Archive for August 2010

And Your Lasts Shall Become Firsts…

August 30, 2010

As we counted down the days until our departure for Nicaragua, Marisa and I were also counting the “last times” we would get to do certain things in Harrisonburg.  Thinking about these “last times” was part of the grieving process of saying goodbye to the many familiar activities and people we would miss over the next 3 years.  However, after 5 days of being in Nicaragua, we are excited to report many of the new “firsts” we’ve experienced already (both good and bad).

Our First…

  • Sight of the lights of our new city from the plane window as we landed
  • Window washer trying to earn a living as we’re stopped at a stoplight
  • Night in a new bed, sweating ourselves to sleep, as we listen to the voices of our new neighbors
  • Plate of gallo pinto, Nicaraguan rice and beans, for breakfast

  • Bus ride through the busy streets of Managua
  • Realization of just how hot it is here, even in the rainy season
  • Meeting at Casa Ben Linder learning about the 1980 literacy campaign

  • Walk down the hot streets with an ice cream in hand, trying to eat it before it melts
  • Brush with robbers 😦 –  hence the pictures of Managua are from the internet
  • Air conditioned tren cultural an exhibition at the University also about the 1980 literacy campaign
  • Fiesta de bienvenida and tasty carne azada
  • Cold shower before bed and first thing in the morning
  • Stay at a Nicaraguan hotel with all of the MCC Nicaraguan partners

  • Encounters with our organizations and their work
  • Dip in the pool at night in the rain with Nicaraguan Mennonite pastors
  • Sounds of rain on the tin roof
  • Trip to Galerías, the fancy mall, for dinner

  • Day off!
  • Walk to Supermercado La Unión by ourselves!

  • Purchase with Nicaraguan currency – córdobas
  • Friends!  Thanks to Angela, Elizabeth Alan and Simoncito, Seth and Sarah, Beth, Laura, David, Yolanda, Sarah, Christa, Sandy,Martha, Marilu, Reina, Maria and all the others who have made us feel loved and welcomed in our first few days in a foreign land, in our new home.


August 20, 2010

As the days quickly pass, and our departure to Managua draws closer, the question that is most often asked of Marisa and me is a simple but important one, “So, how are you guys feeling?” .  It’s important to occasionally stop and take stock of our emotional state, especially in times of big transitions, and if I truly reflect on the simple question of “How ya feeling?” I realize the answer is anything but simple.

On August 25, 2010, less than a week from now, Marisa and I will board our TACA flight and, if all goes according to plan, will land in Managua that same evening to “officially” start our 3 year MCC term.  This transition will mark the beginning of a new stage in our lives, moving from the very familiar Harrisonburg, VA to the completely unfamiliar (besides the pictures we’ve seen, stories we’ve heard, and books we’ve read) Managua, Nicaragua.

So, how am I feeling?  The thoughts and emotions that have been flittering across my brain and occasionally washing over my body as I think about stepping on to Nicaraguan soil next week are decidedly mixed.  I certainly feel an overwhelming sense of excitement imagining the friendly people that we’ll get to meet, people who may very well become our new closest friends and support group.  My mind thrills trying to anticipate all the new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes we’ll encounter in a new culture and a new city.  I’m excited to be surrounded by Spanish again.  Excited to feel the joy of communicating in my second language, to feel the satisfaction of understanding and being understood in a language that is not yet, but quickly becoming “my own”.

However, the waves of excitement and exhilaration I feel when anticipating our new surroundings and experiences in Nicaragua come with an undercurrent of caution and even a sense of foreboding-that familiar slight tightening of the chest and fluttering of the stomach that signifies nervousness, uncertainty, and worry.  The experience of meeting new people is intimidating, especially for someone who tends toward the introverted end of the spectrum.  There’s the uncertainty of how I’ll come across in our many “first impression” experiences, especially when I’m uncertain of some of the cultural cues and customs.  I’m sure I’ll feel that heavy sense of foreboding the pit of my stomach as I am introduced to Managua, a city of millions, and inspiration for U2’s hit song “Where the streets have no name”.  All the new sights, sounds, tastes, and smells can be rich and exhilarating but also foreign and bewildering at the same time.

Then there’s the Spanish.  I know the adjustment to Spanish immersion will not only joyous and satisfying.  It won’t be like my former job where I confidently rattle off a few sentences in Spanish to a new parent and then switch over to English to explain the response to a teacher.  All Spanish all the time will sometimes be frustrating, sometimes embarrassing, and many times exhausting by the end of the day.

So how am I feeling?  I can truthfully say that I’m feeling good.  It’s a good feeling, living in great anticipation, trying to balance the excitement and the apprehension, but above all trying to find the patience to live in the moment and soak in these last few days with my beloved family and friends here in Harrisonburg before setting out to create new paths and beginning a very new stage in life’s journey.

Biblioburro (Library Donkey)

August 20, 2010

This is a wonderful video of a man in Colombia who is using a donkey to get books out to kids in rural areas. Inspiring!

Reading in Nicaragua

August 5, 2010

It’s hard to imagine what my job will be like when I get down to Nicaragua. I have a job description, but since it’s a new project there’s a lot thats unknown. What I do know is that there will be challenges that I’ve never thought of, plus solutions that I could have never dreamed possible.

I have a lot to learn about the education system in Nicaragua. I’ve learned a lot about the education system in the U.S. and how closely tied it is to politics, and of course this is how it also is in Nicaragua. There is an interesting article in English on the online magazine, Envío, that touches on the challenges of the education system in Nicaragua – much of which is tied to politics and culture. The part that really struck me as it relates to what I’ll be doing down there was this quote commenting on how to improve the quality of education:

Quality means learning to read, but not only to recognize letters and put them together. Reading is more than that: it’s understanding what we read, inferring the subtext, interpreting, drawing conclusions… We need to form reading students. It’s not enough to know how to read; you have to keep on reading in order to keep on learning, to educate yourself, to experience the pleasure of reading. Reading must be at the center of what education is about. Reading as a tool for growing, dreaming, transforming ourselves, transforming reality, or as Paulo Freire said, being able to decide on their “own word.”

Beth, a fellow MCC’er in Mangua right now has a blog post where she summarizes the above article and shares what MCC partner organizations are doing in response to these challenges.

We are starting to collect books in SPANISH to send down to Nicaragua. If you’re interested, please check out these lists for children’s and young adult books for ideas.

A Single Story

August 5, 2010

During orientation we watched a video of a talk by Chimamanda Adichie called “The Danger of a Single Story.” I was really struck by her emphasis on storytelling and how important it is to evaluate the power dynamics in who is telling the story and that one story is not enough to understand a whole people group or culture.