May 22, 2015

Megaphone and Great Love














We were standing at the bus stop in the front of our neighborhood, trying to flag down a microbus heading to Jinotepe, when suddenly a city bus pulled up and stopped in front of us.  A white man, presumably from the United States, holding a megaphone slid down his window and started to shout at us.  Simultaneously his megaphone had a man screaming (a recording in Spanish) about the love of Jesus, that if those on the bus did not repent from their sin, they would go to hell.  Nobody was paying attention.

He shouted at Kevin and I in English for half a minute about how bad and sinful we were, until I decided to respond to him.  With respect, I said, "Sir, I don't think that this is the most effective way to share the love of Jesus."  He quickly and angrily responded, "Yes it is!  Read the Bible!"  And then the bus drove away.

I have always sought to affirm that each person has the right to express and share their faith as they would like and that there are different ways for doing this.  We have all been given different gifts and talents to use and in doing so share the love of God as we have come to understand it.  But at the same time it is hard for me to see this as an effective way to share about the love of Jesus.  It is confusing, it doesn't seem useful.

And this is our daily experience in Managua.  Each day we are guaranteed to run into someone preaching on a bus, at the market or local comedor.  Each night we can sit out on our patio and hear three preachers in three different churches, all on the same block straining to the be the loudest and fighting to have the strongest message.  Everyone has heard the "good news," unfortunately it is rarely presented as "good."

People need someone to listen to them, to listen to their stories, to their dreams, hopes and fears.  Yelling and shouting does not accomplish this.  People need a glass of water, a meal, a place to sleep.  Yelling and shouting does not accomplish this.  People need friendships, someone to walk alongside them.  Yelling and shouting does not accomplish this.  People need jobs, they need new skills.  Yelling and shouting does not accomplish this.  People need the love of Jesus.  Yelling and shouting does not accomplish this.

Friends, let's rethink the way that we share this great love.

On a related note, check out this video called Bullhorn by Rob Bell.  It is very related:

May 13, 2015

Staying in Shape in Nicaragua

I (Cassie) wanted to write a follow-up to a post that we wrote when we first arrived in Nicaragua.  Part of our transition was and continues to be how we were going to stay physically healthy.  This included finding healthy foods, which has not been hard due to the fact that we have incredible access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  It also included finding a way to get some exercise. 

For the past ten years I have enjoyed a regular daily workout.  Whether this meant a workout at the gym, a spin class, running outside in the cold MN winters or going to Curves (yes, I still believe that those were the best workouts of my life), exercising has been important for my emotional, mental and physical health.

I was a bit unsure as to how I would find a good balance in Nicaragua.  I brought down some P90X and Jillian Michael’s videos, but I knew that I could only jump in front of a computer screen for so long.  When we arrived, we looked around and purchased a yoga mat and some weights.  And we started to ask people, what do you do?  Some of our friends don't exercise, others told us about expensive gyms ($70 a month), one friend took us to the local military pool and we received mixed reviews from others on whether or not it was safe to run outside.

So where are we at now after three and a half years? 

About two years ago we decided to buy an elliptical machine with some Christmas money that we were given.  Looking back, it was a great decision.  We will be able to resell it when we move and should get about half of what we paid.  I use it on a regular basis, about three days a week and enjoy getting in a good workout each morning.  I usually combine my elliptical workout with a short video from Blogilates (amazing app for 99 cents a month) or part of a P90X or Jillian Michael’s video.

I also go to the military pool once a week.  I get to share a swim lane with members of the Nicaraguan Army, which is always interesting, but for $1.25, it can't be beat.  The pool is super clean and well-maintained.  It never ceases to amaze me that I can swim outdoors year-round and that each each day I am guaranteed to swim with a bright and faithful sun overhead.  At first, I am usually a bit apprehensive to jump in, because the water is only 70 degrees, but then I remind myself that this is much better than a Minnesota lake.  How am I ever going to be able to jump in one of those again?

Since the beginning of the year, I have started to go to a Latin dance class with my co-workers on Thursday nights.  It is a forty-five minute class, I laugh the whole time at how terrible I am, but it is a a great workout.  I look forward to going each week.

I still try to run outside one day a week.  This is something that I really miss from life back home and I wish that I felt comfortable doing it more.  Last year I had a difficult incident occur while running and while I am gaining the confidence to be out on the road again, I much prefer to run with a second person.  Another challenge is that I am not a morning person and if you want to run in Managua, you should be out on the streets around 5 am before the sun starts to shine fiercely (Kevin usually leaves our house a little after 4:30 for his daily run.)

Lastly, I always take a day or two off and swing in my hammock instead.  It is good to rest!

So while it has been challenging to develop an exercise routine here, I feel like I have found a good balance.  I wouldn't suggest that I am in the best shape I have ever been, but I am trying to be active and move a bit each day.  I am grateful for the variety of activities that I have access to and look forward to the challenge each day.

May 6, 2015

Podcast Boom

As most likely know by now, there has been a podcast boom.  I (Cassie) love listening to a good podcast.  I listen all throughout the day, while I cook, while I ride the bus, while I clean and craft and exercise.  I thought that I would share with you my top ten podcasts in case you might be looking for something new and interesting to subscribe or listen to.  I hope that you enjoy my list.

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  1. On Being - On Being – Formerly known as Speaking of Faith, with Krista Tippett, explores questions of meaning and faith.  She interviews scientists, theologians, artists and teachers with thought provoking questions that discover the immensity of our lives.
  2. Coffee Break Spanish – This is an excellent way to learn Spanish. Whether you are a beginner or quite experienced, you will build your confidence and knowledge with this podcast.
  3. Radio Ambulante – This has been a favorite of mine for the last couple of years. It tells uniquely Latin American stories and broadcasts in both English and Spanish. I never miss an episode and have used many of these podcasts in our classes.
  4. Latino USA – A radio journal of news and culture. It is the only national, English-language radio program produced from a Latino perspective. Every podcast captures my attention and I always look forward to the next one.  The producer, Maria Hinojosa, is an amazing journalist and writer. 
  5. This American Life - After many years of listening, Ira Glass seems like a close friend.  Each week, This American Life shares three to four acts or stories that are each somehow related.  I never miss this one.
  6. Social Work Podcast – For all of my Social Work colleagues and friends, or anyone else who is interested in the field, this is an excellent resource. It highlights various themes pertaining to the Social Work field, including direct practice, clinical work, community organizing, research, policy and education.
  7. On the Media – This weekly podcast is all about the media and how it is made. Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield provide wonderful media criticism and analysis.
  8. The Longest Shortest Time – Each week, this podcast shares about all things parenting. Feeding, sleep, childbirth, health, loss, whatever the theme it is always eye-opening and makes me wonder if we are really ready for kids.
  9. Serial - This 2014 phenomenon which explored the real life story of Adnan Syed, a teenager who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend.  It sounds like Adnan’s story will continue on another podcast and it is said that a new serial story will be released soon.
  10. Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates – I have found this newer podcast to be quite an interesting listen.  Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates bring Oxford-style debate to the United States – one motion, one moderator, two panelists for the motion and two against.  From clean energy, the financial crisis, to the Middle East and the death of mainstream media, this podcast brings together the world’s leading authorities on the day’s most important issues.

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Let me know if you have any additional recommendations.  I am always looking for new podcasts to listen to!

May 1, 2015

Life Lately

We have had a wonderful March and April and thought we would share some glimpses as it happened here in Nicaragua!


While I (Cassie) was heading to La Dalia to accompany a medical group for a week, my friend Ariane showed me the top place to buy watermelons in Nicaragua.  Just imagine fields full of watermelon for sale.  I ended up buying ten because they were about 30 cents a piece and absolutely delicious. I will forever be thankful for the experience of having been able to buy locally grown watermelon year-round.


Aleesia recently spent the night at our place.  We headed to a new park the following day and she loved it.  Both of us were mesmerized by the new three story high jungle gym!


Here is achiote, a commonly used spice in Nicaragua.  I have been told that the equivalent is paprika, but am not certain of this.  I saw this tree on a work trip up north and was able to pick a few and bring them back home with me.  We are currently drying them out and are hoping to use them in our cooking soon.


Remember David?  He was our first Nicaraguan friend and MCC co-worker.  Last year, he transitioned to a new position at another local NGO.  We miss his presence at work, but continue to enjoy his friendship.


This is a boring picture of our broom and dustpan, but a great representation of our day-to-day life here.  Maintaining a home here, especially on a dirt road, could be a full-time job.  We are constantly wiping off our counters, dusting, sweeping and mopping.  Finally the other day I asked for help.  My neighbor lady and I worked on wiping down the exterior of our house, getting the dust out of the iron gates over the windows and doors.  After a full-day of work, we were done.  I should do this every month.  It is one tough thing about life in Managua.


Brisa is still alive and well.  She is a sweet kitty, but also has a ferocious side.  We recently had to bring brownies to our neighbors to apologize for the loss of their chickens.  She is now locked inside at night.


We have been enjoying time on our patio during the hot season, it has been over 100 degrees every day for the last month.  The shade provided by our avocado tree is lovely.


Here is a recent picture of our street.  The road, a couple of blocks down from us was recently paved and we are hoping that our road will be next.  It will help with the above mentioned issue of dust.


Miss Ceanna absolutely melts my heart!  I have enjoyed our recent skype dates, seeing her walk and smile.  It helps a bit with the distance.  I cannot wait to celebrate her first birthday with her in May!

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I have been thrilled to “meet” Maya Song and James Hudson via skype.  In May, I look forward to meeting these two babies in person.  Their mommies are very special friends to me and I am so proud of how they are doing in the transition of motherhood.


We recently had MCC team meetings up in Matagalpa.  We enjoyed our time together and look forward to working with these talented individuals in our last year with MCC.


Our meetings included a day visit to AMC’s projects in La Dalia and El Tuma.  I was proud to show my MCC co-workers the wonderful work that AMC is doing in providing access to land ownership along with sustainable agriculture.  Here is a lovely harvest of carrots.  We even got to eat one!


Last Friday night, we headed to a baseball game with our newlywed friends, Bethany and Esteban.  The Managua Boers won against the Costa Caribe and we were reminded how great it is to go out to the ballgame.


We have four weeks left in this semester.  Our Culture of Peace class is going well, the students are very engaged and dedicated to the materials.  They are very participative in the classroom and desire to learn how they can do better promote peace in their communities.

That is a snapshot of our life here.  We hope that all is well is your neck of the woods.

To read other Life Lately posts, check out: November 2014, August 2014, June 2014, March 2014, December 2013, July 2013, November 2012, July 2012