May 28, 2013

Conversations of Peace


It all began when our ten-year-old neighbor Natalia and I were together in the kitchen, working together to prepare a salad.  With curiosity, she began picking up items from our food shelf and asking what exactly they were.  She commented that she had never seen a can that looked like this and asked what exactly you use a jar of peanut butter for.  She then looked in my fridge and asked what broccoli and cauliflower were.  I patiently answered her as she continued to ask questions.  In the end, she commented, "Wow, we really have different things on our shelves and in our fridge."  

For a moment, I was a bit disappointed that Kevin and I have not "integrated" our eating habits as much as I thought that we had.  I guess we don't eat gallo pinto and tortillas twice a day like Natalia does, but we do have them several times a week.  My mind was suddenly filled with the many differences separating Natalia and myself, differences that have led to a greater understanding of what it means to live and exist with people who are not like me.  But then I began thinking about the differences that we have between us and thought that this "betweeness" does not mean that there is some type of barrier.

I slowly responded, "Yes, we do.  We do eat differently."  I then asked her if she thought this impacted our friendship.  She shared that she did not think that it really did, if anything she has been able to learn from me and I have been able to learn from her (ten-year-old wisdom, I tell you!).  

This led to a beautiful conversation about our differences - the foods that we eat, how we celebrate holidays, what we do in our free-time, how we worship God - but the incredible thing is that we can still be friends.  I shared with her some stories of conflict in our neighborhood, in our city and in our world and how many of these conflicts occur because of differences in beliefs, differences in culture, differences in ways of doing things.  We reflected on how sad this is, how if people really were able to listen to one another and learn about our differences, that we could grow as individuals and as humanity.  Instead of hurting and harming one another because of our differences, we could be challenged to learn and love more deeply through those very differences.  

The way of peace is walking the road with the other, dropping the label and being willing to learn.  We have to be taught the way of peace, the way of love and the way of nonviolence, but we also have to being willing to learn this.  As John Lewis said, “In the bosom of every human being, there is a spark of the Divine. “

May 22, 2013

Trip Home

Last month, I (Cassie) took a trip back to the snowy north (yes, there really was snow in May!) in order to complete my Continuing Education Hours for my Social Work License.  I was able to attend a few different conferences and really enjoyed being back in the world of Social Work.  Although I am practicing in a sense with my work here in Managua, it felt wonderful to be back in the classroom, learning about the latest research and methods for applying this to our practice.  I was also able to fit in some friend and family time.  Below are a few pictures from my time at home, I won’t bore you with pictures of the classrooms I sat in for many hours.

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I was glad to come back and still feel a bit immersed in the Latin Culture.  I was able to use my Spanish off and on and was glad to know that I hadn’t forgot it!

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I enjoyed a wonderful 24 hours with my oldest niece Lauren and SIL Carrie.  It was so good to see them and it meant so much that they made the trip.

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Some family time with food.  I had my first burger at the famous, Matt’s Bar and we enjoyed brats at the Minneapolis farmers market.

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I spent a day at the Jubilee and Ten Thousand Villages sale selling these beautiful handmade cards from South Africa.  I also co-taught with my mom for a day in her English Language Learning (ELL) classroom, using a Nicaraguan book called Mi Delantal.

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I spent one weekend in Chicago celebrating my friend Mandy’s Bachelorette Party.  It was a fabulous weekend and I can’t wait to stand by her side in August.

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I made sure to eat the foods that we miss so much in Nicaragua – Thai, Ethiopian, Indian and Korean.  I wasn’t able to bring any of these foods back for Kevin, but I did pack a bag of apples (he was sooo excited!) and some other favorite treats of his.

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My sister flew in for a day from Colorado to surprise me.  It was a quick 24 hours together, but so incredibly sweet.

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And just a few more pictures with friends and family.

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And on another note, the electronic world has really changed since we left in 2011 for Nicaragua.  A few things that were most markedly different were:

  • Everyone seems to have a smart phone.
  • The gates at airports are no longer rows of chairs, but rather booths with ipads (see picture above).
  • You can buy your newspaper with a credit card.  This is quite different from how we get our papers here.
  • Friends of mine stream live videos of their dogs while they are at doggy daycare. 

All of this was a bit overwhelming for me, the gap between these two worlds seems so great at times.  But I do know that there is good in both.

May 16, 2013

A Name

"You say you care about the poor.
Then tell me, what are their names?"
-Gustavo Gutierrez We are still learning names.   The community that we live in has a population of approximately 12,000 people.  I would guess that our dusty, nameless street has about seventy people living on it and there is a lot of transiency as people move into the low cost neighborhood in hopes of making a life for themselves and their families in the capital.  Our next door neighbors alone have seventeen people, three generations living together (embarrassingly on the same size property that Kevin and I – yes, just two of us, share). Do I know my neighbors names?  Some. What would it mean to my neighbors if I knew their names?  It would mean that I value them, that I think they are important, that I think they have something to contribute, that they are special. The kids have been easy to meet, but getting to know their parents has taken some time.  This has been a process and we expect that it will continue to be as we are welcomed into the community. But many of them know my name.  "Cassandra," they yell as I come walking up the street.  "How was your day?  What did you do?  Can we play basketball with you?  Do you have any books that we can read today?  Can you give me a glass of water?  Can I get a mango off your tree?" We are getting there.  We are learning each others names and more importantly, each others stories.  We are sharing our hopes and dreams, along with the difficulties of this journey. Our hope is that we may continue walking together, hand and hand into the future of knowing each other well - of knowing each others names and stories.
Side note: As a way to better remember names, Kevin and I have an ongoing word document on our computer where we jot down new names that we learn.  They include a description of the home and/or what is sold there along with their names.  I know it sounds silly, but it has proven to be a useful tool.

May 10, 2013

30 Day Photography Challenge

The lovely Mandy LaBreche sent me a link last month suggesting that we both participate in a 30 Day Photography Challenge.  I quickly agreed, thinking it would be fun to compare our life in Nicaragua and California.  Enjoy some of our favorite shots.


Self Portrait                                Something Green


What You Wore                          Clouds


After Dark                                  Obsession


Changes To Come                      Routine


Someone You Love                    Childhood Memory


Sunset                                       Good Habit


Stranger                                     Celebration


Close Up                                    Flower


Inspiration                                  Something You Want


In Your Purse                             Black and White


Self Portrait                               Technology


Something Blue                          Pattern


Animal                                       Shoes