July 27, 2011

I arrived Tuesday after an uneventful plane trip. My sister Jeannie had driven me to Newark airport the evening before and we stayed overnight at the hotel so I didn’t have to drive to Newark at 4am for my 5:30 am flight. I so appreciated her driving me and we enjoyed staying overnight and watching a Disney movie together. Yep, sisters. I said goodbye to her at 3:30am, took the shuttle to the airport and 8 hours later, found myself standing in the Managua airport waiting for my ride.

I waited for about an hour and was beginning to wonder what my back up plan was if no one came to pick me up (I didn’t have one) when Bonnie and my ride arrived. She was a welcome sight. It was good to see Bonnie; she goes on every large mission and keeps everything running smoothly, or as smoothly as possible in Nicaragua. We then met up with a nurse, Anna who is here on her first mission but plans to return in October to stay for a year. She will replace Mariel, the psychologist who works with the children at the orphanages when she leaves in October. Anna will have a different focus however and I’m not looking forward to losing Mariel as my only consistent and reliable source of communication with the Nuns regarding the children. We have to get the internet working. It is one of my primary goals this trip.

After dinner, I was in bed early. The two hour time difference and the heat – it is SO hot here – knocked me out and I fell asleep relatively easily for a change. I was excited this morning to find out that I was to go with Sr. Debbie for our meeting with the Caritas organization to discuss the 70 HIV orphans that we hope to add to the Orphan’s Hope Project. But 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave the meeting was cancelled due to an emergency with the archbishop. After my initial frustration, I decided to just give it up to the heavens and wait to see what happens. This is very typical for Nicaragua and I lesson I keep telling myself to learn.

So instead, I did rice and beans. This meant that we spent the morning bagging rice and beans (two 100 pound bags of each one) into smaller bags to be taken out on a Rice and Beans walk in the afternoon. The two women I worked alongside, Missy and Alexandra made it a pleasant experience. After lunch, we gathered up all that we had packed and headed out into the country.

The person guiding us was a Nicaraguan woman who has been helped by the mission in the past. She was the recipient of a home shelter built for her and her family and she has maintained involvement with the mission since. It is local people such as Maritza that are instrumental in helping to determine where the aid the Mission provides will go.

We drove by van to an area made up of the ramshackle, rusted tin roof huts that I have seen many times before on my trips here. Think of it as a housing development made up of shacks.

Family livingroom

We moved from one home to another, always greeted by smiling faces and excited children.

The Family Pet

Unfortunately, we did not have toys for the children, only the rice and beans bags but they were enthusiastic none-the-less. A number of the people with me were young high school students and hesitant about approaching the people. I however was not and marched right up to them practicing my limited Spanish, asking names, how they were and if I could take their pictures. All complied and after that, the others seemed to realize that we weren’t just handing out free food; we were there to interact with the community. These poor people – and I do mean poor – were always polite, friendly and happy to see us.

Grateful family

One of the women we met was an 84 year old woman named Elizabeth. She rattled excitedly in Spanish, despite my “no comprendo” and “no hablo Espanol” comments . She hugged me and Anna a few times and seemed very excited that we were there. She accepted her rice and beans gratefully and then proceeded to follow us as we walked around the neighborhood frequently chatting and hugging us.

Anna, Elizabeth (84) and me

Some of the homes were in better condition than others. Some of the people had attempted to improve their areas; some going as far as sweeping the dirt – or so it seemed it was so smooth and neat. One woman had planted flowers all around her home and I asked our translator Steven to tell her that we thought her house was very nice and well-tended. She smiled a big, shy smile and seemed pleased to hear that we had noticed. I took a picture of her with her two young daughters.

Mother and Daughters

Other homes however, were not so well kept. Outside sinks for washing dishes and clothes, wood stoves next to the homes with fires burning. Barefoot and dirty children scrambled everywhere, chasing each other and laughing seemingly oblivious to their situation. This also was not new to me as I had come to realize that these children knew no other way of life and without a frame of reference, didn’t realize there are alternatives. I was pleased to see school uniforms hanging on the barbed-wire clothes line though; at least some of them went to school.

School uniforms on the barbed wire line

We gave away most of our supply and then headed back as a thunderstorm was pending. It is pouring with rain as I write this in the evening and the sound of the crescendo on the tin roof is comforting. I also hope it might cool things down, even in the evenings it is very hot. Our dorm room – shared with about 30 other women – is warm but the ceiling fans move the air and make it bearable. I am happy to report that the roosters and barking dogs can’t be heard from this new compound – a very pleasant change.

Tomorrow I am up very early to try to post this online and send a few emails. I have been totally without internet and if you are reading this, then I was finally able to gain access. It is not yet connected at the compound so I have had to make a trip up the road to the other but don’t worry Vince, I was driven both up and back. Bill has been valiantly trying to get the internet set up for the past two missions but it continues to stubbornly refuse to cooperate. Poor Bill! He has about 100 other things to take care of and he has worked so hard on trying to get the internet connection up and running so he can check this off his list. He’s really a great guy, so dedicated and humble. We could all take a lesson from him.

I am going up to El Crucero tomorrow although my original plan to be picked up has fallen through and I have to make other arrangements. I will stay over until Friday when I will meet with Madre and Sr. Debbie to further define the Orphan’s Hope Project and straighten out a few miscommunications. One of my main goals is to focus on ways to use the computers that have been in limbo without electricity. Now that they have it, or at least will once they analyze and repair the wiring at the facility, I want to be sure that we can get the internet up and running. I also want to discuss technology lessons and the many possibilities this will present to the children and the nuns. Syed – I hope that you and I can finally begin to develop a plan for this.

This has been a long-awaited goal of mine and something I have wanted since beginning this project a year and half ago. This accomplishment would reaffirm my belief that we can make a difference and show it in concrete and positive ways.

After I leave El Crucero on Friday, Sr. Debbie and I will meet with the Caritas organization regarding the HIV orphans. We have already been informed that we will receive only scant information on these children; no names, pictures or other details. So while I will add them to the OHP program; I will not be able to encourage any communication with future sponsors. The stigma here in Nicaragua regarding HIV is huge so the children’s privacy is paramount. We will be able to meet with a few of the children at their homes so at least we will have a first-hand account to pass on. We have already been told of one family with 7 children, 1 died and 4 are HIV positive. I cannot understand how having this many children cam happen; don’t the parents know or realize they are passing HIV to their babies? Perhaps the government should spend less on political rallies and more on HIV and Sexual Health education. I am sure meeting the children and their caretakers – whether parents or otherwise – will be another eye-opening experience and deeply disturbing for me.

I’ll close for now and since I don’t know the next time I will be able to post to the blog, stay tuned…

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