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Traveling with $6.00 budget for food - at least that was what the World Challenge kids where telling us at the front desk here in Ometepe
I was forced to become an ambulance driver, translator, coordinator and the bridge between the hospital staff in the Ometepe Island, as the ability to be bilingual is critical. The students aren't aware whom they are calling in order to make reservations for transportation, or even whether the people they are contacting are certified to transport tourists. They have to choose between heavily overcrowded, blandly maintained chicken buses - very old converted American School buses - or someone that was recommended to them for a particular transport.
In order to meet their budgets, students have to choose the options available to them and make decisions based on the extremely low daily budget. As a direct result of this, they each eat a huge amount of junk food; the system in place forces them to go the unhealthy way every day.
We love having British organized groups here, because of their commitment to education and the leadership skills they develop. The leadership skills could be improved immensely by spending more resources on them. Jamie Oliver would have a heart attack if he were to happen to travel with the students. The entire 30 days process which students undergo is not what it purports to be, and is in fact a relentless pursuit of unhealthy decisions, foisted upon the students by the overly tight budget.
The idea of sustainability is not understood in the communities that you are all visiting, and the amount of trash generated by the groups is intense. Please consider the fact that they are visiting a National Park, live in a conservation area and it is an island, and therefore a natural bottleneck for trash.
The ideal situation would be one in which students are making decisions based on their healthy nutritional needs as a top priority, rather than rushing into supermarkets to buy unhealthy food in order to meet the very low food budgets. Fresh produce bought from our road stands, whilst cheap, does not meet the required standards of sanitation, and the same goes with most of most of our restaurants that are serving food for our local population.
Whilst it is ostensibly possible to travel extremely cheaply in Nicaragua, the inevitable result of such obsessive cost-cutting is paying the price either through suffering with illness or a local hospital.
From my point of view. The definition of camping is taken to an extreme - it should not be necessary for the students to have to sleep in tents and have to prepare their own food when there is cheap accommodation and healthy food available.
With all the extreme limitations that our poor healthcare system has, it performed flawlessly. The nurses getting them all (five of them) on IV fluids, antibiotics, etc. deserve medals for their outstanding work.
In my opinion. The current standards are one sided, and are very sustainable and prosperous for the British tour operators. Nicaragua as a whole is getting the short end of the stick by not attracting tourists that have sufficient funds to survive in Nicaragua, and as result we get people that are getting sick in the county. This negatively affects the image of Nicaragua that is projected by these tourists overseas, which in turn is damaging to our society and our economic development.
I warned of the nascent dangers of the sort of expedition British tour operators are offering in 2006, in a letter to The Independent in London, yet there does not appear to have been much in the way of improvement of the situation.
Alvaro Molina Hacienda Merida Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
My name is Alvaro Molina, form Esteli, Nicaragua.
I am the owner of hotel Hacienda Merida www.hmerida.com located in the Maderas National, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. We have been hosting hundreds of high school students led by UK based tour operators targeting high schools from the United Kingdon, Australia and most likely soon from the United States. (new offices for that market)
There is no helicopter service or an ambulance service here in the Island. Medical facilities are very very basic. The trips are like a poverty game where every one gets a misery budget to travel and pay at front 3600.00 to 4000.00 British pounds for 28 days in Nicaragua. It is a British phenomenon. Most other teen from other countries travel is a much different way where it is very sustainable for the communities and for themselves. Some teens are completely out of shape and are not ready for the types of activities that they are engaging along with that fact the food they are not nearly eating adequate or appropriate nutrition for the rigorous hikes that are performing.
Severe dehydration (they can not even walk) is the results along with overnight visits to the local clinics for IV fluids. Some of the travel group leaders don't know the country (first timers) and do not speak Spanish. The ability to be bilingual critical in case of emergencies. A local bilingual guide or a translator does not travel with the group all all times.
The ability to handle emergencies is grossly overestimated to the heads of the schools, teachers and parents.
euphie 22.07.2014 11:19
I'm still not sure what this is about
ravingreviewer 22.07.2014 10:44
I would have to agree with Bollinger28 on this one! But an OK start, all the same.