Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home stay with mi familia nicaragüense

I currently live with a family in Cedro Galán, the community where Manna Project runs most of its programs. As a (new) part of Manna Project, year-long Program Directors get to live with a family in Cedro for 2 weeks- an opportunity that I’ve been excited for since I got here. My family in Cedro includes my mom (Racquel), my dad (Marcos) and three little sisters (14-year-old Gregoria, 12-year-old Anielka and 4-year old Yuvi- pronounced “you-bee”). I call Yuvi, the little one, my conejito (bunny rabbit) because she’s always wearing pig-tails. Marcos and Racquel are currently out of work; finding steady jobs in Nicaragua is extremely difficult. Our three-roomed house is made of concrete, we cook over an open fire in the cocina (a separate shelter built out of scrap metal), we shower in an outdoor four-walled enclosure using a bucket (hello, Kenya?) and wash dishes in the outdoor concrete sink. Our home is shaded by mango trees, banana trees, and coconut trees. Racquel often cooks gallo pinto (traditional Nicaraguan dish of beans and rice) in the kitchen while Yuvi runs around chasing chickens in the yard. Their spry, tiny 95-year-old abuela (grandmother) lives next door in a metal shack and comes over every morning to greet the family and ask how the night went. The first time I met Abuelita (which she insists I call her), she asked how old I was. I told her “22-years old.” She smiled, patted my hand and replied “la flor de la vida” which means, “the flower of life.”

Living in the community is just where I want to be. One of the many perks of living with a family is that my Spanish is improving rapidly thanks to hours and hours of conversation every day. Just last night, Racquel, Marcos and I sat outside under the stars for 3 hours chatting about everything from religion to funny stories about past gringos in Cedro. I love it. The past week, I’ve been to a quinceaños (the birthday party of a 15-year old girl, where the quinciñera “comes into womanhood”), two Nicaraguan church services (think candles, guitars and singing), a 200 person casamiento (wedding), I’ve learned how to make tortillas over an open fire and have had my hair styled by my 14-year-old sister every day.

I’m slowly realizing that living in and experiencing new cultures is my thing. I can’t seem to get enough of it. Soooo, I’ve decided to stay here in Nica for Christmas. I’m going to live with a family in Cedro Galán over Christmas break for another 2-3 weeks (with some traveling to Corn Islands and Ometepe Island on the side) while the other Manna members go home to the US. It’s going to be strange to be the only gringo in Cedro Galán for a while but to be honest, I can’t wait! I’ll take as much Nicaragua as I can get ☺.

Photos of the past week

Quinceaños Photos:

Quinciñera (Carol, one of the girls on the soccer team I coach) dancing with her dad

Catholic quinceaños service

Homestay with my Nica family:

Gregoria, Anielka, Yuvi, Marcos and Racquel (my family). Yuvi's dressed up to be a flower girl

Our living room, connected to 2 bedrooms. Racquel and Marcos moved out of the master bedroom so I could have my own room. The five of them now share one room... (they wouldn't have it any other way)

My 14-year-old sister took a picture of me in my (huge) room one morning

Yuvi, mi conejito, coloring with some markers I brought

Our kitchen sink

El casamiento (wedding) photos:

Gregoria did my hair for the wedding :)

walking into the church

All the little jardineras (flower girls)

Racquel, Yuvi, Gregoria, Elisa (their cousin) and I at the reception

Bride and groom with the ring bearers

Alison, the ring bearer, at the reception. Her dress was bigger than she was!

Yuvi and I

Monday, November 20, 2006

Katy Update

For those of you who are curious, Katy (the little girl at the Dump with the horrible rash on her face) is now doing much better! The pediatrician who's part of our Child Sponsorship Program gave Katy medication and after a week of treatment, we went back to the Dump to visit her. Her face is all better and Katy was all smiles again, this time minus the rash. It was incredible to see such a quick and tangible improvement in her health. Katy's case is physical evidence of the effectiveness of our Sponsorship program- and the look on her face when she recognized us at the Dump would have brought tears to anyone's eyes!

(Katy, with her mom, after 1 week on medication-compare this picture of her to the photo below)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ode to the Hammock

A simple haiku in honor of our beloved hammocks~

Swaying Back and Forth
Best Place to Watch the Sunset
Waffle Butt, Bummer.

by: Adam and Abbie

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A day in the life

Step by step, what I did today in Nicaragua.

(1) 8:00 am, I wake up to our rooster crowing in the back yard. The breeze from the ceiling fan in my room (a necessity for the hot Nicaraguan nights) mixes with the fresh morning air blowing in from my open window. At the Manna house we have eleven chickens, one rooster and ten recent college graduates caring for them. Our chicken coop is somewhat of a mess amd completely “trial and error." Oh well, we’re learning. If only we could get our confused rooster to stop crowing at 1:30 am...(We’re raising the chickens with the intention of one day donating them to families in Cedro Galán.)

(2) 8:10 am, Make coffee. Sit on our roof-top deck that overlooks our pool and palm-tree covered street and listen to the tropical birds while drinking Nicaraguan-grown, organic coffee.

view from our roof

(3) 8:30 am, Go on a jog in our hilly, green, bougainvillea-covered neighborhood. There’s this incredible path up our cobble-stone street that eventually turns into a dirt road, winding and twisting up a hill through the shade of banana trees. At the top of the hill there’s a great view of Lake Managua.

in our neighborhood

trail where I jog

(4) 9:30 am, come home, make breakfast in our all-too American kitchen and take a shower. (The shower, by the way, is one of my favorite parts of the Manna house. It’s huge, has a high window that overlooks palm trees in our yard and is tiled in a bright, Latin, blue and white mosaic pattern. The water is cold- we don’t have hot water in the house- but it’s refreshing and a welcome retreat from the hot Nicaraguan air).

(5) 10 am, drive to La Chureca (see below) with Dan, Hilary, Scott and Adam. We spend about four hours at La Chureca, walking around, visiting families and playing with children who are in our Child Sponsorship Program. Entering La Chureca (we refer to it as “The Dump”) the pungent, slightly acidic smell of burning trash fills my lungs. Kids, barefoot in the piles of waste, chase after our van, giggling and squealing as we drive by. We park our van at the La Chureca clinic. I go inside to see my favorite nurse, Esmerelda (we call her “Esmo”). After a quick kiss on the cheek, I ask her about Moises, a little boy we took to the pediatrician a week ago. Esmo says he’s doing much better after taking anti-parasite medication.

(6) 10:30 am, we’re walking around the dump and I see a little girl and boy collecting trash for their family. The girl is wearing a white lace dress with tiny red roses on the collar and a pink hat. What a site: collecting trash at the Managua City Dump in the scorching heat, wearing this adorable lace dress. Part of me wanted to cry, the other part smiled because at the age of 7, I would have worn the same exact thing (dresses, always- no matter what the occasion). I recognize a kindred spirit in this tiny 7-year-old girl, who’s wearing lace while collecting trash at the City Dump.

collecting trash in her white, lace dress

(7) 10:40 am, I go to see my friend Louisa and her family. Louisa is 10-years-old and lives in a metal shack with eight other people. Today their home is full of trash; trash the father has collected the past week and is waiting to sell… he’ll make about $10 for an entire week’s worth of work. Bags full of metal, glass and plastic bottles surround me. It smells like rotting banana peels. I see Louisa’s aunt sitting in a lime-green hammock, rocking her beautiful 1-year-old baby girl. She greets me with a kiss on the cheek. Her big, brown eyes stare into mine. She’s worried about something. “Louisa está enferma.” Glancing over to the metal shack, I see Louisa in a shady corner. Her left foot is propped up on a plastic chair. José, the adorable 3-year-old brother, jumps out of nowhere, giggling, and hugs my leg. I scoop him up and walk over to Louisa, “Que pasó chiquita? What happened?” Louisa points to her foot; it’s swollen and infected, about three times its normal size. She explains to me that she fell and scraped the top of her foot on a piece of metal trash. White pus oozes out of the large gash, coating red, raw, infected-looking skin. “You need to go to the doctor,” I say, “Have you been to the clinic yet?” She shakes her head no. The gash on her foot oozes. José (a little chatter box) is still in my arms, playing with my hair. I suggest she go to the clinic today and Louisa’s mom agrees to take her. Before I leave, I get a cloth to clean the little pieces of dirt out of the infected wound using soap and water. I couldn’t help myself.

Louisa's mother with her baby in the green hammock

Louisa (second from right), José (second from left) and their two little sisters

(8) 1 pm, we leave the dump. Drive 30 minutes home. Once at home, I wash my face with apricot face soap and almost cry (1) because it smells so good (2) because of my incredible appreciation for this small luxury and (3) because I’m able to wash The Dump off of my face so easily- physically, the smell of rotting food and burning trash swirls down the sink, disappears. Mentally, The Dump always lingers- the memories, the smells, the people, and the disparities…

(9) 1:15 pm, eat a typical lunch (beans, rice with peas and corn, and pico de gallo) and spend two hours working on Manna Programming stuff (prepare for spring break groups, coordinate a US Medical team to volunteer in Managua, create a flier for our Child Sponsorship Program, etc.)

getting some work done

(10) 3:40 pm, walk 30 minutes into the Cedro Galán community where Manna Project has most of its programs. Almost attacked by three “yippie” little dogs. I go to my friend, Sandra’s house. She’s 21, has a little 2-year-old boy and is starting our beginner’s English class. We sit in rocking chairs on her bright-blue porch, which is surrounded by palm trees, purple flowers and banana trees. I chat with Sandra and three of her aunts for a good two hours; we cover everything from the elections, to their kids, to Colorado (they’ve never seen snow!).

(11) 6:00 pm, walk home, eat dinner (taquitos! mmm). Play with our dog, Sydney and laugh at pictures of Neil taken on our most recent weekend camping trip to the beach for his “Man of Manna” shot. We’re making a (hilarious) calendar of all the Manna Men as a fundraiser.

our dog, Sydney.

playing with our "pet" bird after dinner

(12) 7:00 pm, we all drive to Cedro Galán to teach our beginner’s English class (about 25 students).

(13) 9:00 pm, come home, check email, finish up lesson plans for the next day (literacy class and music class), listen to Scott play the guitar and relax.

Scott after falling asleep with his guitar

(14) 11:00 pm, off to sleep. Chris sings me a lullabye before bed (just kidding).

The entire Manna crew, posing sweetly.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Earring Magic

This is Katy. She’s four years old and lives in La Chureca (see below for description). Katy is one of 40 children in our Child Sponsorship Program, which means she receives monthly supplies of nutrient-rich formula, oatmeal, multi-vitamins and unlimited pediatrician visits. Hilary and I went to La Chureca last week to take her to the local pediatrician. She needed to see a doctor about the severe rash on her little face.

When we got to La Chureca, Katy and her mom were patiently waiting for us at the clinic. Katy gave Hilary and I big hugs and eagerly told us “it’s my birthday!” Katy has this SMILE that is so huge it literally takes up half her face. When Hilary and I gave Katy her birthday card and present, Katy let out this incredible giggle- her adorable dimples and sparkling eyes lit up her entire face.

The present: the awesome troll earrings she’s wearing in the picture. Hot pink, florescent blue hair on naked trolls – basically, too good to be true. I swear, the second she put on those earrings, her confidence factor went up 100%. Katy was struttin’ her stuff, holding her head high to show off her new jewelry. Hil and I laughed as she transformed into “Miss Thang,” laughing and proud, right in front of our eyes.

Those troll earrings, however frightening they may be, were magic. They allowed Katy to forget about the painful sores on her face for a few minutes; sores that are actually caused by a bacteria, made possible by malnutrition and mal-hygiene that comes with living in the City Dump. It was amazing, for a few minutes, Katy wasn’t thinking of the red, pussy bumps on her face; she was given a moment to just be a goofy 4-year-old who’s excited about her new birthday present.