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.

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


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


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).