October 19, 2014

Immigration

Unaccompanied minors ride atop the wagon of a freight train, known as La Bestia (The Beast) in Ixtepec, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca on June 18, 2014.

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Immigration, specifically child immigration was flooding the headlines a few months ago.  We have had several family members and friends ask us about our experience from this end and while we understand that our perspective is quite limited, the plight of the child immigration crisis is not affecting Nicaragua in the same way that it is up north.

We thought that this article, Why Nicaraguan Kids Aren't Fleeing to the US, outlines very clearly the reasons why.  A revolution, different policing methods, less gangs and a different history and relationship with the United States and its immigration process, all play a role in why.

Yet immigration plays a role in almost every family we have gotten to know.  Young children may not be traveling north, but they most likely have a mother, uncle or grandfather either north or south.  People are leaving due to the typical push and pull factors, including poverty, poor economic conditions, lack of opportunities, violence and the hope for a better future.

We recently spent a Saturday class discussing this topic with our students.  Many had previously lived outside of Nicaragua and every individual has an immediate family member currently living in another country.  We talked about the positives and the negatives of immigration, its effects on individuals and families.  The conversations we are having in class with our students and with our neighbors and friends are not hypothetical, they are not musings about policies in a land far away. They are about their lives, about their loved ones.

At this time, we remember our friend Jessenia who is currently in a detention center in Texas, waiting to hear the judge's decision regarding her future.  We think of her children who are here in Estelí with their grandmother and their father who is working in Miami.  We remember our friend Elmer who recently left to work on an oil rig for six months in Louisiana.  We think of his wife and two children who have stayed behind.  We remember our friend Ana, who recently left for Costa Rica to work as a cook in a restaurant.  We think of our next-door neighbor boy, Daniel, who lives with distant family friends because his mother is living in Los Angeles, waiting tables, trying to start a new life. 

Immigrant stories are all around us, and there is much to remember.

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The following are resources that we utilized in class that we would recommend for further reading and information gathering:

October 14, 2014

Miraflor

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Wherever you live, whether in a rural setting, a sprawling metropolis or a place in-between, many of us have a special spot were we go to feel refreshed or renewed. Maybe there is a lake that you like to walk around with friends, a mountain you like to climb or bike or a grassy hill that overlooks the fields of your farming community. Many of us have this place were the worries and cares of the world seem to leave us and we are able to be truly refreshed and renewed for what lies ahead.

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Cassie and I have found that place in Nicaragua as we have fallen in love with Miraflor, a protected cloud forest and farming community in the northern highlands of the Estelí department.

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Miraflor has much to offer.  First off it is a space that provides us with a respite from our daily routines, climate and stresses of the capital city.  In Miraflor we find ourselves in a small farming community, where it seems like everyone literally knows everyone else.  Here we find ourselves in a very different climate in which we are refreshingly concerned about layers, wool socks and scarves.  During our recent visit temperatures were under sixty degrees almost the entire time, our body systems are going to have a rude awaking when we visit Minnesota and Iowa this winter.  We find ourselves in a place where there is always something to see and new places to explore from the clear night skies, the ancient trees and magnificent wildlife.

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Miraflor is a special place, and one day, like many other places in Nicaragua we will miss it and think fondly about the times we shared there.  With that in mind we hope that we are able to visit at least once more and find something new, to bask in the freshness and renew ourselves for our work.

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One other highlight of Miraflor is the food.  We generally stay at Finca Neblina del Bosque and they were recently listed as one of the top places in the world for vegetarian food by a Spanish magazine.  The food is delicious, we have enjoyed curries, scrumptious vegetarian tacos and glammed up Nicaraguan dishes.

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October 3, 2014

Volcan Concepción

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Cassie and I have had the opportunity to enjoy many outdoor activities during our time in Central America. We have hiked along the great canal in Panama, wandered through the rain forests of Costa Rica, cliff dived into the beautiful lake of Atitlan in Guatemala, and have now completed one of the most challenging hikes in Nicaragua, Volcan Concepción.

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Volcan Concepción is the second tallest volcano in Nicaragua at 1,610 meters. It has erupted 25 times with the most recent eruption occurring in 2010.  Even though it has erupted so many times, it is unique in the fact that its cone is almost still intact.  This means that for the last two hours of the grueling hike, we were on our hands and knees attempting to scale the uppermost part of the cone.  The last hours of the hike also included circling ravens and other scavenger birds, emissions of sulfur and steam from the volcano and its vents and continuous stories from our guide about who had lost their lives in the very spot where we were walking.  Lets just say we were very careful during the last part of the hike.

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The views were spectacular as you can see, and we were blessed by the fact that the clouds gave way just after we started our descent - a rare event on Concepción.

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The round trip took us almost 10 hours and it took us about 3 days before basic daily tasks like walking up steps or getting out of a chair did not hurt anymore.  The hike was fun and we were glad that our friends Andrew and Morgan were able to join us.  I am not sure that we will ever do it again, you will have to visit and talk us into it, but it will be an experience that will be with us forever.

Here are a few more photos to enjoy:

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To arrive at La Isla de Ometepe, one needs to take a one hour ferry ride across Lake Nicaragua.  We began our hike the following day, early in the morning to get a head start before the sun came out.  As you can see, we are at the start of our hike, smiling and enjoying each step.

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The plant life and vegetation was beautiful.  We passed through many different layers of ecology – including plantain trees, coffee plants, desert vegetation and finally the desolation of the cone from years of eruptions and constant emissions of sulfur.

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We made it to the top!  Here we are standing amidst the clouds and sulfur.

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Chacos are the secret to our success.  The hike down was more challenging than the hike up, due to the steepness and slippery volcanic terrain.

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This picture gives you a good idea of the steepness.

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We were exhausted after the hike and it took a few days for our bodies to recover.  But we are glad that we did it!

September 28, 2014

What Crazy Weather We Are Having

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The price of beans are on the rise in Nicaragua.  For the last few weeks the rains have started and the humidity is crazy, I feel like I am in a steam bath. When I lay down in bed the sheets feel wet.  When I leave the house in the morning after a cold shower I begin to sweat from the humidity and heat.  Unfortunately, the rains were late.  Farmers were not able to plant their crops and now they are finding it hard to get their crops into their fields.  Add to this, one of the worst drought in many years.

Hence the price of beans.  Already the prices for beans and corn have doubled as the shortage to come is eminent.  Of course for Cassie and I that is not a huge problem, we can easily pay $1.00 for a pound of beans, but for the average Nicaraguan, who is accustomed to being able to buy a pound of beans for $0.40, is already facing an economic and nourishment problem.  And unfortunately this problem is not one that is being experienced by Nicaraguans alone; it is being experienced by the population of the entire tropic region of our globe.

I keep receiving emails from friends and family back home telling me about how crazy the weather has been.  About the droughts, the torrential rain, about all the weird weather and abnormalities.  According to our friends and neighbors we are experiencing the same here in Nicaragua.  All this crazy weather is creating one big problem in which the poorest will be the ones who will suffer first.

I spoke with a Nicaraguan farmer yesterday who talked to me about the changes he has experienced in his fifty years of farming.  He asked me a question, "why would we not think that if we took all the gold, all the oil, and all the trees away from our earth and polluted it with our waste that our climate would not change?"

So when you think to yourself, wow what crazy weather we are having, I encourage you to ask yourself, “I wonder if there is anything that I do in my life that might stop all this crazy weather?”  Or better yet, ask yourself, “what might I able to do in order to stop the prices of substantive food rising to prices that people cannot afford?” 

Our earth is crying out in pain and there are men, women, and children crying out in hunger.  We are called to care for our brother, our mother, our sister, our neighbors, to care for the world, for ourselves, for our kids, for the least of these. Do not just think, wow, what strange, crazy, weather we are having, I promise you that it is only going to get stranger and crazier.