Friday, March 30, 2012

Stretching, Learning, Growing

Well, so much for updating my blog every week.  I'm a bit overdue, but here goes...

This past Tuesday marked my first full month that I've been here - I can't believe it!  In the past four weeks I have:
  • eaten lots of gallo pinto
  • traveled to San Juan del Sur
  • visited two volcanoes (Masaya and Mombacho)
  • spent a couple days with my grandpa in Nandaime
  • learned fun, new vocabulary words like
    • Googlear = to Google
    • policía acostado = speed bump (literally "lying down policeman")
  • learned a new meaning of "personal space" traveling by bus
  • played lots of Go Fish and War with my host-brother
  • been really hot,
  • and gone to school.
The trip to San Juan del Sur was really fun, and it was my first experience traveling by bus between towns here in Nicaragua.  Arriving at Huembes, the market where the buses go out from, we were met by a bunch of men calling out the destination of each bus and trying to get us to go on theirs.  Our whole group of eight made it onto one bus, and, as we waited for the rest of the seats to fill up, women with all kinds of snacks and drinks in plastic bags filed onto the bus to try and sell them to the passengers.  That bus took us as far as Rivas where we got off and were met by another group of men, mostly taxi drivers, all offering us rides to wherever we needed to go.  We didn't have to wait long for the next bus to come, but this time it was standing room only for most of the ride to San Juan del Sur.  SO many people packed onto one bus - crazy, but fun.  After arriving, we went straight to the beach, got some chocolate-covered frozen fruit for 10 córdobas (about 50 cents), and then went to a surf shop to figure out how to get to another beach nearby called Playa Madera.  The guy in the surf shop gave the six of us (two girls stayed in San Juan) a ride in the back of a pick-up truck to the beach.  At the beach there was a hostel and two little beach restaurants - nothing else within close walking distance.  We spent the rest of the afternoon in the water, adventuring down the coast a ways, and then sat on the beach as the sun set - it was so beautiful and nice to be near the ocean again.  We got dinner at one of the restaurants and played Go Fish as we waited for the food.  Afterward we went and hung out on the beach some more.  The tide had gone out really far so we were able to walk out a long ways.  At the beach at night under the clear, starry sky - love it :).  The next day we adventured down the coast even farther, swam some more, played some volleyball (which was kind of difficult because it was super windy), got sunburned, ate the best tacos in Nicaragua (at least that's what the restaurant said, haha - they were quite delicious), and then grabbed our bags and headed back to San Juan.  The hostel we found when we got back randomly happened to be the same one the other two girls Tricia and Caitlin were at, which was good because we were all reunited.  I went with them to get some tacos and then watch the sunset on the beach while the others went and got dinner at another restaurant.  While sitting on the beach, an 11-year-old boy named Kevin that Tricia and Caitlin had befriended the day before came up to us, and we ended up hanging out with him for the rest of the night.  He lives on the streets and makes things like roses, grasshoppers, hearts, and other cool things like that out of palm leaves and sells them to make money.  He was a really sweet, smart, kind kid and it was a lot of fun to hang out with him.  There was a big concert on the beach that we all went to, and he impressed us all with his dancing skills.  We were able to kind of take care of him for that day - buy him food, get him some new slippers (aka flip-flops for everyone not from Hawaii), find a good place for him to sleep - but the next day we said adios and he was on his own again.  I'm glad we were able to help him out in that small way, but it was hard to just say good-bye and walk away knowing that he was going back to the streets.  I pray that he comes to know the amazing love that God has for him and is able to go to school and develop all the potential that he has.  The next day we had a smooth trip back to Managua.  It was weird to feel like I was coming "home" as we drew near the city, especially since I had only lived there for two weeks at the time.

I live in a really nice neighborhood where I have basically all the comforts of home (except for hot water, but it's so hot here anyway, so it doesn't even matter), and I attend a nice, private university here, but living in Managua there is no way to avoid seeing the poverty in which so many people live.  One thing that has been on my mind lately is the realization that the way I and most of the other people in the US live is not normal.  To the majority of the world, having all the things that we consider "normal" things to have - like hot water (let alone any clean water), the guarantee of food for the day, indoor plumbing, the opportunity to receive an education of any sort, owning a vehicle, electricity, etc - are not normal to most of the people in the world.  It's hard seeing some of the guys and girls my age here and thinking about how different our lives are in those regards.

God's given me so much, and it's not because I've done anything to deserve it.  What He's given me is a huge blessing for which I am so thankful, not nearly thankful enough - but it's also a responsibility.  As a Christian, saved by grace alone through the work of Jesus Christ, God has given me the two greatest commands in His Word which are to love Him and to love others as I love myself.  Loving others means so many things, but it also means loving people practically.
  • In Matthew 25:33-40 Jesus says, "And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and You visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'  And the king will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' "
I hope that the impact of these experiences I'm having here doesn't fade away when I go back home, back to "normal", with poverty out of my sight.  I pray that the impact stays with me and helps me to live and love as my Heavenly Father calls me to do.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Quieres pan?"

My host family is very generous when it comes to offering me bread (or donuts, or cupcakes, or whatever) from their bakery.  Don't be surprised if I come home thirty pounds heavier.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

He llegado!

Hola a todos!  He llegado sana y salva.

After two long and one not-so-long airplane rides, I have finally made it to Managua!  The ISEP people from UAM (Universidad Americana de Managua, pronounced "WOM", where I will be taking classes) were there waiting for me outside of the baggage claim when I arrived, as was my Grandpa who had taken the bus in to ensure my safe arrival.  I only got to see him for a few minutes before we parted ways - he, back to the bus, and I, with the ISEP people.  After two more girls came in we loaded onto a bus which took us each to our new homes.  Driving in Nicaragua is an adventure - if there are rules, people don't really follow them.  There are also fun things to see just driving around, like people selling puppies on the side of the road.  I was the last to be dropped off, and when we finally pulled up to my new home, I was stoked to see a little boy waiting for us on the lawn outside - I have a little host-brother!  His name is Sebastián (or Sebas for short), he's six years old, and needless to say, he's a cutie.  I took my stuff inside and met Esperanza, a really sweet older woman who works at the house, and Janet, another sweet girl who's probably about my age who also works at the house and at the family's little "panadería" attached to the kitchen that the family owns and runs.  They both helped me get situated in my new room and showed me a bit around the house.  It's a small and simple but beautiful home with tile floors, quite a few paintings, and a walled in back patio/lawn.  Neither of Sebastián's parents were there (his dad was working and his mom was flying home from a trip to the US), so I unpacked a bit and spent some time hanging out with my new host-brother.  He showed me around the back lawn, then we went inside and he started asking me to tell him what everything was in English, and then I tested him on all the colors.  After that I taught him to play "Go Fish" and "War" which was fun.  Later when he went to go play with his friend Ricardo he came straight up to my window (which faces the driveway) to say goodbye - it was cute :).  I'm so happy to have a little brother!  He can be a little hard to understand sometimes because he speaks so quickly and uses "vos" instead of "tú" so I get kind of confused sometimes, but it's a good challenge.  My host-dad René(?) came home in the evening and my host-mom Katia came home later that night and they were both very kind and welcoming.  I am so thankful to be living with this family in this house! Anyway, I have today and tomorrow free, aside from possibly getting together with other ISEP students, and then on Friday we have orientation at UAM where we will get to know the university a bit and then do some kind of tour around Managua. I haven't seen much of the country yet, but, aside from the city, there are already things about it that remind me a lot of home - lots of similar plants, the warmth, and the laid-back lifestyle. I am so blessed and thankful to be here and am excited for my next four months here in Nicaragua!

P.S.  I have no idea how often I'll be updating this thing, but I'll try and make it pretty regular.  Maybe once a week.  We'll see.  Thanks for reading!!! :)