Monday, November 27, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
I think about you almost every day, but I haven’t talked to you in what seems like forever.
I’d like to tell you what’s been going on lately—how much fun I have with the Nica women I work with, how one of them gave me a necklace she had bought for herself just to try to cheer me up the other day, how microbuses almost seem like an ordinary form of transportation now, how we’re planning a baby shower for someone, how every day brings a new project or opportunity.
I’d like to tell you what I’ve been struggling with lately—how I’m questioning the way I spend my time, my purpose and if I am making any difference at all, how finding God is often harder here than it was at home, how desperately I’d like to find a small group to join in my church.
I’d like to tell you what I’ve been learning about the people and culture of this beautiful land of lakes and volcanoes through their stories of resilience, patience, suffering, and love.
I’d like to tell you about the things that have made me cry in the last week—events around the world and down the hall.
I’d like to tell you about the roller coaster of emotions I’ve felt in the last two months—fear, excitement, hope, anger, pain, contentment, jealousy, sadness, joy.
I’d like to tell you a lot of things—the deep and not-so-deep, the colorful and gray, the ordinary and once-in-a-lifetime.
And I’d like to listen too.
I may be far away, but I still want to share my life and my heart with you.
Please don’t forget me. I love you.
My Thanksgiving plans happened through a “6 degrees of separation” thing, through which Andrea and I came to know a Nicaraguan woman named June who married an American, wound up living in the USA for years, serves as a Sandinista army captain during the revolution, and now has a huge bilingual family here in Nicaragua. June is a sweet grandmotherly type and yet retains a fire in her eyes and spark in her tongue.
The house was a large, open air ranch style place, with a driveway and a backyard (both rarities here). Typical American furniture graced the living areas, while photos on the walls proudly display June in Sandinista regalia, war scenes, and her children’s milestones. On the table was a huge turkey with all the trimmings that looked like something out of Parade magazine. Family lounged on the couches (some smoking) and on the back porch sipping martinis and debating the latest political news, alternating between English in Spanish with ease and humor, depending on what they wanted to communicate. Like typical Nicaraguans, they treated us warmly and welcomed us like family. Like families everywhere, even though many of them don’t see each other often, they talk like people who have known each other forever.
We had a typical American dinner—turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, a broccoli/cauliflower/mushroom dish, corn, fruit salad, and pumpkin pie. Everyone raved about the food, and June blushed proudly, clearly pleased at her family’s delight.
For the first time in 6 months (and quite possibly the only time), I was in the middle of a serious upper class Nicaraguan party, complete with TV journalists, a member of the infamous Chamorro family, and a bartender/taxista hired by the family for the evening. It was a different kind of culture shock, for sure.
Memorable, though. Definitely memorable. And I am thankful for that.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I knew I wasn't imagining things. Today really was like an autumn day here in Managua (reminding me of the mountains of Matagalpa, where this pic was taken) and here is the temperature record to prove it. I woke up with a chill in my bones this morning, relished my semi-scalding shower, and even wore a sweater to the office. Wonders never cease.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
"Give them a light"
In a place the sky cries with tenderness
In a place all is green in festival
In high waters not far from Corn Island and the Bluff
A man-child fishes, a bag in the ocean
In a place burns the sky with stars
In a place it saw me play as a child
I had friendship, a friend that will play no more
But the street, today it is named for him
In a place it rains so much it blocks out the sun
And the quagmire always kisses your knees
An elder is learning his first letters
He has no glasses but he will know how to read
In a place where the water is grand like volcanoes
And the shark made its nest in sweet water
The hurricane gives the forest mortal fear
Trembles the earth, trembles the ocean of this place
Give a light to the people who have searched for
Their freedom against heaven and against mankind
Give a light to this nation which loves life so much
What is so beautiful about this song is how it poetically represents the salient events of Nicaragua's history and culture and natural beauty, all in one. Stanza one is a reference to the Atlantic Coast, stanza two to the war that took the lives of so many Nicaraguans in the 70s and 80s, stanza three to the literacy campaign the Sandinistas led, stanza four to Hurricane Mitch (1998), and the final verse to the passion of la gente, that love life with all there is to love, but have struggled so much to find a light in the dark times that have dominated their recent history.
Oh, Lord, let your light shine in this land, in the hearts of Nicaraguans from Bluefields to Pochomil, from Somotillo to Penas Blancas...
Monday, November 20, 2006
Read the rest of this article by Leonard Sweet.
A few photos of the Nicaraguan group Duo Guardabarranco (sister and brother, Katia and Salvador Cardenal) whose concert I went to Saturday night...below, the lyrics to one of my favorite songs they sing called Dale Una Luz (come back and visit later this week for a translation)
En un lugar llora el cielo de ternura
En un lugar todo el verde esta de fiesta
en altamar no muy lejos de Corn Island y el Bluff
Un hombre niño pesca un saco en el mar
En un lugar quema el cielo las estrellas
en un lugar que me vio jugar de niño
tuve amistad un amigo que no jugará más
pero, la calle, hoy se llama como él.
En un lugar llueve tanto que se apaga el sol
y el lodazal besa siempre tus rodillas
un viejo esta aprendiendo sus primeras letras
no tiene anteojos pero sabrá leer.
En un lugar donde el agua es a volcanes
y el tiburón hizo nido en agua dulce el huracán
pone un bosque en reverencia mortal
tiembla la tierra, tiembla el mar de este lugar.
Dale una luz a la gente que ha buscado
su libertad contra el cielo y contra humanos
dale una luz a este pueblo que ama tanto vivir
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The list: Men trimming trees with machetes, a family riding a horse and cart, sharing the road with buses and cars, a university that is greener and more manicured than Trinity, a book on the history of Bluefields (a town on Nicaragua’s east coast), Che Guavara t-shirts for sale, Managua’s new cathedral, which looks more like it belongs in India than Nicaragua, a shack in a vacant lot, tons of palm trees, a Pizza Hut restaurant (where I ate my first calzone in 6 months…mmmm!), a statue of Sandino rising above the Managua skyline, a closed lookout point with a glorious view of Laguna Tiscapa, a monument to the students who carried out the Sandinista literacy campaign in the 1980s, a “Herty Vive” scrawl on a bridge, men playing checkers using chess pieces, a monument that looks like a knot, a coffeeshop that looks just like Starbucks, and a man selling kites. and that's just what i can remember.
i love nicaragua.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Even in the middle of the lake, you can't escape politics...if you look closely, you can see the red and black Sandinista flag, and below it, the flag of Nicaragua. This is definitely the order of some people's loyalties here.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
The rules are: 1. Grab the nearest book. 2. Open the book to page 123. 3. Find the fifth sentence. 4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions. 5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest!
Well, the book that happened to be closest was in Spanish. So what follows is a translation, not an exact quote from "La Iglesia Local Como Agente de Transformacion" [The Local Church as Agent of Transformation].
"The historical model of mission that the church should realize we have been given, once and for all, is the person and life of Jesus of Nazareth. We could synthesize this saying that the mission of the church defines itself starting with the Kingdom of God and becomes a tangible paradigm in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The mission is not reduced to the transmission of a message but in fact includes concrete action. Passages like Matthew 10:7-8 and Luke 4:16-19 demonstrate clearly how much Jesus and his disciples preached the gospel of the Kingdom, healed, liberated, and demonstrated compassion to the poor,marginalized, and unappreciated."
I swear I didn't go looking for a cool or intellectual book. This is literally what is on my desk right now.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
“Tranquilo [No worries]. We will respect the Sandinista victory. We will give Ortega a second chance.”This is a man whose name invokes the full pendulum of nationalist feelings—either of pride or disgust, pain or elation. While he was responsible for leading Nicaragua in a time when brothers fought against brothers, food was rationed, and the economy crumbled, he continues to be a populist figure, a symbol of victory over a corrupt dictatorship, a source of hope for the poor campesinos who were ignored until the Sandinistas took power, and the reason that many people in rural Nicaragua can read today (thanks to the national literacy campaign they instituted, by far their greatest achievement).
But, not everyone is “tranquilo”. On the microbus to work today, I sat next to a man who was reading the newspaper headlines about Ortega’s victory and shaking his head in disbelief. “I take it you don’t like the news,” I commented. “No,” he replied sharply. “Ortega is going to ruin everything. No one is going to want to invest in Nicaragua if he is president. We’re going back to the 80s all over again.”
Last night two Nica friends visiting our house shared with us is that their biggest fear is what the United States response to this election will be. And then this morning, my dear friend Hultner asked me,
“How is Ortega going to maintain good relations with the US when he owes Chavez so many favors already? And the [US] Democrats’ victory is only going to encourage Ortega to move further to the left.” He commented later, “Hay una falsa paz…a peace that is so fragile that it could break at any moment.”While it has been peaceful here, there is indeed a heavy sense of uncertainty-a subdued atmosphere-a muted sense of color (other than the bright pink Sandinista hats around town). In some ways, the uncertainty has less to do with Ortega himself (who has made a lot of conciliatory gestures toward business leaders here and toned down his rhetoric considerably) and more to do with people’s fears about whether or not the country is going to be caught up in another tug-of-war between the United States and Venezuela. No one really knows what will happen. But painting the picture with polarizing, fear inducing headlines like this certainly doesn't help matters.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
A quick breakdown of the numbers:
Daniel Ortega (FSLN): 38% (854,316)
Eduardo Montealegre (ALN): 29% (650,879)
Jose Rizo (PLC): 26% (588,304)
Edmundo Jarquin (MRS): 6.44% (144,596)
This result, in my humble opinion, was made possible by a number of diverse factors.
1. Most obviously, since the last election, the law was changed to allow a candidate to win with just 35% of the vote, and a margin of 5% over the nearest contender. The bar used to be 40%.
2. The ruling PLC has been best by financial scandals/corruption allegations and has yet to demonstrate an effective strategy for addressing the nation's most pressing issues. Many people were quite possibly ready for power to change hands.
3. Because of a pact between former PLC president Arnoldo Aleman and FLSN's Ortega, the nation's political infrastructure is controlled by representatives of these two parties. This made it difficult for the new dissident Liberal party and the dissident Sandinista party to compete.
4. In previous elections, the Liberal party was united around one candidate, but this year, their vote was almost evenly split between two candidates. The new liberal party, the ALN, was formed in protest to the PLC's pact with Ortega.
For those who may be wondering--were the elections free and fair and transparent? Jimmy Carter himself was here and it was reported in the local media that in his assessment and the assessment of the election watchdog group he leads, yes. Also, today I went to a briefing by elections observers from all over the country, and they all generally agreed that while the process was slow and tedious, anomalies were few and far between (some polling places closed early, some votes were marked null if any ink was on more than one candidate’s box, etc).
So, while it isn’t exactly a mandate, Daniel Ortega has indeed won the plurality. And as the people say, “Asi estamos”. More tomorrow on the mood of el pueblo.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Whatever happens, Nicaragua and its people are in God's hands. I am not afraid. My faith is in the goodness and mercy of Christ, not the winner of this election."History will judge societies and governments - and
their institutions - not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless." (Cesar Chavez)
The media are being very careful to remind the public that the preliminary numbers do not signify any true tendency in the vote, and that it is impossible to extrapolate a winner from this percentage. Nevertheless, fireworks from the neighboring barrios continue, and the Sandinista sympathizers have begun to celebrate all over the country. People have been calling in from all over the country to the local TV stations covering the elections expressing various opinions from vocal outrage to tearful fear to lingering doubt to quiet confidence in the Sandinista victory. [As a reminder, a president can be elected in Nicaragua with 40% of the vote, or 35% with a 5% margin of victory.]
It appears that Ortega may have pulled off an improbably victory, but there are a lot of votes yet to be counted, so take what you read from the international press with a grain of salt. It ain't over yet.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Some of the best sources of information about Nicaragua's national election tomorrow and background on the candidates and issues:
Circles Robinson, US journalist and blogger
National Public Radio (Reporting from Managua)
Christian Science Monitor (Evangelicals' influence or Ortega v. US)
And, on a lighter note, Andrea and I had the amazing opportunity to go with two of our good friends, Hultner and Tania, to listen to one of Nicaragua's legendary singer/songwriters Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy (whose brother Carlos is a VP candidate for one of the parties this year) at Managua's trendy cultural hotspot Ruta Maya last night. Thus the pic above (Luis is on the right. He may have white hair but his voice is powerful and suave, and his band's songs are creative, fun, and beautiful to listen to. If anyone has any interest in the folk music of Nicaragua, his is the best in the country.)