Nicaragua

Hey guys! I have not written in a while, but here I am, ready to put up some pictures of a recent adventure.

The last weekend of February, I spent four days in Nicaragua.  Our program was split into two groups so that our experiences would be more personal, and I was in the second group.  This means that when I boarded the bus on Thursday, February 25, I had already heard a lot about how Nicaragua was a country that would steal my heart and then break it into a thousand pieces, all in four days’ work.  I was bracing myself to see the harshest poverty, children sleeping on the street with the dogs and the blind.  And I did see some of that, but Nicaragua was not at all close to the picture I had painted for myself. It neither stole my heart nor broke it.  But I am totally grateful for those four days.

First of all, our travels took us to a very small part of this whole beautiful country: Granada.  And though Nicaragua is a Spanish-speaking country, the waiters at the restaurants spoke to us in English, and the vendors checked with us to see if we spoke Spanish before trying to sell us their goods.  (They seemed very relieved when they learned we were able to communicate them in the language they know, the idioma oficial de su pais.) All that to say our brief stint was spent in a very tourist-y area.

Our hotel was beautiful, homey, and sweet, and the owners are a kind couple with very good employees.  The breakfasts were yummy and my roommate, Lia and I, had a balcony looking out over the street below.

Our adventures took us out to dinner three nights in a row, to the Granada market, to a deaf café, to a Tio Antonio’s Social Hammock Project, on a boat tour of some little islands in el Lago de Nicaragua, to a ceramics lesson in the mountains, to a hostel on the shores of el Lago de Apoyo, and to a mirador/outlook that allowed us to see for miles upon miles.  It also took me to a lot of Catholic churches (my heart was so full! Yay!), and sent me on many early morning Erin-and-God time walks.

The experience was a special one, and I had the very awesome opportunity to walk to daily Mass on Friday and Saturday, and then to go to Mass again for Sunday.  The town, the first to be colonized in the area, has this incredible architecture and (more than) five beautiful churches.  I walked around town on Friday with these two lovely girls, Lena and Shannon, and we went exploring, choosing our next destination by when we saw the next church tower rising out of the city-scape.

We all arrived Thursday night, settled in, got dinner, and returned to our hotel.  The next morning, I woke up around sunrise to walk to morning Mass in the Cathedral at the central park:

After returning to the hotel, I got ready for the day: first, yummy breakfast of gallo pinto and some other foods (I forget what!).  Then, we went to change our money.  We all brought American money because…I don’t know why but we were told to so we did. (Better exchange rate, maybe?)  One of my dollars had a little cut in it so they did not accept it.  But the rest of my money converted fine! This was actually good because I spent less than I otherwise might have…

Then we went to the market.  Warning, it was huge.  Warning, no refrigeration. Warning, pig heads swarmed with flies (but not on a stick like in Lord of the Flies). Warning, muddy ground and unstable walking.  Warning, lots of people hoping you’ll buy their goods. Warning, cultural experience for sure. Warning, NOT a tourist attraction; actually by the Nicaraguan people for the Nicaraguan people.

After, I walked around the town about an hour with some friends before we went to our next activity: a deaf café.

Then the deaf café, Café de las Sonrisas (Smiles Coffee).  Operated by Tio Antonio: an awesome guy from Spain who runs the social hammock project, the all-deaf-employee café, and various programs for vulnerable populations of women and young people/kids in need of economic stability and safe places to come home to:

Then, before the afternoon boat tour of the little islands in Lake Nicaragua, Lou & Shannon & I went on a church tower chasing adventure.  Looking first to the tower of the orange church, we set off to explore, realizing we could plan our walk by the next church tower we saw, and we’d be able to get home by following them back! Like Hansel and Gretel, except the bread crumbs we followed home were the temples of the Body of Christ. Much more better.

Then a boat tour…

Dinner that night was a suuuper cheesy quesadilla and then it was bedtime.

On Saturday, I went to Mass again. This time Marrissa came with me, which was nice.  We talked about Catholicism a little as we walked and went back for a delicious croissant with marmalade and butter. SO yummy.

Then, we all got on the bus to head to Lago de Apoyo opposite Lake Nicaragua, on the other side of Granada. We spent the next few hours at a beach side hostel:

Then, on to a ceramic workshop, where the people of this town teach their young people to make the beautiful pottery:

Then, to an overlook above the lake we had swam in just hours above. From there, we could see so much! The entirety of Lago de Apoyo, the various Church steeples of Granada, and Lake Nicaragua beyond that.  Truly one of the most splendid views…

That night, I ate dinner with Kaleigh, Anna, and Tara.  The lights were going on and off, so part of our dinner was in darkness. One of my favorite moments was the second or third time the lights went out, when Kaleigh automatically redirected our attention to the sky, where the stars were shining brightly.

Finally, our last morning: I went to a 6am coffee shop with Marrissa that we had discovered the day before on our walk after Saturday’s Mass.  The little room was a café/art studio.  It was just us and the employees and it was a sweet memory made with a good friend.

And finally, my last Mass in Nicaragua I celebrated with the other Catholic Cardinal on my trip, Anna Quattrone, and we saw this really special moment.  I’ll leave it here after a quick reflection.

In Nicaragua, yes, I saw the homeless along the streets. Yes, I saw the children selling gum and cigars. Yes, my friends and I had to turn away many a street performer hoping to play us some music while we ate. Yes, I saw the same practiced performances put on for the tourists every night. Yes, I shared words of love and hope with a blind man who asked me when he would see me again, and because it was my last day, all I could say was Heaven. Yes, the last picture in this blog makes me think – a woman kneeling on the doorstep of the doors of Mercy on a beautiful Sunday morning, yet why didn’t she come in and celebrate the Mass? Yes, those moments affected me! But blind Vincente Rodriguez gave me kisses on the cheek instead of a story of woe about his suffering country. Mitilia, sitting in the shade of a building begging, when given a moment to speak, launched into how much more special life is when we give every moment to God in faithful prayer.  Malida lit up the moment you acknowledged her human dignity, even if you had no money to give. I have special memories, lessons learned: the most important was that this poor third-world country, mostly different from the tourist mask I saw, reminded me that I will never know what to expect from God. I can prepare myself for the craziest adventure and receive a memory or an experience I’ll maybe recall, or I can trust God with what He has prepared, and be simple in my love for whatever He places before me, knowing that He provides the graces necessary for each period of my life. The smiling homeless and the incredible beauty made me grateful for the time I had there, and that’s all I have left to say about that!

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One comment

  1. bestregardsfromfar · March 17, 2016

    Fun few days 🙂 You may enjoy these articles about a few weeks in Nicaragua: Nicaragua | Best regards from far,
    http://bestregardsfromfar.com/category/america/central-america/nicaragua/

    Like

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