Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nicaragua captured me in a way I never imagined

I was looking up at the steep, treacherous hill in a series of uphill ledges that lead us up to the waterfall, a tourist attraction on Ometepe, remembering how on the first day when we hiked up the same path to see the capuchins, I felt like crying and keeling over while simultaneously wondering what I had gotten myself into.

I was looking up at that same trail on my last day, wondering if I would be able to make it up all the way this time.

Spoiler alert: I did, and with an ease that still surprises me to this very moment. That trail is an extraordinary representation of this entire trip — I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but with perseverance and a little bit of hope, I found a stronger version of myself at the end of an incredible journey.

That was how we spent our last day on the island of Ometepe, hiking up to the waterfall that we were only able to make it half way up the trail on our first day. Earlier that morning, we presented the research of our final projects in the format of a 10 minute long presentation for the rest of the class. One thing I can honestly say I thank my undergrad experience at Bloomsburg for was the practice I've gained in giving presentations.

Last semester I had four presentations in a period of two weeks, and while I was wondering to myself how I could've possibly managed that type of luck as a second semester senior, I'm also thrilled to have been able to go through my findings with ease in a new setting.

I had mentioned previously that I was interested in the ecological role of the prehensile tail in mantled howler monkeys, or Alouatta palliata, if you're into taxonomy, and after collecting 25 hours worth of data for my final paper I was happy to say that I was able to support my hypothesis.

Out of all the behaviors the primates used their tails for, feeding/foraging was the highest percentage. It's definitely possible that their tails evolved due to high feeding competition, and in the future adding on to that 25 hours of data would help strengthen that hypothesis.

At the beginning of the course my professor, Dr. Bolt, said by the end of this experience we would all be skilled field workers in her eyes. I don't know how much credit I'm allowed to give myself here, but me and the field had some ups and downs for sure.

I've been bitten by mosquitoes to the point where I'm sure I was one, single itchy lump, been pelted with giant grasshoppers that fall out of the trees when the wind blows, nearly assassinated by a scorpion, ran into the barbed wire fence that surrounds the forest on multiple occasions, sweated through all my deodorant (didn't think that was humanly possible) sun burned close to the equator with no aloe vera (yikes) and after hiking six miles up hill everyday just to get to and from the forest, I was sure my calves were going to commit mutiny on me.

But I wouldn't take back a single second of it. This experience showed me everything I was capable of and more, because I think myself and every other student with me surpassed all of our expectations of how this trip would better us for the future.

Fast forward to my last day in the country of Nicaragua. One by one as we all began to dwindle to make our different flights, I watched each of my classmates leave with a big hug, and a pang of sadness in my chest. Just a few hours earlier we were all together, as we had been 24/7 for the past month, and I looked around the airport in Managua alone realizing I was right back where I started.

Physically speaking that is, because the person I was when I landed weeks before is nowhere close to the person I am now.

There was a moment I looked around and realized that I don't know what force brought me to this place, but there's a piece of my heart that will always be tucked away on the island of Ometepe.

So cliche right?

But it's cliche for a reason — it's true. Nicaragua has captured me in a way I never imagined, and as my first home away from home, I think I'll always have the urge to better the country in any way I can. I knew I'd probably enjoy my time abroad in Nicaragua, but I never expected to feel the strong sense of desire I have to return.

Thinking about going abroad? Do it. You'll never regret it, that much I can promise you. I hope anyone who took the time to read this takes away that much from me.

Sometimes in life places will call your name and you'll have no idea why, and memories and moments will capture your heart in a way you never imagined possible. It may be far from home, and it'll be scary, and so much will be unexpected up until the moment everything materializes. You'll be nervous and excited all at the same time, and you'll have to make the decision of whether or not you want to answer that call that's desperately trying to reach you.

From me to you, I sincerely hope you do. All the best,
#BUAbroad #HuskyUnleashed

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