DAY 5 — Eight year old Jake Rothstein and his sister Maddie, 5, are on vacation here in Nicaragua, but they spend the day before Thanksgiving at school.  Not their own school, though,  Gordon Rothstein and his wife Jennifer Zagofsky have taken their kids to a small school supported by the eco resort Morgan’s Rock  where they are spending the Thanksgiving holidays.

They’ve brought much needed school supplies and soccer balls to the school—80 kids and just three teachers.  “My kids’ school has three teachers in a classroom,” Rothstein, who is from San Francisco, said. The swings had no seats—the kids played on the ropes.  There wasn’t electricity, much less any computers or tablets.

Jake played a rudimentary baseball game with the children; the family listened to the kids sing them local songs.

Part of the impetus for this trip, Rothstein said, “was recognize what our family is thankful and grateful for and talk about it.”

They were inspired to come to Nicaragua by friends who had visited with their kids, they said, and didn’t want to spend all their time on the beach—as gorgeous as it is—or horseback riding, learning to make tortillas or on the swing on the deck of their bungalow without being cognizant of those who live in the surrounding communities. The school they visited is one of six the resort supports within 15 minutes of here and often, guests bring school supplies and sports equipment for some of the 400 children.

Thanksgiving week, Jennifer Zagofsky said, was easier to travel — and cheaper than Christmas.

“Christmas has a lot of family obligations,” explained Megin Edwards, here with her husband and two young sons and another family from Seattle.  “And we wanted to be somewhere not American for Thanksgiving.”  Besides, she added, it was possible to use miles to get to Nicaragua. 

Horseback riding on the beach at Morgans Rock

Horseback riding on the beach at Morgans Rock

“Besides, where do you find a beach like this,” Megin Edwards said.  The waves are gentle, the water warm and there is no one else—no one fighting over chairs, no one hawking souvenirs.   Let’s not forget being on the edge of the jungle where you look up and see and hear howler monkeys howling in the trees.

“The waves are big… but good big,” offers nine year old Uma Bratt, here with her family from Seattle and traveling with the Edwards family.  “The beach is the best,” declares her brother Roshan,7.

The kids also like the bungalows.  “It feels like being in a tree house,” Uma Bratt explains.

“The bugs are the only down part,” said Nick Harris, 12.

We went to the resort’s farm –Aguacate Farm for breakfast—milking one of their 21 cows—there were six calves.  We gathered our own eggs for breakfast and then learned how to make corn tortillas (the secret is a bit of lime and the right amount of water).

The eggs here supply the resort; the ducks and chicken on the menu come from here.  The milk is used in making the distinctive cheese served everywhere here.

Then we sit at  a long farm table eating those tortillas and eggs accompanied by gallo pinto—the rice and beans dish Nicaraguans eat at every meal—with some of the salty cheese that is made from the cows’ milk and fresh salsa with wild cilantro that grows here…  Yum!

Cow and calf at Morgans Rock farm

Cow and calf at Morgans Rock farm

Afterward, we stop to see the organic garden my daughter had been working to organize for the resort these past months and meet… five little monkeys sitting in a tree—literally.  A family of howlers and boy are they holing  “Hu! Hu! Hu!”)  I wonder if they’re arguing about sitting at the kids’ table or who has to sit next to the annoying cousin or who has to do the dishes—what families usually are talking about just before Thanksgiving.  They are so fun to watch!   As they jump from branch to branch, howling as they go.

We spend what seems like a decadent afternoon at the beach reading, snoozing and cooling off in the ocean.  It is our anniversary and our daughter surprises us with a “special” dinner—they’ve set up a table just for us overlooking the pool, strewn with flower petals. They’ve made us a cake for desert.