Leaving is so hard to do, in particular when you are leaving someone, someplace, something you have grown attached to – La Mariposa is all of the above. La Mariposa is more than the summation of all the previous excellent reviews had described – to me it’s an experience beyond words.
I am a 63 years old retiree, lived in Australia for many years, I'm now living half year in Hong Kong and half year in Canada. I have traveled a lot but mostly on luxury land or sea cruises. This is the second time I traveled independently – the first time was backpacking in Spain two years ago. I prefer independent travel to organized tour because I can see places and people in real life. However, backpacking can be a bit tiring and lonely for me even though you meet a lot of interesting travelers you can seldom make long-term friends because no one stay long at one place. It’s different at La Mariposa, not only do you see the real Nicaragua you are also never lonely. As majority of the guests come for at least a month, we spent most of our waking hours together except the 4 hours class time in the morning (usually one-on-one) and we got to know one another quite well. On top of that, we got on really well with the teachers and hotel staff, we were always welcome to visit their homes. I have made many great friends there.
It’s so much easier than backpacking and yet it gave me the same up-close-personal experience with the local life. Apart from the organized activities which were very comprehensive and interesting ranging from the major day-trips, horse-riding, to visiting local artisans’ workshops (check out their current program http://mariposaspanishschool.com/pdf/la-mariposa-monthly-activities.pdf to get an idea of what it covers). We also visited (and some guests even participated in) the social projects run by the hotel owner Paulette - the Panama school, the Children Reading Corner and the organic farm. (Check out the hotel web site http://mariposaspanishschool.com/index.html and La Mariposa School blog http://mariposaschool.wordpress.com/ for more details). There were also ad hoc activities as the events popped up e.g. on a sad occasion, we were invited to a family’s “wake” for the death of their son. On another occasion we were invited to the wedding of the female staff. We also attended a school carnival down the street.
As for learning Spanish, I have attended Spanish classes in Hong Kong and Spain for the past 3 years, in comparison, the La Mariposa teaching system and teachers were by far the best. The system was developed by Bergman the school headmaster, it’s an unique approach that I have not seen anywhere else. The teachers were all handpicked by Paulette and Bergman. First, they have to go through intensive training by Bergman, they then get tested before they were assigned teaching posts.
One month was short but I have taken away a lot of precious memories that I could keep for life. The unspoiled natural beauty of Nicaragua, the warm and friendly Nicaraguans, and the exquisite environment of La Mariposa (I got up at the break of dawn every day to enjoy the beautiful view of the garden; the distant mountains; the animals and birds rehearsing their daily performance) had all touched me deep down. Believe me or not, it was God who brought me there. He gave me the courage and confidence to take up this challenge, overcoming many moments of doubts – especially when I checked my weaknesses against the “Please-don’t-come-list” on their website http://mariposaspanishschool.com/please-do-not-come.html
Personally, I think the list should be longer e.g.
1) people who could not stand – insects; animals (apart from the 5 cats that always hide in Paulette’s quarter, there are 7 dogs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, frogs that make funny noises at night, monkeys, birds, occasional snakes and bats); riding in cramped old public buses filled with sweaty people; walking on dusty dirt roads; the sights of poverty everywhere;
2) people who could not adapt to a life-style where even the basics are in shortage – water and electricity; where you have to be conscious of every drop of water you use or unit of electricity you’re consuming; where garbage disposal is a major issue; where soiled toilet paper have to be dumped in the garbage can instead of flushing down the toilet; where laundry is done by hands whether you do it yourself or paying someone to do it for you…
It would have been a big mistake if I hadn't gone.
I would like to express my heart-felt appreciation to Paulette, Bergman and the Mariposa team, you have given me the best time of my life!
p.s. a tip for those who are going - bring a re-usable water bottle (as there is filtered drinking water in the hotel), also bring mosquito repellent (OFF is easily available in the local pharmacies for around US$5 if you need to replenish) and something organic to sooth the itch e.g. Aloe Vera gel. Try NOT to bring anything plastics that need to be disposed there as you will be adding to their problem.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- La Mariposa is a small, friendly non-profit Spanish school and eco-hotel, just outside the small town of La Concepcion, Nicaragua. Only an hour from Nicaragua's major attractions - Granada, the Pacific Coast, the Laguna de Apoyo, Masaya volcano - and 45 minutes from Managua airport, La Mariposa is surrounded by organic coffee, banana trees and flower gardens. Our cool, green climate (we are 500 meters above sea level - makes a real difference to the temperature) is ideal for studying Spanish! Our conservation efforts - though small scale - have vastly increased our bird population, butterflies and even frogs! We offer intensive Spanish classes in our purpose built classrooms or in outdoor classrooms in our delightful grounds, full of tropical plants and rescued animals. Classes are mostly one on one (max 2 or 3 in a class) and we cater for all levels form beginner to advanced, including specially designed classes for children. We have an extensive library with Spanish study materials and a selection of books in English on Nicaraguan history, development issues etc. We organize a full week (that includes weekends) of activities, including cooking and salsa classes, classes on the history of Nicaragua and a weekly update of what is happening in the Nicaraguan news. These are delivered in Spanish to help with progress in Spanish and with English translation if necessary. On 3 afternoons and Saturdays we offer trips out to local places of interest as well as the Masaya volcano by night, the Masaya markets and artesanias, Granada, Leon, the Laguna de Apoyo, the Pacific beach, Managua, Catarina, the Pueblos Blancos and more! The trips are rotated on a monthly schedule. There are various accomodation options - Students can stay in the eco-hotel (ensuite rooms) or our eco rooms (cheaper). There is a also a large (en suite) family room. Situated about 5 mins from the main school/hotel is our nature reserve. There are now 2 cabins in the reserve, each with two bedrooms, seating area, shower and compostable latrine, private terrace and garden, small kitchen (though you can of course eat all meals at the main hotel) - these are ideal for families with kids who like a bit more space to run around! There are of course a few friendly rescued dogs to keep the kids happy!! We use solar power - for heated water in all of the showers as well as to provide electricity, conserve rainwater,have a number of recycling schemes and have started our own successful organic farm which provides some of the eggs, veggies, coffee consumed at the Mariposa. And much more. We use our income to maximise the employment of local people (currently employing 80 teachers, maintenance and kitchen staff) and undertake a number of projects in the local community. You can opt to volunteer at one of our community or environmental projects, living in a homestay with a local family. Amongst other projects, we are currently offering volunteer placements in the nature reserve, in local schools, with a day care project or with disabled children. You are also welcome to help out the Mariposa workers - whether feeding our rescued animals or cooking up our healthy meals. All of which is a great way to improve that Spanish! We have also recently opened, on another but close by site, a study centre specifically designed to cater for groups of students. We offer an individualized curriculum which can include Spanish classes, activities and classes on the history, culture and environment of Nicaragua. We can also arrange community service work for groups. Accommodation is in two eco built dormitories, each of which has 10 beds (bunk style). The eating/meeting hall is a lovely structure built of straw bales and thatched roofing. Classrooms face a terrace with great views of the Masaya volcano. Meals are always freshly cooked, often using organic veggies from our farm. And of course there are solar heated showers and solar powered electricity. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- La Mariposa Spanish School And Eco Hotel Nicaragua/Masaya