Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And the rains come

It’s hard to believe that May has come and gone already. It has been a month full of adventures, change, successes and new beginnings for us. One of the most obvious has been the tri-weekly torrential down pours that have come due to the change of seasons. It seems so cliché to be writing about the weather, but seriously Nicaraguan rain is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I’ve lived through part of a Nicaraguan rainy season before, so the type of rain is not new to me, but being here for the transition from the dry to rainy season was new. Let me tell you, prior to May 13th every day was crystal clear blue skies with a blazing hot sun that was impossible to escape from. Then, May 13th came and the sun was gone, there was no transition period, no warning of the impending change. We just woke up one day and the skies were filled with the most glorious dark thunder heads you’ve ever seen…and you knew the rains had come. Since this change of weather we’ve traded dust for mud, dirt roads that have changed to river beds, crackling heat for smothering humidity, bug-less nights for bombarding beetles, crazy flying termites and a multitude of mosquito bites. Yet, we are thankful for the change and refreshing relief the rain brings. Plus, it’s just really cool to see how much rain can come out of those clouds.

Okay, one more thing about the rain and I’ll move on. At home we cancel classes due to snow, never did I think I’d see the day that classes would be canceled on account of too much rain. However, I experienced this for the first time last week when the skies opened and a torrential down pour unleashed upon the metal roof of my second grade classroom. It was so loud you could stand next to someone and not be able to clearly hear what they’d said. Needless to say, class came to a stop and the next 45 minutes was spent in a state of semi-managed chaos with 24 second graders trapped in their classroom with nothing to do. I have a sneaking suspicion there are more of these days in store for me.

An example of the rain of Nicaragua.

Well, there is more to life down here than the rain. Things around the school continue to grow and change. For example, I have started up a bi-weekly evening English class for the teachers and several other people from the church we attend. We have been meeting for the last three weeks and will continue on until October. Personally, the change of pace from teaching the kids to teaching adults has been very refreshing. It’s nice to not have to spend so much time with classroom management, discipline, or being the motivating factor for learning. Plus, the teachers are so excited to be able to learn things they can use with all of you who come down and visit. Even if it’s only a few phrases for now, I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a new open door for them.

Another cool development at the school has been organizing a boy’s soccer team. Josh and Carlos (one of the other Nica teachers) are coaching 15 of the 5th and 6th graders to develop a Colegio Cristiana Havilah soccer team. They will be playing against 8 other local schools in a one-day tournament. We are hoping to hold the tournament at our school, thanks to the funding for the other soccer goal coming in, and hope that this will spur on a continuing soccer program at the school. Stay tuned for an update on how the soccer tournament goes.

Our soccer team in action!

Finally, the last highlight of this month was a glorious week spent with Josh’s parents and youngest sister. While it was hard for us to have them here for such a short time, it was rejuvenating and encouraging for us either way. There is just something about being able to share a piece of your world with family that is so important and meaningful and we are grateful we got to spend time with them down here. So, the last week of May has been filled with re-painting the outside of our house (thank-you Tom and Josh), having a few extra hands in my classes, seeing Narnia in our VIP lazy-boy recliner movie theater, visiting Laguna de Apoyo, and eating lots of ice cream together. But now it is back to life as usual and we await the beginning of June, our 5th month here, and the stories and experiences that will come with it.

Waiting for the rain to pass on the front porch. Tom and Josh painting our house a lovely shade of yellow!

Chelsea waiting out the rain with the crazy second graders...and the family looking good on Sunday!

Cooking traditional Nica food with Pastora....Singing in the Rain, just singing in the rain!

Top: The end result of our dinner preparation..mmm soo good! Joanne trying desperately to fit her favorite fruit, papaya, into her mouth. Bottom: All of us with Ms. Ruby after praying and going to the dump. Josh with Dianna one of the newest additions to Casa Havilah (rescue home for girls from the dump).

On a side note we have a couple of prayer requests:

  • Our car blew a head gasket this last week and we are continuing to have trouble with it even after having the problem “fixed.” This is a strain not only financially but also on our time as the nearest mechanic to us is 25 minutes away.
  • Finally, we’d ask for endurance and a continued vision for our time here. Living out in Los Cedros can be lonely and discouraging at times, and while we are confident we are where the Lord wants us to be, it can be a struggle nonetheless.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

May Madness

Another month has come and gone for us in Nicaragua. Comparatively to the beginning of April, May has started off rather slowly for us due to the lack of teams coming down. But at the same time, as I sit here and begin to write this blog, I realize that these weeks are still incredibly full of stories.

For instance, we have started encouraging the youth group at our Nica church to start prepping for the youth group teams that will be coming down at the end of June. Unlike our highly structured and engaging youth groups at home, we’ve found youth group in Los Cedros to be quite different. Instead of engaging activities, good worship, and small-groups, Nica youth group is very serious. It is usually centered around reading a passage from the Bible and then the leaders have to prod and push the students in to sharing their thoughts. In some ways there are benefits to the lack of program, but we’ve also noticed that the leaders have a lot of difficulty getting the students to engage in youth group on Monday nights. So, the goal of this team coming down in June is to encourage these students in sharing their faith, and also indirectly modeling and helping establish more of a youth program. While we don’t want to come in and just place our U.S. programs and walk away, Josh and I both agree that some changes to make youth group more engaging would be good. Let’s be honest, there isn’t a whole lot to do out here in L.C. so providing them with a safe place to have fun and to learn about God could be revolutionary.

Anyways, one of the things the students decided to do is to be a physical presence in the streets of Los Cedros. I have been trying to imagine what this would look like at home and it just doesn’t compute. We take these humongous speakers from the church to the street corners, jerry-rig them to an outlet, plug in a few guitars and microphones, and then proceed to sing worship songs for about an hour. Within that time, the students come to the microphone and read Bible verses or pass out little Bible verse cards to people who are walking by. While it can be a struggle to get the students away from hugging the walls and talking to people, they are a lot less apprehensive to talk to people then I was at their age

Top: Josh helping to lead worship on the streets. Some of the youth group boys getting ready to say their Bible verses. Lining up at the microphone...The infamous fence the youth like to sit in front of so they don't have to sing or talk to people.

Another cool thing we were able to do last week was to take all the teachers from the school to the beach. We borrowed the church van, piled in some coolers filled with goodies and headed off to spend the day enjoying the beach. It was actually kind of funny because the teachers wanted to leave at 8:30 in the morning! Josh and I thought what are we going to do at the beach so early? But, one thing Nicaragua has going for it is the fact that by 9:30 you are ready to go swimming cause its already hotJ! True to Nicaraguan form, we didn’t end up leaving by 8:30, but we did end up spending the whole day playing volleyball, wave-diving, swimming and eating way too much food. It was wonderful to be able to bond with the teachers in this way.

Top: Burying Carlos in the sand. The women teacher's playing a rousing game of beach volleyball. Enjoying the amazing ocean! Middle: Josh's escape from the sand. A few artistic shots of the beach in Nicaragua.

Beyond the relation side of our time, we finally have a fully functioning kitchen and bathroom! You would not believe what a difference having running water and privacy can make until you live without it for awhile. We can finally see the top of our kitchen table, we can put dishes away, and wash dishes after dinner instead of putting them in a plastic bag to be keep the ants out till we can wash them in the morning. As for the bathroom, waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom is no longer dreadful…Josh said the other day “it’s so nice not to have to get ready to go to the bathroom”. All of these things we take for granted at home, and we didn’t realize how much they actually make a difference until this past week when we had the pleasure of using them for the first time!

Finally, one of the most heart-breaking and difficult things I’ve experienced so far was leaving Josh for three glorious days to go on a ladies retreat this past weekend! Okay, well it wasn’t actually that hard or heart-breaking but it was nice to miss each other. Anyways, ladies retreat is a pretty big deal down here. Missionary women from all over Nicaragua come together for a three-day retreat at one of the beach resorts. For some of them, it is the only time of the year they get to sing in English, or to be with other English speaking people. I enjoyed it immensely and I’ve only been down here for 3 ½ months, can you imagine what it is like for some ladies who’ve lived here for years and who hardly ever get to return to the states? One thing that was really cool about the retreat is that they really try and spoil the women with “pretty and yummy things.” For instance, each session we had a little bag waiting on our seat that had a manicure set, gift cards, cookies, etc. Every session was also fully stocked with lots of chocolate from the States, which I think is the best idea anyone has ever had! Another thing they did was to have a book and magazine swap. People brought books and magazines they’d already read and no longer wanted and anyone could take as many as they liked home with them. This, like running water and a private bathroom, may not seem like such a big deal but when you don’t have access to English books and magazines it is honestly so exciting! Needless to say, I came back re-energized by the message I heard, with four new books, and with a sugar hang-over.

Me, Sherah and Becky on the beach at Women's retreat. Little baby Leandro, the newborn son of the school's assistant Ophelia.

Other than that, life continues to move on. We have been here for three and half months now and have managed to enjoy life and to come through still married! Ha ha! Now we await the arrival of family, more teams, and the long awaited rainy season. So, until next time, hope things are warming up in Seattle as they start cooling down for us here in Nicaragua...bring on the rain!

For your viewing pleasure we've attached a little video of what our street worship sounds like. The video footage isn't so great since its dark, but its cool nonetheless.