Sunday, March 26, 2006

Thoughts of Nicaragua: Day X

So it's Sunday evening and I'm in my apartment, in disbelief that it is all over. Yesterday was the beach day. It was glorious. We arrived, being bombarded by restaurant workers wanting our business. There were kids, arms full with necklaces for sale. After finishing my sunscreen slathering, I was booking it toward the ocean, jumping in, easily passing up the others on the way. I body surfed for the next hour or so, then went back to the "camp." This camp was amazing. There were several hammocks, all under palm frond canopies. The rest of our time was spent taking walks down the beach with Rachel and Heidi. We were pestered some more by venders, layed around in hammocks, was pestered by venders... Then there was lunch... and oh Lord, what a lunch! I ordered the small fish, which was still 9 inches long. It had a tomato-based sauce with onions, rice, and fried platanos. I split that with Shannon and had some of her meal. It was the most delicious shrimp, soaking in this buttery, savory sauce. I might just say if I had one food I had to eat for the rest of my life, I could choose that shrimp dish. We lounged about for a while more before leaving. I had one last dip in the ocean. We then went to the market in Managua, where I found a few more gifts for some friends and family. I enjoyed this market more than the one in Masaya. There were no guys that followed you around, trying to be your shopping guide. We then went back to the church, and we ate dinner after freshening up. Then we had our goodbye service at Church. We sang songs for the group, they sang for us, Shannon gave a message, which she found out about a few moments before giving it. It was a neat time. After giving gifts and thank you notes to Pastor Pablo and his family, we spontaneously hopped on bikes, Nicaraguan style, and rode the street for about an hour. Heidi wanted to try the "two-on-one" bike ide. It was a lot of fun. The neighbors got a kick out of it too, urging us to "Monta sin manos". It wasn't going to happen with two on one bike. We then packed up and went to bed. Early in the morning, we awoke, cleaned the apartment and loaded the bus. Many of the church guys came with, but we said goodbye to Janet and the oher women. At the airport, after checking our bags, we said our final goodbyes. It was sad. But I'm confident I'll see them again. We then checked out the shops before our flight. We had a good flight, watched Sweet Home Alabama. Going through customs was much easier than what last year's team went through. Our lay over was much shorter than the one over. I ordered pork ribs and sliced beef for lunch, God bless Texas. We then had our last leg. And it was all over. We got our bags, prayed, boarded the vans and it was over. I called my work and parents and here I am, back in my apartment.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Thoughts from Nicaragua: Day VI - IX

So I have been bad keeping track of the last couple days. Right now we're on our way to the beach to unwind... More on that later, but here's some things that happened over the last few days.
I don't remember what we did Wednesday. Yesterday, Friday, was an important day for us. we first went to te dump and walked around. It was a little over-whelming. You have to get the picture... imagine driving down this path, people rummaging through the recently unloaded stuff, looking for glass, metals, plastics, anything that can be used or recycled. They use the blue dye that's dumped from the jeans factory for cleaning, since it has a bunch of chemicals in it, bleach and such. Just off the main section were the homes, made of anything, scrap metal, matress springs for fences. The whole time I felt dirty, and in harm's way... there are constant fires which start spontaneously, and with the trucks kicking up dust and whatnot... it was horrible. Even nearly a day later, I still feel the effects of the pollution in my lungs. We had to use handkerchiefs when it blew directly at us.
There were dogs, cows and birds rummaging in the trash, searching for food. There are over 150 families living in the dump, usually 6 to 8 in a family. All of them are exposed to this pollution on a daily basis.
Afterwards, we went to a park and thought through what we just experienced. We shared, prayed and ate lunch. We then went to the project, and they held a ceremony presenting their appreciation for us coming so far and pouring into their lives. They made us a popular Nicaraguan meal, with Yuca, pork rinds, cabbage. It was good. So was the juice. We then presented them with a monetary gift to help wherever they need it. They told us it would go toward finishing the walls and roofs of the school. We then gave a birthday gift to this beautiful girl, Blanca, for her Quinceria that is coming up. Then we played with the kids, trying to gett in as much time together as we could. It was really hard saying goodbye. All the kids are so beautiful, so happy being with us, despite not being able to fully communicate with us. After our last group pictures, we left, the kids trying to grab onto the back of the truck. We then made our way back to the church, ate dinner, and we debriefed during the church service. Right before going to bed, I experienced my first time at a washboard, cleaning my clothes by hand.
Thursday, we went to the project, mainly playing with the kids, but Heidi, Gabby and I taught the 2nd grade class. Then we went to lunch at this nice restaurant. I had a banana and milk concoction and chicken wings (barbacoa y picante). There was a zip-line there, in a playground next to the restaurant, so we tested it out. We then went to the market and bought stuff. We only had an hour though and the spirit of the market made me sad. It seemed a very dark place, spiritually. That night we went out to dinner with all of our host families. We went to the mall and ate at the food court. We got ice cream then headed to an internet cafe.
Wednesday, we went in the morning to a men's prison. At the cultural center there was a church service the men attended. We sang a few songs in English for them and Gabby translated their meanings. I really enjoyed that experience. I wasn't hindered in the slightest from entering the worship circle and feeling God's presence. At the end, we helped pass out personal toilettries for the men. We then went to the project and had a solo time. There were still a few kids around, not in class, so it was a little distracting. We then just mainly hung out before heading back to the church.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thoughts from Nicaragua: Day IV & V

So yesterday I didn't feel good at all and didn't journal. We went to the Project and met the families, then the guys and I cleared some brush. I wasn't feeling at all well, so I had to take it easy the rest of the day. We played with the kids, and visited the classrooms. One class sang songs about numbers and one mentioned elephants. I started a game of Red Light, Green Light. But by the time we had lunch, I was burnt, dehydrated and still upset in the digestive track. The rest of the day at the project, I tried to work only in shade, and helped Shannon and a father at the Project, Pedro, tear down some metal structure to salvage the material. I slept through dinner and church, then showered, met up with the team and debriefed on the day.
This morning was interesting... and entertaining (at least it will be when I and others read about it). I got up and, not one minute later, soiled myself. I should have been more precautious since the day before I had the runs. Well, it ran alright, right down my leg. So I was in a frustrated mood this morning going to the Project. I decided to take it very easy, to drink much more water, and use sunblock religiously. We first played with the kids. I was feeling lifted in spirits already, so I braved it and played some futbol with the kids. Then we worked on making tables while the kids were in class. We used planers and sandpaper to smoothe boards out while some of the men of the group welded some metal together for the legs. Pedro, the man I helped yesterday, was in charge of the welding. Anyways, after the table work, we had lunch, then had our devotional book time and then a tour of the Project, seeing where the families lived and how they grew crops. We learned a lot of history, how some mothers are raising kids on their own since the fathers are abusive. One father, actually, sold all the families possessions and comes back every night to sleep in the house. The rest of the family is gone, at a safe house until the father leaves. Hopefully the trial against him will go well, but the judges are corrupt, it could go bad if he's paid off.
Another mother kicked out a father for killing three puppies in front of the kids. They were all abused, but that was the last straw. He comes back occasionally, which frightens the children a lot. Another family was at the Project but left to live in the dump again. A boy Wilmer fell asleep, so the mother covered him with cardboard to protect him from the sun and dust... a truck ran him over. They moved back to be closer to the grave and hopefully will continue to see the benefit of living there. Pedro's family had three children who died from poisoned peanuts they found in the dump. They came to the project a little over a year ago, and their youngest, David, was very mal-nourished. Today, he can walk, be away from his mom and is doing great.
We really connected with the kids today. I made my Donald Duck voice for them, which was a big hit for them, and my other fun noises. When we took the tour, we gave them piggy back rides and shoulder rides. Oh, we also did crafts today by making picture frames with popcicle sticks, glitter, stickers markers, and foam shapes. They liked that a lot. It was nice to see the kids opened up and enjoying our affection. The language barrier is nearly a non-issue now, which is a huge blessing. Holding one's hand and spinning them around while on my shoulders says more than words can. And it's not that we're not speaking. We're able to say and understand more and more.
Today was a great day. I learned today that there is a place for joy in all situations. When I felt frustrated and worried I wouldn't feel better, I gave my situation to God and praised Him regardless of my state, trusting He planned my ordeal for a reason. Things got better, but my joy in being here was constant, my joy of God's faithfulness never wavered.
Now back at the house, I look forward to spending some time, washing some clothes, windin own and hanging out.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Thoughts from Nicaragua: Day III

I feel I know exactly what this trip is about for me and I am joyful for it. We just met as a team and have gone over the topic of compassion, our theme for the week. Nouwen wrote about Christ as God-with-us, Immanuel. Christ did not flee from pain and suffering as I am prone to do. I desire the upward pull to life, a life more successful, more complete, more efficient, without pain, without anguish. Compassion has no place in the upward pull. God is calling me to enter the lives of the Nicas and love them, serve them. More of that throughout the week.
The other events of the day included breakfast, huevos con arroz y frijoles. Church service was at 8:30 and we hung out afterwards for a while. Then we went to a carnival and played volleybal and soccer and basketball. We had Fanta in a bag. There were volleyball tournaments and young girls dancing on stage. Then we came back and had lunch, arroz con bologna y pollo. Then we napped and hung out until Church (the night service). The service was long. We went up and butchered a worship song, then Morgan and Dan redeemed us with a song inspired by Psalm 121.
After church, we went to dinner in town at Ventini's, a pizza place. It was close to the place where Pastor Gary and his wife were staying. They came from Maine and he spoke of us being unified as a people in Christ, despite our differences in language and culture. We ordered way too much pizza and still paid very little. Then we came back and had our meeting.
Tomorrow, we go to Project Chacocente and begin our service.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Thoughts from Nicaragua: Day II

It has been a most enjoyable day in Nicaragua. I awoke the first time to my bedmate twitching in his sleep... striking me. The second time to an alarm clock of mysterious origin and several hours later I awoke again to my other roommate wandering about our house in search of the alarm to finally turn it off.
We then dressed and ate breakfast which our host graciously cooked for us. It was a pancake breakfast and they were most satisfying. We then lounged around waiting for our other teammates to get back from contacting the school and/or waking up and meeting us from the other house. We played the guitar and took pictures of the pajaros de abuela. We shot some hoops and kicked the soccer ball when finally we, as a fully assembled team went into Masaya and had lunch at Tip Top, a chicken place. I had Tip Top a la plancha y una coca cola (a grilled chicken breast served with beans, pico de gallo and tortillas). We bought water at the supermarket and then went to tour the local active Volcano.
We strolled through the museum and then drove up to the hiking trails where we walked for about 45 minutes to an hour, seeing the other two volcanoes and the lake. It was quite windy. Hace Ventoso. By then, we were pretty tired and headed back to the church/houses. We travelled the backroads home, behind a golf course on a dirt road, trees providing shade. The steeper part of the road reminded me of the time in Mexico where we struggled to get up a muddy hill with no traction.
When we arrived back, we showered (nothing was rushed the entire day) and first Rachel, Pastor Pablo and I ate dinner, a pasta salad con avocado, chile (not too hot, which impressed Pablo), arroz y frijoles. Church youth group eventually followed where I understood maybe three words in the songs and the congregation was separated by gender. Dan ate cheese puffs to win a shirt. We felt convicted for not knowing our Bibles very well, and we shook a lot of hands, greeted by smiles and blessings.
I sort have checked out then, changing back into my casual clothes and meeting with the team to debrief the day. For the most part, we shared our desire to want to communicate better, how we love the Latin culture with more care-free attitudes, noticing this and that about the culture... We all just feel so blessed to be here, experiencing it all.
I have some expectations, or rather desires, for this trip that I feel are legitimately from God. I want to see how Christ is the Lord of Nicaragua and its people. He told me to just enjoy Him in this culture, in this language despite my incomprehension. The Spirit is not hindered as we are and I want to fully embrace that truth and not fight against my selfishness of preference. I also want to feel comfortable being awkward with the people. I want to stretch myself by trying the more advanced spanish I know. I also want to show the love of Christ through my actions. My words won't be too great, but I want to learn to let my heart lead me.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thoughts from Nicaragua: Day I

First, a confession. I never journaled the following in Nicaragua. The following will be my recollection of the very long day of travel. It's only purpose is to fill the void of information that used to exist.

So we had an early start this morning. We met in front of the Ministry House at 3:45 AM, packed the vans and left for the airport. We did the normal airport stuff... after meeting Shannon there, we checked our bags, proceeded to security and waited for our flight to board. We had McDonalds breakfast. Arriving at Houston, we then proceeded to wait for our next leg... for some ungodly six hours or so. During that time, we sat and slept and ate lunch together at the food court (most of us Panda Express), wondered about, sat in the Brookstone Massage chair... a tangent on the chair if I may...

I entered this trip with much anxiety about my future, a lot of built up tension... the flight to Houston, I was the most uncomfortable I've ever been on a flight. My seat did nothing for me, and I attribute the discomfort to my stress... anyways, the massage chair felt amazing to sit in, but like how Psychotherapy has the potential to unlock repressed emotions, causing an avalanche of memories and pain and tears, the chair had the same effect on my physical state... it simply awoke all the pain from the tension I'd carried for those many months of future anxiety.

Back to the story... I sat in the chair and only became more sore. At one point we played a card game, but for the most part we slept (some didn't go to sleep the night before). Oh, Gabby and Heidi were the lucky ones of our group. They had to catch different flights to Houston than we took. So there flights didn't arrive till after we had lunch, a few hours shorter a lay-over.
Eventually we boarded and took off for Nicaragua. We caught the Sunset on our flight and landed in darkness in Managua... Ironically, most of us caught the sunset on the flight over. Landing in Nicaragua, we then waited a long time at Customs, paid our fee for entering, I got my first foreign country stamp in my Passport, and left the Airport where we were greeted by Pastor Pablo, Isaac (Eee-sock), and others from the church. We then drove to the church and homes, sat around a bit, found our living arrangements, and went to bed, sleeping in the next morning. Our time with the Nicas had arrived, but I think we were all too tired to fully grasp and express the excitement we had.