Sunday, October 01, 2006

where lights fade, music plays

Power outages are a normal part of life here in Nicaragua. For as long as I have been here, the lights have gone out for 2-8 hours at a time at least 3 times a week. However, for the last month the outages have been daily (or nightly, depending on what sector one lives in). It makes it hard to keep milk and cheese very long in the fridge, never mind have a full, productive work day. On weekends, though the power outages may mean fan withdrawal and increased sweating, they also present opportunities for community building and relationships. In our sometimes excessively technologically driven world, it is easy to spend all of one's time listening to the radio, watching television, or surfing the internet...and much less time actually talking to the people around you.

So Saturday night when the lights went out 30 minutes into our visit with the infamous Gutierrez clan across the street, any mental distraction created by thoughts of the potential podcasts, email, or blogs I might read later disappeared. I became totally focused on enjoying this experience of sitting around a table with Alicia, Francisco, Karin, David, Dina, and their visitors Don Cesar and his niece. With little more than the light of a solitary candle to give us the faintest outline of one another's forms, we ate raspados and pan dulce and caught up on the last 2 weeks of life in Nicaragua. Francisco had just returned from a work trip to Norway, because his organization (Accion Medica Cristiana) is part of an exchange program with them. David told us about the philosophy class essay he is writing (in English) in response to the question, “What is a human being?” Karin showed us pictures of a recent football game she had attended to support her other brother Roberto.

At some point Francisco disappeared and returned with the family guitar. Music is part of the heart and soul of any culture, and especially in the Gutierrez home, where there is a wealth of musical talent. Handing the guitar to David, a round of worship songs in Spanish and English ensued, as the whole group joined in singing along to whatever tunes David's fingers brought to life on the strings. After a bit, the guitar was passed around the circle, and all who had a tune to share were given an opportunity to lead the music.

When the guitar reached the hands of Don Cesar, though, suddenly we were transported to another world. The world of Matagalpan campesinos whose children's first words are the lyrics to the old songs, the ones passed down orally from generation to generation that never make the tourist guide or the school textbook We heard traditional songs, revolutionary songs, canciones de la patria, and of la Navidad, composed in simple but memorable rhythms. My favorite song of the night was the Nicaraguan adaptation of the biblical story of the three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Instead of gold, myrrh and frankincense, the gifts are the well-known foods and artisania of Nicaraguans that are brought as worship to the newborn King. Quaint, perhaps, but the underlying theology is profound. Do not we all bring different gifts to the feet of Jesus?

Three hours later, my heart full of appreciation for the musical tradition of Nicaragua, and my mind struggling to process all of the new knowledge shared with us during the evening of “intercultural exchange”, I drifted off to sleep...once again moved by the love of our Nicaraguan family, and grateful beyond words for the richness of my life here in this little corner of Las Brisas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh for more time spent in community instead in front of our gadgets. Speaking of that, I should get away from my computer for a while and enjoy this beautiful fall weather in New England. Massachusetts misses you Pam!