at Hotel Brisas Del Mar,
February 2017 Retreat.
Eye opening, heart centering, laughter stimulating, and physically restoring: my experience with a group of courageous Grey Brucians who joined up with me in Nicaragua for 8 days of vitamin D fueled adventure and voluntourism, all with a side of Yoga.
When I first met up with Andy Evans in the fall of 2016 I was immediately amused by his obvious passion for sharing the community and culture of Jiquilillo (pronounced Hick-A-Lee-Lo), Nicaragua, where he had joined into co-partnership of an ocean side hotel called Brisas Del Mar. He expressed how much he just wanted those from Grey Bruce to experience what this small yet dynamic fishing village had to offer. He was authentically humble and totally infatuated with Brisas- I had to find out for myself what this was all about.
And what fun would it be going alone? Well, in all truth probably just fine as I am a lover of solo travel. But I wanted feedback, and I wanted people to experience with me as I had a back pocket intention to check out how conducive Brisas was for future yoga retreats.
So I sent out a few newsletters, some word of mouth spread, and surely enough a group of 9 pooled together to set out on a quest of sunshine. One of the biggest supporters and the one who kept encouraging me was Bill Hutchison, who simply couldn’t wait for our group trip in February that he had to go in December. He came back completely ready to return as soon as he stepped off the plane in Toronto, so I knew that this was a good sign.
Aside from the outstanding backdrop of a long Pacific Ocean horizon line, and the stretched out volcanic sand beach scattered with shells, there were of course the inhabitants that were just as passionate to share their love of Jiquilillo. Brisas Del Mar is unique in that unlike a lot of hotels with foreign investors, they hire a completely local staff team. The hotel itself is quaint and quiet, and much to my delight they did not have WiFi yet. For me this was part of the magic. Unplugging to experience the rawness of the world.
Each individual who joined me on the trip came for different reasons. Some were treating themselves after years of setting aside their own desires to serve others, some were intrigued about the adventure, one came for a writer’s retreat, and some came because I said ‘it’ll be fun! Trust me!’.
The day before the group arrived to meet up at the cathedral square in Leon, I had a verge of nervous butterflies. “What if I am leading all of these perfectly kind and unassuming people into a total bust of a vacation?”. A reasonable concern that was completely drowned out of my mind as soon as I met the smiles and wide eyes of our group.
The practice of letting go, free falling backwards into the unknown, running full force into the arms of who knows what, with a smile plastered on my face while 5,500 miles from home. This concept of letting go into the experience and enjoying the dynamic of balancing rather than struggling to keep the game face on is what practicing the all too simple looking Standing Crane Pose prepares me for when off the mat and in the world, (or on a boat with Bill).
On the mat, my inquiries of letting go of that which I don’t need, and absorbing or embodying that which could help me, may look like feet planted, crown raised, shoulders tight then loose and wriggling the jaw in a warrior pose, while narratives chatter away in my mind and I seek to rest in the spaces between these fluid thoughts.
I called on this ability to find space and slow time when we visited as a group El Limonal, in Chinandega, a settlement of displaced victims of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, living off and in the city dump. A community of people that has found itself on the fringe, dependent on outreach and support programs, and struggling to rediscover their own independence. A whole generation has how been born entirely in this dump. For some of the residents, and certainly the children, this is the only home they know.
There was a definite sobering in contrast to our previous days of adventuring the ocean, boogie boarding, and salsa dancing with the staff. The eyes of children were certainly sweet and one of our group members brought balloons for the kids to blow up which was joyously distracting, but the knowledge of their suffering and the extent of the dependence on outreach was a visible thread. However through the prominence of support programs, including the very vital involvement of Brisas Del Mar, it was clear that outreach was a literal life line, and still necessary almost 20 years after the disaster.
“These people need food first. Then Education. Then independence. Until they have enough food, until they can learn on their own, we need support. We need volunteers.” Gerry Caceres, Chinandega native and the booming and big hearted co owner of Brisas Del Mar was sharing this with our group. He has been a passionate advocate for all things humanitarian, ecologically responsible, and community preserving in Jiquilillo and abroad. “You see these shipping containers here? Next time you come back these will be fully functioning as a school, and one of them will even have a medical clinic. We already have all the laptops ready to go!”
It’s through profit donations from both Brisas Del Mar and Monty’s Beach Lodge in Jiquilillo, along with church organizations, external fundraising activities, and the recent publicity from the documentary Gringos in the Garbage, that El Limonal has been able to grow new roots and set it’s community gaze on a more hopeful future.
When Gerry said “next time you come back” it wasn’t just wishful thinking. He knew I’d be back. I was totally hooked. The people, the location, the potential for exposing those from my own community to the charm and resilience of the Nicaraguan people, all of it resting on the supportive bones of Yoga philosophy and practice.
This is something I can really get used to, and something I would love to share with you.
Stay connected through our studio newsletter to find out about a Brisas Del Mar photo share evening, ask questions, and get ready for Nicaragua round two in 2018!
Maxine Iharosy has been teaching Yoga actively since 2011 with over 800 hours of certified training. She is currently managing Tone Studio along with teaching. Her passion for community and mindful living puts the wind to her sails.