*This post was reviewed and published with permission from our friends Shania and Jacqueline.
**Additional note: We are personally hoping to assist Shania and her brother in coming to Nicaragua this summer (before she heads off to college on her full-ride!) so that they can meet their extended family for the first time. If you would like to help make this dream come true, please send me an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in November, when we were in the United States on our home leave, I was contacted by a friend who asked me if I would be willing to meet with an adolescent girl, seventeen years old named Shania. Shania is interested in studying Social Work and while she was born in the United States, her parents are both from Nicaragua. I immediately said “yes,” even though I had been trying to say “no” to additional commitments on my calendar. This felt like an important thing for me to do, as I enjoy chatting about the wonderful field of Social Work and I was also excited to meet a Nicaraguan that lives in Minneapolis.
Shania and I met for coffee on Lake Street one chilly afternoon. We chatted for a couple of hours about her history, current plans and future goals. It was so refreshing for me to chat with a young woman who is engaged in the world around her and is inspired to make a difference. Shania is a special person and I am excited to see where life leads her.
Our conversation led to a follow-up date with her mom, Jacqueline at the same coffee shop on Lake Street a couple of weeks later. Kevin and I sat across the table from Jacqueline and felt so “at home” in our conversation with her. As we often experience in our relationships here in Nicaragua, Jacqueline had nothing to hide. Jacqueline shared her story with us, her childhood in Batahola Norte (which is only five minutes from our house), her journey to the United States, her experience of life in rural Minnesota and later urban life in Minneapolis. She shared the joys and challenges that she has experienced with courage, something that I am still learning how to do. It was refreshing to spend time with her and made us feel like we were back in Nicaragua, sitting on our green plastic chairs on our dirt road with our neighbor ladies. Furthermore, she gave us advice on where we could find cuajada cheese, pupusas and the most freshly baked tortillas in Minneapolis. It is good to have friends like this!
Our friendship with Shania and Jacqueline is very special to us. We have often thought about our future life and adjustment back to Minnesota and how we will maintain our connection with Nicaragua. While there are many Latinos in Minnesota, there are not a lot of Nicaraguans, so we feel very fortunate to have started to develop a friendship with these special people. We look forward to seeing Shania graduate high school, head to college and possibly practice as a Social Worker. Whatever she does, she will do it well.
We are also hopeful that Shania and her brother will be able to come to Nicaragua this summer before she starts her freshman year of college. Sadly, due to U.S. immigration practices, Shania and her brother have never met their grandmother, aunts, uncles or cousins who only live five minutes away from us. We would be overjoyed if they could hug for the first time. We would also be thrilled to show these two young people the beautiful country that they come from, the diverse groups of people, foods and customs along with the spectacular land.
Just last week, I was able to stop over at the home of Jacqueline’s mother’s, Shania’s grandmother. Because of where I was born and the papers that I have, I was able to visit her quite easily. She welcomed me with open arms, along with a hot plate of food and a lovely conversation. I was able to bring her pictures of her grandchildren, a new pair of shoes, and a souvenir from Shania’s quinceañera, along with a few other items that were sent for her and the extended family. I am hopeful that very soon Shania, her brother and Jacqueline can also greet their loving grandmother and mother on her front porch.
The story of our friendship will continue…