Week Ten: Children’s Hospital Colorado–Denver, CO

September 7th, 2015

Maria Goodfellow ’16, Clifford Fellow in Orthopedic Research

Please ignore the gap between weeks nine and ten! With moving back to Albuquerque, then back to Mount Vernon, these last few weeks were a bit hectic and I have not had the opportunity to wrap this up! My apologies.

So, last week at Children’s! It was certainly bittersweet going into this last week. I was very excited to have my project finished up and to head back home for some potential R&R, but I had met so many wonderful individuals over the course of my time at Children’s that I was not quite ready to head back.

This week I focused on perfecting my presentation. Each intern presents their finding, whether their study is complete or not to the other interns, research assistants and the providers (so your bosses, and their bosses, no pressure!). Thankfully I was able to get feedback from my site mentor and the resident whose final project is supracondylar documentation at the hospital. Between their feedback and my own work my project was ready to present much sooner than I expected!

I spent the rest of my time preparing an introduction and abstract for the paper that we anticipate publishing on our findings. I have to say, I was pretty nervous about this. As I mentioned a few weeks back, my last paper was about butterfly populations in Iowa prairies. Not even close to supracondylar fractures! After spending a few weeks dreading this assignment I bit the bullet and gave it a shot. Overall, I was pretty impressed with what I came up with! Certainly it will be changed before being sent  publishing, but the abstract seemed to fit what was needed and the introduction only needed some changing. Not bad for a butterfly researcher, eh?

On Wednesday I, and the other interns, presented our final projects. Six years of mock trial competitions certainly prepared me for this moment. While most of the other interns were cringing at the thought of this day, I was pretty excited! I love public speaking! Plus, I was wearing my favorite suit, so nothing could go wrong. The presentation went very well, just as I expected. The only catch is that afterwards the physicians did not really ask questions. Instead, they just held a mini-conference about how they could further harness the project. But, thankfully they did this for everybody… so no big deal!


Reviewing the complications associated with supracondylar fractures


Looking at a patient treated for a Type III Supracondylar at Children’s.

Overall, I could not be happier with my time at Children’s. This internship gave me an insider’s look at hospital life and what it takes to be a good provider. The medical professionals I watched were not just another PA or NP, they were compassionate, kind and thoughtful in their work, and in every examination. This internship has re-assured me that I do have what it takes to be a provider. As I move forward in my senior year I will continue to explore those possibilities. If I can do half as well as the providers I met and worked with this summer I will be on the right track, I will be the kind of provider I hope to always have on the other side of the table.


Week Seven: The Simmer Law Group, PLLC- Washington, D.C.

September 7th, 2015

Kenny Capesius ’16, Jeffries Fellow in Whistleblower Litigation

This was my last week at the Simmer Law Group. I know it was only 7 weeks, the equivalent of two classes at Cornell, but this fellowship ended far too quickly.

This last week began with a culmination of my primary fellowship project. I spent most of Monday completing the judicial opinion on the First-to-File issue that I have written about. The finished product largely resembles the original outline I had made, though it is far more polished than even my first draft was. I owe much of this to Scott Simmer’s guidance throughout the project.

On Tuesday I was assigned a project by a firm partner that would take up much of my time for the remainder of the week. My task was to look through hundreds of pages of client documents to find and compile multiple sets of numbers. Once I had gathered all of the data that I could locate, I had to then sort it into appropriate groups and then begin analyzing it. My final step was to summarize the information in charts and graphs as effectively as possible.

Throughout the week, I also was given a few smaller projects to complete. On Tuesday I edited notes from a client meeting and created a memorandum based on those notes. The next day I helped a research assistant prepare the certified mailing of a complaint in a case. The third small project of the week was to research litigation related to a company in a case the firm is working on.

There were a few other experiences this week that, though small in terms of time, were incredibly meaningful to me. On Thursday I accompanied a firm partner to a hearing at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for a pro bono case. While traveling to and from the hearing, we talked about the practice of law and he offered his thoughts and opinions on the work I did with him. Throughout the week I met with other members of the firm for the same purpose; to learn their opinions and ideas about my performance over these seven weeks. They had many supportive thoughts to offer to me. Finally, to celebrate my time at the firm, on Friday the whole team had a firm lunch at Farmers, Fishers and Bakers, a restaurant on the Georgetown Waterfront.

I found a little bit of time on Saturday to visit the National Archives. On display there were documents capturing the struggle to gain and experience equal rights, a fight that continues to this day. Probably the most famous document in that exhibit was one of the original copies of the Magna Carta, the document credited with the birth of the individual’s rights. More famously, the Archives is home to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As someone who has taken many political thought classes at Cornell, I really appreciated the opportunity to view these documents up close. As these documents are very old and require extensive care to be preserved, pictures were not allowed.

The front of Archives

The front of Archives

I applied for this internship opportunity because I wanted to gain insight into the everyday practice of law. It’s one thing to watch “Law & Order” and say, “I know what attorneys do. That would be really interesting!” It’s a whole other thing to actually work in the field and to help perform the necessary research and work to move a case to that stage. I wanted to know if law school and practicing law was something I truly wanted to do. Now that I have completed the internship, I know even more definitely that becoming a lawyer is what I want to do.

I want to thank everyone at the Simmer Law Group for doing their part to make my opportunity in D.C., both in and out of the office, a once in a lifetime experience. A special thank you goes to RJ Holmes-Leopold (’99) and Scott Simmer (’73) for setting up this internship. I am so grateful to have had this fellowship.

Picture of Watergate on my last day

Picture of Watergate on my last day

Week Six: The Simmer Law Group, PLLC–Washington, D.C.

September 7th, 2015

Kenny Capesius ’16, Jeffries Fellow in Whistleblower Litigation

As I was saying in my previous blog post, my girlfriend, Laurel Fraser, flew into Reagan on Sunday. On Monday we went to the Watergate so I could show her around the office before I attended a meeting and worked for a few hours. When we got to the office, Scott told me that our meeting was postponed and that I should take Monday, as well as Tuesday, off so that Laurel and I could see as much of DC as possible. After I introduced her to everyone at the office, we went to Georgetown for lunch. We found a pizzeria called Il Canale, which sells certified authentic Neapolitan pizzas.

After a delicious lunch, we traveled to northwest DC to the American University campus. There, we visited Wesley Theological Seminary, a school that Laurel is considering attending. After our visit, we traveled back to Virginia and went to Arlington Cemetery. Laurel was able to see the changing of the guard ceremony as well as the Kennedy family’s gravesites. After what had been a day full of adventures, we ate some frozen yogurt and later in the evening went out to dinner at Cantina Mexicana with Ruby Perry (’16) and one of her friends.

Tuesday morning we went back to northwest DC where we ate at Burger Tap and Shake and then visited the National Zoo. Probably the most incredible sight at the Zoo was the primates and how they interacted both with each other and their environment. Next, we went to the African Art Gallery, which is featuring an exhibit on Dante’s Divine Comedy.

One of the orangutans at the National Zoo

One of the orangutans at the National Zoo

At this point, we decided to give our legs and feet a break. So we went on a round trip boat ride on the Potomac River from Georgetown to Alexandria. This gave us an incredible view of the city of Washington DC, the monuments, and the surrounding countryside. When we got back to Georgetown, we ate at a riverfront restaurant called Sequoia. By then it was dark, so Laurel and I took Scott’s advice and went to see the monuments at night. We walked around the National Mall for over an hour and saw the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Memorial, and the Washington Monument, before catching the last metro train back to Crystal City.

The Washington Monument with the Capitol Building behind it and the Reflecting Pool in front

The Washington Monument with the Capitol Building behind it and the Reflecting Pool in front

The statue of Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial

The statue of Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial "looking at" the Washington Monument in the Background

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial “looking at” the Washington Monument in the Background

A close up of a soldier at the Korean War Veterans Memorial

A close up of a soldier at the Korean War Veterans Memorial

On Wednesday morning I saw Laurel off to the airport and then headed to work. This shortened work week was a combination of short projects and the completion of larger ones. Gerald Robinson gave me two small research projects for specific preliminary information for two potential cases. On Friday Tom Poulin assigned me a relatively small task of printing off copies of documents for an oral argument next month. I created an index for Mr. Poulin’s copy and put it in a binder with tabs. These shorter projects provided a nice break between the larger scale projects and to fill any down-time I may have otherwise had.

There were two projects that dominated most of my time at the office this week. One of these was the project that Mr. Poulin gave me last week: to sort through a very large stack of case documents. This included placing them into logical groups, eliminating duplicates and making binders of the most important groups of documents. After many, many hours over the past two weeks, I completed this project late Friday. It was incredibly rewarding to receive compliments from Mr. Poulin on the extensive detail I put into the work.

The other project that I spent substantial time on was an important mailing in an ongoing case. It took a large scale effort by much of the office to edit the documents to be mailed and to compile 26 copies of them! I had two roles in preparing the mailing. First, I help Mr. Robinson make edits to the central document being mailed out. Once we had finalized those changes, I then took on my second role. This involved me burning documents from the computer onto a CD and then copying the information on that CD onto 25 others. I then had to create labels for all of the CDs and stick them to the top of the CDs. Finally, I had to package them into bubble wrap so that they would not be damaged while in route to the intended recipient.

Once again, my weekend was full of sightseeing and memorable experiences. I spent the first half of Saturday exploring the Museum of American History. I have a strong interest in history and politics, so my favorite exhibits were probably “The Price of Freedom” and “The American Presidency”. “The Price of Freedom” features artifacts from the wars and conflicts the United States has been involved in, while “The American Presidency” explored the wide variety of aspects to the office of the President. Probably the most moving exhibit was “The Star Spangled Banner”. This exhibit walked through the history of the song and included the actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry.


A cement marker for the Lincoln Highway, which runs right through Cornell's campus

A stone marker for the Lincoln Highway, which runs right through Cornell’s campus

Pictures of the actual Star Spangled Banner Flag are not allowed, so this poster is the best I could do

Pictures of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry are not allowed (for preservation), so this poster is the best I could do

On Sunday I took the longest sight-seeing trip I will have here in DC. I went all the way out to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is the Air and Space Museum near Dulles International Airport. The trip took about an hour and a half each way by metro and bus, but it went smoothly. It was home to all sorts of planes, helicopters, missiles, and space vehicles. But probably the most notable were an Air France Concorde, a Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird (a spy plane), a Boeing 707, the Enola Gay (the Boeing B-29 Super fortress that dropped the first nuclear bomb over Hiroshima), the space shuttle Discovery, and the Apollo 11 Command Module. I even learned a fun fact of trivia: the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon (Han Solo’s ship in the Star Wars movies) was based on the cockpit of the Enola Gay.

The Enola Gay

The Enola Gay

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery

But the highlight of my weekend would be the spending Saturday afternoon and evening at Nationals Park. The Simmer Law Group had tickets to a suite and most of the office, as well as some members of Blank Rome, Scott Simmer’s former firm, attended the game. I showed up early to watch batting practice before making my way up to the suite to watch the game. As a baseball player myself, and a pitcher on the Cornell College team, this was an exciting opportunity that I have been looking forward to since starting this fellowship. And now, as I enter my last week of work, I find that I am more excited than ever to see what it holds in store for me.

A picture of me from our seats at the Nationals game

A picture of me from our seats at the Nationals game

Week Seven: Casa Verde–Limón, Nicaragua

September 7th, 2015

Jared Rowe ’16, Kynett Fellow for Service Learning

Health: Good! I am a little hungry, but that might be because it’s almost lunch time.

Homestay: Great! I am glad to be back with the family again! I got back in time to help Katty at the county fair, but for the most part, she didn’t really need my help by the time I showed up because Herbie was around to help. Luis is apparently in a soccer tournament that could let him travel to different parts of the country with his team if they win enough games! I really hope that his team does well!

Happiness: Like always, I am doing perfect in this category.

What an amazing trip! Despite all of my fears, the 2016 Fenix retreat to Ometepe was a resounding success! We spent most of the first day traveling to our hotel, but in the evening, we had an extremely informed, and educational conversation about the impact of tourism on local businesses on Ometepe. I had to make sure that I incorporated some educational activities into the retreat, so once we arrived in the port of Moyogalpa, I had Fenix members ask local business owners how tourism had impacted their business, and lives in general. During the discussion, most of the Fenix students explained that the people they talked to said that tourism brings more money, and economic opportunity to the island, but it also increases the level of competitiveness between businesses. Sending tens of thousands of tourists to Ometepe brings a substantial amount of capital to the island as well, and so the influx of tourism has sort of put the local economy into overdrive, with business owners at each other’s throats as they vie for the tourist dollar.


The port of Moyogalpa from the boat.

The next morning, we ate breakfast, and one of the staff at the hotel we stayed at gave us a fascinating look at some of the community development programs organized by the hotel. The hotel is called the Hacienda Merida, and its staff members do a great deal to ensure that the local community of Merida also benefits from their profits. The Hacienda Merida has even organized and supported the construction of a bilingual school for children in the local community that is made entirely out of plastic bottles, and cement!!! What a great way to promote social and environmental responsibility!


I mean, check this out! It’s awesome! Each bottle is packed with non-recyclable plastic as well! Wow!

We also visited the Santo Domingo beach and the famous Ojo De Agua the day after our arrival. The Ojo de Agua is a pool of mineral water that many claim to have medicinal benefits! We spent roughly 3 hours there just swimming in the pool, and relaxing. In fact, we spent the majority of the retreat following the morning tour just kicking back, and taking a well-deserved break after a busy 3 months of programs. The night before we made the journey home, all of the Fenix kids told me that they had a fantastic time, and that this retreat was their favorite of the three that have been organized for them! I swear I almost had tears in my eyes.


These kids are amazing.

I realize now that I only have about a week left before I have to go back to the US, and it’s only recently, after the retreat has finished that I have actually had much time to reflect on my experience. In all honesty, I could go for pages, and pages about how much I have learned working for Casa Verde, especially over the course of two summers, but for the purposes of this entry, I will say that working for Casa Verde has significantly improved my capability to work proactively on the tasks assigned to me, and has increased my confidence in my ability to lead others.

For the most part, I have had to carry out all of my projects independently, with little support from permanent CV staff members. This partially has to do with the fact that as of right now, my main supervisor has gone to the states to get treatment for a blood infection they caught this summer, and my secondary supervisor has picked up so many parasites here that she also needs to go to the states and have a medical procedure to clear all of the bugs from her system! Fortunately, a staff member named Lidieth Alvarez has sort of stepped in as the intern manager, but with all of this organizational reshuffling going on, I was primarily responsible for the success of my projects. That sort of pressure did a great deal to motivate me to work proactively, and make the most of the time I had. For example, if I needed information from Lidieth, I learned to call her as fast as I could and schedule a meeting with her for as soon as possible. Additionally, I learned to make deadlines for myself and follow them meticulously. I honestly don’t think I would nearly be as far on the packet as I am now without learning to hold myself to my own deadlines. I can easily apply these work related skills to my studies at Cornell when I need to meet with group members for a project, professors for a meeting, etc.


The intern office/Fenix club house.

However, I honestly believe that the main lessons I have taken out of this fellowship have more to do with how to adjust to living in a completely new cultural environment.  One of the main objectives held by Casa Verde involves building cultural competency in all of its volunteers, in order to make them more effective global citizens. After living, and working in a place where everyone is at least three shades darker than me, don’t speak English, and live by a completely different set of implied social customs for so long, I have not only learned more about the cultural patterns within Limόn, but I feel like I will take some of those social patterns back with me. For example, whenever I am talking to someone down here, I have learned that I am expected to look at someone while I am talking if I want to catch all of the hidden cues that they give off in their facial expressions.

On top of all this, my Spanish has naturally improved a substantial amount since I arrived here 6 weeks ago. Notonly am I now completely conversational in Spanish, but I have even begun to take on a bit of a Nicaraguan accent when I speak Spanish! I could not have picked up these habits if I had not been forced to lean into uncomfortable situations every single day of my fellowship, and for the internship I completed with Casa Verde last year. In order to complete my projects, I had to interact with local community members in Limon, and this meant working around language and cultural barriers of tremendous magnitude. My experience in these situations has thus not only helped me to gain confidence in my Spanish skills, but also in my ability to work, and grow in situations far outside my comfort zone.


My good friend Juan. This guy has taught me so much about what it means to be a man, and how to live with responsibility and patience. He is just one of the people I learned from this year.

In the past 3 years, Cornell has provided me with countless opportunities to grow as a  student, and as a human being. Of all of these opportunities, I can say with full confidence that my Cornell Fellowship stands among these as the most life changing, and constructive opportunities I have been offered at Cornell. I cannot thank everyone involved with helping to make this trip a reality enough.

Week Six: Casa Verde–Limón, Nicaragua

September 7th, 2015

Jared Rowe ’16, Kynett Fellow in Service Learning

We are almost ready to head out on the retreat! Today is Tuesday, July 28th, and we leave for Ometepe in 3 days! The only real task I have left to complete before the retreat involves talking with my supervisor about the budget that I have drawn up for the outing, and collecting the funds that we have been allotted for the trip. Since my last entry last week, I have made a substantial amount of progress on the service learning packet, so I feel like I can explain a little more about that portion of my work.

As Casa Verde has grown, it has begun to develop a variety of operational patterns and habits. However, due in part to the fact that they get caught up in managing their everyday responsibilities, Casa Verde organizers are not always aware of these patterns. Therefore, in order to gain a greater awareness of how CV works, and how to help the organization operate more efficiently, CV leaders have expressed the desire for someone to create a packet for the organization that provides them with information on how CV organizes, and implements its service learning programs that it designs. My task involves writing a handbook that exclusively talks about the programs that Casa Verde designs to host international volunteers in Limon.  I have divided this packet into six sections. These sections talk about the following themes:

  • Casa Verde’s mission/purpose.
  • The types of service learning programs Casa Verde offers
  • The program participant recruitment, admission, and orientation process.
  • The homestay program
  • The program implementation Process
  • The program evaluation process

So far, I have only completed the first three sections of the handbook, so I am concerned about my ability to complete the packet before my departure in August. One of the biggest reasons behind my slow progress has to do with the unpredictability of electricity. I am using a laptop with a damaged battery that can’t hold a charge, so I need to have my laptop plugged in when I use it. Usually, this does not prove to be much of a problem, but when the power goes out, as it frequently does these days, I either have to shut my computer, and work on something else, or bike 4 kilometers to work in a restaurant on the beach where I can use power from a backup generator. Although quite stressful, electricity shortages, along with the occasional water shortages at my house have made it far more clear to me just how much of our lives revolve around utilities that we just assume will always work. After living without them, I have begun to attach far greater value to utilities like water and electricity. I feel like all too often, people like me who live in the United States forget just how much of our lives depend on electricity, and as a result, we forget just how lucky we are to live in places with such an abundance of energy that add so much efficiency and convenience to our everyday lives.

As I sit here on the verge of the culmination of the biggest project I have worked on over my internship, I am naturally more than a little apprehensive. I will hold the responsibility for the safety and enjoyment of over 20 people! Believe me when I say that this responsibility comes with a great deal of pressure! However, as I have previously mentioned, living, and working at Cornell has sort of allowed me to grow accustomed to pressure. When my grade in an important class depends on my performance on a test, or paper, I have felt like my entire future depends on the same assignment. My familiarity with these types of high stake situations also appear in my job as an RA, when my actions can mean the difference between whether one of my residents transfers, or stays and continues to grow at Cornell. Regardless of where the pressure is coming from, I know now that the only way to make sure that disaster does not strike is to focus on what task or responsibility I need to complete immediately, and then work my way down the list. When I run out of tasks to complete for a day, all I can really do is sit back, and think about something other than work. What’s the point of sitting in a chair and worrying for the sake of worrying? That’s all I have for now. Details about how the retreat went will be in the next entry.

Week Five: Casa Verde–Limón, Nicaragua

September 7th, 2015

Jared Rowe ’16, Kynett Fellow in Service Learning


I am feeling okay, I have had a few problems every once and a while, but I have started taking antibiotics to get rid of any parasites, and it appears to be working. The bites from the bed bugs I talked about last week are still around, and are driving me crazy though! I have been taking anti-itch cream, and Benadryl, and this has helped a lot.


My family has been fine. Not much has been going on. My host brother Luis is starting to get bored because school has not been in session for weeks, and hanging around at the house can only keep him occupied for so long. My host mom is getting ready to sell pastries at the annual Tola county fair next week, and has asked if I can help her man our table, but the fair takes place on the exact same day that I get back from the Fenix retreat, so I might get back too late to be much use.


I am increasingly worried about the service learning packet I am working on. I had little time to work on this project during my first four weeks since other tasks took a priority, and this week, preparing for the Fenix retreat has also started to get in the way. This will leave me with roughly 2 weeks to complete a 50 page booklet! I am getting done what I can, but this is still winding me up quite a bit. Other than feeling a little stressed from this, I am doing great.

luisand wilbur

My host brothers, Luis and Wilbur. We collected rocks at the beach this weekend. Herbie is going to use them to build a patio in the back of the house!

After coming back home from my trip, I have been assisting with the orientation of a new group of interns that arrived in Limón on the weekend. Just like when I arrived 5 weeks ago, orientation for the new interns has been complicated by the need to prepare to accommodate a new service learning team that arrived in the middle of week 4. Members from this service learning team are part of an educational support organization from Oakland, California. They all go to college, and show a lot more maturity than the middle schoolers we hosted two weeks ago.

My work with this team has involved more of the same, for the most part. I continue to run the leader of the day activity, but I am no longer responsible for helping to manage a service learning project because I need more time to both make some serious progress on my packet, and to continue planning the retreat.

The wonky trip to San Carlos has made it quite clear that we need to change the location of the retreat. We would waste far too much time and money just getting to and from San Carlos to make the trip worth it for everyone who came along, not to mention going down the river to El Castillo. Now, Lidieth and I have decided that we will take members of Fenix to an island in Lake Nicaragua called Ometepe. I went to Ometepe on my vacation weekend last year, and fully support this change of location. Not only will going to Ometepe result in fewer transportation based headaches, but the island offers far more activities and attractions for us to enjoy than San Carlos, or El Castillo do.

Unfortunately, changing our destination has also made it more difficult to find food, and housing within our price range. Unlike the more isolated Rio San Juan region, the island of Ometepe draws thousands of international tourists with plenty of money to spend each year. As one would expect, local businesses have learned to inflate their prices in order to better provide for the growing pool of international tourists, and to maximize the profitability of providing these service. When I say that prices have inflated, I am not talking about increases of any small amount. I am talking about prices that are double, or even triple what they are elsewhere in the country! For example, I spent around 300 cordobas ($11.00) in San Carlos for a hotel room that would easily cost 30 dollars or more in the city of Moyogalpa on Ometepe. These higher prices have pushed most hotels outside of our price range, and after calling a few different locations, I can already tell that we are really going to need to struggle to keep our budget balanced.

Along with making several phone calls to hotel owners on Ometepe, I also rode a bus to Rivas in order to figure out how much it costs to take a public ferry to Ometepe from the nearby docks at San Jorge. To help me to assess how to best use the money I have for the Retreat, I want to get as much information about the expense of the trip as I can, and one of the costs I know I will need to pay for passage by boat to and from the island. I also wanted to gauge how plausible it was for our group to save money by using public transport to get to San Jorge. In an attempt to gather this information, and to carry out other small errands, I took the early morning bus to the central bus stop in Rivas, and then took a taxi to the docks at San Jorge.

san jorge

I took this picture at the dock in San Jorge. Check out the contrast between the horse drawn cart, and the car!

I found that using the bus can be a difficult affair for even a single person because the bus often completely fills up before anyone in Limon who wants to get to Rivas can get on. As for the taxi ride, the driver spent the entire trip trying to convince me that I should pay him to provide my group with private transport for the retreat once he found out why I had come to Rivas. This guy even went so far as to follow me around at the docks selling his case! When I finally made it back to the bus stop, the trip proved to be a major headache for me, but I still accomplished my two original goals for the trip. Since I don’t want to try and squeeze over 20 kids into a packed bus, I see that I have no choice but to ask someone with a truck, or a microbus in Limon if they can give us a ride at least to San Jorge. Additionally, my questions at the San Jorge ticket book gave me the financial information that I needed.

That’s all for now!

Week Four: Casa Verde–Limón, Nicaragua

September 7th, 2015

Jared Rowe ’16, Kynett  Fellow in Service Learning


My health is surprisingly much better. Whatever nasty bugs were in my digestive tract have not given me any real trouble for quite a while! However, I appear to have swapped out my parasite problem, for a bed bug problem, as I will explain below.


I haven’t really spent much time with my homestay over the last few days! I returned home yesterday morning, and my family has had a fantastic time hearing about my trip. Everyone is particularly interested about my experiences in Colón, both because I ended up getting stuck there for a night, but also because a family member grew up close to the town, so they were already a little familiar with the surrounding area.


I am feeling exceptionally happy, and well rested. My little adventure had its uncomfortable moments to be sure, but it let me explore a beautiful corner of the country that I had no previous familiarity with, and to meet new people. I am particularly happy that I had to make more use of Spanish on my trip. Working with a group of English speaking volunteers all day, and using Spanish in the mornings and evenings with my host family has scrambled up my brain a little bit. Now that I need to speak less English, I can start dusting off my Spanish comprehension, and speaking skills!

San Carlos

The view of San Carlos from my hotel window!

This week has been pretty slow so far, so I am going to spend most of this post talking about my trip to San Carlos, and what information my investigation there dug up. After arriving in San Carlos on Thursday afternoon, I spent the rest of the day relaxing, and recharging from the 6 hour boat ride. That night, I found out that I was sharing my bed with some bed bugs, but I still managed to get 12 hours of sleep which was fantastic. I have a few new itchy bites, but other than that, I am okay. I just hope I don’t bring any of them home with me! I ate breakfast at a restaurant called La Fortaleza, after eating at the same place on Thursday; I had begun to develop a relationship with the restaurant’s proprietors.

Once one of the workers there heard that I was in town to investigate the cost of food and housing so that I could bring a group of 20 Nicaraguan students for a vacation in San Carlos later in the month, they not only offered to arrange for our group to have a meal at the restaurant, but even gave me valuable information about nearby businesses I should check out!  I am learning more and more in planning for this trip that business in Nicaragua happens on a first name basis. The easiest way to find what you need for the best price is through developing personal and financial connections with the right people.  Once you have that connection, you can gain limited access to your new contact’s expansive social network, and find what you need more easily through that network. Despite having an extremely “weak” economy by Western standards, my work has shown me that the Nicaraguan economy is far from simple, and that most business owners here have an acute knowledge of how to keep themselves afloat. Negotiating with the proprietors of restaurants, and hotels requires me to use some of the same skills that I have needed for my job as a student caller in the Cornell College Alumni Center. In both cases one must learn to pay close attention to the concerns of the other party, and make your own requests based off of these concerns.

I spent the rest of Friday, and most of Saturday morning gathering information, and mulling over how best to make use of what I had learned. My search was a little more fun on Saturday because I got to take a boat ride down the San Juan River to the town of El Castillo, which offers more tourist attractions than the largely residential town of San Carlos. El Castillo’s main attraction for visitors is the giant colonial era fort that overlooks the town. The Spanish built the fort in the early 16th century to defend Lake Nicaragua from pirate raids, and English privateers! What’s more, student groups can visit the site for free!! The fort sounds like a fantastic place to visit in an off campus class! Maybe the class could be on Nicaraguan/Latin American Colonial history??


A picture of El Castillo I took coming on the boat! You can clearly see the fort at the top of the hill!

My investigation in El Castillo showed me that for the most part, three options for housing a group exist there. The first, and cheapest of these options is to buy rooms at a budget hostel, where rooms cost up to USD $4.00, and patrons sleep on rough beds with cockroaches, and bed bugs. Swanky hotels that charge $13.00-$15.00 per person make up the second option. They provide all the luxury that patrons could ask for, but with less than $100.000 in my budget for the trip, and with 22 people or more coming along, I had to rule out this option. The third option I have is to buy rooms at hostels that can’t house 22 people, but charge roughly $7.00 per person. Naturally, I would prefer to house my group in a hostel like that, but that means splitting the group up, and I am hesitant to do this, and worry about gathering everyone up again the next day. I spent the rest of the day traveling back to San Carlos, and packing up to leave the next day for Limόn. The next day, I took an 8 hour bus ride to Rivas, and learned that I had missed the last bus to Limόn so I spent the night in another messy hostel, and arrived home yesterday. Despite the chaos and confusion I went through in getting there, my trip to San Carlos was extremely productive. Not only am I familiar with some of the costs of traveling and living in the Rio San Juan area, I also have developed some personal connections with local business owners which I can rely on at a later date. I hope this has been fun to read!! Sorry it is so long!

Week Three: Casa Verde–Limón, Nicaragua

September 7th, 2015

Jared Rowe ’16, Kynett Fellow in Service Learning


Hello again! I hope that readers are having a good summer! The third week of my internship has proven even more eventful than the last, and included everything from an amazing 13-14 hour work day, to a visit to the old cathedral in the city of Granada, to a solitary 6 hour boat ride across Lake Nicaragua. My Cornell experience has also once again done much to enhance my experience by giving some context to the socio-economic patterns I have seen, and to remain calm during potential crisis situations. This might end up being quite a long post, so get comfy, and enjoy the ride!!

I have actually decided to start the week from July 4th, because I have not talked about it in the last post. If anyone was worried that I would miss a 4th of July celebration, they can put those concerns to rest!  The 4th of July also turned out to be the longest work day that I have had since arriving here on June 21st. The work day started nice and early at the public library at around 7:00 am. I had an early start because on July 4th, Casa Verde staff with the support of local and international partners planned to travel to Casa Verde’s 31 acre property (hereafter called La Loma) outside Limón to plant trees there. A total of 68 people came for the event including past Casa Verde interns, a volunteer group from Seattle University, a team of gardeners from the Rancho Santana resort, and of course volunteers from the Sunny Side service learning team, and from Formación Fenix.

I spent a significant amount of time in my internship last year working at La Loma, so I worked as a guide for the groups traveling there that morning. For example, I sat next to the driver in a truck full of equipment and passengers and told the driver where he could drop us off that would allow us to reach the project site fastest. I also helped a pair of older volunteers make it to the site by taking them on a trail I worked on last year with a smaller incline than the main trail. By 9:00, all of the volunteers had made it to the top of the hill that makes up the entire property. I know, it’s a very big hill!


Photo of people getting off the truck for the hike up La Loma. I’m the goofy looking guy with the big tan hat.

After everyone got herded into one place, we divided the group into teams of about 6 or so, and began planting trees. I was one of the team leaders, and I found that my RA training significantly improved my ability to not only keep all of my team members on task, but to make sure that I knew where they all were throughout the day. Being an RA requires you to constantly have an awareness of how your residents are doing, and how you can help them feel comfortable, and safe. This easily translated into my work team, which stayed close together, and worked at a high level of efficiency throughout the day.

la loma

This should give people an idea of the kind of terrain we planted in. You can see some people at the top if you squint enough!

A group of local workers and volunteers had dug several rows of holes at the project site prior to our arrival, so our job involved removing the plastic covering around each tree, placing the young tree in a hole, and filling the hole with compost and water. We did this for roughly 3 hours, then had a light lunch, a reflection activity, and returned to the road on foot to get picked up by trucks. That morning, we planted over 1,000 trees! Though it doesn’t sound too bad, pretty much all of the volunteers felt exhausted by the time we finished in the afternoon. I got back home at 2:00PM, relaxed for a bit, and then headed to the beach at 4:00 to help with a 4th of July celebration for Fenix, and Sunny Side. I helped make a bonfire, prepare food stations, and moved rocks down the beach that the students could use as seats. Once everything had been prepared, I helped serve volunteers food and soda. We spent the rest of the evening singing songs, talking, and watching fireworks go off from Rancho Santana.


Over the next few days, members of the service learning team finished up the last of their projects, and prepared to return to the states. The art project that I mentioned last week was finished by July 6th. On this day, we held a community celebration at a local community center funded by more permanent residents of Rancho Santana. Part of that celebration involved showing community members the completed murals. This celebration has been one of the highlights of my internship because it was one of the first opportunities I had to step back and look at the work I had done over the past weeks, and where this work could take me in the future. Even now, I can’t fully describe how I felt that night seeing students from Sunny Side playing, and having fun with students from Formación Fenix while serving food to people from Limón who told me how grateful they were that I was there. It was especially amazing to see kids from Fenix and Sunny Side playing together. Here were these two groups of kids who didn’t speak the same language playing and having fun together as a fully integrated group of people who could see each other as just friends with unique personalities and experiences despite the huge cultural barriers between them.

sunny side 2

It might be hard to see, but look how natural this looks.

Building integrated communities like this makes up a significant part of my job as an RA, and watching this community develop over the past few weeks has provided me with some valuable insight into how to construct these relationships. Throughout the time that Sunny Side volunteered with us, they spent a little time each day interacting with members of Fenix in activities that forced them to interact with each other more and more over a longer period of time. For example, each mural had members from both groups who had to agree on what they wanted to paint. Perhaps by organizing activities for my floor that have elements of the same interactivity, I can find a way to bring what I have seen here to my floor next year.

On Tuesday, we left for the city of Granada to see some of the sights before Sunny Side students left for Portland. This involved a visit to the old cathedral in the city, which has stood for hundreds of years. By Wednesday morning, Sunny Side had left for the United States, and I finally found time to start writing up the first of my blog posts, and get some work done on my handbook, which I will talk about much more next week.

From Wednesday to Tuesday of the next week, I spent my time on a very poorly planned, and wonky journey to the city of San Carlos, located at the mouth of the San Juan river on the eastern side of the gigantic Lake Nicaragua. After a series of unfortunate events, and planned decisions, I found myself spending a night in Colón, one of the communities near the border with Costa Rica. Decades of low level conflict between the militaries of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and even Nicaraguan rebel groups have left the now peaceful communities along the border terribly poor, and extremely suspicious of outsiders like me.  This experience did a great deal to supplement what I have learned about conflicts, and their aftermath at Cornell.

In several of my international relations classes, we talked extensively about various conflicts between states, and why these states made the decisions that led to conflict. We also discussed in some of these classes how these conflicts unfolded at the local level, like how disputes over land between various communities in the Eastern Congo seriously mitigated the ability of international actors to stabilize the region from 2003 to 2008. However, so much academic discussion of conflict made it easy to forget about the long term personal impact that it has on the people exposed to violence. Just seeing middle aged men with grisly scars, or military fatigues dating from the last outbreak of violence in the 80s, or almost spending the night at a small Nicaraguan military outpost for safety gave me a glimpse of a history far darker than anyone could convey in a book or a class. There was just something different about the way people carried themselves that has helped me see conflict as a far darker affair than I could see by looking at casualty statistics, or policy papers in a class, and I will doubtless carry these images into the classroom, and other situations throughout my life.


This hammock has a camouflage pattern that Nicaraguan rebels funded by the United States used during the civil war in the 80s. There was a baby sleeping in the hammock, which I found really surreal.

Week Two: Casa Verde–Limon, Nicaragua

September 7th, 2015

Jared Rowe ’16, Kynett  Fellow in Service Learning

Hello again! The second week of my work with Casa Verde has been full of activities. Due in part to the young age, and large number of the members in the Sunny Side service learning team, I am pretty much kept busy helping to manage them, and ensure that none of them are putting themselves in danger. The experience has also given me the chance to observe the manner in which Casa Verde implements programs for Service Learning Teams like the one from Sunny Side. So far, some of the highlights of this have been going on a tour of local medical facilities, traveling by oxcart through the isolated rural community of Cuascoto, and discussing the merits, and shortcomings of cooperative business practices with members of the service learning team at a local bakery. This week has also included more set up, and take down for the art changes everything activity that I mentioned in my previous entry.

At the end of every day, I travel to the beach with the service learning team, and brief one of the students to serve as the student leader for the next day. One of the central beliefs held by Casa Verde is the idea that anyone can lead others if they believe strongly in a cause or have a passion for a specific practice or activity. Therefore, to prepare members of the service learning team for the time when they might have to lead others, they have set up an activity called the leader of the day, which puts a member of the service learning group in charge of making sure that everyone is familiar with the next day’s itinerary. Every morning, the leader of the day goes over the day’s itinerary with their peers, and also introduces the group to a new Spanish word that they looked up the evening before.  They also lead the team in an ice breaker in the afternoon, and in a group reflection in the evening. I usually meet with the leader of the day the evening before their allotted date.


This is not a picture from a morning meeting, but it serves as a pretty good example of how the leader of the day participates in the morning meeting. Just pretend that Liza (the person with her hands outstretched) is the leader of the day, and she’s presenting the day’s itinerary on the board.

I have made a point in my notes for the handbook that this activity has the potential to greatly improve a participant’s capability to direct others because it has the potential to provide them with enough confidence in their own leadership skills to build on these skills later on. In a sense, this activity serves as a catalyst that aims to incentivize students to conduct a series of actions later in their lives deemed favorable by the organization. I have found that I can view several of the activities conducted by both the service learning team, and by Formacion Fenix from this same lens. With a number of its programs, Casa Verde aims to provide youth with the spark, or the push they need to become conscious global citizens and leaders of their generation through their own actions.


These questions served as themes for the mural activity. They do a great job at showing how heavily Casa Verde focuses on youth empowerment. As a side note, these questions were also written in Spanish for Fenix students.

Now that I have finished talking about my work, I am going to just give everyone a quick update on how I am doing with a little exercise that we interns do at every morning meeting we have. The exercise is called “The three H’s,” because we have to give everyone a quick update on our health, homestay, and happiness.  Let’s get started!


I am surviving, but my body has been giving me a little bit of trouble. I am going to spare you all the details, but let me just say that my digestive system is struggling to adjust to the new microbes in the food. It’s a common problem for foreigners here. Unlike actual Nicaraguans, our bodies are not used to the variety of different bacteria that live in food here, so our bodies more easily pick up parasites that steal food or make us have…bathroom trouble. Other than that, I am feeling  100% again after my trip here last week.


I am happily settling into my host family again! Even though I have been gone for around 10 months, it sort of feels like I never left. Every day, I wake up to the smell of cooking bread or pastries because my host mom Katty (Kah-tee) is a baker. Though this helps me wake up for breakfast, I usually don’t get to get any free samples.  She sometimes starts working at 6:00AM or earlier, and doesn’t stop taking orders until 5:00 PM, and I don’t get back from work until 6:00PM or later, so by the time I see her, she’s pretty beat, and not crazy to talk. However, my host dad Herbie has had a little bit of a lapse in work because he works as a laborer at a resort called Rancho Santana, and doesn’t really have anything to do unless Rancho wants a new house or condo, so I have been talking much more with him, and also with my 9 year old host brother Luis. Both of them have great senses of humor, and it’s been great catching up with them! Part of my host family lives in the houses next door, but I will talk about them next time.  My birthday was on June 30th, and the whole family sat at the table to celebrate. The best part was getting one of those cakes I keep smelling every morning! It was absolutely fantastic!


Good to go in this department, there is literally nowhere else I would rather be right now.

That’s pretty much all I have for now! Until next time!

Week One: Casa Verde–Limon, Nicaragua

September 7th, 2015

Jared Rowe ’16, Kynett  Fellow in Service Learning

Due to various complications with internet, electricity, etc. I am sending in all of these posts after I have returned from my fellowship. However, all of these files have been written during the allocated week.

I’m finally back in Limón! Even after spending so many months away, I have quickly settled into the rhythm of life here, and am anxious to start working on the projects that I have been assigned. Before I get too far ahead, I should first provide everyone with some context as to what I will be doing in Nicaragua this summer.


Me in my room! The blue thing in the background is a mosquito net, and has already been my best friend.

For My Cornell Fellowship, I am working for an NGO called Casa Verde in the villages of Limón 1, and Limón 2 which lie in the Municipality (or county) of Tola on the Southern Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. From its office in Limón 2, Casa Verde works to provide youth from all backgrounds with the skills and experiences they need to serve as productive, and conscious global citizens.  I highly encourage everyone to check out their website for more information! Here is the link:


As an intern, I will stay in Limon from June 22nd, until August 15th, and my duties will largely consist of creating a 40-50 page instructional booklet detailing the way in which Casa Verde carries out their service learning program, and organizing a retreat for members of Formacion Fenix later in July. However, during the first week, I have been kept busy helping permanent staff run activities for a service learning group from Portland Oregon. I also served as an intern for Casa Verde last summer, and helped to maintain the trails Casa Verde has made on its property just outside of town.

After shuffling in a sleep deprived haze through the airport, and customs after my plane landed in the capital of Managua on June 21st, I found Casa Verde staff members Amie, and Jenn waiting for me by the airport entrance. After meeting the three other interns I would be working with for the next few weeks, we piled into a rental car, and headed south along the Pan-American highway to Rivas, and then to Limón. I finally got dropped off at my homestay at around 7:00. By this time, the sun had already set, and clouds of moths and mosquitoes were circling the lights around the house I will be living in. I’m very pleased to announce that I will be staying with the same homestay family that I did last year, and I can’t wait to spend time with them again!


This is a photo of some members of my host family that I took last year. In front is Wilber, who has since moved to the house next door to mine. In the back is Herbie, my host dad.

After going through a quick orientation for my first few days, my fellow interns and I have had to jump headfirst into assisting Amie and Jenn with managing the projects they have planned for a service learning group that arrived on Wednesday, June 24th. This service learning group is comprised of middle school students from a private school in Portland, Oregon called Sunny Side Environmental School.

Since the group has arrived, I have spent most of my time either following the group around to make sure none of them get lost or harmed during the day’s activities, or helping an American artist named Patricia to manage an art project she has designed for the student group to work on with local youth in Formación Fenix.

On top of these two tasks, perhaps my most important job is to take meticulous notes on how the activities prepared by Casa Verde are implemented, and to make note of any organizational patterns, and hiccups that I see during the program implementation process. This information will prove extremely useful for the service learning packet when I finally have time to work on it.

As of Friday, June 27th, the student group has yet to really get into their projects, so I don’t have much to report. However, my first session helping with the art project happened on Thursday. This session included a significant period of time where the students watched a documentary about the poor environmental and social state of the planet, and then reflected on what they saw. The plan is that the reflection they undertake will help them in creating 4 murals that answer the questions “What is a vision, or dream that you have for the world?” and “What kind of world do you want to inherit?”

Sunny Side

Students in the service learning group with members of Fenix at the first art session.

From the start, my fellowship has unfolded at an extremely high level of intensity, and I have found little time to make much progress on my other two tasks. This has really helped me to recognize the value of my experience working on the block plan at Cornell. In both cases, I have had to find, and complete the most immediate of a series of assignments under high pressure with sharp deadlines. The program season is just getting started, but I have already made huge strides in preparing myself for the challenges to come, and I am super excited to see what the future will bring!

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