Dancers entertain  — and have fun — at the 25th anniversary celebration on Ometepe.

By Betsy Carroll and Alexis Bonoff

If you want to be treated like royalty, just travel to Ometepe for an anniversary celebration!

The celebrations held on Ometepe in January 2012 to mark the 25th anniversary of our sister island relationship were a truly remarkable statement about the strong bonds of friendship that have been created between Ometepe and Bainbridge. The delegation from Bainbridge was feted with music, speeches, dancing, and tremendous food.

teacher delegate with his daughter

Dagoberto Hernandez Martinez, a 2010 English teacher delegate to Bainbridge Island, with his daughter at the celebration in San Jose del Sur.

On Thursday, Jan. 19, the English Teachers’ Association welcomed the members of the delegation at the lovely home of Lucy Beth Morgan in San Jose del Sur. Each English teacher graciously thanked the Sister Islands Association for the opportunity to travel to Bainbridge and improve their English skills and gave us beautiful t-shirts designed for the 25th anniversary. They performed traditional dances and served an amazing lunch. It was so fun to reconnect with teachers who have been to Bainbridge over the years.

On Friday, there was a celebration at the Rubin Dario elementary school in Altagracia. Our staff on Ometepe—Dora, Maria Estela, and Theora—along with the principal and staff members of the school, had overlooked no detail in decorating the school. Balloons, streamers, and banners welcomed all 300 hundred guests.

The organizers had also arranged for absolutely fantastic food provided by the Ometepino delegates to Bainbridge in September, rocking music by Fernando Obregon and the Omepetel band, and several wonderful folkloric dancing groups. Even a torrential downpour just before the ceremony did nothing to dampen the celebratory spirit. In addition to the speeches recognizing the strength of our sister island bond, Kim and Ela Esterberg recognized Dora, her daughter, Kendra, and her mother Doña Dora, for their contributions to the organization over the years.

Families dining

The feast at the 25th anniversary celebration

For our last grand hoorah, scholarship students, current and former, as well as their parents and members of the Beca committees throughout the island, put on a lively despidida at the Punta Jesus Maria in Esquipulas. The students loaded us up with fruit salad, juice, Atol (corn custard), and many other treats. We introduced ourselves and it was wonderful to see that some students had come as far as Managua or La Palma just to participate in this celebration. The students presented dances, both salsa and traditional, laughing the whole way. Then Theora led some of the delegation in a rousing rendition of the electric slide set to merguine! We took a minute to swim in the lake and walk the beach, looking for shells and chatting with the students. We heard stories of hope and success and an overwhelming sense of gratitude. If this is the type of student we are supporting and promoting, then the program is a success.

The day finished with fresh coconuts and dancing. We drove away, sandy and full, with smiles on our faces. It was a fitting end to an incredible anniversary celebration.

Top photo: Dancing at the 25th anniversary celebration on Ometepe

Betsy’s note:

For me the celebration was a special time to connect with families who had hosted our three children as student delegates, to meet scholarship students whom we have supported, and to see again delegates who had come to Bainbridge. It was really magical.

For Alexis’ reflections, read her blog post.