We have just finished up our third year in the lovely country of Nicaragua and are currently in the States on our home leave. This is a two-month time for rest and connection that MCC provides to workers after they have served for three years.
Things we love:
- Our Nicaraguan friends and family - We have created many more memories with our friends in Nicaragua and look forward to another year to do life with them.
- Nicaraguan food - Even though a lot of the food is fried, we love it. There are very few meals that we do not enjoy. We are already worried about how we will find this amazing fritanga and comedor food once we move back to the United States.
- Access to fresh fruits and vegetables - We are absolutely head over heals with the fruits and vegetables that we have access to. We enjoy them in all forms, from eating them whole to juicing.
- Our work - This year has been a fruitful year for us. Cassie has continued to lead workshops on the culture of peace and conflict transformation throughout Nicaragua and our seminary classes have led to deep relationships and (we hope) beneficial changes for our students, their families and their communities.
- The land – This past year, we have had the opportunity to visit more places in Nicaragua. Each time we go somewhere new, we are overwhelmed by the beauty, culture and people that fill each place.
- Year-Round gardening – Our little urban garden on our front patio continues to flourish. It is a joy each and everyday to see and smell our growing flowers, and to get creative in the kitchen with our basil and mint plants as well as other herbs.
- Year-Round summer - We already talked about our love for fresh avocados, mangos, pineapples and coconut year-round, but Cassie more so than Kevin is thrilled with the fact that summer is never ending. We swim laps in an outdoor pool year round, have gorgeous palm trees swaying back and forth in December and never have to bring along a long-sleeve shirt when leaving our home. Yet for some reason, Cassie still has the desire to move back to SnowSota someday.
- Public transportation - Each and everyday we are grateful for the wonderful public transportation. Whether we need to get across Managua, head an hour or two out of town, cross the country or head north or south to another Latin American country, the bus systems are super reliable, almost as fast as a private vehicle and very economical. We love the fact that we don't have to sit in traffic or get frustrated with other drivers, we just get to relax, talk to our neighbor or read a book. There are downsides - the heat, crowded busses and sometimes having to stand.
Things we find difficult:
- Economic poverty - We are surrounded by the difficulties of poverty each and everyday. From the conversations that we have with our neighbors and coworkers, to the sights and sounds of the street, we are a witness to the daily struggles that our brothers and sisters have each and everyday.
- Knowing how to respond - It is difficult to know how to respond to the needs of those around us. We ask for your support and thoughts about how to best act in ways that empower and do not create dependence for those that we interact with and also those that we meet on the streets and buses each and everyday.
- Spanish – Language acquisition is difficult. We continue to study, to meet with a tutor and to struggle with the Spanish language. Each and everyday we learn something new, we say something completely inappropriate and wish that this was easier.
- Being white – Our skin color makes us stick out here in Nicaragua. We are easily noticed as we do daily life here. The struggle for us comes in the fact that so much privilege and position is given to us because of our skin color. We are asked to speak, given seats when no one else has them and are always finding ourselves in a constant place of not wanting to seem rude and not appreciative for what people do for us, but also not wanting to be in a position of privilege because of our whiteness. On the downside, we have had frequent issues with theft and mugging.
- Violence against children and women – It is difficult to live among and witness violence against women and children.
- The heat and weather in general (more for Kevin than Cassie) - It is constantly humid, my (Kevin) shirts are usually wet with sweat before I even am out of our neighborhood each day. The sun is often unbearable and the conditions are almost always the same day in and day out. We look forward to the day in which we will experience fall colors again and the changing of the seasons.
- Cats - We still have Brisa who we love for her cuddles and her willingness to catch the pests and rats in and around our home. However, we are not so fond of the friends she has been making and the welcome mat that she has rolled out for the neighborhood strays.
- Earthquakes - We both experienced our first earthquake this year and we have both decided that we are not fans of the earth moving below us and the walls swaying beside us. We spent plenty of nights sleeping outside with our neighbors during the month of April as the earth continued to move for almost 3 weeks!
Things we have learned:
- Time - Throughout our time here we have gotten pretty used to and accustomed to the ways in which time functions differently in the Latin world. However, our boss at the Seminary is Cuban and we have learned from our interactions with her that Cubans are the most relaxed when it comes to punctuality.
- Gardening - We have the opportunity to grow food all year long. However, this opportunity has also produced a learning curve of what grows well during the different times of the year and how to care for plants during those times.
- Peace as a process and not an event - There is no switch to turn on or button to push in order to make a difficult situation peaceful. Peace takes work, it takes dedication and it takes people who are committed to the process.
- Difficult subjects are hard to talk about, but the conversations are worth it - This year we introduced new themes into our culture of peace classes at the seminary. The Dean was worried, the board of directors was concerned, but everyone agreed that the subjects were relevant. In the end, we had many fruitful conversations with students and staff at the seminary and are looking forward to the ways in which we can improve our presentation of these topics next year.
- We are learning all sorts of new hobbies – From photoshop to painting to plumbing and rewiring.
Things we do automatically:
- Our TUC card - Things have changed in Managua in regards to its bussing. Now whenever you want to get on one of the many buses in Managua you need to pay with your TUC card. Thus, we do not leave home without it!
- Water - We are still drinking lots of water. From the time we get up to the time we go to bed and throughout the night, we find ourselves hydrating.
- Saying hi to everyone in the room when we enter offering handshakes, hugs and giving/receiving besos.
- Saying goodbye to everyone in the room when we leave offering handshakes, hugs and giving/receiving besos.
- Writing down all of our purchases in order to create a record of ALL of our expenditures for MCC.
- Throw our dirty toilet paper into the trash. This is automatic and hard to remember as we are back in the States.
Things we are looking forward to:
- Deepening the friendships that we have with those around us
- The arrival of one, maybe two children through the blessing of adoption
- A home leave this November and December to see all of you, enjoy some different foods and a change in climate
- Another year of Spanish acquisition means that our work and relationships will be that much easier
- Continued work in Peacebuilding
How do you measure a year in the life:
- in gallo pinto: 300 (the fried rice and bean mixture is still good, but we are starting to mix things up a bit)
- in bus rides around Managua: 2,190 (approx. On average we each take day 3 busses a day, each bus ride costs us 12 cents)
- in bars of chocolate received from home: at least 25 (each and every one was greatly enjoyed)
- in pounds of coffee: 28 (it is delicious and always freshly roasted)
- in animals killed: no longer measurable (Brisa continues to kill anything that moves - this seems to be her favorite activity)
- in floors cleaned: more than 365 (at least once a day we sweep our floors, both inside and out—yes we sweep our lawn—and we are sure to mop at least three times a week)
- in Cokes drank: 52 (every week, Kevin takes pleasure in a Coca-Cola, an exquisite treat here in Latin American simply because it is still made with sugar instead of corn syrup)
- in papers graded: 597 (every week our students have an assignment to complete along with various projects and papers that are due throughout the course of the class)
- in foreign visitors we’ve had: 13 (we always enjoy your visits!)
- in books: 48 (for Cassie) and 29 (for Kevin): (up from last year)
- in tears: just a few (we miss friends and family back home and some days life is just plain hard here)
- in smiles: many (life here is hard, but good. we love the relationships that we have built and look forward to this next year)
Thanks for your support throughout this year. We hope that you have enjoyed our blog updates and that they give you a glimpse of life here, the work that we are doing and more importantly what God is doing.