Sunday, April 29, 2007


This weekend was the annual Ladies Retreat organized by the International Christian Fellowship committee here in Nicaragua, and boy did we the coast of Nicaragua near Pochomil (about 1 hour from Managua) is a beautiful place where we slept for 2 nights in air conditioned rooms, swam in a gi-normous pool, walked along a gorgeous beachfront, fellowshipped, ate WAY too much food, sang, and heard some good teaching on Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
My awesome retreat roommate (pictured above) Wendy is from Ontario, Canada, and is here working for MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates). All in all, it was a spiritually and physically refreshing time, and a really nice break from the heat, dust, pollution, and noise that characterizes my daily life in Managua.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

¡Benjamin Linder, presente!

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Benjamin Linder, a young American engineer who was killed in an ambush on April 28, 1987, by a group of CIA-funded Contras while working on a small hydroelectric dam that was to bring electricity and running water to a village in the middle of Nicaragua's war zone.

To commemorate Ben's death, this morning the international community here in Nicaragua was invited to hear Dora Maria Tellez, a leader during the Sandinista Revolution and now nationally respected author and professor, share her thoughts on what solidarity means for all of us, then and now. Dora struck me as thoughtful, down-to-earth, and deeply passionate about the future of her pueblo. She is short, athletic, and wore a purple short-sleeved collared shirt, jeans, and sneakers for the occasion.

A few of the things she said...

"Be on the side of justice. If someone else is suffering, than so I am. My well being depends on the well being of others around the world."

"So many times people talk about there’s the good ladrones and the bad ladrones. The point is, they are all ladrones. Period."

"People with resources can get an appointment with the President in 15 minutes and get their problems resolved. It is the people with the most needs that most need us."

"We need to reinstill the value of volunteerism because our country needs every ounce of strength we have to move forward."

"Democracy is the defense of the poor."

As long as there are people like you and me standing in solidarity with the poor, Ben's spirit lives on. As they say here in Nicaragua,

¡Benjamin Linder, presente!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

first rain

It started with gusts of wind, flashes of light in the western sky and the rumblings of a divine bowling outing far in the distance.

The temperature was dropping. Soon the pitter patter of droplets could be heard on our hot tin roof.

Within minutes the pitter patter became such a clatter that I had to get a front row seat from my rocking chair on the porch.

Rain poured down the sides of the roof, the force of the wind carrying them onto my legs and our porch floor. The sides of the road became flowing streams, as the new rivers forming carried debris downhill toward the intersection, quickly creating a small pond.

It poured and poured and poured. I knew I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos, but I didn't care. For once, I wasn't sweating!

After a 5 month hiatus, the rain has returned. Aleluia!

Monday, April 23, 2007


Friday was moving day for our office—picking up lots of heavy boxes and trying to move things like refrigerators and desks with files still in them really takes a lot out of me, for some reason. But, the hard work is over now, and we have some great new digs slightly closer to our house, and I have an actual office as opposed to the cubicle I resided in for the last 11 months.

On Friday night, one of the Nicaraguan women affiliated with my work here, Darling and her 2 kids came over to spend the night with me and Andrea. We ordered pizza, watched the Princess Bride in Spanish, and hung out on the porch until the mosquitoes drove us indoors.

Saturday morning Darling was up early looking for breakfast options, and quickly noted, “This is a VERY gringa kitchen. Lots of instant food.” She was right, but as I told her, we eat plenty of Nica food (and love it), we just don’t cook much of it ourselves. Nevertheless, we managed to scrape together the ingredients for rice and scrambled eggs with tomato/onions and warmed up some gringo tortillas. The second we were done eating, Darling was putting together the list of ingredients for our lunch—an old staple here known as Indio Viejo. (Basically it’s tender beef mixed with pureed tomato, onion, green pepper, and lime juice and then cooked with ground cornmeal). We spent 3 hours preparing this meal (with D. the ever present teacher), and it was so delicious I am sure I will be making it myself again soon! We also made some lime jello just for kicks...

The kids played internet games while A, D, and I talked about church politics, faith, and family. Then we painted our toenails and got ready to go to a coworker’s birthday party, where we sang happy birthday in 4 languages (English, Spanish, Dutch, and Misquito-the indigenous language of the east coast).

Sunday morning I left early with another coworker to attend a meeting of “negociantes” (small business people participating in one of the NC programs designed to instill Christian business principles and provide concrete tools for microenterprise improvements) in Chinandega, where I heard testimony after testimony of the difference this program has made in attitudes, families, and businesses in the area.

I spent the night at “the pastoral house”, where although my friends Pastor O. and his wife R. were not present, their family gave me a warm welcome and a cool room to sleep in (yes, it was air conditioned! For only the 2nd time in 11 months….) That night we had an awesome prayer and praise meeting in the “tabernacle room”, where the family has an actual replica of the Biblical tabernacle and other decorations that remind me of the OT. I also had a very meaningful discussion with my friend Carlos about Ruben Dario, linguistics, and the warmth and generosity of the Nica people.

This morning I helped sort clothing donations given to the pastor’s ministry with some of the youth from his church, and then visited some of the locations where the church runs “comedores infantiles”, or a free lunch program for children, pregnant women, and the elderly. And after a late lunch, I boarded a microbus (minivan) and headed back to Managua.

And now I am home.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

from the letter

I had actually forgotten all about it. But lo and behold, a letter arrived this week from Soohwan, a letter I had written to myself to be sent to me one year after my training concluded in the DR.

Sometimes we know far in advance what our hearts will need to hear in a future moment. And so it is in this case that reading my own words brought back memories, images, strength, and tears. Excerpts follow...

"I pray that you will have truly known and believed God’s promise that He will never leave you or forsake you, that He has not abandoned you in your pain or struggle, but that He is mighty to save, that He is the Good Shepherd, a suffering servant who identifies with your weakness in every way and desires to life you up if you will only humble yourself and pray-and seek His face.

Remember that God is in Nicaragua just as close as He has been in the DR or San Antonio, and His grace is present with you and all the people you know there now.

Remember that people matter more than projects, and the process may matter more than the result.

Remember that relationships, trust-building, and peacemaking may be the most important things God works during your time in Nicaragua.

Remember that development is messy and transformation at the end of the day depends on the work of the Holy Spirit, not me.

Remember that communication with God is the most important thing for advancing His kingdom.

Remember that Jesus is the living water and the bread of life.

And He is with you always."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

bats, magma, & a despedida

This weekend, Andrea and I joined our friends Brian and Andrea (I really think these masks we are wearing are going to become the next big fashion hit) on a night hike in the Volcan Masaya National Park (about 30 minutes south of Managua), where we saw not only a smoking, active volcano, a huge bat cave (where bats flew around us as we walked through), and a gorgeous sunset, but also LIQUID HOT MAGMA!
Yes, we were excited...
The view from the top of the hill we climbed
Probably the best sunset pic I have taken in 11 months...

This is the magma, in case you can't was WAY down deep in the crater, so pictures really don't do it will just have to believe me when I tell you it was AWESOME. : )

The sad part, however, is that Saturday night we went to Brian and Andrea's "despedida", or goodbye party, which was a blast, but also bittersweet, as it has been difficult for me to find kindred spirits so far from home.

B & A, if you are reading, know that I miss you already. KIT.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

my macroecon mini-rant

I am not an economist, so I can't speak to the economic ramifications of this policy, but as a lifelong student of politics and a Christian, I can say unequivocally with Francis Ng’ambi that what the IMF is doing in this area of salary capping as a condition for aid is not only bad for Nicaragua's national sovereignty, civil society development, and the future of thousands of childen in this country, but for every other developing nation forced to make policies to improve their country while being constrained by this kind of requirement as well.

Please don't get me wrong, I am all in favor of standards, accountability and benchmarks to ensure effective use of international funds. But preventing the hiring of new teachers (not to mention health workers and all other government paid staff) and limiting their salaries when they are already underpaid?

That is going too far.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

easter weekend

The colorful works of art you see are made by the people of Sutiava, the oldest, indigenous neighborhood in Leon, on Good Friday. They are made on beds of firmly packed sawdust held together with pieces of wood, and the designs you see are made using dyed sawdust, flour, and sometimes 3 dimensional objects like plants. The people work for 6-8 hours Friday on this street art in preparation for the procession commemorating Jesus' death that evening, which begins at the old Sutiava church, meanders through the streets of Old Leon, and eventually comes back down to Sutiava where the symbolic tomb of Jesus is carried over the works of art (yes, they are destroyed in the process--my understanding is that this is their way of honoring Christ in a personal and sacrificial way). It is one of the oldest traditions in the neighborhood, and people come from all over the city (and all over the world) to see the beautiful designs that fill 3 blocks.

The last photo was taken of me at dawn this morning at an old fort overlooking the city of Leon, where I went to celebrate with Andrea and two friends and colleagues, Mike and Maria.

Aleluia, He is risen. Yes, He is risen indeed.

Friday, April 06, 2007

by dawn's early light

Early in the madrugada (early morning) today, I was roused from slumber by an amplified but slow and mournful drumbeat. Wrapping my thin blanket over my shoulders and slipping on the nearest pair of shoes, I opened the front door and wandered outside. The full moon was still visible in the western sky as the dawn's light began to creep over the horizon.

I walked out to the main road, searching for signs of the music I had heard a few minutes before. As I turned my attention from the sky's brilliant pink and orange hues to the deserted road, a small van with speakers playing the lament I had heard earlier appeared, surrounded by the faithful.

Music, processionals, reenactment, remembrance.

This is Good Friday in Nicaragua. +

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


"Hey, I could make some bread crumbs for our salad...[insert confused facial expression from Andrea]...I mean croutons! [uproarous laughter follows]" -Pamela, Monday night in Managua

"This fruit drink is good for your you can drink more cerveza!" -Man on the street in Granada today

"Please close the toilet bowl when you are done so that the positive energy does not escape." -in the bathroom of El Tercer Ojo, a restaurante in Granada

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

gente de tierra y fruta bella

horse, bike, bus, or a pie?
High in las montanas of Matagalpa

fruta on the streets of Boaco