We headed out from Managua in the dark, around 7:30 pm on a Wednesday night. Our plans were to leave at 1:00 pm that day, but with organizing the departure of seventeen people which was all overseen by our previous host mother Maria, who is known for her tardiness, we left a bit after we had planned. The seventeen of us piled into two trucks, we were full both inside and in the back, and headed down the road. The 400 km (approximately 240 mile) drive took us across the majority of Nicaragua. One would expect that this distance would take us 3 hours, maybe 4 to stop for bathroom breaks and eating, but we arrived after 17 hours. The road just outside of Managua is in very good condition, but after only a couple of hours it deteriorates into what most would only call a cow path. We also had some issues with a tire on the truck and there were some roadblocks of concerned citizens protesting the public transportation system. We finally arrived the next day around noon.
We were greeted by Maria's extended family, her mother and father, her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. It was a beautiful reunion of people who dearly love one another, but do not get to visit very often. Her family served us a warm plate of food, including the recently cooked up "chancho" (thats Nica slang for pig) that was killed in preparation for our arrival.
The next two days were filled with quinceañera preparations. This was only our third quinceañera that we have attended in the last four years and each have been very unique and distinct. The party is a celebration of one's womanhood, of leaving one's childhood and entering the next stage of life. From what we have experienced, families invest more money and resources in their daughter's quinceañera's than they do in their weddings. For this party alone, a cow and several pigs were killed, which is a large financial sacrifice. It is a big deal for family, friends and community members.
Saturday, the day of the party, finally arrived. We headed out early in the morning to drive an hour to where the party would be held. I (Cassie) was asked to take photos, so I started taking pictures of all of the preparation and Kevin was quickly whisked into the kitchen to help. He and five other ladies prepared a delicious array of food, from pork and vegetable kabobs to steak with jalapeño sauce to chicken fried rice to beet and potato salad to plantains. Keep in mind that all of this was cooked over firewood. Over four-hundred people left very satisfied.
But first, before the eating and partying, everyone trekked up a couple of kilometers to the Mennonite Church that sat on the hill of the town. There, a service was held to honor the quinceañera, there were many songs and a message. I continued to take photos and tried to keep myself from fainting in the small church, filled with four hundred people and little to no air movement. A mariachi band performed, people could give their "palabras" or words to the quinceañera and when it was finished we all walked down the muddy hill back to her home.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with photos, food, cake, rain, mud, dancing, gifts and laughter. We spent another day recovering with family before we started off on the long-journey to Managua. Our ride back was much less delayed, we only left a half hour after we had planned, there were no vehicle problems and we arrived back to Managua in twelve hours.
These are the days that I will miss here in Nicaragua. I am so grateful that we have been welcomed in as family by so many who are very dear to us. We have been able to witness and experience such beautiful events such as this quinceañera. Life is so full!