ESCALTORS, TRAFFIC LIGHTS, AND PAPER CLIPS

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Plans are being made to prepare the girls to start school at the end of January.  Many don’t have records from their previous school, so they’ll have to write placement tests.  A number of the girls who’ve been at CINAG cannot read, which is so difficult for me to comprehend.

Indeed, when we took these seven girls to a movie, the theatre was on the third floor of a shopping mall in Managua, and at least three of the girls had not been on an escalator before.  On an earlier outing, Katia had asked about the traffic lights – she didn’t know what they were.  And one of the items in the pencil cases we gave out was paper clips, and Norma had no idea what they were.

School is tricky on another level.  Of course it is healthiest for the residents to have a bigger world than just the grounds of CINAG, but some of the girls see school as an opportunity to meet with neighborhood boys, and these girls are too young to have boyfriends.

deep night

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On the beach at La Flor at night, looking for laying or hatching turtles, we were treated to a wondrous sky.  We were out in the open, and far from any light pollution, so we had a marvelous view of the stars.  It was very peaceful and inspiring.

 

 

 

CINAG update and vacation highlights

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Bad weather extended our travel day to a day and a half.  We were on time into Chicago but all flights from Chicago to Houston were running really late, and we were lucky to get into Houston before 10 p.m. and fortunate to get seats on a 9:30 a.m. flight to Managua.  We got a “distressed traveller” rate at a local motel with an airport shuttle, and got overnight kits (toothbrush, razor, etc) from Continental Airlines, so we were okay overnight; fortunately we had a change of clothes in our carry-on.

I read Lisa Samson’s Embrace Me on the plane, and I recommend it. (I recommend most of her books!)

We met a fellow-traveller who had the same itinerary as we did from Chicago to Managua. It was his first time out of the country… he had been to Canada but apparently that doesn’t count as leaving the USA.  Mike (of course his name was Mike) was going to Leon because his son was marrying a Nicaraguan woman.  We chatted a bit and I hope he was more at ease after speaking with us.

It was great to arrive in Managua and see the SwivInLaws, Ingrid, & Andrea (and Andrea’s cousin) waiting on the other side of the glass.  Our luggage all arrived with us, and we strapped it into the back of the truck and were off to Diriamba. With three teens, it was noisy in the cab of the truck.  A quick stop to change and unpack enough to find the gifts, then off again to CINAG for the Christmas celebration (it was to be a lunch but our delay pushed it back to midafternoon).  We got to see Jhara, Katia, Ana Julia, Reina, Norma, and of course Andrea and Ingrid.  Andrea’s cousin was also along.  We also got to meet Jessica.
We had gifts for the girls, and cards that were sent along;
the SwivInLaws had gifts for them as well.  It was a fun and casual time together.

Andrea is staying with her aunt for Christmas, in Managua.  Ingrid tried to go home, but called and asked to be rescued since things were not going well for her at home; Ingrid and Reina are staying with Elizabeth, CINAG’s director.  Katia is staying with Eveline. Norma went home, too, but spends most of her time at her grandmother’s because home is the reason she was placed in CINAG.  Jessica is also back in the community for Christmas.

Jhara and Ana Julia are true orphans, and they are staying with
the SwivInLaws & us during the holidays.  CINAG will open again on January 2 for the girls to return there.

Kimberly and Amelia were fetched by one of their mothers, and went all the way home to Puerta Cabeza; it is not known whether Family Services will return them to CINAG in January or not.  Elisa also went to stay with an aunt in Leon and did not return on the agreed date, so her aunt may have been granted custody, or she may yet show up at CINAG.

Good news for Andrea; the trial is over and she did not need to testify again. Her abuser is in jail.  Unfortunately she cannot return home because her mother was not on her side in this struggle so she is not welcome at home.

Ana Julia has the chicken pox, and was feeling quite lousy the first few days we were here.  Now she is feeling a lot better and most of the spots are clearing up.  Norma had the pox before we arrived, but not as severely as AJ.  This outbreak did cause us to cancel one planned trip to a waterpark with the girls.

We settled into the master bedroom at the place
the SwivInLaws are housesitting.  It is such a big place – it feels wrong to have this expansive luxury in the midst of so much poverty.
We walked up to the office and connected to the internet there to check in with folks at home.


Christmas Day was low key.  We had a few gifts to give out here (from us and from Scott & Elisa).
Bertalina and Lisette (CINAG staff) dropped in with Christmas wishes and visited for about an hour.
We went to Wally & Esther’s (Wally is a Canadian in charge of building projects & maintenance at CINAG) for some unhealthy food, and saw their dog’s nine puppies whose eyes weren’t even open yet.  Wally & Esther’s four kids were busily happy with all their new toys they’d received for Christmas.  Ana Julia stayed with them while we went to visit Pablo & Amanda, because we didn’t want to spread the chicken pox to Pablito while he is so young.
We ended the day at home, playing the Disney version of UNO (which requires Tinkerbell to be consulted about what color to be played, using an annoying electronic randomizer).


Boxing Day’s first view was an armed street sweeper.  One of the housing compound’s guards was sweeping up the debris & fallen leaves, but a rifle slung over the back isn’t an ordinary sight in our home neighborhood.  Come to think of it, neither is a street sweeper…


The big event of the day was Reina’s fifteenth birthday party.  Latin Americans hold the quincienera very dearly and there are a lot of traditions surrounding it.  Reina is NOT a girly girl but even she had the over-the-top lacy dress plus headpiece and gloves and high heels.  There was a devotional, a prayer, gifts, a pinata, games, and a song for which every man present had to dance with her.  They hadn’t hired a photographer so we made an effort to take lots of pictures and tried to get a good portrait but it was difficult.
( photos of Reina’s party here )

On our way home we six went to a restaurant and ate delicious pupusas.
Our evening activities included downloading photos, tying bracelets, needlework, and playing games.  The girls, especially Ana Julia, called former mamitas on
the SwivInLaws‘ cell phone.

On the 27th we drove out to San Juan del Sur, a beach town on the Pacific coast.  It is on a sheltered bay, which made it very safe for Jhara and Ana Julia to play in the water.  Unfortunately the lack of waves made it a bit dull.  Over the two days we were there, we drove (on terrible roads) to a few other beaches in the area; Coco had the best waves for bodysurfing.  We enjoyed walking along all the beaches, but at Playa Reymanso we were cautioned back by two armed policia because bandits are known to wait there in the cliffs for beachgoers to wander far from the crowds.

We stayed at Hotel Colonial which was nice and certainly enough for what we needed. The grounds were a nice place to relax.  The two girls slept on the floor in the SwivInLaws‘ room, on foam mattresses we’d brought along. (They use those mattresses at the house in the living room for night, and I believe they are from their rooms in CINAG.)
Mrs. SwivInLaw isn’t enthused about the town of San Juan del Sur, but I found it comfortable and relaxing, and I don’t generally like touristy places.  We had great food there!
A river mouth is at the edge of the beach at SJdS and some enterprising boys were ferrying locals across on an old wooden boat by pulling hand over hand along a wire or rope they’d strung across the river.

After our day at Coco we went further to Playa La Flor’s ecological reserve.  It cost us $20 each but we were given a basket of turtle hatchlings to release out on the beach (they’d hatched during the day and the reserve workers take them in to lessen the loss to predators) plus we walked the beach with red-covered flashlights and found more nests of turtles hatching right in front of our eyes.  We had to be very careful not to step on baby turtles!  The girls were too tired to stay late enough to hope to see female turtles coming up to lay eggs, but it was still worth it to see the hatchlings struggle out of their nests and head for the sea.

Ana Julia liked to visit Wally’s family, and especially the puppies.  We all went over again once they had their eyes open.  They are way too cute, and it seems that Shep is being as good a mom as a dog can be.

On the 30th we also went to deliver a message to Norma; Lisette helped us find Norma’s mother’s house in the barrio close to Diriamba’s cemetary.  Norma had gone to her grandmother’s but her sister said she’d receive the note we left, which turned out to be true.  There were beautiful and amazing flowers and plants all through that dismayingly poor barrio.

Mr. SwivInLaw, Mr. Swiv, & I went to see the Skylark Retreat Centre and a hotel in Jinotepe.  Skylark is beautiful and huge, a great place for a retreat.  The hotel is a ministry and I enjoyed the feel of the place – old colonial style.  Three floors of rooms plus roof access with a good view of Jinotepe.  Mr. Swiv saw all the work that it needs so he wasn’t as impressed as I was – I was ready to book a vacation there.
We also went to the market in Jinotepe.  We changed money with a coyote.  We bought: string for tying bracelets, three pails for food hampers, and 13 chairs for the church in the barrio by CINAG. We had to hide the string from the girls who stayed with us; we had only one spool out for them to use and Jhara had four bracelets made in no time.
After lunch there was a trip to the Pali, Nicaragua’s chain of grocery stores.

Then the event of the day: the barrio church’s year end celebration.  They had organized a meal and received permission to meet in CINAG’s dining hall.


Before it began, we did have time to distribute three food hampers into that community.  Hazel’s family’s cow had been burned with boiling water by an unhappy neighbor, which was hard to understand.

The church kids were delighted with their gifts, sent by Willowlake folks.  They also received stickers (thanks to Arlen) which were a big hit.
Our two girls pitched in to help serve plates of food to the 60 people in attendance.

The most startling thing was that these little kids (5 or 6 years old) had known that they’d be served a decent meal and they had brought plastic bags along to take the bulk of their plate’s contents home – to share with family members who hadn’t attended, or to spread out the food over more than just one meal.

Morning arrived early on the 31st.  Eventually we went to CINAG to see if we needed to help clean up, and to bring a bunch of stuff (mostly that we brought from Canada) that Mrs. SwivInLaw preferred to have there since they will be moving to a different house on January 6th and don’t want to have any extra stuff to move.

We were able to go out into the community again and deliver a gift from Tammy to Maria Jose, and some children’s clothes to Perla.  Jasmina (CINAG’s cook) gave Darlene some new beans.

We saw the charming sight of Winston (Jasmina’s son) and Joslyn (CINAG’s janitor’s daughter) playing in Joslyn’s yard.  They had so little, but they played happily.  They have good families and are loved, which is what really matters.


Shortly after noon, we headed out in Pablo’s van to Managua to take seven girls to the movies.  Norma had been at Lisette’s since 8 a.m, both because she didn’t want to miss the outing and because she felt welcome at Lisette’s but not at home.
Mr. Swiv, Eveling, Jhara, Ana Julia, Norma, Reina, Katia, Ingrid, & Andrea went to Madagascar2 while Pablo,
the SwivInLaws, & I did some shopping at Sinsa & PriceSmart and Pablo checked his brake pads.
Rides in the van are always good for chatting and taking silly photos.  It was hot in Managua but by the time we were headed back to Diriamba we had most of the van windows closed because it was much cooler.


Juanita also came back from Managua; she stayed overnight because she was able to get New Year’s Day off from work.  Pablo & Amanda joined us for supper too, so it was nine plus Pablito around the table.  Jhara is very good with kids, even babies, so she was thrilled for another chance with Pablito.
The day ended with dangerous fireworks (everyone buys their own) and a game of SkipBo til midnight.


more photos here
 

NOT ON FACEBOOK?

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If you’re not on facebook, you can still see the Nicaragua photos:


WORKTEAM REPORT

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This is part of the report I gave this morning.  The other five workteam members reported too, so mine doesn’t cover the whole experience.



We are “home” but part of me is still in Diriamba, at CINAG, because those girls stole our hearts.
It is kind of hard to be here, simply because we can’t really be part of their lives from this far away.

It has now been five days since I’ve been kissed by Kimberly, or hugged by Reina, or had one of Leyla’s brilliant smiles aimed at me, or heard Elisa’s squealing or singing.  I miss Jhara’s beautiful, expressive eyes and Norma’s impish grins.  I wasn’t there to congratulate Andrea and Ingrid as they brought home the rest of their exam results this week.

*


During our time in Nicaragua, there were municipal elections.  There were concerns about fraud involved in the elections, and so there was turmoil:  protests, demonstrations, and some violence.  We watched some of these events on TV, and knew that our families back home might be worried.  The upheaval did not affect us much, but it did cause us to be concerned about peace and justice in Nicaragua.

*


One big difference for this workteam as compared to previous workteams is that we took the girls along on most of our ‘tourist’ outings.  This was great because many of the girls have not been to these places in their own country.  They came with us to the volcano, to Granada and the islands of Lake Nicaragua, to the ocean, and to the river and waterfall at La Maquina.

A NEW NORMAL

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Our time here is over half finished.  It is hard to think that in six days our lives will no longer be overlapping with these girls.
They are sweet and fun and annoying and lovable.
They are kids.

Lunches together at that long table feel so right.
It seems normal to be kissed and hugged by girls that I didn´t know at the beginning of the week.
Their antics make us laugh together, and our hearts break at their pain.

WELCOME TO CINAG

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The fabulous weather, palm trees, delicious food, and all such initial joys of being here became so insignificant when we met the girls who live at CINAG.

Their initial shyness soon faded (for most) and they were keen to interact with us.  Their eyes are bright and their faces are radiant when they smile.

My hair was well examined and envied, and a flower tucked behind my ear.   This first afternoon onsite, I could go nowhere without a lovely young Nicaraguan teen´s arm linked in mine (and usually one on each arm).

The resident girls are between 11 and 16 years old. Only two attend school right now; the others arrived in the middle of the school year and without transcripts or records, so they study at CINAG for the time being.

 

 

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