Lessons from the kitchen, part 2

Posted April 20, 2013 by theclanks
Categories: Marisa

I have been reflecting on lifestyle commitments for myself as I think towards transitioning back to the U.S. One area that has always been important to me is food/hospitality. As I record these lessons from my kitchen in Nicaragua, I want them to serve as a reminder to myself to keep it simple.


Shank family at our dining room table! Back when we still had 6 bowls and 6 spoons...

Shank family at our dining room table! Back when we still had 6 bowls and 6 spoons…

  • Don’t be so uptight when having people over
  • Nobody cares that you don’t have matching plates, silverware, cups
  • Fighting the dust/dirt battle is useless. You will lose
  • Go ahead, spill things on my floor! I can just mop it up
  • Make people welcome when they come in – offer them cold water. If you’re having 20 people over at a time, this could mean that all you do is fill water cups, wash said cups, fill up water jugs and rotate them in your fridge.
  • Ice = gold. Don’t depend on your neighbor having ice to sell you on a hot Sunday afternoon. Start making ice at least the day before. As soon as your 2 ice trays are hard, dump into another container and repeat.


Cooking mango chicken curry with mom

Cooking mango chicken curry with mom

  • Eat fresh (not canned) food
  • Recipe calls for 1 14oz. can of tomatoes? Chop them yourself! How about a bag of shredded cabbage? Shred it yourself! 
  • Think about packaging. Don’t buy it if the package is bigger than the product itself
  • Reuse the packaging that you do buy. Broccoli comes in plastic wrap? Use it to wrap up your leftovers. Empty glass pickle jar? Use it to store your chia seeds. Empty jelly jar? Hello new drinking glass.
  • Think hard before throwing away food. People literally dig through your trash.
  • Eat seasonally. Even in Nicaragua where it is hot year-round, it is definitely in the “scorching hot” season right now, which means cold foods and drinks top the list.


Recipes we are enjoying right now:

Cold-brewed iced coffee

200 grams (a bit under 1/2 a pound) of ground coffee
4 liters (quarts) of water

Dump the coffee into a large container with a lid. Pour the water in, making sure all the coffee gets wet. Stir. Cover and let sit on your counter overnight. In the morning, strain your coffee through a filter or cheesecloth. Store in a pitcher in your fridge. To drink: Pour into your cup, add a splash of milk and a few ice cubes.

Adam’s Gazpacho

5 med. tomato
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1 green pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
onion and garlic (optional)

Wash and roughly chop all the vegetables. Put them all in the blender. Blend and add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Best served chilled. Other serving options: dice a little bit of each vegetable to serve on top; serve with grilled cheese croutons (make a grilled cheese sandwich and cut into squares).

Taco Pasta 

(this recipe kind of goes against what I was saying about not using packaged foods, but it is an easy and delicious occasional variation to rice and beans.)

small bag of pasta
2 c. cooked beans
small can of corn
small can of salsa
cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4c. cream cheese
1/2c. shredded cheese

Boil the pasta according to directions. Drain. Set aside. Drain and rinse the canned corn. In the same pot where you boiled the pasta, add the beans and corn to heat. Add the salsa, spices, sour cream, cream cheese, and shredded cheese. Stir until combined. Add the pasta and stir.
The beauty of this recipe is that it can be served HOT OR COLD!


Heat, revisited

Posted April 12, 2013 by theclanks
Categories: Marisa

It is that time of year yet again.

Managua Weather Forecast and Conditions   weather.com

It is hot.

It is lose-your-mind-and-your-motivation hot.

It is sit-in-McDonalds-for-3-hours-with-your-iced-latte hot.

It is sleep-without-sheets-and-two-fans hot.

It is hose-yourself-off-while-watering-the-plants hot.

It is slimy-oily-wet-skin hot.

It is see-a-terrible-movie-just-for-the-air-conditioning hot.

It is peel-your-wet-jeans-off hot

It is don’t-you-dare-touch-me hot.

It is let’s-eat-bowls-of-cereal-for-every-meal hot.

It is let-the-water-run-for-five-minutes-until-it-gets-cold-enough-to-shower hot.

It is so hot all the cockroaches crawl out of their hiding spots and die.


BUT, an amazing miracle occurs at the end of every dry season.  The trees seem to give it their all – even though they haven’t had a drink since November. The trees are exploding with vibrant colored flowers:



yellow tree

These trees offer me a constant reminder that yes, this too shall pass, and that the rains WILL come!

Adam turns the big 2-9

Posted April 11, 2013 by theclanks
Categories: Uncategorized

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

Posted April 4, 2013 by theclanks
Categories: Uncategorized


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 

A Simple Easter Reflection

Posted March 24, 2013 by theclanks
Categories: Adam

The following poem written by Guatemalan poet, Julia Esquivel, resonates deeply with our experience over the last two and half years in Nicaragua and seems especially significant during this Easter week.

El siguiente poema escrito por la poeta Guatemalteca, Julia Esquivel, hace eco con nuestra experiencia durante los últimos dos años y medio en Nicaragua y me parece especialmente significativo durante esta Semana Santa.

Compartir                                                                       To Share

Compartir de vez en cuando                          To share from time to time
con los amigos                                                  with friends
un poco de pan y vino                                      a bit of wine and bread
es compartir trabajo y vida                             is to share work and life

Compartir ese mismo pan                              To share that same bread
con el costado herido                                      with a wounded side
es compartir                                                       is to share
lucha, muerte, y resurrección.                      struggle, death, and resurrection.

Thank you, Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, for sharing your bread, your lives, your struggles, and your wounds with us and in that way sharing as well resilience, hope, resurrection, new life. We are deeply honored. We will never be the same.

Gracias, hermanos y hermanas Nicaragüenses, por compartir tu pan, tus vidas, tus luchas, y tus heridos con nosotros y de esa manera compartir también resiliencia, esperanza, resurrección, nueva vida. Nos honran profundamente. Jamas seremos igual.

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That weekend when we did ALL the fun stuff

Posted March 18, 2013 by theclanks
Categories: Marisa

This weekend was full of new adventures.

On Saturday night, we attended our first big-name concert in Nicaragua. We saw the Mexican band Maná play their last show in their Drama y Luz tour. The venue was the national soccer stadium, which holds upwards of 30,000 people. We hopped out of our taxi and walked along the blocked off road, unaware of the adventures that lied ahead…


We got to the stadium and we had absolutely no idea where to go. We saw a short line and hopped in it thinking, wow how awesome. We got here just in time to avoid a long line! Adam decided to call his dad since he forgot his birthday last week. While he was on the phone, I realized that we were in the wrong line and we had to climb 100+ weirdly irregular steps in order to get to the top. Rounding the bend our faces fell as we realized THIS is where the line was. And it was a huge, huge line that criss-crossed the dusty parking lot. We finally found our way to the back of the line and realized we were in for the long haul.

Oh, and did I mention the dust? It was like standing in a dust storm. Every time a car passed (which was often considering we were standing in the middle of the parking lot), the dust enveloped us. There was a visible layer of dust all over our clothes. My hair was so dusty I couldn’t run my fingers through it. I got an eye infection having so much dust in my eye. You get the picture.

Anyway, after almost 3 hours of waiting in line, we finally arrived at the entrance. We bought the nosebleed seats, which were so high up we had a beautiful view of the Managua city lights.


The opening band was almost done by the time we entered. Maná came on stage around 10:15pm and played a full 2 hour set of their greatest hits. The crowd was INSANE. People knew every single word to every song. They were shouting along so loud that it literally drowned out the actual band.

It all proved to be worth it in the end!


Sunday we went to a baseball game! The Managua team played the Army team. Baseball is Nicaragua’s beloved pastime and it was great to finally experience it for ourselves. The stadium was pretty empty, we were sitting in the shade, it was great! We had great Nica-syle stadium food of vigaron (yucca with vinegary coleslaw on top) which we washed down with ice cold cokes.


Our MCC co-worker Kevin said he thinks the Nicaraguan baseball experience is probably what it was like to go to a game in the 1940’s in the U.S. (but since none of us were alive then, we don’t really know what he meant).

Hugo Chavez, Presente

Posted March 8, 2013 by theclanks
Categories: Uncategorized


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
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
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
and there
we will encounter it
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)