Sunburned by Beach Waves

0 Commentsby   |  08.12.14  |  Study Abroad

On our last full day in Central America, we took a trip to the beach near Leon, Nicaragua. Most of the group had a nice relaxing day walking up and down the Nicaraguan coast or playing volleyball, while others challenged some nice beach waves for fun. The beach was a beautiful and relaxing site to embrace, and we mixed and mingled with locals enjoying the ocean with family and friends and a few tourists from other countries. Everyone had the option to rent surfboards or take surf lessons to challenge the waves. Few dared to challenge the 2-3 meter breakers. Those who did took a tumble under the massive waves. Many of us enjoyed classic body surfing or jumping over the waves for a little fun. The service and food at the local restaurants were exceptional. Later in the afternoon, we had to clean up (as much as possible), pack up, and head to our last destination of the trip.

(View from beach in Leon, Nicaragua)

(View from beach in Leon, Nicaragua)

After some rain, heavy traffic, and taking a wrong turn, we arrived at our hotel in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. After arriving, we cleaned up and headed to our last meal together. After abandoning the hotel restaurant because it was too crowded and slow, we shared some pizza in the hotel lobby for our last meal together. It wasn’t exactly local cuisine, but it satisfied the bellies of our hungry group and gave us a chance to discuss the past two weeks.  As we shared stories and favorite memories, it was great to reflect on all of the funny moments, cultural experiences, visits with locals, and time with Mission Lazarus that we were a part of during our trip.  After dinner everyone went back to their rooms to get some rest for a very early flight the next morning.

Some of us ended the day with sunburns, but overall the day was a relaxing and great way to finish our two-week experience in Central America.

Brionna Sherer
COBA Management Major
Class of 2014

Sliding Down a Volcano

0 Commentsby   |  08.11.14  |  Study Abroad

On the second Friday of our trip, we spent our first full day in Nicaragua. Most of the group traveled to the Cerro Negro Volcano for ash boarding (while a couple of others went surfing).  With the help of our tour guide and instructor, Danny, the group made the hour long drive from our hotel to the base of the volcano.

The Cerro Negro Volcano is the only place in the world where one can ash board. As a result of its distinctive and thrilling experience, it was listed at #2 on CNN’s list of “Big Thrills: 50 Ways to Be a Daredevil.” An eruption in 1999 left everything in the area covered with rocks and black ash.  As the bus pulled into the parking lot, nothing stood between us and the steep slopes of fine, black, pebble-like ash. It is there where the real journey began.

(Group getting ready to climb volcano)

(Group getting ready to climb volcano)

At a minimum, the hike to the rim of the crater takes 45 minutes and we were about to understand why. With our plywood boards, backpacks of gear, and water bottles in hand, we began the ascent. It came as a surprise to many of us that this climb would be no easy feat. The hot sun, awkward boards, boulders, and shifting ash, made the climb painstaking and exhausting; but the cool breeze and spectacular views, alone, were well worth it. After many rest stops, we made it to the top, where we spent a few minutes taking photos and putting on our gear. The gear included a jumpsuit, goggles, and thick gloves, which were cause enough to raise some concern about what we were getting ourselves into.

(Group at top of volcano - about to slide down)

(Group at top of volcano – about to slide down)

Standing at the top of the ash boarding track one could not see the bottom because of the incline. But, our guide reassured us time and again that if we followed his instructions we would have no problems reaching the bottom safely. After a brief demonstration on the use of the board and a reiteration of how to properly control the speed of our descent, one by one each person took their turn. The entire experience takes about a minute to complete (a minute full of adrenaline and little pellets of ash flying towards you, making you very thankful for the excessive gear). The short run was well worth the effort! Everyone made it to the bottom (some faster than others). Happy, yet tired and covered in ash, we boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel.

By the time we got back it was almost dinner time, so everyone cleaned up and headed out into Leon to grab dinner and explore. It was a relaxing tourist town with a nice town square, cathedral, and restaurants.  We spent the rest of the evening eating, laughing, sharing stories, and relaxing.

It was a day to remember in Nicaragua. We were daredevils, in one of the safest ways possible.

Rebekah Wood
COBA Accounting & Finance Major
Class of 2016

Blown Away by Wind Farm

0 Commentsby   |  08.07.14  |  Study Abroad

Today was our last full day exploring Honduras. We have spent most of our time learning about the differences between the U.S. and Honduras, socially, economically and so on. But today we spent our morning talking with the project manager for a wind farm currently being constructed here in Honduras. Wind farms are common in Texas, particularly near Abilene. It can be a great way for landowners to bring in money because they get a monthly royalty for each wind turbine on their land. This is also true for the landowners in Honduras, which is a great way to bring more money into the country. The wind farm has brought a number of positive effects to this region. For example, there have been concrete, highway-like roads built in remote regions to get the equipment up the mountain, which greatly helps the people living in what used to be isolated villages. Also, with all the new energy created from the wind turbines, at least five villages in the mountains will now be getting power.  Unfortunately, with every big project comes disadvantages. The main problems with this project were the disruptions caused by extensive construction and the logistical difficulties of getting massive pieces of equipment up the steep mountainsides.

(Group at local wind farm)

(Group at local wind farm)

 

Later in the day we went to two different street markets in Choluteca. The first market is the “new” market, and primarily sells food, household items, and pharmaceutical products. It was anything you could ever want to buy all in one place from raw fish to fake ray bans. The second market is the “old” market, and vendors there sold more artisan products like you might find in the countryside. In some ways they were like the markets you might see in the movies. After spending an hour or two roaming the markets we went to dinner at the Pizza Hut, which was basically a sit down restaurant. Like many things we’ve seen in Honduras, having a modern American restaurant and a bustling street market almost side by side is an important reminder of the contrasts that can be found in developing countries.

On the way back to the ranch we saw another beautiful sunset.

More Honduras Pics 034

(Our last sunset in Honduras)

Our time here in Honduras has been great.

Mary Melissa Keil
COBA Marketing Major
Class of 2016

Visiting a Fern Farm

0 Commentsby   |  08.06.14  |  Study Abroad

On the second Tuesday of our time in Honduras, we started out working on various projects that can be implemented at the Mission, such as a nutrition plan for the children’s homes and a new inventory system for the warehouse.  In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to visit a company named Ornamentales Del Valle, which is a branch of Grupo Agrolibano, a Honduran agribusiness with facilities throughout the country.  Del Valle focuses its efforts on the production of ferns for use in floral arrangements.

We spent a couple of hours speaking with the company’s general manager.  He gave us a tour of the facility which had dozens of acres of ferns, planted in carefully controlled rows with extensive irrigation and artificial shade. The manager explained how the growth of the ferns is highly regulated by allowing the plant to receive specific amounts of water and sunlight.  The company grows other plants as well such as cedar trees for the use of furniture production and flowers to be sold in the local markets for events such as Mother’s Day. They explained that the flowers are only sold locally because it takes roughly too long to export the product to places like Europe, which is about the life of the plant.

 

(Plant production at Del Valle)

(Plant production at Del Valle)

It was interesting to compare how different organizations like Mission Lazarus and Del Valle provide for their employees.  Del Valle has a cafeteria available onsite for employees and also provides common grocery items such as beans, rice, and spaghetti at the same price they are able to purchase the items in bulk. This allows the employees to save their earned dollars on everyday necessities.  However, many of the employees are paid based on production, which can make it difficult to earn even minimum wage at times.

Del Valle also seemed to focus greatly on being environmentally friendly.  The facility uses the shavings of leftover cedar to create fertilizer for the plants and constantly replaces trees used to create their wood products. The water system is computerized with a program that uses sixty percent recycled water so as to not waste water. The company also uses their own rainwater ponds to supply water, but when the ponds are empty during the dry season or droughts, they pump water from the river as needed.  The manager explained their focus on environmental standards was required by their buyers from Europe. It was interesting to see how standards and customer expectations from the U.S. and Europe can have an impact on how companies do business in Honduras.

Overall this was yet another great day.

Van Watson
COBA Management Major
Class of 2016

From the Classroom to the Waterfall

0 Commentsby   |  08.05.14  |  Study Abroad

We began our second Monday of the program by meeting with Hector Corrales, a prominent businessman in Southern Honduras.  Hector discussed the history of Honduras and how the country came to be what it is now. He told us all about the growth of the economy as well as political issues related to businesses such as the banana industry. Hector also discussed some of Honduras’s foreign trade with the United States. He was extremely passionate about agricultural industries, as he manages one of the country’s largest shrimp farms and owns a ranch with 350 head of cattle. He explained that his passion for agricultural industries stems from investing in a venture where the land is actually a part of the investment. It was incredible to hear about all the exporting he does within the shrimp industry, ranging from Russia to Germany to Mexico. It was also great to hear a sophisticated businessman with such a passion for agriculture and God’s gift of the land.  Throughout his meeting with us, he emphasized over and over how important agricultural and economic sustainability were to his outlook on business. Also, coming from a cattle ranching family myself, it was great to be able to compare what an agriculture industry in Honduras looks like compared to Texas.

(Local entrepreneur with ACU faculty)

(Local entrepreneur with ACU faculty)

In the afternoon we all loaded up and drove to a waterfall for a Mission Lazarus staff appreciation day. The waterfall was beautiful, however, it wasn’t quite full enough to do cannon balls off the ledge.  We enjoyed good conversation, skipping rocks, and hanging out with the Mission Lazarus staff. It was neat to see all of the staff come together and enjoy some free time after seeing all of the work they put into Mission Lazarus as a whole.

Following our time at the waterfall, we headed back to the Posada at the Mission Lazarus ranch where we had an amazing dinner. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to hear Jarrod and Allison Brown discuss the human resources aspect of their organization. They shared the pros and cons of hiring both local and U.S. employees. It was beneficial to hear how Jarrod and Allison maintain a balance between business and ministry through decisions such as hiring employees. It was also interesting to hear their take on American employees working in a different culture.

Overall, today was another fantastic day at Mission Lazarus. We got to learn more about business operations in Honduras, and enjoyed some down time at the waterfall. I am looking forward to the days to come!

Claire Carmichael
COBA Management Major
Class of 2016

Exploring Tiger Island

0 Commentsby   |  08.04.14  |  Study Abroad

Sunday was a very special day for all of us here in Honduras.  It was our first Sunday at Mission Lazarus, but the day only began there. As soon as we finished breakfast at Mission Lazarus we piled into trucks to head towards the southern coastline of Honduras.  The ride took about two hours through the mountains and then down into marshy lands against the coast.   It never gets old to drive through these remote communities and see how the local Hondurans survive on a day-to-day basis.  We arrived at the edge of the mainland with a breathtaking view of a volcano-shaped island covered in tropical vegetation, called Tiger Island.

(Group at Tiger Island)

(Group at Tiger Island)

The purpose for this trip was to attend a church service led by local church leaders and our incredible host Jarrod Brown, and then to enjoy ourselves for a bit on the local beach.  To get to the island we had to pile into about a thirty-foot boat that was no wider than 6 feet, which held the whole class and our local Honduran drivers.  The trip to the island took a brief twenty minutes through some smooth bay waters.   Once we arrived at this beautiful island the class got into groups of 4 and jumped into miniature three-wheeled vehicles that took us around the west side of the island. After a 5-minute drive we pull up to a small home were we where greeted by very polite Hondurans who quickly handed out chairs for us to sit in before the service started.  To begin the service we started with a prayer and then sang three hymns in Spanish that really set the mood for the church service.  Jarrod had been invited to preach, and he started by preaching to the young kids in attendance, which was very neat to see because he got on their level and shared the word of Christ.  You could tell by the children’s reactions that they understood his message and were interested with what he was preaching.  Following the kids’ Sunday school service Jarrod shared a brief message with the adults in the crowd before starting communion, which hit home for me.  It was an unforgettable Sunday church service in a place that really made me reflect on all the things I’ve been blessed with.

Soon after the service ended we got back into our mini taxis to head down to the beach.  We had to back track around the island through the local town to the east side of Tiger Island.  Upon our arrival we could see the ocean through the trees and shanties that lead down to the beach.  Everyone leaped out of the taxis and quickly immersed their toes in the warm volcanic black sand.  We spent half the afternoon playing in the water and enjoying the local cuisine that the beach restaurants had to offer.   Everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves in there own unique way.  From going to explore the pirate bat cave at the end of the beach to just relaxing in the water – everyone had a great time.   Around 3 o’clock the group pilled back into the taxis to catch the fairy back to the mainland.  The ride back through the mountains to Mission Lazarus gave me time to reflect on this great opportunity we all had in worshiping with good local Christian people, and the time at the beach seeing another spectacular part of Honduras.  We ended the day with a filling dinner back under the Mission Lazarus posada, where this amazing day all started.

Emil T. Litterer
COBA Management Major
Class of 2016

Sand, Stingrays and Soccer

0 Commentsby   |  08.03.14  |  Study Abroad

Saturday was such an awesome day here in Honduras. We had the privilege of visiting a remote fishing village called Boca Del Rio. The island is located in the Pacific coastal region of Honduras and is home to only a few hundred people. We traveled to the island in small boats, and due to the tides, we were able to walk back to shore a few hours later. The island is so beautiful and its shores are covered in colorful fishing boats. We even got to watch some local fishermen cut up the stingrays they had caught to sell at market.

(Local fisherman dicing up the days catch)

(Local fisherman dicing up the days catch)

During our time there we visited with some of the oldest and wisest members of the community who told us a little about the unique life that they live. The island is made up of a few very large families, so much so that nearly every child called the other children their cousins. Somewhat recently Mission Lazarus has opened a school and a church on the island. Victor, the pastor of the church, accompanied us on our trip today bringing along his son, José. Victor said he has over 300 families who attend his church.

The children on the island were thrilled to see us and we had such a great time playing soccer and other games with them. It was extremely eye-opening and humbling to see the joy the children had despite their lack of material possessions. Almost all of the children on the island attend the Mission Lazarus church and school where they can go to school until sixth grade (the grade in which a child is considered to be sufficiently educated in Honduras). According to Victor, the school is making a hugely positive impact in the lives of the children on the island.

{Boca Del Rio in Honduras)

(Boca Del Rio in Honduras)

Later in the day we had an experience that directly contrasted with the village life on the island.  We went to the brand new mall in Choluteca, the largest city in this region of Honduras, and walked around for a while looking at the stores and eating areas that are available to more wealthy Hondurans.  It was a small mall by American standards, but still filled with the kinds of items—big screen TVs, clothes, shoes, electronics, jewelry, etc.—typically purchased by American consumers.  The mall was a reminder to many of us that globalization has reached even this relatively remote corner of Latin America.  This figure can’t be correct but I don’t remember what number he gave.

Reagan Jefferies
Elementary Education Major
Class of 2016

Climbing to the Clinic

0 Commentsby   |  08.02.14  |  Study Abroad

Friday was one of my favorite days. We had some free time in the morning to study and relax at the Posada, and then we went to see the new Mission Lazarus medical clinic at Las Pitas. On the way back from the clinic, we made a random stop that turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip.

The drive to Las Pitas was about two hours, but it flew by because of the incredible scenery. The Honduran mountains truly never fail to take my breath away. The medical clinic was at the top of a huge mountain, and the drive up was especially bumpy, to say the least. It was so worth it, though, when we reached the clinic. The view was spectacular, with enormous mountains and lush, almost tropical greenery for as far as you could see.

Jarrod’s wife, Allison, gave us a tour of the new medical clinic, which was clean, organized, and impressive for Honduran standards. It felt homey and very welcoming. We learned how they deal with different types of patients and how they handle medicine and other necessities. There were a few Honduran patients waiting outside and we talked with them for a little bit, laughing as one man caught a chicken off the ground for us to hold and take pictures with.

(Mission Lazarus medical clinic)

(Mission Lazarus medical clinic)

As we drove down the mountain and back towards Choluteca, Jarrod pulled off the road and parked in front of a trail leading into what looked like a jungle. As we all piled out of the trucks, he told us we were going to meet his best friend. We started off on the trail, which quickly became so steep that we were panting pathetically (at least I was) and practically climbing on hands and knees. When we reached the top, we were in front of a little stone house, being affectionately hugged and greeted by the two sweetest old men I’ve ever met. Brothers, neither of them had teeth and were either in their eighties or nineties. When we asked how old the eldest brother was, he said “I don’t know! I just say whatever comes to my head when someone asks. Today I’m eighty-three.” We laughed and sat around on the ground while they talked and Jarrod translated for us.

This was probably my favorite part of the trip because the joy of the Lord was so incredibly evident in these sweet old men. Even as they talked about not knowing where their next meal would come from, their radiant and toothless smiles never left their faces. They told us they were so happy we’d come and that they love being visited by brothers and sisters. Another crazy thing: one of those men hikes four hours to get to church. Four. Hours. And our group had trouble making it the five minutes to his house. Wow. Our visit with them really put things into perspective for me, and I’ll never forget them.

All in all, it was a great day. I learned some valuable lessons from those two sweet men that couldn’t be taught in a textbook. We made it back to the ranch and enjoyed another phenomenal dinner, with lots of guacamole and homemade chips that are out of this world. I’m looking forward to waking up and starting another day of learning in this beautiful country.

Hannah Griffith
COBA Accounting Major
Class of 2016

Local Entrepreneurs

0 Commentsby   |  08.01.14  |  Study Abroad

Yesterday morning, we started off by hearing from Jarrod Brown and his wife Allison. The stories they shared were very insightful to how Mission Lazarus was born and carried out over the past several years. Their perspective on how the mission is run is unique as they focus on the business side to help the mission rather than vice versa. Mission Lazarus emphasizes accountability and above-market wages in an attempt to not only raise the quality of life for employees, but also put positive pressure on other companies in the region.

Later that morning, a couple from the Honduran city of Choluteca came to Mission Lazarus to speak to us on entrepreneurship. Max and Emma Baires both had degrees in law but are not necessarily using them in the most typical way. They went on to pursue entrepreneurship in a country where law degrees would help them more in a business setting. They explained that being an entrepreneur and owning a business gives them many opportunities to utilize their legal training.  This couple had owned the 3rd largest cable company in Honduras and started with providing cable to 25 homes in the late 80’s. After 23 years, Max sold his company to TIGO, which is the largest cellular and cable company in Honduras and for which they now play a role as consultants.  The knowledge that Max and Emma shared was very beneficial to our group and reminded us to dream big and set goals.

(Max and Emma Baires)

(Max and Emma Baires)

For the afternoon, our group met together for some class time. We discussed how short term missions can have positive and negative effects on people in communities. Basing our discussion on the book When Helping Hurts, we conversed on how people are all in a state of poverty whether it be materialistic or broken relationships. All people need a sense of belonging and purpose which religion can provide where shelter and food cannot. If religion is at the forefront of a person’s mind then that can play a role in fixing a community or country. The class discussion analyzed the government and the corruption of Honduras as well.

To finish off the day, we went to San Marcos and had a Honduran supper at a local restaurant. It was a great look into their culture as we drove through the streets and enjoyed an authentic Honduran meal. The joy from the Honduran people is very impactful because they do not have much wealth but live life with contentment and happiness.

(Local restaurant in Choluteca)

(Local restaurant in Choluteca)

Cassidee Lowe
Marketing Major
Class of 2016

San Lazaro Estate Coffee

0 Commentsby   |  07.31.14  |  Study Abroad

Yesterday consisted of two of my favorite things: nature and coffee.

With a morning spent studying on the posada, an afternoon on the coffee plantation up in the mountains, and a dinner preceded by the most phenomenal plate of homemade tortilla chips you could ever imagine, it’s easy to count the day as a success.

If I’m being honest, I’m nothing more than a coffee newbie. Having first tasted the heavenly drink last semester, my cup is usually tarnished by a copious amount of half-and-half. I decided to take today’s adventure as a learning opportunity to drink coffee the ‘right’ way.

While I left the plantation still dependent on my coffee supplement, the day did serve as a learning opportunity in a way that provides exceedingly more value than ridding myself of a dependence on creamer.

When we arrived at Mission Lazarus’ coffee plantation, one of the organization’s  primary divisions and sources of revenue, Jarrod immediately went into detail about the coffee production process, emphasizing how every step had a distinct purpose. In addition to sharing what things are done at the San Lazaro Plantation, Jarrod took the time to explain how things are done. During our tour of a local coffee co-operative the previous afternoon, we heard a lot about organic certifications and fair trade. Not knowing much about the production process, I was grateful for the tour to serve as a contrast to Mission Lazarus. As Jarrod explained how these certifications play out in the local coffee economy, I began to realize that they really offer no benefit to the laborers in the field doing all the work, but are merely a guarantee that the landowner gets his share.

(Jarrod Brown describing ML's coffee business)

(Jarrod Brown describing ML’s coffee business)

By learning that San Lazaro Estate coffee is not fair trade, I was able to see their true mission come to light. While the local co-operative exports their 100 lb. bags of coffee for $200, ML’s cost is well over twice that amount. This is not a result of a differing production process, but is simply a result of Mission Lazarus’ commitment to doing things right and paying their workers a fair wage that is well above that paid in the local labor market. In fact, their profit margin on their coffee line is very small, but their focus has never been on the bottom line.

Whenever I think of a social venture, I envision a business with an emphasis on fulfilling a need of society. It wasn’t until today that I thought it could be any different. Today was the first time I thought about the symbolism of ‘social’ being placed before the word ‘venture.’ As Jarrod shared the background and inner-workings of the coffee plantation, through his passion I was able to see that he wasn’t nearly as concerned with the coffee itself as any ordinary entrepreneur. To Jarrod and the overall mission of Mission Lazarus, the coffee serves as a means to an end. To provide jobs, teach life skills, empower the workers, engage a community—that’s what really matters.

(Group at coffee plantation)

(Group at top of coffee plantation)

It’s a thought-provoking concept: to care more about the ramifications of a business than its bottom line. Although few (if any) of us will end up harvesting and processing coffee beans as our career, today’s experience served as an applicable type of learning—the type that can’t necessarily be taught through a book. It serves as a challenge to our group to think about what kind of impact we can leave on our communities and the marketplace.

Stephanie Day
COBA Accounting Major
Class of 2015