Friday, February 27, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus

Dear Followers of Sister Act 3!!

I often wonder if some folks drop in thinking they might discover Whoopi Goldberg! Sorry!

This morning on my way to work I experienced a mini-miracle! I boarded a #114 bus which had apparently been repainted…you know, the yellow, Blue Bird, already over-used school bus from the States. Well, it seems that all four shock absorbers were ‘absorbing’, I couldn’t see the pavement through any holes in the floor boards, the seats were intact and basically comfortable, the driver seemed neither crazy nor hell bent for destruction with a subconscious death wish, and the music he had on was soft, low and relaxing! Now I tell you, here in Managua, that’s a mini-miracle! I thanked the driver for a peaceful ride as I left. He just looked at me as though I were a very strange gringa.

I wish to report that the “Well Project” that I mentioned in my last blog, received an incredible boost last Sunday. My friends and fellow parishioners of Gesu Parish in Detroit had their Annual Ethnic Meal and they featured our well project as an opportunity to join in helping in the repair of the well in one of our farm communities. They contributed almost $800.00!!! I spoke with one of the coordinators of the project this morning and he’s delighted because they had decided to go ahead with the purchase of the tubing with the money they have accumulated ($700.00). That leaves them with $500.00 left to scrounge up. They’ll manage, as they are a “together” community and will figure out how to raise this remaining amount.

Those who were willing to enter more deeply into the Nicaraguan experience could taste the national food, ‘gallo pinto’. That is what the folks eat more than once a day….red beans and rice. I’m good for once a day…..but that’s enough! I must report that I’m doing better with the boiled bananas, although I prefer them fried. And… when I’m home in May, I’ll pass on red beans and rice. Rice by itself will be fine, but the red beans can wait until I return to Nica land.

Yesterday, we went to Las Yucas. Actually, this was my first visit to this very distant community. Like La Ceiba it is “on top the Nicaraguan world” and the 29 families that live somewhat near this area are extremely poor and depressed in spirit. They have a one room, open-air school where 33 students from 1st through 6th grade “study”. Our young promoter, Brenda, age 20 who lives 6 kilometers distant from said school is the lone teacher. She’s a beautiful young woman who is bright and also performs folkloric dances beautifully. Hopefully, her future will provide some opportunities for her to move along in life because she is indeed capable and spirited.

The final addition to this edition is the news that as of last week, we are in the process of constructing a dwelling for Juanita a.k.a. Jeanne. For the past year I have been sharing a bedroom and living with Julie who is a CSJ of another “branch” of our family tree. These houses have only one bedroom. I’ve slept in the “second space” which means that I enter and exit through Julie’s space. It’s a possible “do” but not really good for women in their 70’s who are up and down during the night. And it provides neither of us with privacy. So…Dianne, the other CSJ of my congregation who lives across the small street in her one bedroom casita, envisioned a separate bedroom and bath in half of the patio area behind her house. Our Leadership Team readily agreed to the project and generously allotted even more $$ than we projected for the construction. And so it will be! Walter, who helps us with everything, is in the market today buying sand, cement, iron rods, concrete blocks, etc. etc. etc. in order to start the construction. I’ve named it, “Juanita’s Hermitage”. Eventually, you see some photos of the project.
Thanks for ‘tuning in’ and sharing in the journey.

Love and gratitude,

Jeanne a.k.a. Juanita

Monday, February 9, 2009

Against the Wind

Greetings from VERY WINDY Nicaragua! We’re having pleasantly warm (not-unbearably- hot yet!) weather accompanied by strong, high winds. Those of you, who know me well, know that I like my hair “in place”! Well, forget that! Actually, I’m fine with the freedom of letting it blow and fall where it may!

I’ve been back less than a month but it seems like six months. I have no idea what that indicates! I’m in the process of visiting the rural areas and also forming groups of women who wish to reflect and discuss spirituality, aspects of the Bible and whatever else they wish to pursue. This will probably also take me into a new area which is not rural – an area referred to as Ciudad Sandino which started as a place for refugees to settle during the war and after several natural calamities. We have a center there. Dianne, the other sister of my community, works out of this center with youth.

Last Thursday I went with my friend, Claudio, to an area called La Ceiba. Two of the pregnant cows now reside there! One of them is still pregnant….but promises to produce a calf shortly! She’s a beautiful Caramel color cow named Chota. At any rate, La Ceiba is at the ‘back of beyond’ at the very top of the hills and the poorest of the poorest reside there, trying to eke out a living by farming and cutting wood. The roads to and from are beyond description!! But with Claudio’s experience and good driving expertise we came and went without any major incidents. My head hit the roof of the cab at one point as we hit an unexpected ‘crevasse’. Not to worry….the head is hard and did not even get dented! We returned with lots of bananas to fry and some coveted free range chicken eggs….and lots of sand and dirt in clothing, hair and ‘other areas’.

I was chuckling to myself as I rode to the office the other day on one of our infamous buses! A man got on carrying lots of brooms, toilet brushes, plungers and heaven only knows what else! You can imagine his trying to work his way down the center of the bus with folks standing on either side of the aisle. Those bristles are pretty sharp!! That day the bus was so jammed full of people that when it was time to think about getting out, the folks said that I should wait until the bus stopped at my point of departure and they would exit so I could do the same! If you don’t like being touched….you definitely should not get on a bus especially at certain hours of the day! You feel as though you’ve really accomplished something when you slither, push, slide, jostle, nudge, displace other bodies and items - and any other word you can fit into such a scene - and arrive all in one piece, outside of said bus! I like challenges and such is this! Another day I was traveling with three precious eggs I’d been given in the farmland. I had them inside my backpack which I was protecting VERY CAREFULLY. Well, the bus became VERY FULL and offered to put the stack of school books belonging to the person hovering on top of me, on my lap. I had visions of scrambled eggs in my backpack instead of in the frying pan! I did manage to get to home base with the eggs in tact as they came forth from the chicken. I was grateful!!

The people of my home parish in Detroit, Gesu, are helping to repair one of our community wells by participating in their annual Ethnic Meal by displaying aspects of this project and offering mahogany- wood spatulas and pie servers in gratitude for donations of $20.00. An Irish born carpenter who lives in the area of the ‘ailing well’ (hm-m-m ailing well!!) with his wife and two small daughters has set up a small workshop where three young men produce these items. He donated 50-some pieces as a contribution to the project. Peggy, one of my generous sisters is preparing our national food to share – “gallo pinto” a.k.a. red beans and rice, which our folks eat at least once a day, if not more often. This type of collaboration really warms my heart and also brings us closer as sisters and brothers. This well has been serving the people of Los Planes de Cuajachillo 2 for over thirty years and the tubing is in dire need of being replaced. The families of this very extensive area send one of their members, driving a wooden cart loaded with large plastic barrels and drawn by a pair of yoked oxen, to draw the water they need to meet all their needs. It’s a long trip and without this water they wouldn’t survive. There are no rivers or rain water to collect for at least six months of the year during the dry season. The folks cannot afford to drill their own wells. The water table is very deep and aside from that there’s no money to pay for this work. So you can see that this is indeed a great need for the area.

Well, I shall close for now, thanking many of you for your many kindnesses to me during my month home and ask that you continue to keep your Nica sisters and brothers in your thoughts and prayers – me, too! You can be sure that you are in our daily prayers of gratitude.

Love from Managua,
Your sister, Jeanne a.k.a. Juanita