Sunday, March 30, 2008

appliance failure

This has not been a good month for our household's appliances.

Not long ago, our coffeemaker and ricemaker both ceased to function.

Then, our toilet started to run, leaving us with a $100 water bill this month.

And yesterday was the most dramatic occurence yet as our bathroom was practically destroyed by fire in the shower.

Yes, you read right. Fire in the shower. You see, we have one of those widowmaker things that wires electric current into our shower head to heat the water. So yesterday morning I stepped into the shower, turned the water setting from hot to cold, and BAM! The widowmaker was on fire. Sparks flew through the air--almost singing my hair. After screaming bloody murder (not literally), and jumping out of the shower, I realized the wires were still on fire and burning the entire showerhead. As smoke filled up the bathroom, I threw water on the fire (I don't actually know if one is supposed to throw water on electrical fires, but that's what I did).

Coughing the smoke out of my lungs, I called our landlord to ask him to send an electrician over to fix the system.

Meanwhile, a plumber was walking down the street, and I invited him in to fix our leaky toilet, which is about the only good piece of news from the day.

I say that because the electricians came at 11:30am, and spent 3 hours here undoing all our electrical wiring, cleaning the breaker box, reinstalling a new showerhead...all of this time me being forced to endure the worst heat of the day without any electricity to power even a fan. When they finally left, I was so relieved that I sent them away with a tip, since they weren't going to get paid by my landlord til Monday.

Then I opened the refrigerator. Yup, you guessed it. No electricity. I burst into tears. I just wanted to leave the house to meet my roommate at a local coffeeshop where we go to escape the Managua afternoon heat, but now I had another problem to solve. Thankfully, we had one extension cord in the house, which I used combined with a 2-3 prong connector thing to plug the fridge into the plug on the other side of the kitchen which thank God DID have electricity flowing.

When I finally got to Esperanza Coffee, I definitely felt I had earned my cold frappaccino. Which I drank with glee.

[post script: when me and Andrea came home last night, we realized that one of her outlets doesn't work either. ugh.]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

to the isla and back again

So if you've checked out the album link below, you know that I spent the last 4 days with my roommates in a gorgeous place called Corn Island off the southeast coast of Nicaragua. Corn Island is actually 2 islands, Big Corn and Little Corn. Big Corn is about an hour flight from Managua--so in the madrugada Thursday the 3 of us set off for the airport, boarded a 20 passenger Cessna plane (with propellers!), and landed on Big Corn at about 7am. We met up with another friend of ours who was already there, walked along the white sand shore of the caribe's crystal blue water for a bit, and then the adventure really began.

So we knew we'd be taking a boat across from Big Corn to Little Corn, but we had no idea it would be a panga--a panga, for the uninitiated is an open 50 passenger speed boat with no roof and very little in the way of protection from the water or the shock of cresting waves. Needless to say, the 30 minute trip felt more like a roller coaster than a peaceful boat ride. Jolted from our seats every 2 minutes unexpectedly, Andrea and I could not stop looking eat each other and laughing uncontrollably while trying to avoid a neck or back injury.

It was well worth the wild ride, however. Little Corn island is so small there are no cars on the island--everyone gets around on bikes or on foot. In fact, the whole perimeter of the island can be walked in about 3 hours (and we almost did it when we got lost on a foot path later that afternoon). We wandered a little ways around the island to our hotel, a beautiful eco-lodge called Casa Iguana with bush lined trails, brightly painted casitas, and a priceless view of the beach. And don't even get me started on the food, which was prepared by a master chef trained at a NY Culinary Institute. My mouth is watering just thinking about the coconut french toast, the curried shrimp, and king fish with basil walnut pesto (homemade from their very own garden!).

Anyway, we spent a couple hours sun-bathing, then after lunch commenced what turned out to be a massive 2 hour hike exploring 80% of the island. Some cold showers followed by a delicious dinner and full moon watching capped off the evening. Day 2 was much of the same, with the fun addition of a snorkeling adventure, in which I learned how to breath using a mask and skinned my knee on some gorgeous coral.

On Saturday afternoon we returned to Big Corn, only to be massively disappointed in having to take taxis everywhere...and also in our hotel--where we were later scared out of our wits when we heard glass bottles breaking and people shouting well into the night right outside our window. So, the first order of business Sunday morning was to find a better place to say, which after having accomplished, we set out to make the most of the day, having a delicious Easter breakfast at a local joint called Nautilus, and then snorkeling in the afternoon. We saw a bunch of colorful fish and the ruins of several really old boats which now have marine life growing all over them. I think it was a lot more fun the second time, because I actually knew what I was doing and wasn't just thinking about breathing every minute.

All in all, the entire time was delightfully refreshing and such a wonderful break from Managua life. One cultural note--the majority of the population is of African-indigenous descent and they speak English Creole (I barely understood 10% of what I heard) and then Spanish as a second language. And while the islands are covered with palm trees and coconuts, the poverty was nonetheless still starkly present, reminding me that while I might be in a tropical paradise, life for some of these Nicaraguans is just as hard as it is for the people I know on the Pacific side.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Corn Island Photos

I'm too tired right now to give a narrative, but have some pics. :-)

3-word summary: It was awesome.

10-word summary: Tropical island. Palm trees. Hammocks. White sand. Snorkeling. Fresh seafood.

More details tomorrow. Buenas noches.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

going away for a bit

For those 3 or 4 of you who will check this blog in the next few days, I am headed to Nicaragua's east coast (Corn Island, to be exact) to celebrate the Easter holiday with my roommates. Back online Monday with photos and lots of good stories (I hope).

Celestial spirit that doth roll
The heart's sepulchral stone away,
Be this our resurrection day,
The singing Easter of the soul -O gentle Master of the Wise,
Teach us to say: "I will arise."
~Richard Le Gallienne

Friday, March 14, 2008

in the midst of drought

It would be an understatement to say that it’s gotten increasingly dry and dusty ‘round these parts. March and April are by far the hottest months of the year in Nicaragua, and this year is no exception. Everywhere I look the fields are brown, the dry earth increasingly charred by fire, and yet the trees, well, the trees are inexplicably green (albeit not the vibrant green of winter).

It’s a phenomenon that has made me stop and reflect in the last several days. How in the world can these trees still bloom amidst the drought in which we are living? What is the secret to their continued life?

From somewhere in the back of my mental archives, where scientific knowledge not used since high school is stored, the answer came.

It’s all about the roots!

Despite all evidence to the contrary, moisture can still be found in this land after 3 months of drought, moisture stored well below the surface of the earth, moisture only accessible to the most complex and persistent root systems developed through years of experience with this 3 month period of survival. All energy is conserved, all blooming and growth ceases, to ensure that the moisture stored in the heart of the tree’s roots is sufficient to outlast the dry season. And then when the rains of May come, we see the fruit of all of this careful planning—a burst of new eye-popping green everywhere you turn.

For various reasons, shared and unshared, this has been a very dry season for me personally. The condition of my heart has mirrored the color of the earth on which I walk each day. And as I have cried and thought and prayed, I have come to the conclusion that I must become like one of these trees that I admire so much.

I must dig deeper. I must fight harder.
I must search for the living water somewhere deep within the well of my soul that is still there, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I must not give up. Oh, please, may I not give up!

Friday, March 07, 2008

it's osh kosh b'gosh!

Father Neil with patients in El Ojoche...they were certainly patient!

Our group and the local community health committe, plus some kids who hung around all day with us!

The line in La Carreta--people sought what little shade there was in the dry dusty afternoon

Nurse practicioner Kristen always had a smile for the kids...

Our makeshift doctor's offices in San Miguelito--specially made for our clinic!

Yes, this week we hosted a team from San Rafael's Catholic Church from none other than Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. I spent the majority of the week with this delightful group of folks, helping with translation for the medical part of the team--who did 3 full days of clinics in 3 different communities near Nicaragua's northwest border with Honduras--El Ojoche, San Miguelito, and La Carreta--while the other part of the team worked alongside the families of Ojoche on their new patio gardens, and learning a lot about this beautiful community (which is also famous for its handmade pottery). It was an exhausting week, one that left me full of joy and purpose...even though I did manage to contract a nasty 24 hour stomach virus at the end. These are just a few of the many sights of our week together...