Thursday, November 15

San Francisco Libre

On Friday Michelle, fellow Mission Intern, and I, received the privilege of spending the day with two other United Methodist Church missionaries; Nan McCurdy & her husband Miguel Mairena. Nan invited us to attend a big health event on awareness of cervical cancer in the community of San Francisco Libre, a town about 1.5 hours outside of Managua. The event was hosted by Women & Community which is the organization with which Nan & Miguel work.

The event consisted of several speakers explaining the manifestation of HPV, how to prevent HPV, and the importance of visiting the gynecologist at the least every 3 years. Between the speakers, a group of Women & Community Association Nicaragua's promoters and a group of youth performed relevant and funny skits. Always including a very machismo man.There were well over 100 women present at the event. At one point there was a dance contest and man could those winners shake it. After the event, a delicious lunch was served.

Dance competition. You go ladies!
We moved our chairs into the shade, but then we encountered ANTS! We spent lots of time trying to keep our feet on rocks. Michelle is showing those ants whats up.

San Francisco Libre is a community located on the northern side of Lake Nicaragua on the southern side sits Managua. Although the community sounds relatively close to Managua in location, once again the roads leading to San Francisco Libre, once you leave the main road, are bumpy and rocky. However, Nan & Miguel did mention the roads are improving and what used to be a trip of about 4 hours is now 1.5 hours. Also, there were times after rainfall where a SUV or truck with four wheel drive couldn't make it all the way to the community. About halfway to San Francisco Libre we arrived to the newly bricked road and flew the rest of the journey. Eventually, in the next 3 years or so, the entire road will be paved leading to the main road connected to Managua. The Nicaraguan government is trying to improve many roads throughout the country and possibly one day it will no longer take 20 hours to reach the opposite coast.

During the car ride to SFL, Nan gave us a little bit of the history about this community. Nan's organization, Women & Community Association Nicaragua, focuses on empowering women through many different programs and improving women's health. SFL houses one of Women & Communiy's offices and the association focuses on the entire municipality in the area surrounding SFL. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated different parts of Nicaragua including SFL. Part of SFL went underwater and many people were strained, also the flooding lake caused SFL to become a temporary island, cutting off bridge access. People like Nan & Miguel helped bring food & resources to the community during this tragedy. Also, they worked with UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) to receive funding for boats, gasoline, and generators. Then, several people spent each day searching for stranded people. Nan believes they rescued about 1,500 people in the area and some people has been stranded for about 7-9 days. Nan & Miguel helped with the rebuilding process as many people remained refugees for almost 2 months after the disaster.

Then, in 2010 the lake flooded once again due to increase in rainfall. The water flooded homes once again and new rivers were created by the change in water level. The lake's water level never fell back down and experts say it's going to stay at a high level from now on. The event we attended took place in a street right next to the new water level and this specific part is like a ghost town. Many houses and buildings near the water are abandoned and the water is filled with tree trunks jutting out in a row, marking where streets once laid. The government working with Women & Community decided to only rebuild houses on higher ground within the city. Women & Community's office is located on what seems the highest point in town. They bought a huge chunk of land which they will begin to sell off to businesses and provide new housing in the area. Now, most of the town is rebuilt in the "new" part of the town.

It was a wonderful day to spend with Nan & Miguel. Nan has served as a missionary in Nicaragua for almost 30 years. Her first experience with her late husband involved working with people on the war front. She sat and listened to families who lost loved ones in the war, attended many many funerals, and acted as a present of Christ during an extremely difficult time for Nicaraguans. She told us it caused her to grow up quickly and has had a huge impact on her life ever since. Her husband passed away her in Nicaragua when her two children were very young. She married Miguel some time afterward and between the two of them they have 5 grown children. Miguel grew up in a small island in Nicaragua and left home at about the age of 14. He is very handy and worked as a mechanic and he held numerous jobs working his way up within a Jeep company. He began elementary school at the age of 20 through a accelerating program. Eventually, he went to law school in the states and now works with Women & Community providing legal council to women and children.

I am blessed to work within the missionary community alongside two wonderful, humble people ushering God's kingdom and love to the here and now.

Sunday, November 11

"We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world, sustaining them "by his powerful word" (Heb 1:3) Hence a significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time!
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself

Thursday, November 8

Hey Jesus, thanks for grace!

Hey Jesus, thanks for grace!

Is what Whitney Peters, otherwise known as me, wrote as her Facebook status yesterday. Living in Nicaragua, especially during my times living in more rural settings, my access to internet is not consistent. However; I think many times it's a blessing! Yesterday, when I finally did catch up on my FB news feed after the elections, all I could think is praise Jesus for GRACE. Whether people gloated over a win, "yelled" out in bitter anger or tried to argue through FB, it was ugly reading. God thank you for our undeserving grace when we forget our callings to extend that same grace, love and justice in all aspects of our lives. 

Through the BLAH, I found these two articles I really want to share:
Guess whose back?  Dun nuh nuh Back again. Whitney's back, tell a friend. (As I realize I have written in third person for the second time in this post, I want to apologize for being obnoxious. Only apologize, not change my writing. Another point, I just referenced an old Eminem song for those of you who may be confused.)

Yes, I am back in the big city of Managua. I left La Dalia with hesitancy and a longing to remain in the country side. My office had a little "la despedida," or literally the goodbye for me after my 5 weeks of learning and working in the La Dalia AMC office. It was also a mini birthday celebration for my co-worker Dina & I's birthdays. There was a short frosting fight between Dina and I. Also, I said by to what I now consider my Nicaraguan family. I left La Dalia with a longing to stay, yet with a small sense of joy knowing I will return to work with my first medical team in February. 

On my way back to Managua, I took a detour in Matagalpa to eat lunch with my friend Erich who works with the Mennonite Central Committee. I really like the city of Matagalpa. The weather is cooler. The city isn't huge, but it's also not teeny. The buildings, stores, and houses are built on rolling hills making the landscape at night filled with scattered lights. Little did I know it was actually Erich's birthday, so he offered for me to stay for the day and night. 

We first went to lunch at an awesome Italian restaurant with stove oven baked pizza. After eating "gallo pinto" (rice and beans) and tortillas for over a month, pizza was wonderful. I do love my gallo pinto, however; it was simply nice to have a break. Then, we sat on a stoop in front of a grocery store and people watched for a while. Later, we grabbed frappuccinos at this fancy coffee shop which is home to the fanciest bathroom in all of Nicaragua. We went to what Erich called "a monkey petting zoo" but I believe it's more like a mini zoo within a nice park, excluding the deadly playground equipment. Playgrounds here are most often metal, rickety, and pointy. They scare me a wee bit. The park has monkeys, crocodiles, rabbits, and random birds. Before arriving, Erich had told me sometimes the bigger monkeys take peoples hands and slam them against their cage, so I gained a sense of distrust for the monkeys. For the first time in my life I was afraid of a monkey. Therefore, we it came time for me to take a picture while holding a monkey's hand I think I'm almost crying in the picture. Not really, but almost. 

That evening Erich's host family threw a large birthday party for him. Complete with a family friend mariachi singer and a pinata. Erich danced with almost every lady present, we ate yummy pizza, and everyone had a turn at smacking the pinata including myself. Sure, I've had my fair share of pinata but they actually had a pulley system hooked up where they could move the pinata up and down and back and forth. It was a very entertaining thing to witness. Erich's host family allowed me to sleep in a spare room and once again I am witness to Nicaraguan hospitality. 

I arrived back in the city yesterday morning. It feels weird to be back. I have running water, electricity that doesn't give out, everything is really busy and noisy and I have a variety of foods. I know transitioning is going to be a continual part of my job and I will just learn to adjust and rely on my community and the Lord to help with the transitions.

Thursday, November 1

I believe it is impossible to feel unloved on your birthday ever since that one guy invented Facebook. A rewarding part of my mission experience thus far is the overwhelming support from others. I want to continue to say thank you for your support! You continuously surround me with the presence of Christ even from a distance.

Yesterday, I turned 24. I will admit as recent holidays approach I try to mentally prepare myself. "Okay, in training we talked about how these times can be really depressing and cause you to be homesick... Okay I am ready. Ya, I got this." Yes, I was a little nervous about my emotions during my day of birth, but I truly enjoy the day and felt very blessed. 

My day was actually very laid back and nothing flashy. I loved the fact I got to spend the day assisting with two workshops for two different communities about HPV, the PAP test, and how to correctly use a condom. My friend, Lauren from the Peace Corps, snuck in singing happy birthday to me during an interactive activity. I enjoyed the opportunity to spend the day educating others.

A common birthday tradition in Nicaragua is getting eggs thrown on your head. Luckily, no one decided this was actually a good idea for my birthday, people just teased me about it. 

My Nicaraguan family cooked a simple but extremely delicious chicken dinner, followed by some scrumptious birthday cake.

My birthday in Nicaragua was lovely!