon, and the local beaches near Diriamba, I have been on a 17 day adventure tour as we explored Honduras, Guatemala and southern Mexico traveling by Chicken buses! I have seen the Mayan ruins and bathed in the hot springs in Copan Honduras. I have visited the beautiful city of Antigua and the mystical Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. I have visited San Cristobol Mexico and have seen the beautiful cathedrals, museums, festivals, and the nearby Somoto Canyons. I have visited Palenque Mexico to see the Mayan Ruins at Palenque and Yaxchilán. I have visited Flores Guatemala and have seen the nearby magnificent city and Mayan ruins at Tikal. I have visited Costa Rica many times (to get my 90 day tourist visa renewal) and have seen the San Jose and many of the towns and beaches on the Pacific coast and the Atlantic coasts.

But the most important and most impactful part of my time in Diriamba is my volunteering experience.
When you give of yourself, your time, your energy, your knowledge and experiences, your generosity; and share your life with others, especially others in need, and you give freely of yourself with no expectation of any return, I have found that it comes back to you tenfold in unmeasurable ways!

I have experienced this here in Diriamba with much greater happiness, satisfaction, enjoyment, peace and serenity, health, love, joy, friendship, understanding, acceptance, a much better quality of life and a much more meaningful life!

The happiness and sense of belonging I feel when neighborhood kids yell out “Gary Bell!” … the nickname I was given after the soccer player Gareth Bale from Real Madrid since we share the same first name (even though I am a Barcelona fan). I yell back “Gary Belllllll!….

The joy I feel from the smiles on children’s faces as I walk along the streets of Diriamba and hear “Teacher” or “Good Morning Teacher” (in English). Some of these children were never my students. Some of them are younger brothers or sisters of my students, or friends of my students, or students that have seen me at their school and know I teach English…..

The sense of pride and satisfaction I feel when I see one of our recent unemployed adults that graduated from our English Internship program and are now working at one of the local restaurants or hotels….

The pleasure I get when my entire class of 30 or more students chant in unison “Otra Vez!, Otra Vex!, Otra
Vez!”… after singing in Englsih, one of their favorite songs that I’ve taught them – like “If your Happy and You Know it”, “Hokey Pokey”, “Old McDonald”, or “The Ants go Marching”!

It’s these little things that matter the most in life and these things are……