Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

After many tries, this is what I got while trying to write año.

Fireworks are really popular here. When I asked if there were grass and house fires because of them, the reply was simply 'Of course!' and we happily moved on.

At midnight on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, the whole town rings out with mortars and roman candles and little trees (all literal translations of the names of the firecrackers).

It's a tradition made possible by both warm weather as well as the attitude toward community. It's totally normal to step outside an shoot off incendiaries right next to your neighbor.

And if they happen to land on his roof, well, let's hope he doesn't notice (thank goodness for zinc roofing and concrete block walls)!

For my part, I tried to spell out Feliz Año Nuevo and Happy New Year's with sparklers for you.

Finally! A recognizable letter! I wish you a happy 'N'! For New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bored Toros, Excited Toros, Happy Toros, Sleepy Toros

So I went to my first Nicaraguan Rodeo a couple weeks ago. It runs through the last few weeks of December in a wooden stadium built just for the event (although I believe the materials are not just for the event, they look pretty well used).

Bidder's Box at the Rodeo

You can sit above on an elevated platform that circles the ring and pay just over a dollar, or pay just under a dollar and stand to one side of the ring, or inside the ring.

Yep, that's right. Almost everyone inside the ring (and it's a lot of people) are fare paying public. Nope, I guess they aren't worried about insurance costs.

Negotiations and Instructions

A rider, who is a member of the public and decides he wants to ride a bull for about $5 (depending on the bull) has just negotiated his exact pay with the owner, the man in the red shirt. He gets a little friendly advice before dropping down onto the bull.

It was then I found out while they're willing to ride this bull.


Run, No Seriously!

Other bulls are a little feistier and no one is willing to ride for the price offered.

Each event (there are about three per day), is about three hours long with 5 minutes of 'riding' and 10 minutes of negotiation for each bull.

The bulls all have a rope tied across their torso. I'm not entirely sure what it does but was told it constricts blood flow. When it's released, apparently that makes them a little bit upset... or something, I'm not really sure why the buck a little more after that. But I don't know anyone else who really knows either.

I left before the evening event, which is apparently a bit more raucous (beer bottles flying in a poorly lit arena and much more pickpocketing), but it was still worth every dollar I paid!

video

video

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Animal Christmas

Joy to the WORLD!



Closed Christmas

PEACE on Earth!



Tejada Christmas

And a Merry Christmas to YOU!



Bar Whiskey Christmas

With Love, Nicole

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dark Days

Hiding Moon
A hiding moon

Literally, yesterday was the darkest day of the year for the northern hemisphere.

Figuratively, things have been somewhat dark around here as well.

Apparently, while Gunther and I were doing our construction coordinator jobs, some within NPHI decided that we should built what they would like us to build. A different home, a different system, with different people.

Some of what they have is good. Some is not realistic. And a small portion is illegal within Nicaragua building codes (Yes! We have a few building codes, mostly earthquake related). But we have been told this is what we are doing, because it is what some within NPHI who have power want.

It doesn't matter that while it is our job to coordinate, plan, contact, present, negotiate (not to make final decisions, that's the National Director's job), we have been kept in the dark about this new plan until just recently.

It doesn't matter that while we've been kept in the dark, we've been doing our job, planning, negotiating, presenting this information to them, spending money and time for what they would now like us to throw out without regard to spent resources, wasting all that has been given.

So we'll see what happens. Nothing within NPH is ever sure. Even once it's been 'decided' what actually happens depends on who criticizes what.

But in the meantime, these days seem a little darker than they should be.

Peek a Boo

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rompope


Rompope is the eggnog of Latin America (or is eggnog the rompope of the US?). Originating in Mexico, you can buy it just like boxed juice in any grocery store any time of year in Nicaragua.

I love eggnog. Often I'll freeze a cup on Christmas Eve to eat on Christmas morning while opening presents (oh, come on, you all have your own little weird habits too!).

So while there is no eggnog here, there is a convenient substitute!

Although many of the recipes call for ground almonds, that is one item not available here. So since it's listed as optional, my test run didn't include it.

Rompope

  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal (optional, see Note)
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 2 cups light rum or brandy
Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon stick (and ground almonds, if you are using them) in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature.

Beat the egg yolks until thick and lemony. Remove the cinnamon stick from the milk mixture, and gradually whisk the egg yolks into the milk mixture. Return to low heat and, stirring constantly, cook until mixture coats a spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Add the rum or brandy to the mixture, stir well. Transfer to a container and and cover tightly. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 days before serving. Makes 1-1/2 quarts.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chocolate PepperMints

Mints Marching
Cold PepperMints

What is more Christmasy than cold weather?

The pure whiteness of snow of course, the twinge of a cold breath of air, the red noses, the quick, yet careful steps across slippery parking lots, I miss it all!

To replicate that sensation, just take of breath when you pop one of these in your mouth!

Super cold, super pepperminty.

Pure Peppermint
Pure Peppermint

The recipe is from The Kitchn.

Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar
1.5 tbsp softened butter
2 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cream
8 ounces (about 1-1/3 cup) dark chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable shortening

Preparation:
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or a silpat. In a blender, cream together the sugar, butter, extracts, and cream on low speed. After the ingredients are combined, raise the speed to medium-high and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes until mixture holds together very well and is creamy, not powdery.

Using a teaspoon, roll the candy into small balls and flatten them on the wax paper or silpat with the palm of your hand into patty shapes. When done, put them in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the chopped chocolate and the shortening in the microwave or over a double boiler.

Using dipping tools or two dinner forks, dip the patties into the chocolate one by one. Drag them across the lip of the bowl to remove any excess chocolate. Return them to the wax paper or silpat, and place back in the refrigerator to set the candies. They should be ready to eat in a few hours.

And that's it! Due to the dairy ingredient, these need to be kept in the refrigerator. Layer the patties between sheets of parchment in an airtight container. They'll last for a month.

My personal notes are that I used salted butter, I'm sure not the intention of the recipe, but it's all I have and it worked just fine.

I also substituted milk for cream and actually had to double the amount to make the mint innards creamy enough to mold.

I also used milk chocolate chips (kindly brought to me from the states by my sister!) for the outer layer.

It made about 36, but I shaped my smaller than a real York's Peppermint Patty.

PepperMints

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Robbed of a Happy Birthday and a Lot More

San Jorge police station. Jail cells through the open door.

I can't write this post in a way that truly conveys the moment, but I'm sure you can imagine...

Roberto's birthday was last Sunday. He left my house that evening at six, on his motorcycle carrying carefully wrapped birthday cake in his backpack. After shutting the entrance gate, I went happily to the kitchen to enjoy another piece of it myself.

Outside, about 100 yards down the road, one man stepped out of the darkness with a rock in his hand. Another man just behind the first flung his arm and weight against Roberto and threw him off his motorcycle.

An elderly lady who lives across the road yelled for them to leave him alone. But there wasn't anything she could really do.

Photo taken from outside the gate to the house, everything happened within the road you can see in the photo.

Roberto got up and ran, with now four men chasing behind. He made it halfway up the rocky dirt road in pitch black and then fell. The other men yelling for him to stop or they'd kill him quickly closed in, kicked him in the stomach and put a long knife to his throat.

They stole his backpack, his wallet, his cell phone, and then Roberto ran back to the house and they ran off through the banana fields.

Only then did the adrenaline start for me.

I heard him outside, yelling with desperation and hitting the entrance gate (my house has 9 foot walls all the way around), "Nicole, Nicole! They've robbed me! I don't know if they're following me! They've stolen everything!

By this time I had run out to the gate, fumbling with my keys in the darkness to find the right one to let him in and back into safety.

He ran for the telephone to call the police and grab a machete, I ran to get the car out (at the time I thought they had stolen his motorcycle). We both moved quickly, but it felt like forever. As I was pulling out, someone yelled from the property across the road, but I didn't know who it was or what they said.

The unknown reigned.

Roberto raced to the police station, I notified all our neighbors. There aren't very many and they're not very close to the house, but I felt they were our best bet for finding anything.

As I told them what had happened (and began to tremble from the realization), one woman brought me water. Some of them listened. Many of them told me it was dangerous where I lived and that I should live in town. They all meant well, but comfort in a time of crisis can be very culture specific.

One of the neighbors who works at NPH and I drove around our block (which is huge and mostly banana and sugarcane fields). I didn't have any hope that whoever had done this would be hanging out in the road, Roberto's backpack in hand, but it also felt better than doing nothing.

By luck, we all reconvened back at the house at the same time with a few extra family members and neighbors in tow. After standing outside and covering everything and all the extra possibilities a few more times (a Latin American tradition), Roberto went to cancel his bank cards.

Around 10 we were called to the police station to identify some guys they had picked up. While I still don't have a ton of confidence in the police, I suppose them not searching the banana fields does make sense when they know they can just hit up a bar, pick up the same guys as usual and probably be right.

Although the banana field security company did a search of the field and found a drunk man with really bad timing trying to steal bananas.

Roberto walked into the station where the guys were just sitting on a bench. He walked back outside with the police (a distance of only about 15 feet) and said that they were 3 of the 4 guys.

He also voiced some concern that the guys saw both of us as well and the police said that was just a sacrifice the victim has to make.

The next day, we started the process of replacing things, motorcycle documents, insurance, license, national ID, medical insurance card, bank cards, etc.

We went to the police station again, filled out paperwork, forensic clinic, regular clinic, bank, ID office, bank again and on and on. At the police station, the mother of one of the boys was crying.

All three who are currently in jail are minors. Nicaraguan law for minors is very lax (no comment on the juvenile offender system in the US), even if they commit murder, the sentence could be no time in jail.

The police have shown Roberto a photo of the fourth man (the man who Roberto and I are both of the opinion organized the whole thing) and Roberto confirmed his identity. The police haven't found him yet to arrest him, and probably won't.

As time has passed, we've both had a chance to relax and just be grateful things weren't worse. That what could have been a moment of showing off, or anger, or anything for an out of control teenager and resulted in life altering loss, will remain to us simply a strong lesson.

We've both laughed as we've pictured someone trying to sell a 250 GB external hard drive (it was in the backpack) in the middle of banana fields. Even though they could sell it for more than $100 to some one in the city, most of these guys have never even used a computer. It would just look like a little red plastic box with a cable coming out. Or a doorstop. Or a paperweight.

We're very aware, however, that our lives will never be the same. When Roberto decided to press charges, he did so knowing that this isn't a very big town. And that your best protection is your family.

All the boys in jail will be there for at least a few months, but they are also all part of the largest gang in San Jorge (ok, it's pretty much the only gang in this little town). So in the end, I decided to move, at least temporarily, to Roberto's mother's house in Rivas. Different town, different gang, lot's more family.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Insider's View

To be God
The view from on top of the water tank at the new property

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. My friends and family can all attest to one moment or another when I was a little too trusting.

And for that reason it has taken me a long time with NPH to commit to this blog some of the little daily frustrations.

For example, I received a phone call last week from the phone company. My account was expiring that day, so they need payment or my service would be cut.

Now this isn't my personal phone. This is my NPH phone, used to accomplish NPH things, but apparently not very important to NPH accounting.

Also, I generally receive these calls every month. As I understand it, they cut my service most months because my payment due date is before the bill normally arrives in the mail.

The most fun is when I arrive at the airport in Managua fresh from a trip to help support NPH and I discover I have no phone service because my bill hasn't been paid and it wouldn't be a problem except the office has forgotten what time my plane gets in (7 PM) and isn't there to pick me up.

After I visited the phone company and was assured that they could not sent the bills out any earlier and I couldn't pay online because I needed a number on the bill to do so, the only option was to go each month and pay in person.

Since I am not part of the payment department at NPH, I can't do that, but I worked it out with someone who would. And so for 3 heavenly months I didn't get my service cut off. Then the worker went on maternity leave and for 3 additional mysterious months, I didn't get my service cut off.

But of course, it couldn't last.

So when I received the call I went to the accounting department to ask if they had paid. I learned well long ago that just because they say they're going to cut off your service, it doesn't mean you haven't paid.

Accounting said they haven't paid because they didn't receive the bill. They also made sure to let me know it wasn't their responsibility to pay bills that didn't come in. So I asked whose responsibility it was to track down these bills, and I was informed that it was the responsibility of the company that is billing.

Ok, so I've lived here for a short while, but I'll let you in on what is apparently a secret, the companies don't always sent the bill on time! Incredible! I know! But apparently the people in the NPH accounting office don't know! Shhh!

So I was told I was welcome to go to the phone company myself that day(although there was no transportation available) and get the bill.

I decided to decline the exciting field trip like so many other similar opportunities I've been given (got to draw the line somewhere or I wouldn't have time for construction!) and let them figure out what to do because I've got a secret weapon. The director's phone account expires the same day mine does and sometimes he gets slightly better help than I do.

So all the accounts will be paid in the end. Whether or not there is a fine this month is yet to be known.

But one thing I HAVE learned!

If I don't worry about all the little things that happen every day like this, nothing would get done!

On the other hand, if I do worry about all the little things that happen every day like this, I won't get anything done!

And I would get an ulcer. Trying not to worry wins!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gingerbread Squatter's Residence


Ahhhh..... the traditions of Christmas.

The scent of pine is in the air (I have a candle to remind me). Festive music is ringing out (thank goodness for ipods!). The Christmas tree is regaling standing in the corner (the Germans had a fake one left in the closet). And the scrumptious foods is taking the bite out of the chill (ok, no chill, but I'm doing my best with the foods anyway!).

Being the incredibly talented construction manager that I am, along with my love of all things sugar, I have always look forward to making gingerbread houses.

Now, as this talented construction manager, I am acutely aware that as you build in different cultures and climates, the styles and materials of the building also need to change correspondingly. However, gingerbread houses are rather confined in their options. Generally, you would go with gingerbread, although many go with the generic version - graham crackers.

Since I completely lacked molasses, actual gingerbread was not to be. So beginning with the graham crackers, I planned out a traditional nicaraguan ranch house.

At first when the porch roof started collapsing under the weight of the licorice, I thought to myself, well, this is going to be a bit more authentic than I was thinking! But in the end, when I realized that graham crackers in Nicaraguan humidity loose all structural value within 5 minutes, I had to 'value engineer' this baby down to the traditional squatters shack instead.

While it is still completely traditional (even little 'stones' on top to keep the laminated roof from blowing off! (nails and structure to nail to are too expensive to maintain when they're always rusting away)), it's a bit more humble than I was originally hoping (or maybe just more homely).


But I suppose that's the best Christmas reminder we could have going into this season. This year maybe a little different, not the same picture perfect of years past. But that will make no difference in how much I enjoy it, nor in how special it is.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Thought This Day Would Never Come

Happy day!

After only 14 months of requesting, wheedling, threatening, cajoling, persuading, complimenting and coaxing the head of the accounting department and the National Director, I have all the documents showing everything we've spent and what others have spent for us in the name of construction for NPH Nicaragua.

I know how much we've spent and how much we have left to spend (within $2,000)!

At least for today.

video
Susie is a good example of how tickled I am!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Always the Same, Always Different

Same, but Different
Broken undermined steps that lead from the house to the beach (although it's not much of a beach right now)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I suppose at this point in our history, each one of you has your own thoughts that spring to mind when that phrase is uttered.

I've taken hundreds of photos of Volcanos Concepcion and Maderas as they sit in Lake Nicaragua, and they're all different. I could probably take a hundred more and it would be the same story, all the same, but all different.

I'm thinking about how much the little world around me has appeared to change in the last couple years. Not that it has actually changed at all, just that my understanding of it has changed as I've learned how to interact with it and discovered just how little it changes regardless of how much I would like it to sometimes.

The more we change, the more we stay the same.

Kinetic Water

Monday, December 8, 2008

Purisima

Purisima Details

Today is a holiday! Nope, we don't celebrate Christmas really early, it's PURISIMA!

Purisima is the celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel that Mary is pregnant with the Messiah.

It isn't exactly a day of celebration, though. It's been celebrated every night for the last nearly two weeks, with neighborhoods taking their turns decorating with bows and ribbons and carting their Mary to the church in Rivas (Ok, really it's a slow procession).

Purisima Float 2007

Lot's of music, lot's of reason to get together, it's almost all the things Nicaraguans love in a party!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Disappearing Island

Disappearing Island
The ferry approaching the San Jorge dock

Even though we're in the dry season, it's been unusually cloudy lately. Most of last Sunday there was no island at all. It started to appear near sunset.

Loaded Ferry

Apparently everyone wanted to leave the disappearing island on the last ferry. I'm not sure what their carrying capacity is. I'm not sure they know either.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Break for Family

My sister and I chatting while I finish giving Amelia her ear infection medicine. (photo by Kamweti Mutu (my brother-in-law))

Thanksgiving is all about family, right? And this year it was for me too!

It was so wonderful to have my family here, visiting the home on the island, the new homes we're building and Nicaragua as a whole.

There's two words in spanish that siginify 'to know'. One of them, saber, it to know generally, for example to read in a book. The other, conocer, it to know more intimately, to actually visit a place or meet a person.

So after nearly two years of living in Nicaragua, it feels good to have my family not only 'know' about where I live and who is important to me here, but to 'know' them.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Church Growth

Chruch Growth
A former cathedral turned hospital crumbles into disrepair beneath disuse, nature, however, happily flourishes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another View

Different View of Concepcion
A different perspective of the same volcano.

This is a view of Concepcion (the volcano to the left in the blog header) and Maderas (to the right) from on top of our elevated water tank about 30 miles away.

Columbus' men sailed up the San Juan River to reach Lake Nicaragua (which is the lake in the photo) and are said to have met with the first Indians in the area just about a mile from where I currently live.

The next few generations that passed were a little different than the story of the pilgrims in the US, mostly years of conquering, war, pirates, that kind of thing. And there wasn't really a need for a specific harvest time because there is always something growing here.

But fortunately for me, times have calmed down (mostly) and this Thanksgiving, I am very grateful to those who greeted me when I arrived and made me feel at home and welcome.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Baseball in Nicaragua

Crotchety Baseball
Manager of the opposition team

Baseball is a passion in Nicaragua. Especially in Rivas. Every kid here knows that Vicente Padilla plays in the Major League.

Rivas also has a baseball stadium where the National League plays (National League games are also broadcast on local TV stations). While the donated lights to play at night have been stolen, the paint is faded and the concrete walls are crumbing, there are still seasonal day games for which the stadium fills.

So it was no surprise when the workers here at the NPH office decided to form a softball team to play on city league.

Coexistence
Horses in the outfield? No problem! Just hope that the ball doesn't hit them.

Rainy Season Dugout
Flooded dugout from the rainy season? No problem! Just move so the splash of old dirty water doesn't hit you when the ball comes flying your way.

We've won a few and we've lost a few (nope, I'm not actually playing, but I'll count myself in anyway). But the same competitive spirit that makes the game a US pastime is certainly alive and well here too!

Ready, Set, Go!
Ready... Set... Go!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quinta Arcelia

Neighbors!

Quinta is one of the words for farm. This particular quinta has cows that wander up and down our road looking for free grass (saving what is on the property for later).

It's next door, across a little dirt road and most of the time our neighbors are just sitting out back. I'm not sure what they're doing, but everyone here seems to do it most of the time, so it must be pretty fun.

They very nicely watch over where I live while they're out and about. For example this past weekend I went to Granada and stayed overnight there. Technically the people who take care of the house where I live are supposed to stay when I'm not, but because I didn't want to pay them extra to do what they're already paid for they just called me a 'cheap a#@$#' and we left it at that (generally all white people are considered rich no matter where they're from and black people are not no matter where they're from).

So thank goodness for neighbors.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Fast Way Down

Tank Elevator
The view from the top of the water tank (almost 40 ft)

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Different Election

I Voted!
Tia Herminia in her shop after voting

Elections were held in Nicaragua last Sunday. Mayors were being elected all over the country.

It is Nicaraguan tradition (to accommodate the counting of the votes in this low tech country) to have the following Monday off, and (because of the enthusiastic Sandinista Party currently in control) have the previous Friday off.

To vote, go to your local school, or wherever the poll in your area is located. When you get there, look for your name on the paper list taped up outside. After you have found it, look for all the dead relatives you have whose names are still on the list. Points if you find more than three.

Enter your local polling place and say hi to the guard standing at the door who has been your friends since kindergarden.

Once in the classroom with the eight people administering/watching the proceedings, show your identification to the first one at the table who happened to be your seventh grade teacher.

Vote next to an acquaintance who you know is a citizen of another country (but technically whomever ID it actually is apparently isn't voting anyway).

Get your thumb marked by a paint/acid combination.

Say goodbye to the international observers waiting outside as you leave (Daniel Ortega barred them from entering to observe the 'fair' proceedings).

Go home, watch TV. Change news channels to change who is being declared winner (and watch the same rioting as last year).

I Voted Too!
Roberto after voting

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Favorite Toy? Seriously?

Favorite Toy

On my recent trip to the states, I decided to spoil Amelia like the American dog she really is. I bought a rubber ring with bells and one of those rubber things to stick peanut butter in so she has to work to get it out (American dogs are very bored apparently).

Her favorite toy, however, has not turned out to be either one of them. It is a coconut. Of course.

It actually reminds me of this all too familiar story.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Accidental Attitude Towards Death

I was sort of involved in a car accident the other day. I think everyone is fine, but it was an experience to say the least.

Marlon, the national director was driving his pickup, Gunther in the front seat, Raul (assistant director) and I in the back. We had just finished a meeting with the architect and were a little bit into the two hour drive back to San Jorge, heading down the highway.

Raul and I were chatting when Marlon slammed on the brakes.

I saw someone in front of the truck.

I literally thought to myself "You know what? I don't need to see this. Plenty of people will see this. I do not need to see this today and then repeatedly in my mind over who knows how long."

I closed my eyes.

We stopped.

I opened them again and no one was there.

Marlon and Gunther got out of the truck and attended to the man now laying on the road in front of us. Raul and I stayed in the back and called the police and the Red Cross for an ambulance (two separate phone calls).

The taxi that had been next to us stopped until cars behind us started honking and people started yelling about 10 seconds later.

A crowd gathered, dispersed and gathered again as people came and went when they realized there was nothing much to see.

Because there actually wasn't much to see.

A man, incredibly drunk, had somehow managed to ride his bicycle long enough to arrive directly in front of us. He'd come up on the hood of the truck, hit the windshield, then slid back off landing several feet in front of us.

There was no blood.

The ambulance refused to take him since he was so inebriated and didn't appear to have any injuries.

The cops loaded him into their little car and we all met at the police station where Marlon and Gunther gave their statements. Marlon's car was impounded, but immediately released. The man threw up all over the floor.

The lady who was called to clean didn't look thrilled, but she did look very practiced.

We got in the pickup and rode home.

I've been here long enough, I can now see what they see. In the beginning, it would have been difficult to understand, but now I get it.

Vomit due to concussion or other head injury? Internal bleeding or other non-apparent wounds?

These issues simply do not occur to the majority of people. Those on the street are not highly educated. Those in the ambulance probably see too many of these situations with much worse results to think much of this one.

If a man who is regularly drunk dies a few days after a car accident, there is no finely performed autopsy to find the cause of death. Cause of death - alcoholism. It is a common cause of death here.

Yelling at someone to move their car because it's in your way even though they're right next to someone who has just been hit by a car? Well, you've got things to do, maybe they're stopped for nothing (because people do that here) and it's not like you won't be careful as you maneuver your car right past the man who has just been hit and is now lying in the road.

What I first saw was an indifference to potential death and when a major accident or death is in front of me, it bothers me. But death in the US happens too, it just generally happens in hospitals and nursing homes, not in front of everyone.

Death from a cause other than old age is also more common here. Infant mortality is almost 26 in every 1000 live births, as opposed to the US where it is 6.3 (still shockingly high for a developed country).

Young men (15-64 years) die at a higher rate than those in the US.

Life expectancy in Nicaragua is about 8 years less than in the US.

There is one more factor that is extremely important. Because of my faith in God, we are all members of a family. That's right. The whole world. That's one reason why I'm here in Nicaragua.

So when a member of this family dies, that bothers me.

The average joe sixpack Nicaraguan, like the average joe sixpack American is a little more select. His family is smaller than mine, mostly consisting of those who are his family, or friends, or religion or nationality.

So similar to Americans who haven't been upset nearly as much as Iraqi's about casualties of innocents in Iraq because of a lack of commonalities, or even domestic homicides within the US, Nicaraguans aren't cold when they don't react to deaths of others. They're just normal.

So what I first saw as a casual, unfeeling response towards potential death was in fact Nicaragua simply not having the resources to support a medical system to whisk the problem away from my eyes.

If anything, studies have shown that it is Latin Americans who feel that Anglo Americans have a lack of emotional response to topics of death.

I suppose being Anglo American and having analyzed this to the extent that you've read (if you've made it this far) without weeping or showing very much emotion at all, I may very well fall into that category.

Monday, November 10, 2008

End of the Rainy Season

Rainy Season Leaves

Winter is over! In some ways.

The coldest, rainiest part of the year (October) has ended, so here it is the beginning of summer (we generally skip over spring). But the days are still getting shorter for the next couple months and it never really got that cold.

The lake has reached the bottom of the retaining wall at the house, there is basically no beach. But the rain should pretty much be over. Just occasionally storms now and then. We'll still have clouds occasionally (as in a cloud here, a cloud there, not Seattle cloudy where you don't see the sun all day), but it can be weeks between raindrops.

Plants have gone through their manic growing season (winter with the rain) and between now and next April, it's just drier and drier and drier. The country will turn brown and the animals will get skinny.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Morning Tranquility

Morning at the Swamp
A swamp formed by winter rains.

I find myself using the word 'tranquil' a lot more than usual in my head. It's because the closest word for peaceful in Spanish is 'tranquilo'. Funny how the brain does what it gets used to!

So a tranquil Friday and weekend to you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mixed Messages

Mixed Messages

It's a good day. Why? Oh, just because I'm ready for it. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Voices

Lincoln Memorial
A view from the base of the Washington Memorial to the memorial of the other President from Illinois

In the fall of 2000, I was able to, for the first time, vote in the presidential elections. And with a majority of Americans, happily cast my vote for Al Gore.

In the fall of 2002, I marched with thousands of others through the candlelit streets of Seattle to voice my hope that Bush would not make the US military invade Iraq the following spring.

This fall, I've watched my parents worry as they near retirement and NPH International place a hold the construction of the new orphanage here because of extreme errors in regulation that always hurt the most vulnerable first.

And from my "forgotten corner of the world" last night, I realized why we continue with this insane thing called democracy. Because eventually, even though it may take time and a lot of hard work, you will be heard. This was the first time I felt that.

By the way, adding to all those reports from around the world, everyone I spoke to here (and they were the ones to always bring it up!) wanted Obama to win. 100%. Roberto called last night from the orphanage on the island to tell me "we won!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Decide Who's Going to be Sleeping Here!

Capitol Dome at Night

Ok! If you haven't voted already, now's your chance! I voted from an email I got, printed out, and mailed by post a week and a half ago.

And they won't really be sleeping at the Capitol Building, but you know what I mean!

If you don't vote, you can't complain! (And believe me, I've got a lot of complaining to do along with most of America!)

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Side Trip to Mt. Rainier

Mt Rainier from a rest stop

I just wanted to share this photo of Mt. Rainier taken on a trip in September.

I love the northwest (sigh).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Craning the Water Tank

Wrong Place

So if you've been a reader here for a little while, you probably already know that we seem to have issues with water at the construction project. Not that we don't have water, thank goodness we do! It's just that all construction relating to water doesn't seem to go very smoothly.

Case in point. The Elevated Water Tank.

First was a long debate through several countries, over time zones and many, many opinions about how big it should be. We eventually settled on 15,000 cubic meters. Enough for a city of 500 children and their support staff, but not a lot extra.

We decided on this because once we have 500 children and everyone else, we really should have another well in case something happens to the first one, like the pump breaking down.

So the well itself took a loooooooong time.

And the elevated water tank was supposed to be finished in 45 days (according to the lovely Microsoft Project timeline put together by the company), the end date falling at the beginning of September.

Well that didn't exactly happen.


First it was stuck at the border (it's parts were fabricated in Honduras, it would be like having an international border for everything manufactured outside of Washington state.

Then that delay caused us to be in the middle of the worse part of the rainy season when they were trying to solder. And last, but not least, the crane came out, put up the support structure, and proceeded to get stuck in the mud so that it couldn't life the tank.

Back of Crane

We have, however, reached that happy day where weather related delays are behind us (both because most of those activities are done and because the weather is starting to get nicer.

Crane Tagline Wrap

And, while it's been a somewhat stressful time since the first children move from the island in a month and a half, the company, Imnsa Argo, has been responsive to all our concerns and good to work with. Phew!

Ironworker

So now we're onto the next stage! We're currently working for approval from NPH International to begin the next phase of 3 or 4 houses!