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.