Monday, February 15, 2010

Blessings In Disguise

I’m trying to keep up with regular blogging, and so far so good!

I thought that for this posting I’d describe for you a blessed moment on the bus! Now, the bus and the ride in itself do not seem to have the trappings of a blessing….however, the people one has the opportunity to meet can indeed be a blessing. Last Friday the usual groups of those seeking money appeared on the bus as I was riding on my way to the office. Two young children came on to sing and strum a guitar. They were definitely not candidates for the choir, but their energy was definitely worth noting. Next a blind gentleman, who appears frequently, got on the bus and played his accordian. Finally, a VERY ELDERLY woman with long, flowing, white hair and a crutch was basically lifted up onto the bus. She was alone and at the mercy of folks who helped her. She sat next to me and there was definitely something special between us. She was very poor, but clean and sporting a white apron. She spoke so softly I had to put my ear next to her mouth. She wanted to know what bus route we were on. I told her it was the 114 and asked where she wanted to go. She told me “el Zumen” (the name of a well known area) and I said that indeed she could get there on the 114. She had the most beautiful wrinkled, brown face and was just a whisper of a person. I asked her age and she told me, “I’m 90!” I asked her what she was going to do at “el Zumen” and she just held out her opened palm. She wasn’t asking me for anything, just demonstrating that she would be asking for alms from those waiting in that area. It came time for her to leave and several helped her down the bus steps. We were delayed for several minutes at this stop….this happens when the bus of the same route is too close to the one preceeding it. So, I continued to watch her walk up and down with the aid of her crutch and with one hand extended. Several people gave her something, while others tried not to see her. It occurred to me that “prayer happened” when this humble yet independent woman sat next to me. Such determination to do what she had to do to survive. She is a symbol for me of the extreme situation of so many of our people. At her age, one would hope for a peaceful, dignified place to rest and receive assistance. Not so for so many of the very poor of this world. There is no rest, there is only struggle to survive each day….and yes, there can be dignity in the very midst of it all. God does indeed visit us, especially in the poor.

What indications of love and dedication did you encounter on Valentine’s Day but also today and each day?

Thanks for keeping up with ‘life in Nicaragua’ as experienced by your sister, Jeanne!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Un Nuevo Amanecer

Now that my blog is on the CSJ website I am being nudged by several to post more frequently…my goal is every two weeks, but there’s always hope for once a week. Time will tell.

The people of Nicaragua are in solidarity, as is the rest of the world, with Haiti as they try to rise from the ashes and begin life anew. However, for the Nicaraguans there’s a deeper feeling because of the geographical closeness and the levels of poverty both experience - Haiti is the poorest of the area and Nicaragua the second poorest. The other connection is that in 1972 Managua suffered a very devastating earthquake and you can still see some of the resulting destruction in buildings that have never been demolished. Lives lost were incalculable. Then in 1998, Hurricane Mitch created incredible loss and damage over large parts of Nicaragua. Such similar suffering draws groups closer in compassion.

The past weeks since my return have been pretty active with planning sessions, left overs of evaluations of projects, dedication of a new project….and just general reentry and fitting back into the rhythms of each day. It’s only been three weeks since I left the States…but it seems like months.

The weather continues to be fairly pleasant and we snatch each day and appreciate it because we know that the extreme heat and rains are on their way. I guess it’s the best way to live….appreciating each day and the gifts, challenges and opportunities it brings. A loving God gives us a certain amount of time each day and then it’s over and into the next! We often speak of each day as “un nuevo amanecer” which translates as “a new dawning”. It seems an excellent way to view each new day.

Japanese Ambassador, Shinichi Saito, and his assistant listening to Brother Chepe explain the process of drying hibiscus petals which are used to make a bright maroon drink which is a popular in Nicaragua.

Last Friday, we had a new experience. The Japanese Ambassador and two of his assistants, along with a representative of an Austrian group working with development, came to the Finca (our farm that is used for inservice on matters agricultural). He came because we were inaugurating our project for the drying of fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. that can then be packaged and sold. It’s the beginning of a micro-business for some of our women.

Sr. Anabel, CSA, (directress of Cantera), Lutgarda (directress of the Finca) and the Ambassador viewing photos of the women learning the process involved in dehydrating fruits, vegetables and herbs.

I won’t go into how ‘secardores’ (units for drying) function but just say that solar energy, fans for moving the hot air and wooden and metal ‘ovens’ are all part of this process. There were moments of mini-panic as final touches were put on the building and clean up began. We don’t do too much ahead of time here in Latin America but it always seems to get done! Not important that we were taping photos of the process on bulletin boards just minutes before the distinguished arrival! Everything was very festive and national anthems were played with flags of each nation flying. Ribbons were cut and words were said … can you imagine being a Japanese speaker and trying to speak Spanish! Well, he did it quite well in spite of only being here 2.5 years. He also speaks English so I was conscripted to sit with him and his assistants after the ceremony when we were having refreshments. At one point we were trying to get the Japanese flag higher off the floor so it wouldn’t touch the ground and ended up using concrete blocks and twine. I repeated to the Ambassador the director’s comment of , “tecnologia avanzado” (advanced technology!) and he responded, “Muy avanzado!” (VERY advanced) and then laughed heartily. He was very impressed with what he saw as he toured the Finca and told me that though everything is simple, he was indeed very impressed with all he saw. That was high praise and the folks really appreciated hearing it. The folks who have been receiving training in the process of dehydrating fruits and vegetables were present for the ceremony and rightly proud of the undertaking.

I will close for now and once again express my gratitude for your interest and involvement in our efforts here in Nicaragua to accompany the people as they move forward in their own leadership qualities and accomplishments. The building of self-esteem based on their individual and collective spirituality is indeed beautiful to observe.

Love and gratitude,
Your sister, Jeanne