December 28, 2015

Joy In A Bottle

Estela and I recently went to play at our nearby park which Estela likes to refer to as hers. The park was not very busy as we arrived pretty early in the afternoon and the sun was still shining bright. We played a bit on the monkey bars, moved on to the tire swing and had spent over a half hour on the teeter-totters when a group of young boys showed up to play soccer.

The group was from the neighborhood. A bunch of somewhat unkempt young boys, with dirty clothes. Estela noticed that many of them were shoeless as they walked by us on their journey to the cement soccer field. I noticed that the young ones seemed to have not brought a ball along to play. As we continued on to the swings one of them approached me and very respectfully asked me if he could have a Córdoba (which is equivalent to about 4 cents.) I dug into my pocket and pulled out my change and placed a Córdoba into his hand and received a smile and thank you. The young boy went running out of the park with the Córdoba in hand.

Estela was still swinging when the young boy came joyfully running at full speed back into the park. He was carrying a small bottle of cheap soda (Big Cola for those of you who know). My first thought was, really, I gave him the money he needed to buy a soda? Estela’s eyes widened as if to say, hey, where can I get a bottle of soda from? The boy ran onto the court and was soon joined by his group of friends. They passed the bottle around and quickly drank all of its contents which made me feel a little better about the small donation.

The game then commenced, the emptied bottle filling in as the ball. This series of events made me think about so many things about my childhood, how I hope to raise Estela and the differences between the various cultures that Cassie and I have had the opportunity to live in. I wondered if I would have ever been satisfied playing soccer with an empty pop bottle? I wondered if Estela would be able to find joy in such a thing? I think she would now as she is amazed by the smallest things, but what about in the future? I thought about the ways in which young ones here are often (due to necessity) able to find joy in the small things of life.

I have no answers to my questions now. I feel a deep sense of joy as I think about those who have less and yet seem to experience so much joy. I hope that Cassie and I can work to make that joy an evident part of our daughter’s life as we seek to instill the goodness of the little things in life and take joy in those precious moments.

December 22, 2015

A Non-Traditional Christmas Letter Shared Electronically (for that reason we kept out all those intimate details)


The first time I found myself in a warm climate for Christmas I did not feel right; we were in Florida, there were palm trees, the sun was hot, I was sweating. I probably said something to Cassie about how I never wanted to leave the frosted tundra of the north-lands as we walked on the beach in our bathing suits and sandals. This will be only our fourth Christmas in the tropics as we have taken various opportunities to go to our native lands to visit friends and family during the holidays. And yet something feels so strange as we prepare for the yuletide. The calendar does not coincide with the changing of the seasons that Cassie and I become accustomed to during our childhood. There is never a white Christmas here and whenever we hear the song "I'll be Home for Christmas" we get a little teary-eyed.

That being said, Christmas here in Nicaragua has proved to be a memorable and joyful occasion filled with all kinds of seemingly abnormal forms of celebration. We have celebrated into the morning, on two different occasions with our Nica families, waiting for the sun to rise on the 25th in memory of the Christ child. The 24th into the 25th is a time for family and we are so blessed by the ways in which we have been invited into the lives of those who we consider to be very dear to us.


This year we are thinking about the ways in which we will celebrate Christmas with Estela. We have been working through a Christmas advent litany on Sundays focused on hope, peace, joy and love which you can find here -  We are also partaking in a Christmas activity each day; learning a holiday song together and doing something Christmassy like baking cookies, drinking hot chocolate together, making snow flakes or reading A Charlie Brown Christmas as we work our way to the 25th. 

We are planning an activity for our neighborhood kids much like we have done years previously and are hoping to carol and bring cookies to our neighbors in the coming week. For those of you who may wonder, we have made star blossoms with kisses (instead of Brachs stars - so sad about that), Connie’s famous peanut butter balls which is a secret family recipe, rosemary shortbread cookies in the shape of trees, Grandmas no fail recipe of lemon bars with pomegranates on top, Suzy's red-hot wreaths and Matt's molasses mounds. If you live somewhere close we may be trudging through the dirt stones to your door in our sandals and shorts to bring you a plate of the goods.


Love you all, and Merry Christmas,

Kevin, Cassie and Estela

December 15, 2015


You remember when your mom used to serve up a deliciously tender piece of pot roast that had been either simmered in a crockpot, pressure cooked on the stove-top or slow roasted in the oven? My mother would often plan this meal on Sundays. We would return home from church with a house filled with smells of cooked meat and simmering vegetables waiting for our consumption. The tender meat required no fork and the vegetables would melt in our mouths as we enjoyed the scrumptious meal together.

In Nicaragua there is the tradition of Baho. We have never made this very work and time intensive meal ourselves, but continue to enjoy it almost on a weekly basis. Near our house there is a group of women who set up there restaurant every day. They only sell baho, nothing else. On my way to work each day I see them setting up there stand at six in the morning. Assembling there plastic tables and chairs. Putting a roof up to block the sun and the possibility of rain.

The food has already been cooking for hours at this point. Already the night before the women started preparing the baho for the next day. They begin by lining a huge aluminum pan with large banana leaves. They then fill these leaves with huge quantities of goodness. A mixture of beef, yucca, three different types of plantains in various stages of maturity, onions, tomatoes and peppers. They then begin to cook the baho over a fire about 12 hours before it will be served. It seems like somewhat of a vicious cycle to me.

                                                                                                            We love the dish, it makes both of us salivate. Estela also seems to enjoy it as well as she will eat a whole serving of this scrumptious plate all by her little self. 

December 10, 2015

So Long, Farewell

In July of 2012 Cassie and I moved to our current location in Tierra Prometida. We made our home a home, filled with Cassie’s beautiful décor and lots of work on the inside of the house as we sought to enjoy our living space and make somewhat of a place of respite here in Managua. We have often written about our house, about our neighborhood and those who we have been doing life with here in Nicaragua because our location has seemed like a perfect fit. Not only have we enjoyed to call this house our home, but we have relished getting to know those who live here in our neighborhood.

Unfortunately, we are being asked to leave our home this month. The owner’s ex-wife has moved back from Spain and wants to live in the home again. For this reason we are moving. We are saddened by this news, but are also thankful that she is allowing us to stay a few days longer than the end of our rental agreement which ends on Christmas day.

                                                    We are also thankful that we have been able to find another place to live in a neighborhood that is close to Tierra Prometida. Before finding our home in Tierra Prometida we spent a few months living with host families, a month a part from one another living in Estelí and La Concha and a few months living in the MCC office. During our host family stays we called Barrio 3-80 home for three months. While there we lived with our host “mom” Grethel, a mother of three who happened to be younger than us. We have continued to grow this relationship and consider her and her entire extended family dear friends.

                                                    It just so happens that in 3-80 there is a house for rent right next door to our Grethel and family. We met with the owner’s soon after finding out that we would have to vacate our house and have now signed a rental agreement for this new property. We are saddened, but also looking forward to the change that will soon be coming to our lives. We are in the midst of planning a Christmas celebration for the neighborhood kids (pictures to come)and are spending lots of time with neighbors as they express their sadness that we will soon be leaving the neighborhood.

The people is what we will most miss – Diego who we always buy our hot cooked beans from, Marta who sells us fresh fish every Sunday, Lela who we purchase our produce from, Marcos whom we buy our cheese from, Esmeralda who sells us tortillas, our Sunday night fritanga vender Maria, the jovencito who is always willing to repair our suitcases, but most of all, all of the children, Genesis, Solkey, Daniel, Elmer, Nielson, Sarai, Derrick, Natalia, Freddy Jr., Xilone, Casey, the kids who greet us with hugs and smiles each and everyday.

We love you Tierra Prometida!