August 25, 2014

Life Lately

It has been awhile since we did a life lately post.  Here is a look at our life in Nicaragua over the past couple of months.  We hope that you enjoy!


Our lovely cat Brisa was lounging one day in the windowsill.  The month of August was tough for her as we were taking care of a friend’s kitten and let’s just say that this one hissed all month long.


This is the sweet kitten Niko that we have been taking care of.  He enjoyed smelling the big sunflowers that Kevin brought to freshen up our house.


Lately, I have been sewing up a storm and recently taught my friend Carmen how to sew.  She picked it up quickly and made a quilt in just a couple of hours!


This Saturday we will finish our semester’s class, the Culture of Peace.  This has probably been our best class yet – improved Spanish helps, but so do dedicated and motivated students.  We have our last class this Saturday at our house.  This has been a “tradition” of ours.  While we usually make a big breakfast, the students said that they are bringing the meal this time.  The only thing that we have to do is make brownies (great deal on our end).


Most Minneapolis folks have packed meals at Feed My Starving Children.  While the organizational name is not my favorite, the work that they do is.  While in La Concha, I came across a friend making a serving.


We made a weekend visit out to La Concha to see our friends.  Pictured above are Alison and I out on a beautiful afternoon’s hike, one filled with lagoons, volcanoes, birds and forests.


On a day off of work, I invited some of my Accion Medica Cristiana co-workers over.  We had coffee and dessert and enjoyed playing some games.  They are such wonderful ladies, that we want to hang out when we are not at work!


We headed up to Esteli to visit our friends and were able to stop in and see Jesuah again.  Jesuah was born six months ago, but due to medical complications was unable to leave the hospital.  His parents and extended family stayed with us for a couple of weeks, while he was in the hospital fighting for his life.  Today he is a happy and healthy boy, thanks to God!


We recently had a BINGO night at our house with the neighborhood kids.  We had not played BINGO since Christmas and they were very excited to play again, especially because they could win their favorite cookies for a prize.


Solkey was disappointed because she was not winning.  (She later won!)


This was a great activity for both younger and older kids, something that we often have difficulty with.  We had young 3 year olds playing (with help) and 15 year olds as well.


My neighbor ladies and I took an afternoon to go and visit Catarina, a beautiful spot just an hour from our home.  While it is quite close and I have been there ten-ish times, they had never been before.  We had a fun afternoon together.


We said “good-bye” to the one-year MCC workers.  We miss you Hans, Allison and Stacey!


We celebrated our friend Eduardo’s 15th birthday at the beach.  It was a fun couple of days with our lovely Nicaraguan friends.  These people have been so good to us!


And to finish off this post, the lovely Aleesia.  We had fun swimming in the pool while celebrating Eduardo’s birthday.  This little girl is just the best!

August 19, 2014

Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup with Mango Salsa

This soup has been a favorite of ours for the last few weeks.  It is has a lovely combination of flavors and is especially refreshing on a hot day.  Although I wish I didn’t, I (Cassie) have always had a hard time with cucumbers.  But this soup does a great job at “covering them up.” 


Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup

  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and cut into rough slices
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, and flesh scooped out
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
  • 1/4teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)

Mango Salsa

  • 1 cup mango, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup tomato, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, loosely packed and finely chopped
  • 1tablespoon lime juice
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Blend all soup ingredients together in a blender till smooth, adding enough water to achieve a perfectly creamy texture.
  2. Toss the salsa ingredients together in a small bowl.
  3. Transfer soup to four serving bowls. Top each with a half cup of the mango salsa, and serve.

This recipe was originally found here.  We made a few adjustments based on the vegetables that we have access to here.

DSC_0018 (2)

All of the vegetables required for this soup are currently in season.  So we plan to eat a lot more of it in the next couple of months.

August 15, 2014

Daily Life

Just the other day, a friend asked us how we would rate our time in Nicaragua, 1 being low and 10 being high.  I immediately said, “10” and Kevin responded with a “4.”  I explained that despite the difficulties of living in the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere and the reality of what this means on a day to day basis, the people here, my Nicaraguan friends, have made the last thirty months here some of the best times of my life.  Kevin shared about his difficulties with the poverty, the language, barrio life, our work, what it means to be a white male in this culture as reasons why he would rate it as he did.  He later said that he would raise it to a “6.”  Life is good here, but life is hard.  Every day takes effort.


A couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling through my facebook feed and I came across this beautiful poem.  It was written by our former co-worker Adam, who served with us in Nicaragua.  He and Marisa left a year ago and we very much miss their presence here. 

I thought that this poem gave a great glimpse of our life here in Nicaragua, while contrasting what it looks like as individuals return home.


I think of you, Nicaragua

by Adam Shank

Versión en español aquí.

I think of you, Nicaragua
from my comfortable, overstuffed La-Z-Boy,
I think of your hard plastic chairs.

In my car; A/C and leather seats,
I think of your buses, the 16, the 5, the mini ruta,
the heat, the claustrofobia, the dust billowing in through open windows.

In my two story house; guest room and office,
I think of your houses of wood and sheet metal,
one family per bedroom, an uncle sleeping on the couch.

I think of you, Nicaragua
and you feel so far away.

You feel so far away,
the distance magnified by my comfort and opulence,
your life so hard, so raw.

I think of you, Nicaragua
and you seem like another world.
And I don’t want to forget you,
but sometimes I think that your world and mine
will never meet,
and I don’t know how to live you anymore
in this place
new and old at the same time.

But I sweep my porch and my sidewalk,
and I think of you.

I sit in front of my house,
and I watch the Honduran kids playing in the street,
and I think of you.

Sometimes I leave the car in the drive,
and I walk to the store
the bags cutting my hands as I hurry home,
and I think of you.

Sometimes I buy a mango,
and I think of you,
the sweet juices dripping on my hands,
the mangoes dropping on the roof of our house in Bello Horizonte in March,
so many mangoes that they rotted on the patio.

I invite friends over to the house for a meal,
and I think of you,
and the memories come flooding in:
good friends gathered together,
belly laughs and smiles,
bread broken,
sopa de queso con rosquillas,
pata de chancho,
my house is your house,
“Open House” by Duo Guardabarranco.

I think of you, Nicaragua
of the friendship and hospitality that you taught me,
and you don’t seem so far away.

August 5, 2014

Barrio Life

We have lived in our home in Tierra Prometida for just over two years.  While we were quite uncertain when we moved in about what life in a barrio would look like for us, we are so glad that we made the decision to live here.  In Nicaragua, just like many places around the world, you find homes where you don't have to interact with your neighbor, where you have walls and gates between that separate you from one another.  But this was not our goal for living here, we wanted to know our neighbors, build friendships with them and "do life" with each other.  At times this can be difficult and wearing, but we would not trade it for anything.


Here are a few signs that you live in a barrio:

  • When your neighbors are having a disagreement, you can pretty much participate.
  • All of the houses on each side of the street share various services from electricity to cable.
  • When the water is shut off (which is generally from 8am-8pm), neighbors know that you are more than willing to share what comes from your tank.
  • While resting in a hammock, toddlers can peek through the gate and chat with you.
  • Mangoes are always shared.  When one can harvest over a hundred a day, everyone benefits.
  • Other people's animals are in and out of your house.  Since there are gates that can be crawled through as well as shared roofs, there is no way to keep others pets out.
  • It is not uncommon to have a conversation with your neighbor about large rat that just passed through both of your homes, what color and size it is and whether or not you were able to put an end to it.
  • If you need to fix something, your neighbor does it!  There are various talents in the neighborhood.  In the last week various neighbors repaired a door frame in our house, trimmed our trees Nica style and repaired a back-pack.
  • If you don't have a necessary ingredient, your neighbors are always able to help. Almost everyone sells at least something from their home, whether that be ice, tortillas or beans.
  • You pretty much attend several evangelical church services on a nightly basis.  Off-tune singing and pastor's yelling become a "background" noise of everyday life.
  • Fans are absolutely key if you don't want to wake up at 4am to your neighbor's rooster or loud music.
  • By mere association you are invited to birthday parties, baby showers, graduations, births and funerals.  There is always an event to attend.
  • Watering the shared dirt road is a neighborly duty.  It helps to pack it down and minimize dust flow (if that is even possible?) into each family's home.
  • It can be difficult to motivate oneself to cook when there are at least ten options for supper on the walk from the bus-stop to home.  It makes it even more difficult when eating out can be more economical than cooking at home.  One can easily find dinner for $1.00 or less.
  • There is always, always, always a kid to play with.