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I think of you, Nicaragua

July 29, 2014

Today marks 1 year since we left Nicaragua and began to reintegrate ourselves to life in the States. I find that writing poetry from time to time helps me process events in my life. The following is a poem I wrote reflecting on the transition back “home.”

Versión en español aquí.

I think of you, Nicaragua
from my comfortable, overstuffed La-Z-Boy,
I think of your hard plastic chairs.

In my car; A/C and leather seats,
I think of your buses, the 16, the 5, the mini ruta,
the heat, the claustrofobia, the dust billowing in through open windows.

In my two story house; guest room and office,
I think of your houses of wood and sheet metal,
one family per bedroom, an uncle sleeping on the couch.

I think of you, Nicaragua
and you feel so far away.

You feel so far away,
the distance magnified by my comfort and opulence,
your life so hard, so raw.

I think of you, Nicaragua
and you seem like another world.
And I don’t want to forget you,
but sometimes I think that your world and mine
will never meet,
and I don’t know how to live you anymore
in this place
new and old at the same time.

But I sweep my porch and my sidewalk,
and I think of you.

I sit in front of my house,
and I watch the Honduran kids playing in the street,
and I think of you.

Sometimes I leave the car in the drive,
and I walk to the store
the bags cutting my hands as I hurry home,
and I think of you.

Sometimes I buy a mango,
and I think of you,
the sweet juices dripping on my hands,
the mangoes dropping on the roof of our house in Bello Horizonte in March,
so many mangoes that they rotted on the patio.

I invite friends over to the house for a meal,
and I think of you,
and the memories come flooding in:
good friends gathered together,
belly laughs and smiles,
bread broken,
sopa de queso con rosquillas,
pata de chancho,
pizza,
brownies,
my house is your house,
“Open House” by Duo Guardabarranco.

I think of you, Nicaragua
of the friendship and hospitality that you taught me,
and you don’t seem so far away.

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For the love of reading

January 2, 2014

January 2nd – a good time to look back on the year that has passed.

2013 was a year full of changes and transitions for us – leaving Nicaragua, adjusting to life in the U.S., new jobs, etc. But the one thing that has remained constant is the companionship of books. The past few years I have been keeping track of the books I read and its fun to look back on the list and remember what was going on while I was reading that particular book.

Some books were read because they were the only ones at the MCC library that looked interesting, some were downloaded onto our Kindle from the Massanutten Regional Library from Nicaragua, and yet others we read out loud to each other.

Here’s my list this year:

Goodreads

1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
2. The Russian Concubine
3. The Power of Habit
4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home
5. The Magician’s Nephew
6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
8. Is Everybody Hanging out Without Me?
9. Pride and Prejudice
10. *Irresistible Revolution
11. Playing for Pizza
12. Walking on Water
13. Bread and Wine
14. Bossypants
15. *Belong to Me
16. The Age of Miracles
17. Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang
18. Poor Economics
19. Redeeming Love
20. The Notebook
21. *An Everlasting Meal
22. Prince Caspian
23. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
24. Mujerista Theology
25. *Tattoos on the Heart
26. *The Glass Castle
27. The Devil Wears Prada
28. *The Fault in Our Stars
29. Salt, Sugar, Fat
30. Gone Girl
31. The River
32. The Canopy
33. The Book Thief
34. Carry On, Warrior
35. *The Handmaid’s Tale
36. The Year of Biblical Womanhood
37. The Cat’s Eye
38. The Paris Wife
39. Mountains Beyond Mountains
40. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

(*favorites are starred)

Some of my favorite authors that I discovered this year:
1. Margaret Atwood
2. Anthony deMello
3. Gregory Boyle
4. John Green

2014 will be a year of many books read for grad school and probably not a lot read for pleasure. It will be fun to see how my book list changes for the upcoming year!

We’re back!

September 12, 2013

We’ve been really bad about updating this little blog of ours lately. As most of you all know by now, we’re back in the U.S.

No hemos actualizado este blog por mucho tiempo! Como mucho de ustedes ya saben, estamos de nuevo en los Estados Unidos.

Leaving Nicaragua was difficult in many ways. We had built wonderful friendships with co-workers, friends, church people, and our MCC team. We spent much of our last few weeks attending goodbye parties people threw for us and trying to tell everyone how much they mean to us.

Salir de Nicaragua fue muy difícil para nosotros. Habíamos construido buenas amistades con compañeros de trabajo, amigos, personas en la iglesia, y nuestro equipo de CCM. Pasamos mucho tiempo en las últimas semanas yendo a fiestas de despedida para nosotros y tratando de decir a todos lo que significaban para nosotros.

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On July 29th, we boarded the plane to the U.S. We had quite a nice crew seeing us off at the airport

El 29 de julio, abordamos el avión para los Estados Unidos. Llegaron bastante personas para despedirnos en el aeropuerto.

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We were reunited with Adam’s parents at the airport and after a quick 36 hours, we were off again to MCC re-entry retreat. We enjoyed the opportunity to meet the woman who took Adam’s place at his job in Nicaragua; we spoke to a group of Amish volunteers at the Material Resource Center; we were reunited with 6 other MCC Nicaragua alums; and we enjoyed a meaningful time to reflect and process our 3 years in Nicaragua.

Los padres de Adán nos encontraron en el aeropuerto, y después de solo 36 horas, salimos de casa de nuevo para el retiro de CCM para trabajadores recién regresados. Disfrutamos la oportunidad de conocer a la mujer que reemplazó Adán en su trabajo en Nicaragua; dimos una plática a un grupo de voluntarios Amish en el centro de recursos materiales de CCM; nos reunimos con 6 otras personas egresadas de CCM Nicaragua; y disfrutamos de un tiempo hermoso para reflexionar y procesar nuestros 3 años en Nicaragua.

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Following the retreat were a few days full of doctor’s appointments and trying to get Adam’s work wardrobe ready to go. He started work a mere 9 days after returning. We feel really blessed that he has a job he enjoys, but we also need to be careful to take time for continued processing, even when life seems busy. Adam is a parent liaison at 2 elementary schools in Harrisonburg. He enjoys speaking Spanish everyday, being a mentor to kids, and using his cultural knowledge to help bring understanding between school personnel and parents.

Después del retiro tuvimos algunos días llenas de citas con el doctor y tratando de alistar la ropa de trabajo de Adán. Él empezó a trabajar solo 9 días después de regresar de Nicaragua. Sentimos muy bendecidos que Adán tiene trabajo que a él le gusta, pero también tenemos que tomar tiempo para reflexionar sobre nuestras experiencias en Nicaragua aun cuando la vida es demasiado ocupado. Adán trabaja como un enlace entre los padres que hablan español y la escuela. A él le gusta hablar español cada día, ser un mentor para niños y usar su conocimiento cultural para ayudar a traer entendimiento entre el personal de la escuela y los padres.

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I was able to work during the first few weeks of school as a substitute teacher’s assistant in a unique classroom of children recently arrived to the U.S. The classroom had 30 children – half were Arabic speakers and the other half spoke Spanish. Because of the extraordinarily large class size, I helped out until they were able to find another teacher in order to split the class. I really enjoyed working with these 3rd-5th graders as they adjusted to school and life in the U.S. I will be filling out my substitute teaching application in order to get some work here and there as I begin grad school in January.

Yo también tuve la oportunidad de trabajar durante las primeras semanas de escuela como una asistente en una aula especial para niños recién llegados a los Estados Unidos. En la aula habían 30 niños – la mitad que hablan árabe y la otra mitad que hablan español. En la aula habían demasiados niños por solo una maestra, entonces yo ayudé hasta que consiguieran otra maestra para dividir la clase. Disfruté mucho mi tiempo trabajando con estos niños de 3er a 5to grado mientras ajustaron a la escuela y la vida en los EE.UU. Voy a llenar mi solicitud para ser maestra sustituta para tener trabajo de ves en cuando mientras empiezo mi maestría en enero.

Another thing that has kept us busy is that Adam’s brother Bryce and my brother Mattias both got married in the last few weeks. It was a wonderful way to see extended family and celebrate our new sister-in-laws joining our families.

Otra cosa que nos tenía bastante ocupados es que el hermano de Adán – Bryce y mi hermano Mattias ambos se casaron el las últimas semanas. Fue un tiempo muy alegre para ver a la familia y celebrar nuestras nuevas cuñadas.

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Yesterday we moved into the house we will be house-sitting for until the end of January. It feels nice to have our own space, and makes our being here feel more permanent.

Ayer nos mudamos a la casa que vamos a estar cuidando hasta los últimos de enero. Sentimos bien tener más espacio y nos hace sentir que estamos aquí permanente y no solo para visitar.

We are looking forward to our first fall season since 2009! We are excited about the MCC Relief Sale, the Harrisonburg International Festival, and the many delicious fall foods that we missed.

Estamos muy emocionados para pasar nuestro primer otoño desde 2009! Estamos emocionados para la feria de CCM en octubre, la festival internacional en nuestro pueblo, la bella naturaleza y comer mucha comida que hemos extrañado.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue in this transition time.

Por favor, oren por nosotros en este tiempo de transición.

Thank you to all those people here and there who have made us feel so welcome and loved,

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou 

Gracias a todos ustedes aquí y allá que nos han hecho sentir bienvenidos y amados:

“Yo he aprendido que la gente olvidará lo que dijiste, la gente olvidará lo que hiciste, pero la gente nunca olvidará como la hiciste sentir.” – Maya Angelou

A trip north

April 30, 2013

Adam and I left for a spontaneous trip north this past weekend. Escaping the heat was our main objective, plus seeing some sights we hadn’t seen before. We left our guide book and electronics at home and enjoyed a weekend of relaxing and winging-it.

Enjoy the pictures! (Click on the thumbnails to see bigger pictures)

Adam turns the big 2-9

April 11, 2013

At the end of March we headed to the Anabaptist/Mennonite Youth Conference, which was held in Costa Rica. You can check out pictures from the event on Facebook. Last year we were heavily involved in the planning of the event, so this year it was nice to just attend.

These youth have become some of our closest friends here in Nicaragua. Adam’s birthday was only a  few days after getting back from Costa Rica so they of course wanted to get together to celebrate! Adam knew we were getting together with the group to eat baleadas (a typical Honduran food). What he didn’t expect was a cake complete with trick candles, 2 tiny piñatas and getting his face shoved in the cake!

This was a very memorable, very Nica birthday celebration. I happened to get some of it on video. Enjoy!

Openings in MCC Nicaragua

April 4, 2013

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Are you interested in serving with MCC Nicaragua?

Adam and I are leaving at the end of July and our 2 positions were just posted!

We would love a quality person that would do an awesome job…could that be you?!

Check out the links below:

Literacy Promoter

Peace and Justice Worker 

Hugo Chavez, Presente

March 8, 2013
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The Good Ones

©2013 by Alice Walker
March 5, 2013
For Hugo Chavez, Presente
 
The good ones
who listen
to women
to children and the poor
die too soon,
their lives bedeviled
by opposition:
our hearts grieve for them.
This was the world my father knew.
A poor man
he saw good men come and mostly go;
leaving behind
the stranded and bereft.
People of hopes, dreams, and so much
hard work!
Yearning for a future
suddenly
foreclosed.
But today
you write me all is well
even though the admirable
Hugo Chavez
has died this afternoon.
Never again will we hear that voice
of reasoned anger
and disgust
of passionate vision
and of triumph.
This is true.
But what a lot he did in his 58 years!
You say.
What a mighty ruckus
Hugo Chavez made!
This is also true.
Thank you for reminding me.
That though life –
this never-ending loop-
has passed us by today
but carried off
in death
a hero
of the masses
it is his spirit
of fiercely outspoken
cariño
that is not lost.
That inheritance
has gone instantly
into the people
to whom he listened
and it is there
that we will expect it
to rise
as early as
tomorrow;
and there
that
we will encounter it
always
soon again.
Hugo Chavez’s funeral was today in Venezuela. Chavez leaves behind a complex legacy; standing up for what he thought was right, championing the cause of the poor, not caring about who he offended. He led Latin America away from neo-liberal economic policies and therefore was often pegged as an “enemy” of the United States. He called George W. Bush the devil, cursed Israel, and often denounced what he saw as the hypocrisy of these two nations who decry terrorism when done by people they don’t agree with and support terrorism when committed by “legitimate” actors.
***
What does his death mean for Nicaragua? Venezuela has developed a oil-sharing relationship with various Latin American countries. Chavez was seen by Nicaraguans as a kind of “godfather” whose goodwill allowed the Ortega government to continue important social programs and subsidize transportation costs. Many Nicaraguans who support the Sandinista government are mourning Chavez’s death, but we’ve also encountered other Nicaraguans who, although they don’t support the current Nicaraguan government, feel like Chavez did a lot to help Nicaragua through trade agreements that are mutually beneficial to both countries. It will be interesting to see what will happen when Venezuela elects a new president next month and how that election will affect Nicaraguans.
***
On the other hand, many question whether the positive changes that Chavez made in Venezuela and the positive cooperation he fomented between Latin American countries will outlive the man himself. Chavez had a huge personality and people saw him as a benevolent father who single handedly changed the fate of many struggling Venezuelan people. Can this “godfather” or “strong-man” style of leadership be a positive one if the “godfather” is just and does more good than harm? Hugo Chavez’s legacy and the future path that Venezuela takes now that he’s gone should be a good indicator.
For more on the subject:
Democracy Now – Hugo Chávez Dead: Transformed Venezuela & Survived U.S.-Backed Coup, Now Leaves Uncertainty Behind
The Onion – Area Man Unsure If He’s Supposed To Want Hugo Chavez To Die Or Not
Venezuela Analysis – Yo Soy Chavez, Tu Eres Chavez, Todos Somos Chavez (IN ENGLISH)