Wednesday, April 30, 2008

And the Snow Goes On

A chilly view of winter from the bus

The kids asked beforehand if there would be snow, we were heading to the wintry far north after all. We assured them that it was much to late in the season for them to have that hope. Of course, we were wrong!

While it didn't gather on the ground, the kids loved to run outside to watch it fall from above and then run back inside out of the freezing weather. They also managed to have a small snowball fight until one of them got hurt, not badly, just like a normal snowball fight!

I know, you can hardly see it, but I swear snow is falling!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bus Moments

I'm in the middle of several projects at the moment, not the least of which is catching up at work! But I thought you all might like something a little different than the last post when you come back to visit, so I'm getting this first photo up of our trip to the States. More will follow!

We spend a lot of time on the bus together since we usually had both a morning and evening event. On this bus in Minneapolis there was a lot of getting things done as we went, but the bus in Chicago was a school bus, so the kids quickly learned there was no moving forward if they weren't sitting down. They didn't always do it of course!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Of Food Riots and Starvation

As I write this blog, I am sitting in a nice, simple suburban home near Chicago. I have not yet eaten breakfast, but the possibilities are laid out on the kitchen counter, cereal, oatmeal, toast, granola bars, fruit. Basic, but plentiful.

Multiple restaurants are nearby, fast food, pizza, American, Chinese, and I have enough money, I could eat at any one of them for lunch. I could probably even pay for you to join me!

The grocery stores shelves are full, and on par with American prices, an average serving of fresh fruit or vegetable is less than twenty five cents.

I probably won't eat the American average of 200 pounds of meat this year, but mostly because I don't want to, not because I can't.

So as I look at the newspaper for the first time since I left Nicaragua, I am amazed to find this article 'Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger' on the front page.

I had heard rumors of food riots from the people I've been with over the last week, one from a friend who is in the process of adopting a little girl from Haiti, and another from a friend who is extensively involved in fundraising work for Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic.

But the reason this article brought it home is because you need to realize this is affecting everyone. This isn't just a few countries.

Since last October, the price of beans in Nicaragua has risen above that of meat. Some would say then to simply buy meat, but the reason Nicaraguans didn't do that in the first place is because they can't afford to. They simply don't have the money.

At NPH we have the fortune of being supported by incredible people, so while we've changed our diet, there are new kinds of beans and different recipes are being stretched, we are not, nor are our children suffering from malnutrition.

But what happens to a country that goes hungry is bad for everyone. Economies are dragged down, governments are overthrown, education becomes an unattainable luxury in the daily struggle to survive.

And while I have a secret dream that Americans would help others out of the goodness of their heart and desire to live what they proclaim is a christian life, I would like to point out that if nothing else, Americans need to remember that our destiny is tied to our neighbors. As Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America go up and down, reach stability or overthrow governments, this affects us greatly.

So if you want to, please contribute to one of the many organizations that help feed the hungry in our world like Heifer International or Oxfam.

But no matter what, before you put that bite of food, please be grateful for the incredible gift of privilege you are being given in that small package.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Where Do Habits Come From?

It was a loooooooong day.

On Monday morning we left in a yellow school bus, bouncing the two hours down the road to the US Embassy in Managua. By 7 o'clock that night, interviews and errands later, we reached a fried chicken place for dinner.

We sat on the patio, which fronted a two lane road constantly choked with waiting traffic, 22 of us seated at tables lined up as long as our day had been. We received soda and rice, everyone trying patiently to wait for something more substantial before beginning when a scruffy man stopped on the sidewalk at our end of the table.

Scruffy in Nicaragua is a little more scruffy than scruffy in the States, and while my spanish still isn't excellent, it's not terrible, but I still couldn't really understand more than a word or two of what he said. It was obvious he was homeless, or at least was wanting for quite a bit of basic necessities.

But I've seen it, I've volunteered in homeless shelters, I've spent time with panhandlers. I've got my 'I'm sorry' answer down pat and then I make my donation to my local non-profit. All well and good, but there's something not very merciful about my attitude, merciful in the biblical sense.

Here is a man who clearly is in need, in Nicaragua, no less, where social services are even more lacking than in the US. I'm also thinking about the fact that we're an orphanage! We give! I'm giving my time! The kids are elated that they just received two pairs of pants and two shirts for a two week long trip!

So what do I do? Like any normal person, I wait to see if anyone else will do something first, like the waiter at the restaurant.

And someone else did.

First the little boy to my left gave the 20 cents he had, and then the little girl across the table gave the little that she had. It's not that all children at NPH are perfect little angels, believe me, they're perfectly normal.

It's that they share everything. It's a way of life. And instead of making them selfish and want to hoard everything for themselves, it means that they simply share with those who seem to need it most. We were sitting at a table that was about to be full of food. This man only had a metal bucket with unidentifiable objects inside.

On the flip side, I'm very well acquainted with the mentality of those who have plenty in their life, but still can't seem to acquire enough for their satisfaction, more is always wanted.

So since acquiring easily becomes a habit and sharing eventually through hard work becomes a habit, I know what I am going to try to practice more!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

We're on Our Way (to the USA)!

Ok, we haven't really left yet, but the kids have been practicing like mad for a long time now, so all they've got left to do is get on the plane (and receive their US Visas to be allowed into the country, but we've been assured everything will go fine at our interview at the US embassy tomorrow in Managua).

For those who are mystified by what I'm talking about, on Thursday 19 kids, 3 other adults and I all leave for a whirlwind dance performance tour (the kids are dancing, not me!) of St. Paul/Minneapolis and Chicago for two weeks!

The kids are excited and have been briefed about what to expect. There was a lot of giggling at the idea that you put toilet paper IN the toilet! Because of a smaller size of piping standard, in most of Latin America, toilet paper is put in a trash basket next to the toilet.

And you have more than one sheet to sleep under! Here, you never need more than a regular bed sheet, often not even that. So Father Ron said there had been some confusion in the past about what level to sleep at when presented with multiple sheets and blankets.

It's so great to watch these kids have such a once in a life time exciting experience. Most of them will never have a chance to visit the US again, and plenty of them will never economically be able to travel outside of Nicaragua after this.

They've worked hard for this opportunity and will continue to work during the trip dancing through the coldest weather they've ever experienced, culture shock and colds.

But they'll also get to meet new people, be welcomed into homes of NPH supporters, have fun touristy days and help bring in donations to support all their brothers and sisters in all 9 countries (including donations that will go toward the construction of their new home here in Nicaragua!). Here we come!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

In Memoriam Bryan Johnson

Bryan is at left getting ready to nail a brace. Elizabeth and I are simply being used for our muscle at this Post Falls, Idaho Habitat for Humanity Project!

This week I received word that a friend, Bryan Johnson, had passed away from injuries sustained in a fire in Philadelphia. I haven't seen Bryan in several years, but that doesn't dampen my sorrow now nor diminish my appreciation for having the chance to know him.

I first met Bryan when we were volunteers for the UW Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. My first trip with the group was during our Spring Break 2002 trip to Post Falls. There's nothing quite like spending a week framing a house in rain, melting snow and occasional sunshine, going to the gym to work out afterwards, cooking multi-ethnic dinners, playing musical instruments and having philosophical and political conversations in the evening to help you realize you've found your fellow type 'A'-ers. Easy going, but very assured, Bryan continued on his path from an integral part of this group to complete a doctorate in physical therapy on the East Coast and begin raising a son.

Further information about Bryan can be found at this link. And thoughts of another friend, Elizabeth, who is working on her doctorate in New Zealand can be found here.

It's natural when something like this occurs, to be utterly baffled by the course of life. It is a reminder to me that service and commitment to values may not make life last longer, but it certainly makes each moment fuller and the years sweeter.