Monday, September 21, 2009

Alternative Approach to Celebrating One's Birth

Saludos amigas y amigos de una Nicaragua MUY, MUY CALIENTE! Greetings friends from a VERY, VERY HOT Nicaragua!

I think I´m doing better with blog posts. I know that many of you check in often and wonder what is going on down here and don’t discover a new posting. So…I am trying to be more current. Today I want to share with you how I celebrated, lived, survived my 71st birthday on September 8th!

Seventy-one years ago on September 8, 1938 I arrived during the wee hours of the morning…like 3:00a.m.!! I’ve been an early riser ever since!!

This year I began my special day for giving thanks for the tremendous gift of life, an incredible set of parents and two big brothers by rising early, spending time in prayer and reflection, preparing a special breakfast of bacon, a perfect omelet, coffee and toast and enjoying my surroundings. Shortly thereafter I left for our office in the center of Managua.

Together with Claudio and Vero, my companions in rural ministry, we started for the campo. We were destined for a farm unknown to us where there were pregnant cows waiting to be selected by two families. Well, I don’t know if they were really eager and waiting to be selected but such was their destiny that day. Claudio who drives the truck was not well, but insisted on going. Actually, we can’t do such trips without him! We nearly met OUR FINAL destiny when Claudio failed to see a stopped bus in the road ahead of us. Vero gently called his attention to the looming obstacle, Claudio jammed on the brakes, the truck slid cattywumpus on the road (providentially, there were no vehicles approaching from the other direction!) and came to a halt a little shy of the still stopped bus! Silence prevailed in the cab for quite a while afterwards as we got ourselves back into normal breathing and heart pumping patterns. Later, we picked up a fellow who SAID he knew where in the hills the farm was located but instinctively I began to question his certitude. I’ve learned to “read” the slight hesitation, the manner of speaking that says, “I THINK I know!” Well, we took the right arm of the road as directed and started DOWN a ‘non-road’. The farm was known to be in a VALLEY! Finally, after much cautious creeping over the ‘trail’ that was narrow, deeply crevassed and precipitous, we stopped to ask a local farmer the whereabouts of our destination. “Oh yes, it’s just a little further on, on the left hand side.” he said. Now, ‘a little further on’ is a very wide open expression down here!

We did finally come to the farm and gratefully got out of the truck confines. The family was delightful, the cows, calves, and other animals were friendly and they served us a glass of the universal solvent, Coca Cola, which we greatly appreciated. I had great fun inside the corral taking photos until both Vero and Claudio said, “Please come outside the fence!” I was making them nervous even though the family said the cows were gentle by nature, and so I found them to be! At last the two cows were selected…I’m never sure what the criteria is that is employed. One was chosen because it had no horns!

We then went to the “nearest” town, Villa el Carmen, to sign the appropriate papers. Now of course, it was noon time and everyone knows that nothing functions except stomachs during this time. We found a home where a woman was willing to feed us for a reasonable price. It was the family front room and we ate at their table with the family dogs participating. My meal was a gift because it was my birthday, which was thoughtful. Finally, offices opened and papers were signed and we returned to the scene of the “purchase” with the fellows who needed to return there and retrieve their choice of cow. Now it was time to start home….and by a much different route. We had arrived by the wrong route…a real road was very near the farm…so off we went toward home but before we were on the main road a large panel truck came careening around a curve at a far too great velocity. Claudio did a ‘graced’ maneuver and got us out the way of the menacing evil truck….second mini-miracle of the day!

Later that evening, as I was relaxing and waiting for a new group of volunteers plus Chepe, with whom I also minister, to arrive at the house I was thoroughly surprised and DELIGHTED to receive a phone call from my sisters at my home base, Goldengate Community in Detroit. I’ve forbidden folks to call because it is too expensive but somehow that command was ignored and I was so glad to hear their voices and greetings. It made my day!

Eventually, Chepe and the six new Capuchin volunteers arrived. I sent Chepe out for ice cream and pop and we had a great time chatting and getting to know each other. I had supplied the cake which Cantera gives each of us as we celebrate our day. It was a great ending to a very FULL day. Was I grateful for life? You know the answer!

The next day I was surprised by my women’s group in Los Planes de Cuajachillo with a fiesta. The cake was a large pineapple upside down version…very delicious.. and the children had prepared a sign with “Feliz Cumpleanos, Juanita” preceded by lots of balloons! I was gifted with their presence, singing, and…green peppers, tomatoes, a granadilla (a large fruit used to make a delicious juice), fresh milk, a pitahya (a, Nica purple fruit for juice), bananas and red beans. All of the above are products of their little farms and lovingly grown. I was surprised and humbled by their generosity. I had unnerved them prior to our gathering by not arriving, as I always do, on the 1:10pm bus from mid-Managua. They figured I wasn’t coming…and after all the preparations! Well, I arrived about 1:45 by truck with Javier driving. I had the inspiration in the morning to ask him if by chance he was going to Los Planes that afternoon! Well, it’s a good thing I was not traveling by bus…how would I ever have arrived back in Batahola Norte with all the produce gifts!!?? No one had thought of that! All in all it was a great birthday and I give thanks for all the folks in my life…both in the North and in the South…and in some further off places!

Life here continues to take its toll on the people as countries pull out of their previous commitments … some choosing to support African nations, others finding themselves tightening belts due to the international financial situation and still others who find it difficult to work with the current political situation.

Thanks for each of you and for your interest in our sisters and brothers of Nicaragua and in my journey with them.

Love and gratitude,