April 14, 2014

La Dalia and El Tuma

In mid-March, I (Cassie) spent a week in the campo.  Part of my work with Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC), a partner organization of MCC, is helping to coordinate the volunteer groups that come to serve in Nicaragua.  We happened to be hosting two groups, one of youth and the other of medical staff at the same time.  I had the opportunity to accompany the groups and see first-hand some of the projects that AMC is working in.

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The beauty of the communities that we were working in is incredible.  The areas are remote, almost never visited by tourists.  This is due to very difficult road conditions, many communities do not even have bus service because the roads are so bad.  The infrastructure is also very underdeveloped, no electricity and no portable water.

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We visited several farms that are involved in AMC’s land bank programs.  AMC has several land banks, which are basically pieces of land that are divided up and given to farmers and their families for a low cost.  AMC provides technical training and education to the farmers, many of which are women.

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The youth team worked with community members to paint this extension bridge, a bridge which was built a few years ago in collaboration with AMC.  For community members that live in San Joaquin, this bridge cuts off an hour of their walk to the bus-stop.  The painting is not just for looks, but rather helps to protect the longevity of the metal.

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I enjoyed interacting with community members and their children.  This sweet girl was the daughter of a female farmer that we ate lunch with one afternoon.  The farmers were only allowed to serve us food that came from their land and wow, did they impress us!  Also pictured is the pharmacy that the medical team set-up to provide basic medicines to community members.

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On our way back to Managua, we stopped at my AMC’s bosses family coffee farm.  He and his brother own the farm and they gave us a great tour of the coffee harvesting process.  We all left with a few bags, you can’t beat  3 dollars a pound!

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Each day I feel honored to serve and work alongside the staff at AMC.  Their commitment to the most vulnerable in Nicaragua is always at the forefront of everything that they do.

April 7, 2014

Juicing

Have you ever wondered what a beet, carrot, ginger, orange juice would taste like or perhaps you would prefer a glass of 100% pure orange juice? As the citrus harvest is now in full swing here in Nicaragua, Cassie and I have once again become obsessed with juicing.

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Every few days we travel to our local market with our fruit bag to fill up on the tasteful delights. We have been experimenting with fruits that are familiar to us and others that are not. It is somewhat exciting to think about the new flavors one will experience with a fruit that one has never tasted. Up to this point all of our efforts have been met with happy results.

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As we walk back from the market we usually have to reflect about that the fact that not only is our fruit fresh (usually harvested the same day that we purchase it) but also how affordable it is. Here is an example of the costs at the market:

60 oranges - $2

24 carrots - $2

24 grapefruit - $.50

12 beets - $2

1 LB of ginger - $1

With all this fruit I made almost 2 gallons of wonder fruit juice that Cassie and consumed for our breakfast the entire week. There is no better way to start the day!

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April 1, 2014

Beaches

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We are from Iowa, a state of a handful of lakes, and Minnesota, a state of 10,000 lakes.  Growing up in the Plains meant that a drive to the ocean meant climbing into the sedan for a couple days drive or a planned vacation in order to frolic in the waves and bury our feet in the sand.

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I (Kevin) did not see the ocean until I had turned 22 and really that was just the gulf of Mexico and after the destruction of Katrina had just passed through.  Thus, I spent the majority of my time cutting trees and roofing as opposed to taking in the sights and sounds of the nearby ocean.

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Since, neither of us have ever lived near an ocean and since the possibility of living this close to the ocean ever again does not look that likely, we are doing our best to enjoy the beautiful Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of Nicaragua. We wanted to share with you some photos of were we have been and what we have seen, and also to extend our welcome mat--especially to the Plains people!

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These pictures were taken a couple of weekends ago at the Rivas Beaches along the Pacific Coast.  Cassie recently completed a class on manual photography, so these pictures were some of her first experiments.

Enjoy!

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March 27, 2014

On Meeting your Toddler(s) via Adoption

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A couple of months ago we finally got the chance to sit down and watch Philomena, a movie about a woman’s search for her son.  As I was sitting there, horrified by past adoption practices, which sadly still occur today, I began to think, “what if we got the call tomorrow?”  We have done a lot of planning for our home environment, work schedule and emotionally/mentally to do our best to be ready for the call, but there always seems like there is more that one can do.  

I have several lists, one that includes questions we would ask when we receive the call, another that has a list of the items we need to purchase upon knowing the age of the child(ren) – bed vs. crib, diapers vs. underwear, etc.  We have been told that we may receive a call in the morning and pick up our children in the afternoon.  It could be quick, it will be emotionally overwhelming and I want to do my best to be present for the kids and not thinking about the details of where I need to buy a crib. 

Back to the movie.  As we were watching, I realized that our diaper bag is not packed.  While we may not use it for another year, we may be using it tomorrow.  So I got off the couch and started packing.  Below are a few items that I would encourage you to think about having when you meet your toddler via adoption.  Our hope is that we would have items to engage, connect with and comfort our children upon our first meeting.
My goal is to not overwhelm the children, but rather engage them in a trusting way.  I hope to communicate to them that I am trustworthy with both my actions and words.  It will be an emotional experience and I want to demonstrate the love and affection that I have for them, but I also want to do this in a respectful way.

Thus, I felt like it would be important to have some tools along to engage in play with them.  In our diaper bag, I have a few legos packed as well as two books that are very special to me.  One is, You are Important and the other is You are Brave.  I hope that our children understand how important they are to us as well as how brave we think they are.  I cannot wait to read these books to them.
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I also packed this adorable stuffed elephant and taggie blankets that I made for them.  They can hold onto these on our ride home.  I hope that these items can provide them a sense of security and safety as we leave all that they have ever known.
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Also included in the diaper bag are a couple of water bottles, calming lotion, diapers and wipes.  Once we receive the call, I will also throw in a few snacks along with a change of clothes.  I am not certain that we will need these items, but I thought they were helpful to include.  I want them to know from the very beginning that we will meet their needs. 
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Lastly, I have a printed document of questions that I would love to ask the center staff.  We would love to know more about our children’s likes and dislikes, routines and personalities, and look forward to having time with the individuals that have provided love and care for them.

This is what we have packed.  Feel free to suggest other items that may be helpful.

Oh, I will also have a camera along as I want to be sure to document our first meeting!