Although I travel a fair bit for work to both developed and developing countries, my husband had never spent time in a developing country prior to our 2 week trip to La Mariposa in December 2012. He was fairly nervous about the unknown: the potential for crime, seeing things that would haunt his dreams, and eating things that would make him sick. We've now returned to the creature comforts of our home in the US, and what's the verdict? He loved it and cannot wait to go back!
Neither of us had formally studied Spanish before, so we weren't sure how much we were going to learn in two weeks. We were pleasantly surprised. The teachers are patient, funny, and knowledgable. While it can be challenging for a complete beginner, they really do try to ease you into the language and encourage you to relax and enjoy yourself. Bergman, the head of the school, is a superstar.
Paulette, the owner, is really quite exceptional. Smart and saavy, with a heart of gold. Not only does she employ 65 amazingly devoted people from the local area, she is expanding La Mariposa's reach through meaningful development projects, the study center (20 minutes away, for groups), and home stays.
The interns are helpful and accommodating, always seeming to juggle a dozen special requests without the least bit of worry.
Of course, I have to mention the animals. Admittedly, I'm one of those crazy dog people, so when I arrived to 9 lovely dogs of all sizes and colors, I felt like I found home. Paulette employs a full-time animal caretaker who not only feeds the countless animals, but also has the tough job of coaxing those dogs into the bath on a weekly basis!
The other notable aspect of La Mariposa are the others who participate in the program. We met some truly fantastic people who I wouldn't be surprised if we see again in the future.
While we brought some school supplies and clothes to donate, next time we're going to take our donations to a new level. Definitely more school supplies and good quality clothing, but things like vegetable seeds, toothbrushes, good quality shoes, and more are on our "list." Be sure to look at the "How you can help..." section of La Mariposa's website before you head over! Consider having a fundraiser before leaving to raise money for a project there.
You may witness things in your travels that don't rest easy in your conscience, but that should make you want to spend even more money in Nicaragua as a small way to give back to a country whose people and natural enviroment have so much to offer.
La Mariposa raises the bar of what an eco-hotel and Spanish school should aspire to be. We cannot wait to return!
- 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