Nicaragua Day 5: Juan Dávila, Playa Gigante

On my final day in Nicaragua, not wanting to waste of moment of my short time in this gorgeous country, I got up to see the sunrise at 5:30. Of course, plenty of coffee was involved in such a proposition and is the only reason you will see sunrise photos in this post. So we thank you, Nicaragua, for your magic coffee beans. I then met up with the group at our usual meeting spot, a home overlooking Redondo Bay, where Pastor Chris led us in a devotional.

From there we made our way to a village called Juan Dávila. In this village, Living Water has installed a clean water well that is pumped to a storage tank. The elevated storage tank supplies running water for hand washing stations and drinking water distribution points in the village. We were able to hear from local leaders how this installation has transformed the village by bringing the community together and reducing disease. We threw a party for the local children and all had a great time.

We got back to Redondo Bay in the afternoon for some free time. I made quite a trek, in my flip-flops mind you, to the next beach north of us, Playa Gigante. As the name implies, it is quite a giant beach. I explored and did my introvert thing to bring you some photos of this amazing location, but then reconnected with several of our group who had also made the hike over to hang out at a local beach bar and cafe. The evening concluded as usual with appetizers at our meeting house as we watched our last sunset of the trip.

I will miss Nicaragua and my new friends but I know we will be reunited. Grateful to Chris Seay and Ecclesia Houston for inviting me along to document this unforgettable experience.

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Nicaragua Day 4: Barrio Nuevo, Finco Popoyo

Today we made our way to the village of Barrio Nuevo, situated 135 km southwest of Managua in the Rivas District. The village has no access to clean water. Living Water is in the planning stages of drilling a safe water well for this community. Currently, residents are complaining of parasites, kidney infections, and frequent diarrhea. We attended a church worship meeting which was held outdoors under the shade of trees in the center of the village. The people we met were very warm and welcoming. Local staff members from Living Water showed us some of the existing open wells which produce limited and contaminated water.

After this, some of us made our way to the Nicaraguan National Circuit Surfing Championship at Finca Popoyo. Two Living Water local staff members were in the competition and placed among the top four finalists. I fell in love with the little community there; what a gorgeous coastline. The day ended catching up with the rest of the group while enjoying another stunning sunset over Redondo Bay.

In a rare moment, my new friend and fellow photographer Missy Hill picked up my backup Leica and, after giving her a crash course on using the rangefinder, shot a portrait of me. So I actually made it onto my own blog in this post. Hope you’re enjoying following along on our Nicaragua adventure.

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Nicaragua Day 3: Rivas District

This morning began with group yoga followed by a devotional teaching at the beach. I didn’t make it to yoga but I managed to stop by the devotional. It was a beautiful morning. We then met up to head to a village where many pastors and community members were gathered. They were leaders of communities where our church, Ecclesia Houston, has drilled safe water wells in partnership with Living Water. They had a beautiful cultural presentation involving dance, music, and greetings from all the leaders expressing their gratitude for the wells. We all sat at tables mixed with the leaders and had interpreters present. It was a very engaging experience.

The road trip back was filled with conversations about everyone’s encounters with the locals and their stories. It was again another very moving experience, especially to hear how something as simple as clean water has completely transformed these communities. We enjoyed yet another stunning sunset as we gathered at our meeting house for appetizers and drinks to unwind after a long day. The views from the meeting house are breathtaking; I could never imagine them getting old. We have such a diverse group, it’s been a pleasure to see how we’re all getting along and making new friendships quickly. Believe it or not, there are 60 people in our group!

Please excuse the stream of consciousness in my blog ramblings… these are written at odd hours, inspired largely by caffeine. Oh, that’s another thing… we’re traveling with the founder of Mueva Coffee, a direct trade coffee roasting company that buys direct from various farmers around the world, including a farm here in Nicaragua! Suffice it to say, the coffee she brought along is amazing. You can buy it at Paper Co. Coffee in Houston.

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Nicaragua: Compassion International visit

Continuing my tour with Ecclesia Houston… Today we woke up at the crack of dawn to begin our journey back to Managua to visit a Compassion International program. There we met 20 children that members of our group sponsor for education and nutrition support through Compassion. It was a very moving experience that neither the sponsors nor the children will soon forget. Compassion staff had several activities planned for the group, and all involved had a great time. There are over 46,000 children sponsored by Compassion donors in Nicaragua alone. It’s an absolutely impressive operation, making an exponential difference in the lives of an entire generation.

Then we made our way back to the coastal village we’re basing out of just in time for a spectacular sunset. Pastor Chris Seay led us in prayer before our evening meal. This group of 60 has already begun to bond and all are having a great time getting to know each other and the local culture.

These trips are always very challenging for me as a photographer because of the vast amount of subject matter, shooting hundreds of images, coupled with having to narrow them down and speed edit on a daily basis. Learning to let go and just release these as they are. Soooo hard! But I love it!

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Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo: ‘Gatekeepers’ volunteers, horse show

Yesterday I had the pleasure of documenting a few facets of the world’s largest livestock show and rodeo, which draws over 2.5 million visitors and requires 30,000 volunteers each year: The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Founded in 1931, the purpose of the event is to raise money for education. The organization has committed more than $400 million to scholarships and other educational youth programs since it was formed. Currently, they are awarding about $3 million in scholarships each year. It’s quite an impressive undertaking.

I was asked to follow one of the many volunteer teams to document a ‘day in the life’ experience of the volunteer aspect of the event. The group I was assigned to was one of the ‘The Gatekeepers’ teams, responsible for being the “face of the organization” named as such since they’re the first volunteers whom visitors make contact with when entering the grounds.

After documenting The Gatekeepers, I made my way to one of the horse shows to give you a flavor of one of the events. Mind you, it was middle of the day on a weekday so the crowds were on the lighter side. As horses are one of my favorite subjects to photograph, it was a treat to be able to get so close to these beautiful animals. Hope you enjoy the images!