July 28, 2014


The mornings are cool and continue to be my favorite time of the day to go for a run. I have mapped out all sorts of various routes with our house as the start and ending point. Of course we have the normal variations here that one would take into account when planning a run back home. There are hills to run up and down, roads with more traffic, one ways, byways and boulevards. However, I have the added challenge of taking into account the canals of sewage and trash, street vendors who block the way as they travel with their hot dog stands, slushy and ice cream carts and set up shop in order to earn their wage so they can consume a little of what they have to sell.

One of my runs brings me past the U.S. embassy. A fortress of security, of scrutiny, of dreams and hopes situated with its eyes overlooking the majority of the city. Here I usually stop and take in the rising sun in order to stretch out the quad that just seems to never want to participate with the rest me. A park lies across the road and both it and the embassy peer into a reservoir, which once was a volcano, but now provides the city of Managua with a clean source of water.

In this park, there are broken down sets of toys, a small stand where an elderly gentleman sells cheap treats and sweets during the day, and what in my imagination used to be some sort of stage area or amphitheater. Already in the early morning there are men sitting on the concrete slabs that once could have been called a bench. The majority of these men call the park home. There are various reasons for why they ended up here, but everyone who I have met is not originally from Managua. At one point they came to the city with hopes and dreams; they came for work, for a surgery, for a lover, to try their hand at obtaining a visa. So far no one has related a story in which one came with the dream of someday living in a howled out tree or underneath a concrete slab night after night in the park that overlooks the lagoon across the street from the U.S. Embassy.

Raul lives here. He sleeps here, he eats here, he goes to the bathroom here, he washes his clothes here, he entertains his friends here. The park is Raul`s home, a home he shares with others, but his none the less. Raul walked up to me one day as I rested myself on an exposed piece of rebar extending itself from the structure that once may have been an amphitheater as I stretched out my stubborn quad.

He did not ask me for money or for food or for anything nor has he since. He just said, hi, my name is Raul. Every Wednesday I leave our home a little before five. I go for my run as I do most mornings, but Wednesday is different. Wednesday is the day in which I take the route that leads me to Raul`s house. We sit and chat, sometimes we venture into the street and find something to eat. We talk about the weather, about the price of food, about where Raul used to live, about my frustrations with work. I really enjoy being a guest in Raul`s house and I think that he enjoys it when I stop by as well.

July 22, 2014

Observations While Visiting the United States


People On Things They Couldn't Believe About America Until They Moved Here (clink link)** RCB **

This article was shared on the web a couple of weeks ago while the United States was celebrating their Independence.  It was especially interesting for me to read while I was traveling the East Coast with Yeni, my Cuban friend, boss and the Dean at the seminary.

"A lot of people around the world have ideas of what America is like, possibly thanks to Hollywood, or their local news channels, and maybe from what they've heard from families and friends.  But then, they come here, to the grand old United States, and their minds explode."

Here is Yeni's list, published with her permission:

  1. The streets are clean and well-cared for, there isn't any trash.
  2. When entering a store or restaurant, you are greeted with a "Hello" and "How can I help you?" by the employees.  They don't seem annoyed, but really want to help.  The customer service provided in the U.S. looks very different than my home country.
  3. "Everything is big."  The infrastructure and buildings are much larger, especially compared to Managua.
  4. The cities seem to be more organized with a strong attention to detail.  They are creatively designed and kind on the eye.
  5. There is air conditioning available everywhere.  You can avoid the heat if you want to.
  6. No one seems to be informed or excited about the World Cup.
  7. The GPS is amazing.  You can easily get where you need to go without getting lost.
  8. The interstate system is quite amazing.  Our fastest road in the city of Managua is 60 kilometers or 37 miles an hour and there are stop-lights at every cross street.
  9. There seems to be a church on every corner.  In some places that we visited, there were streets just filled with big, beautiful churches.
  10. There seem to be cheaper prices (electronics, gas, cars, etc.) even though people make more money.  Exceptions include housing and fruit.
  11. There are not security guards at every store.
  12. Toilet paper is always available, you don't need to be prepared with a wad in your purse.
  13. You can comfortably walk down the road with your purse and phone out and you will most likely be okay (although I am certain that there are places in the U.S. that this is not the case).
  14. People are friendly, but a bit more distant upon first meeting.
  15. Traffic laws are respected.
  16. People yield for pedestrians.
  17. There are issues of economic poverty and violence.  Not everyone in America is living the "American dream."

July 14, 2014

Loving L.A.

On the later half of my work-trip to the States, I was able to take a few days of vacation and enjoy time with two of my favorite ladies, Jess and Mandy and their guys, who are pretty great too!

photo 7            

Jessica and I are cousins, born a month apart and for the majority of our childhood lived two houses away from one another.  Mandy and I met in homeroom in 8th grade at Hopkins West Junior High, she has been a faithful friend ever since.

IMG_0870 IMG_0915

The girls did such a great job at making our time special.  We enjoyed a (surprise) Sarah McLachlan concert at the gorgeous Greek Theater, spent a day wine tasting and kayaking in La Jolla, we spent a day in LA - visiting Homeboy Industries where we met Father Boyle, and also looked around the the fabric and fashion districts. We also enjoyed nights of DIY crafting as well as a fabulous Independence Day Celebration.  They also patiently assisted me in checking items off my shopping list.


One highlight of our time together was the palate of food that we ate.  While Managua has some wonderful food, I really miss not having a variety of ethnic foods available to us.  While we were together, we ate Mexican, Thai, Cuban, Korean, Malaysian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Indian and Nepali.  They also made me try an In-N-Out burger, which was pretty good.  And of course, I drank a boba tea whenever it was available.


Thank-you girls (and guys) for your amazing hospitality and care towards me.  But more importantly, thank-you for your incredible friendship and support.   I am grateful that I get to do life with you!

July 8, 2014

The World Cup

Nicaragua was not represented in the World Cup this year, nor have they ever been one of the 32 teams to make the field.  Currently, we are ranked 176 in the FIFA world rankings with seemingly little hope in sight for making the tournament in four years.  But that does not mean that the people of Nicaragua are not crazy about soccer.

Things have literally been shutting down here.  I left the seminary during Brazil’s game versus Columbia last week.  As I walked the seven blocks to the bus stop it seemed as though I were walking through a stadium as every house blared the game from a television or radio.  At the bus stop there was no one there. It was peak traffic time and there was no one at the bus stop, there was no one on the bus, and I got home in record time.  Of course, the game was on the radio on the bus, and as I walked up the road to our house I placed myself in the stadium with the opportunity to score the equalizer for Columbia.

Because the Nicaraguan nation is not represented in the World Cup the people here feel free to jump on and off bandwagons.  Before the Cup began everyone was rooting for Spain (which bowed out in the group stage) soon our neighbors became life long fans of Colombian and Costa Rican soccer (which have never been prominent on the world stage) and now everyone is putting their support behind the Argentinians.

Being 100% Dutch myself, I am cheering for the orange eleven, the flying Dutchmen, the low land countries as they are referred to here in Nicaragua.  Hopefully the dikes will hold, the little boys' finger will not grow tired and the Dutch will pull off their first World Cup victory and join the ranks of the elite soccer nations!