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February 24, 2014

Surprise arrival completes Nicaragua group

PLATTSBURGH — When Olivia Nochbauer last saw her mother, Sharalyn was seriously ill, left behind at a hotel on the New York Thruway early on Feb. 18.

Olivia, 16, traveled on with the North Country Mission of Hope contingent trying to catch a flight in Newark on their way to Nicaragua.

“I felt bad to stay” with the group, she said from the Central American country.

Her mother felt even worse about dropping out, not only to leave her daughter, but because her skills as a physician’s assistant had been counted on as the mission addressed health needs.

“I was letting people down,” she said — also via cellphone from Nicaragua.

Sharalyn had made a quick recovery and was able to join the group Friday night, surprising her daughter when she arrived at Ni-Casa, the mission group’s compound in Chiquilistagua.

“All of a sudden, I see my mom!” said Olivia, who was moved to tears at that moment. “She looked 10 times better, and she was smiling.

“I just missed her so much.”

SHOCKING CONTRAST

This is Sharalyn’s first trip to Nicaragua, too, though years ago she experienced the squalor and extreme need of a third-world country in India, when she volunteered with Mother Teresa.

Even so, it took her aback as she traveled from the Managua airport to Ni-Casa.

Her driver took them along a grand boulevard lined with 30 or more trees constructed of lights.

“(It) was lit up like Las Vegas,” she said, “(and then) you turn around and there are people living in cardboard houses.”

She asked locals about the display.

“They said the president likes those trees.”

‘SO APPRECIATIVE’

Meanwhile, Olivia, 15, was developing her own impressions of the country and its people.

Thursday and Friday, she said, “we spent a lot of time with the kids.

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