April 28, 2013

Half Way Already

This one paragraph (which should be three or four) with tons of run-on sentences and improper uses of grammatical tools was proudly written by Kevin and published with hesitation by Cassie.

There are some things in Nicaragua that Cassie and I have come to associate with what it means to live life here, differences and intricacies that we have grown accustomed to after living  a year and half in Managua.  The first is how one defines her or himself.  Upon meeting someone for the first time, you compare yourselves with one another, are you a Barca or Real Madrid fan (Spanish Soccer League)?  Do you cheer for Argentina or Brasil, Boston or New York (no one likes the Twins, stating that the TC emblem is just too drab).  Are you Catholic or Evangelical, Sandanista or Liberal (the political parties, though no one that is not Sandinista would ever say so upon first meeting someone they do not know).  Do you like Nirvana or Guns and Roses - I always reply, with “los dos,” and if we have ever heard of Air Supply (the people here love Air Supply), which is phonetically pronounced, r-suple.  This took me a while to figure it out, but sometimes you really do feel like you are living in the 80´s, not that we remember too much about that decade.  Some other things we have simply come to regard as normal include the fact decaf coffee is not an option here (which neither of us mind, but we are getting older).  Gas stations, restaurant parking lots, shopping malls and markets are places where you meet people.  There are certain places where you automatically begin to breathe through your mouth or hold your breath because you know what you will smell if you do not.  Rice and beans are simply a part of life and you will most likely eat them at least twice a day in any number of forms which all about taste the same way considering that salt is about the only acceptable seasoning and common black pepper is considered spicy (people often ask me if I am Mexican after they see the amount of chili that I put on the almost flavorless dishes).  For some reason, at all public events loud music is necessary.  Government rallies, cultural events, marches and protests often include gun fire, fireworks and various homemade explosives, but are also always accompanied by a loud sound system.  A towel is not only something used to clean or dry oneself - it is really one of the most commonly used and multipurpose articles implemented by the Nicaraguan people.  The towel is used as a cheap personal fan, a shield for the sun, a fly swatter, a head covering, a pot holder, bellow for the cooking fire, umbrella and if there is no toilet paper - well good thing you have your handy washable towel.  When you receive a message on your phone it is most likely your phone company letting you know about the promotion of the day, or letting you know that for a small fee you can have your number sent to a dozen people in order to increase your number of friends, or that you can call your relatives in Costa Rica, Spain or the United States for a reduced rate today only (everyone you meet in Nicaragua has a relative living in one of these places), new tones, new games or just saying hi.  In one day I have received over ten messages from my cell phone provider.  Through our time we have come to love the people, their generous hospitality and kind spirit that makes this country even more beautiful than it naturally is.  We have greatly enjoyed the people we have met and the relationships that we continue to build in our neighborhood and at our various places of employment.  We are looking forward to what lies ahead, excited for each new day.  At times we wish for cooler temperatures, for some different food options and we miss our family and friends dearly, but this is where we are now, living an adventure, serving, learning and seeing what is in store.

April 19, 2013


We wanted to give you a picture of what our community looks like.  In showing you these pictures, we are not asking you to...

Look how poor our community is.

Look how dirty and run-down our buildings are.

Look how hopeless and dangerous our youth are.

Look how rough a place the city is.


While some of these thoughts may be true and while life here is very difficult for many, I hope that you can see that our friends and neighbors are just like us.  Real people with hopes and dreams as well as fears and insecurities.  I don´t want to gloss over the issues and harsh realities in my community, but I want to avoid treating people as merely the sum of their situation.


This is our street.  You can see our house on the left side, it is green with the white gate (and the neighborhood deemed soccer goal).  The peachy colored building on the right side of the photo is our pulperia.  Here we buy our eggs, butter, tomatoes, onions, platanos, etc.


Most homes have a front gate.  These gates are often made out of recycled materials.


This is a another pulperia in our neighborhood and the place where we buy our beans.  They are ready to go, hot and fresh each evening.


This is how a lot of advertising is done here in Nicaragua.  One of our neighbors is looking for work and is advertising his carpentry skills.


These are the two main tortilla stands in our neighborhood.  When we first moved in, there was only one.  Now there is some competition! 


Laundry day happens when the neighborhood has access to water.  Our neighbors hand wash their clothes and hang them out in the hot Managua heat to dry.  For now we have decided to carry our laundry by bus to the office to use the machine and hang dry.  It is quite an effort, but seems to be easier than hand washing.


Another fence.


The trash in our neighborhood is one of the hardest things for me.  This is our water drainage system, we cross over it each day on a little bridge.


This is the front of our neighborhood.  I took this picture while we were waiting for the bus on the opposite side of the road.


This is the bus stop to go arriba or east.  Many people find employment by setting up little stands at the bus stops or in other pedestrian traffic areas.


Across the road from our neighborhood is a little shopping center.  There is a second-hand store, an electronic store, a grocery store, lawyer’s offices as well as a few other shops.  A jail is located behind the shopping center.


This is the condition of any Nicaraguan sidewalks.  It makes running a bit difficult here.  Sometimes I sit on the edge while we are waiting for the bus and Kevin gets annoyed with me.

Where the world sees poverty, we want it to see a different sort of richness.

Where the world sees violence, we want it to see people longing for peace.

Where the world sees crime, we want it to see neighbors looking out for each other.

Where the world sees brokenness, we want it to see stories of hope and strength.

Where the world sees destruction, we want it to see signs of God’s redemption.

Amidst the darkness, we want the world to see the Kingdom.


April 10, 2013

It’s Getting Hot in Here

The next line of the song isn’t really an option while we are out and about in the streets of Managua, luckily it is an option in our home.  We don’t want to sound like we are complaining as we can’t say we miss the blustering Midwest winters that are still happening in April.  But it is HOT and we are glad to say that we have almost successfully completed our second dry season. 


(Mural picture taken at the new and improved Luiz Alfonzo Park)

Here are a few tips for our survival so far:

I love wearing skirts and dresses.  They are a life saver on really hot days!

Whenever we enter a new street or bus, the first thing that we look for is the shaded side.  Unfortunately, everyone else does too and you will often see one side of the bus totally filled up when another side is empty.  People will even stand on the shaded side rather than sit in the empty, sunny seats.

Another bus and/or taxi tip is to always sit forward.  Do not lean back or you will exit the bus drenched in sweat.  Cushiony seats are the worst.

Umbrellas come in handy, not for the rain but for the shade that they create.

Always carry your Klean Kanteen, as water is a must!  I have been getting into the habit of carrying around a gallon jug of water around the house.

Two fans have become necessary for falling asleep and more importantly staying asleep.  They also move with us from room to room.

For a redhead like me, it is important to wear sunscreen every day.  I never leave the house without putting it on my face.

A common accessory for women is a small towel.  This is used for fanning and drying sweat.

We try to get to the pool twice a week during the dry season for exercise and to cool off, even if it is at 6am.  We have access to a lovely pool close to the seminary and now more than ever, we take advantage of the dollar entrance fee to swim.

Ice cubes are a life saver.  We have three trays that we are constantly going through and always have a plastic tub fully filled.

We realize that we need to better take advantage of the ocean that is only thirty miles from our home.

Our friends got so desperate last weekend that they screamed into a fan, jumped into their pila (laundry washing station) and went to the mall to watch a movie just to have some time in the air conditioning.  I will have to remember these tips just in case my current techniques reduce in their effectiveness.

On the bright side, with the heat comes the delicious fruit!  Yeah for mangoes, avocados, pineapples, watermelons, star fruits, cantaloupes, papayas – everything is delicious and fresh right now.

April 4, 2013

Bread and Wine

Last summer my sister brought down a couple of books that she had been reading, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. I devoured both of these books over our two week period together, staying up late in the tent on Ometepe Island and reading in the hammocks of Playa Maderas. There was something about Shauna´s writing that drew me in; she was real, I could relate, each story was powerful and reflected back on the goodness of God. It was good for my soul.

I was thrilled to hear that Shauna was releasing her third book, Bread & Wine: My Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes this year and was fortunate to be given the opportunity to read an advanced copy.

It is a wonderfully written, funny and honest spiritual memoir, one that encourages us to gather around the table with friends and family in order to live life well and in relationship. She has even included a few of her favorite recipes this time, the Mango Chicken Curry is delicious and perfect for our current mango season here in Nicaragua.

Bread and Wine will be released on April 9th. I have already ordered a few extra copies for some special friends and am in the midst of organizing a “book club” via Skype with my sisters and mom. I can´t wait to read it again!

Read more about Shauna and her work here: http://www.shaunaniequist.com/