What to say about Nicaragua?
We flew into Managua and saw the congestion and the FSLN graffiti and the people, the people, the people. We were in Nicaragua.
The first night we played tourist and danced. We were in Nicaragua.
The next morning we met with Accion Medica Cristiana (AMC), Christian Medical Action, the organization we would be working with over the coming week. We learned about the land banks, plots of land offered to locals in the rural region of Matagalpa, who are given a no interest loan for the land that they have to pay off in 10 years. We would work on one of these land banks, El Progreso. We met Belinda, a UMC missionary working with AMC, as well as Alex, a mission intern (the same program I did, what seems like forever ago). We visited a dental clinic that Metropolitan UMC (the church I work for, the sponsor of the trip) supports, and Debora the young dentist cried when she talked about what the church's support had allowed her to do. We went to a market. We saw a volcano. We were in Nicaragua.
We toured Managua. We learned about Sandino, and then saluted the massive silhouette of him that overlooks the city. We joked about his swagger. We heard about the earthquake. We noticed the fresco of the conquistador over the entrance to the old cathedral, killing indigenous people. We ate at a chain, and Kate was upset about it.
We watched a baseball game and went to a Christian Base Community, one of many of such groups that had formed during the revolution and the contra war, providing voice within (and often outside of) the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. We heard the members of the community discuss the gospel, and the service was led by youth and the music as well. And afterwards we talked with the community, and people got defensive when they felt they were being accused of supporting U.S. policy in Nicaragua, and it was hard.
We spent most of the week in the rural mountains of Matagalpa. The views were incredible, opening up in vast expanses, and one day we were driving in a cloud with clouds clutching at the mountainsides across the valley and on the distant slopes you could tell that the sun was shining. We were in Nicaragua.
The people were incredible, too. We worked alongside the families of the land bank, building latrines. Concepcion laughed when I stumbled into the brick wall we had worked so hard on, almost ruining all of our work. Alex and Veronica did most of the work after that. I was, I am, of questionable use. But we asked questions and shared sugar cane, and on a rainy day played soccer with people of the community. And in the end we had three latrines, three steps toward public health, and we'd started two others. And we'd gotten to know the strength and the sharing and the compassion and the hospitality of this place. We were in El Progreso. We were in Nicaragua.
We stayed in Santa Luz during the week, in a little collection of buildings that even had some running water, shock-cold-and-you're-breathless. And Andy got sick, then Jimmy, then I did. It was miserable. But that doesn't stack up against the wonderful meals, the conversations. The children. The rain on the roof. The lightning. The stars the stars the stars. We were in Nicaragua.
We met with the Women and Community group, and heard the incredible work they're doing in domestic violence situations and with access to birth control and even providing shelter and comfort for a member of the community who had come out. And we swam in a lake formed out of an old volcano, and in the background another volcano loomed, smoking. And we leaped off of a dock together. And the volcano was still there, and all of our rhymes ended in volcano, and we drank Nicaraguan beer and played at being tourists. And we were in Nicaragua.
Flying back into the U.S. we had the craziest experience in the Miami airport. We barely made our flight. And then we were back in D.C. And now we are in the U.S., and the question is what to do now, what to do with all of these experiences, what to tell, what to show, how to act and advocate and amplify, what to do with all of the experiences that we had while we were in Nicaragua.
The pictures here were all taken by my fantastic friend Anna. Thanks Anna!