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The Nature of C.E.N.

Our group has spent the past five days in the dramatic cloud forests of northern Nicaragua, learning about ecosystems and the environment at the Centro de Entendimiento con la Naturaleza. With a beautiful backdrop of dense jungles, white cliffs, and colossal waterfalls, C.E.N. serves as an environmental research facility and education center. My experience this past week, both as a resident and a student at C.E.N., has given me a lot of valuable perspective on my life at home.

For one thing, experiencing the lifestyle at C.E.N. has made me consider how limited my own life is. Here, we’ve hiked to rainforest waterfalls, trekked through coffee fields, and have woken up early to watch birds — all things I never even imagined during my normal routine at home. We’ve also met people who live these lives everyday. Like C.E.N. founder and director, Alan Bolt. He’s a nicaraguan quantum physicist who left academia to spend his life reforesting land in the jungle. When he’s not lecturing visitors or talking to government officials, he now spends his time planting bamboo, baking bread, and admiring the wild jaguars in his backyard. Living with people like Alan Bolt — people with vastly different lives and values than what I’m used to — has stretched my conception of what my own life and own values can look like.

The educational aspect of C.E.N., especially our focus on environmental endangerment, has also really expanded my perspective. Our classes have ranged from permaculture to beekeeping, but most have an underlying focus on the destruction of the environment. I’ve learned that here in Nicaragua, they’ve already started growing oranges in a different season because of how drastically the temperature has changed. And that bees, the cornerstone of the earth’s ecosystem, are projected to die out in 10 years. Coming from a very liberal part of Seattle, this wasn’t my first time hearing about the dangers of climate change. But before I came on this trip, my head was still full of senior-year calculus and college anxieties. This week has definitely reminded me of the scale of the world’s issues, and has helped me internalize the relative unimportance of many aspects of my normal life.

I can’t speak for the other students on this trip, but this week (and first month in general) have been incredibly inspiring for me. I’ve done and learned many things that have shifted my ideas on what life can be about. While it may not always be as comfortable as my life at home, I’m extremely grateful for our time here, and I can’t wait for the next stop on our journey.