Saturday, November 29, 2008

felicidades, licenciadas

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending my good friend Wendy's graduation from the UNAN (the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua). I met Wendy (BA in Philology and Communication) last fall at a CECNIC (Christian Nicaraguan College Students) event, and we have shared some fun times together over the last year as well as great conversations about theology, politics, and life. Pictured with us (middle) is fellow graduate and mutual acquaintance Oneyda.

I've attended various kinds of special occasions here in Nicaragua--weddings, wakes, baby showers, etc--and each one is unique, though often not so very different than in the United States. In this case, the one major difference is that it is customary for the graduates to process into the auditorium with a relative or friend of their choice, who then also accompany them up onto the stage when they receive their diplomas. I think that's a really neat way to honor and acknowledge publicly the support and sacrifice of others who contributed to this landmark in one's life.

Another interesting thing is that officially getting one's Bachelor's degree here is a really big deal. Unlike in the States, where one normally would only note one's degree after one's name after getting a Masters or PhD, here in Nicaragua, college graduates are immediately called "licenciado/a" (literally, titled) and include that distinction in correspondence, etc. as a form of respect.

Felicidades, licenciadas!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

There is a moment from my senior year of high school that encapsulates my secondary school experience and haunts me into my adult years…

I am sitting cross legged on the heater in the small hallway outside the drama department classroom which doubled as the set for the one-act play I had been cast in. Around me are 20 something fellow students, most of whom I have known for four years or more. The chatter and laughter bubbles up around me, and I watch in silence.

Later, at home, I write these words, a poem and a song:
I’m not a part of your world
I’m not a part of your world
There’s a circle all around me
But all I am is background…

And it goes on. It’s quite the depressing tune. But it represents a feeling I have often had, in many groups throughout the years, that even in a crowd, I am still alone. Even among friends, I am alone. Even within the community of faith, I am alone. For as much as I have sought to be fully known and loved, for as often as I have gone madly confessional in this space and in more intimate conversations with friends in the hopes of being understood, there remains a part of me that will never, can never be known this side of heaven. And I suppose that is part of what has fed the perpetual doubts in my mind and heart about the love and acceptance others have for me, despite every evidence to the contrary.

In some ways, I suppose a healthy skepticism of other’s proclaimed affection can be a useful defense against pain and hurt. It can also lead to looking for manifestations of love in the wrong places, places that appear “safer” but actually are much more destructive. Or it might mean rejecting even healthy forms of intimacy in relationships for fear of an impending rejection, or because of the inevitable realization that no person can fill my need for love completely.

I’ve been in all of these places, both before I came to Nicaragua and since. But now I am trying to move into a new place, a space beyond fear and dependence, a space where transparency and vulnerability are sacred gifts to be given with much forethought and care, a space where I can better accept and appreciate the imperfect yet sincere love of those around me in its manifold expressions.

I like to think of this space as a garden…a garden I have only just begun to cultivate. But one that I hope will bear much fruit in season.

Friday, November 21, 2008

huir y ser hallada

Echando un vistazo atrás
corriendo como el viento
tratando de escapar memorias
que se han convertido en pesadillas

Escuchando el grito ahogado
huyendo del pasado
borrando el pecado
que no quiere ser olvidado

Llenando mis ojos
tosiendo por el polvo
buscando un refugio
donde hay un pedazo de aliento

Lagrimas y duda
Día y noche mi comida
mi corazón en esclavitud
alejado de la luz y virtud

Saliendo de la sombra
una voz me llamaba
En un susurro, con ternura
Decía, dejes de huir, hija Mía
Mi amor y mi perdón son para ti
¿No me creía?

O Señor, tantas veces que te he huido….y siempre me hallas. Y cuando vuelvo en sí, como el hijo prodigo, digo como tus discípulos de todas las épocas….

A quien iré, O Cristo…tú, y solo tú tienes palabras de Vida.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Te pido la paz para mi ciudad

On Sunday, November 9th, Nicaraguans across the country went to the polls to elect new mayors in all 16 departments and hundreds of municipalities.

Unfortunately, what should have been a "gran fiesta civica" has turned into an increasingly unstable situation, particularly in Managua and Leon, as the results of the capital's election have been under dispute since the Supreme Electoral Council began announcing its vote counts in the late evening hours that night.

The PLC (Liberal) Party is claiming a fraudulent process led to the victory of the Sandinista candidate Alexis Arguello over opposition candidate Eduardo Montealegre. Liberal party leaders have called protests in both Managua and Leon to demand a recount. Sandinistas have taken to the streets to prevent these protests from occurring, and troubling incidents of violence have been reported almost daily for the last week.

Yesterday and today half the city was rendered paralyzed when major intersections and rotundas were blocked after a major march was announced.

Thus far there appears to be no political solution being negotiated to bring an end to the instability caused by these disputed results.

I ask all of you to please lift up this country in your prayers--for peace, wisdom, restraint, good judgment, justice, and mercy to be exercised by all parties involved--the politicians, electoral process officials, police, and citizens. And that a solution be reached without delay.

O Dios, Te pido la paz para esta ciudad, para esta nacion, que tanta la necesita en estos momentos. Ten misericordia y rescatenos de toda maldad. Que haya justicia en esta tierra, que haya temor de Ti en los corazones de sus lideres.


some CR trip photos

Sunday, November 16, 2008

to costa rica and back again

Tonight I am a mixture of emotions as I sit at my kitchen table and reflect on the last 4 days. Thursday morning in the early morning hours I left Managua for San Jose (Costa Rica) with the Dordt students. Our trip’s purposes were twofold—to give them a feel for the culture and history of another Central American country, and to study the immigration issue up close and personal.

More than 500,000 Nicaraguans live in Costa Rica, where they work seasonal jobs like cutting coffee, construction, or as domestic employees. Many of them live in a poor barrio called el Carpio just north of the capital, where we went yesterday afternoon to visit with representatives of an organization that works there and hear from the Nicas themselves about their experience living in Costa Rica.

All of the people we spoke with have been living in Costa Rica for at least 5 years (one woman has been there 15 years), and have been back to Nicaragua very few times if at all during that time. They all said they came to Costa Rica because of the promise of economic opportunity, but most still appear to be struggling to get by. One said she did not want to go back. Others said it was their most cherished dream to go back to the country where they were born, the land they love. Their eyes lit up when our group shared all the things we appreciated about their culture, their food, their communities.

Later that night in our debriefing, someone commented on how it struck them that we (North Americans) have such facility of movement—that we just come and go as we please between these two countries—and yet these families have been living divided by a gran frontera, some for decades.

Crossing back into Nicaragua this afternoon, I marveled at how these two countries, which are so similar in indigenous roots, in language, in diet, in musical instruments, which are separated geographically by nothing more than a narrow river, are also separated by a grand canyon in terms of infrastructural and economic development. Walking the streets of downtown San Jose, one almost forgets that this is still Central America, so smothering is the presence of global corporations and businesses—in 10 blocks on the Avenida Central, only one restaurant offered comida tipica del pais. The rest were American chains.

And the people of these two countries—who ought to be in strong solidarity with one another as neighbors—are instead caught up in the tangled web that is woven when wealthy and poor countries share a border. The questions are familiar but still demand considerable reflection: What rights should immigrants have in another country? What responsibilities does the host government bear? If citizens of a country refuse to take certain jobs, is it okay for immigrants to take them? What is the appropriate Christian response to these issues? To raise these questions was a large part of the trip’s academic purpose.

But for me, the trip provoked a personal response as well. This morning, as we rose higher and higher out of the San Jose valley into the rolling green hills and gentle mountain ranges that dominate the northern CR landscape, I found myself longing for the more familiar sites that awaited me on the other side of Penas Blancas. And so when we crossed over and began the second leg of our journey through the narrow grassy plains that separate Lake Nicaragua from the Pacific Ocean, when I saw the familiar twin volcanoes of Ometepe island, when I glimpsed the silhouette of the well-traversed Volcan Mombacho on the horizon, when I noticed the women of Rivas and Granada and Masaya with their cast iron pots and make-shift grills on the streets selling pollo asado and tajada and frescos, my heart skipped a beat even as it smiled with relief.

And then it hit me like a bittersweet, unresolved jazz note….this is my home…a home that I will be leaving in 5 months. And I want to cry.

Monday, November 10, 2008


In what could be my last trip to the island paradise of Ometepe where I just spent the last 4 days getting a little much needed R&R...

-I walked more than 15 kilometers in 2 days

-I climbed at least halfway up a volcano to see a gorgeous waterfall (and then got drenched in it)

-I spent many hours laughing with my roomie Andrea and her friend Shannon visiting from PA

-I ate the best brocheta de pollo (shish-ka-bob) of my life (made with curry, pineapple, banana, green pepper, tomato and onion)

-I saw some cool pre-columbian petroglyphs...

-I sweated buckets

-I enjoyed the beauty of dozens of colorful flowers (Dawn, this one remind me of you!)

-I swam in a "fountain of youth", the pristine mineral waters of the "ojo del agua"

-I biked on muddy, rocky roads, took a nasty fall, and escaped with one knee scraped up and several bad bruises

-I became obsessed with a bluejay like bird called the uracca, which turns out to behave remarkably like a pigeon

-I witnessed several breathtaking sunrises and sunsets

-I finished Henri Nouwen's book "Camino a Casa" por fin!

See a lot more photos here: