Sunday, October 30, 2011

HAPPY 14TH ANNIVERSARY



You guys have read me talk about Ken and Brandi Venables, the couple serving here from Canada. Brandi has become a very good friend and they're at the house about twice/week. Anyway, this week was their 14th anniversary! She hid his gift at our house so after dinner they came over for a "visit" and she surprized him. It's something he'd always wanted. Watch the video to see his face when he gets it! It was nice to share this special moment with friends.


They actually had to celebrate everything a day early because on Tuesday (their actual anniversay date) we had to go to Costa Rica to renew our visas. It was kind of a mess as they changed the rules on the visa and no one knew it until we got there. Therefore, we were charged $25 apiece we weren't expecting. However, we did it all in 1 day and I'm good for another 90 days, so I can't complain. At least we were together and not trying to brave it on our own.


For those of you keeping count, you're right, I went a month early. However, everyone here is on the same schedule, so I thought better to go with everyone rather than figure this all out on my own.

WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

This house across the street from me is for rent! 2 bedroom, 2 bath, VERY new inside and modern. $200/month unfurnished or $350 furnished. However, I heard her negotiating with someone and to leave just the bed, a chair, and the appliances she was going to rent it for $270/month!! No AC and you have to pay the utilities yourself. The water, electricity, and Internet together run an extra $100/month. Calling all need greaters....

R.I.P.







I have experienced my first Nicaraguan death. A couple of weeks ago the neighbor across the street from us lost her sister. Although I don't know her I felt very bad for her. I've said before about how the houses are all open so anything loud is heard by the whole neighborhood. When this poor woman heard the news you could hear her crying down the whole street. Only once before in my life have I personally seen anyone so devastated :(

I found out that the tradition here is to do una vela or a wake the day before the funeral. Therefore, when we got back from the meeting Saturday night, this was the view in front of our house. Everyone who knew the deceased or the family of the deceased gathers in the house where the body is kept until the funeral to pay their respects. It's not a sad environment. Everyone catches up with friends and they serve bites to eat with coffee. As we walked home all the neighbors...the whole family...were sitting in front of their homes to pay respect. The entire street was packed with neighbors and friends. We did the same. Most hung around until about midnight but a few stayed all night. It was an interesting cultural experience.


Confession--I kinda wanted to sneak into this crowd with a mess of "What Hope for Dead Loved Ones" tracts and start some conversations. Something told me the neighbors wouldn't appreciate it, though.


Then the next day this black carriage pulled by horses pulled up, they loaded up the coffin, and started the procession to the church. Everyone came to the neighbor's house and followed the carriage on foot to the church. Interesting, huh?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

HI MOM!

 
Here's another post for Mom. She likes to see pix of me. The only real differences are:
1) now I only wear makeup to the meetings. Why put it on in service just to sweat it off in 2 seconds?
2) I'm a little burnt as you can see
3) I'm a little skinnier as you may not see. However, between the parasites and the walking, it's doing its job. My pants fit looser and the belt on the dress I wore that night was 2 clicks tighter than it used to be!

The treat is an ojuela. It's basically a thin fried tortilla dipped in a syrup/honey made from figs. Crazy comparison but it really does taste like a crispy, sweet CornFlake.  Here in Nica it's common that people with foodstuffs to sell bicycle or walk through neighborhoods yelling out what they have...everything from fish to milk to fruits/veg and tortillas. Anyway, there's a lady who sells ojuelas too and we bought some today. They cost about 5 cordobas each which is a little less than 20cents. This was my reward for walking my rear off this morning in service. Yum!

NSL


Ezekiel & Diana at the English conv


Nazareth & Dennis

Today I checked out the Nica Sign Language group. There's a sister in my congregation who was in the first class they offered and she supports the group when they preach in Granada. She invited me last night at the meeting and I thought--why not? The congregation is based in Masaya about 15 minutes away but obviously the territory is quite large so everyday they're preaching in a new place.

Diana who is the sister above...she and her hubby come to the house quite a bit and she's determined to teach me NSL. She taught me a bunch of animal signs the other night and has taught me Jehovah and a couple other things. I remembered how to sign my name by spelling it out, but she told me a deaf person has to give me my sign to represent me. They are always the ones who choose it.

So today, we visited Dennis pictured above. He's studied in the past and has a good memory of basic truths. We showed him a video signing a story from the My Book of Bible Stories and it worked out well. We were talking about Paradise and I got to use some of the animal signs I remembered! Anyway...he gave me my sign! He said because my eyes and eyebrows are novelties for them I can make the sign for the letter "s" and circle it around my eye twice. Yeah!!

Supposedly, the branch might be offering another class in NSL soon because a lot of the friends who went to the 1st class didn't stay in the congregation. Hmmmm, something to think about...

MY NICA FAMILY






This post is a long time coming and I apologize for that. I wanted to introduce you to the family I'm living with. Drumroll please....


So first there's Alicia, the matriarch. She's very motherly towards me....she never wants me to work around the house, is always telling me to take a nap and eat healthy, and is always checking in on me. It's very comforting :) She treats Ollie like part of the family too, and that makes me feel good. She's a seamstress by trade although now she just does work for friends. Before the assembly she tailored a dress she had for me so I had something new--sweet, huh? She's married to Julio, but I haven't met him yet. He's been in San Francisco caring for his elderly mother. He is not a brother but supposedly very easy-going and an animal-lover as well.


Edwin and Carmen come next. They're 27 and 28 respectively and the married couple in the house; Edwin is Alicia's son. Carmen comes from Esteli in the north of the country, and they've been married 5 years. Edwin teaches English and is always running new phrases by me; ahem, some of which I have to explain to him never to repeat again. He's the spiritual head of the family and directs our family worship night etc....very well, by the way. I'm impressed with his questions and line of reasoning frequently. Carmen is 100% sweet and is one of my new best friends here. Some of my favorite times with her is right before lunch when we walk to the store to buy what we need to cook. We're alone for a minute, and we always have very nice chats. Like probably the 2nd week I was here I teased her that at the English convention Geni Ogando (the sister who helped me choose Granada and arranged this housing for me) was telling me "I know Carmen is just thrilled to have you in the house" and I had to tell Geni "I don't know because Carmen's never told me what she thinks of me!". I was just teasing her but later that evening she came up to my room and got all choked up telling me that the next day I can tell Geni that how she really feels is that Jehovah sent me to them. She told me it was encouraging to her and Edwin that I was living here with them and they would make whatever arrangements necessary to make sure I could stay as long as I wanted to here. Isn't that nice?

That leaves Ervin. He's 19 and dating a sister named Eunice from Matagalpa in the north. They've been seeing each other about 10 months now, and according to him, she's "the one." So I may be writing about her as a new member of the household soon! Ervin reminds me so much of my brother in all the good ways...he wears crazy tee-shirts, is always teasing me, and talks in these crazy voices all the time. I think because of him I've been thinking about my brother a lot here. I didn't even put it all together until the other night. We were talking about our families and I said I've been thinking about Mark a lot and wasn't sure why. Carmen told me "because of the boys." Then it just clicked. Her brother was recently disfellowshipped as well and she told me the boys give her the same feelings. It's nice to be understood....especially through tears.


So now you guys can put faces with names.

Monday, October 17, 2011

WONDERS OF NICARAGUA

View of Volcan Mombacho from the field next to my house



Water birds on Lake Cocibolca





plantain!!!!


I've been taking some pix as I've been in service and running errands and just wanted to share with you how beautiful it is here. Look closely at the one picture and you'll see it's a banana tree. On our KH property we have naranja agria growing and hibiscus flowers. Here, they're both edible...naranja agria tastes kind of like lemon but it's very dark green on the outside. They dry and boil hibiscus flowers to make a drink called jamaica. But in the territory in general I've seen limes, starfruit, noni fruit and a bunch I've never heard of like nacite and a weird oval green thing they put in salads.

The video link will show you an amazing plant here called La Dormilona or The Sleepyhead. Watch what happens when you touch it!!!





On a side note about our KH, I participated in the cleaning on Saturday morning and wow! We cut the grass all around the KH by hand! Not with a machine and not even with a machete...by hand! I've seen others here cut grass with a machete. Now I know where they got the term "back breaking work."

CANA DE CASTILLA

Last Thursday I checked out another potential "need" congregation called Cana de Castilla. A Canadian sister who's serving here with her husband, Brandi Venables, met me at the bus depot and took me out there. It's about a 15 minute ride from Granada. It was a refreshing change because it's nice and cool out there and very green. I saw my share of wildlife...pigs, ducks, chickens, cows...and plenty of fruit trees. Ooh, I saw a locust for the 1st time....PS--it's huge in real life! It's a very poor area, and they still do a lot of things by hand. For instance, I saw a man plowing his field with two oxen like in olden days. The territory was a good mix. There's a faction that's very Catholic or very Evangelical and are polite but don't really want to talk. The other faction is very humble and listen well.

I didn't get to see a meeting but judging from the service group it appears a lot of the brothers are family members. They are very humble and simple (in a material sense) and according to Brandi VERY eager to learn...great qualities huh?!

After service, Sis.Flores told to me to sit and rest before the bus comes. She brought me a fresh coconut and broke it open for me to drink while I waited (on a side note, I learned the hard way that coconut water is an anti-parasitic and tends to "clean" you out....on a side side note I've never talked more in my life about bathroom habits than here; it's an everyday conversation especially with us foreigners :)) Then before I knew it lunch came out. I felt bad because I knew the family didn't have much, and I truly had plans to go back to the house for lunch. But they insisted and I had a very nice lunch of rice/beans/fried fish. This sweet family had cooked for the entire service group, and as I looked around I realized only the Venables and I had fried fish...everyone else had a boiled egg :( Talk about generosity! Then we sat and talked about an hour before I left on the bus. Well, most of us talked....they had to bring the hammock out for Ken Venables so he could have a proper siesta! Overall, a very nice experience.

I see some pros and cons about serving there. Pro is that transportation is no problem as the buses to that area are very regular. It would also be nice to get a break from the city and its heat. Con is that the Venables were telling me the territory gets covered about once/month. However, apparently they've never had territory cards and there's a suspicion that this frequency is more a lack of organization than a lack of territory. It's also one of the larger congregations on the outskirts of Granada--they already have about 60 publishers. However, they're a young congregation and apparently could use some help with a "mature influence." Are we sure that describes me?!

That leaves 2 more to investigate...Diamante and Granada Oeste. More to come!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

JEHOVAH MAKES IT GROW

I thought you guys may like this experience Bro.Sherbourne told me at the English convention here.

Most of you know that his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren serve here in Nicaragua in a town called Masatepe. Well, at the convention, Jason ran into a sister who recently moved to a different part of Nicaragua to serve. When she saw that Jason was from Masatepe she started recounting how during the '70s her family had moved to Masatepe for a time but later returned to their home. At the time, there was not a single brother in the area; just her and her family working that virgin territory. Jason proceeded to tell her that now there's a thriving congregation (there might be 2 but I can't remember well) in Masatepe, and they had 700 meet for the Memorial this year. This, of course, made the sister start crying. I'm sure she was thinking about all those seeds she and her family had planted in Masatepe those many years before....

MY KINGDOM HALL


The KH is about a 7-10 minute walk from where I live now. It's gated for security reasons and has a bigger bike park area (in the back) than car park area. Brothers from both congregations take turns spending the night here so no damage is ever done. This is the service group leaving to go to the territory. See the hats and umbrellas? Does that tell you what the sun's like here?







Look at our beautiful garden!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"ADVERSITY HAS CHANGED MY LIFE BUT NOT MY HEART"


Yesterday I investigated a potential "need" congregation called Las Isletas. Granada sits right on the shore of the biggest freshwater lake in Central America called Lake Nicaragua. It has over 360 islands on it most of which are inhabited. Five years ago a missionary couple named Mark & Allison Lee from Canada were assigned to work this territory. I met them at the District Convention and invited myself along :)

We met at the missionary home 8:30 yesterday morning and loaded up. Obviously, since the whole day is spent on the lake, if you don't bring what you need for the day, too bad. So we spent a while loading up our service gear, lunches, meeting bags, and equipment to fill the Kingdom Hall (more on that later). Two other brothers met us at the marina and we were off! We picked up 2 baptized sisters who live on the islands and then met at a bible student's house for the meeting for service. We took two boats out that day and did a mix of studies, rv's, and regular preaching. First time preaching by boat!! I got to speak to a woman and her family, and they were very attentive. She unfortunately can't read so I explained to her about our new brochure from the convention Listen to God and made arrangements to bring that to her next time.

We then dropped the 2 island sisters off and met at the Kingdom Hall to eat lunch and finish preparations for the meeting. Now, this is no regular KH....it floats!! Yep, it's actually a platform built on air-compressed barrels and covered by a tarp. The brothers can haul it anywhere they want on the lake to meet the needs of the territory. Currently, it's docked on an island owned by a Spaniard who, in exchange for docking and general security when it's not in use, charges $15/month. If you'd like to know more about it you can read the September 1, 2009 Watchtower p.26.

The meeting started about 3pm. I know that sounds early but they like to finish while it's still night so no one is maneuvering waters at night. Bro.Lee left after lunch to pick up a few students while we prepared the Kingdom Hall. Other brothers rowed themselves over. We had an attendance of 20 with 100% participation other than 2 babies in the group. The meeting was nice and relaxing filled with lake breezes, the sound of waves lapping the KH, and the occasional howler monkey nearby.

Afterwards, we dropped the students off and got home about 6:30pm. It was a very tiring day but very exciting at the same time. I've been raised in the truth but it never ceases to amaze me that here even in this tiny group floating in the middle of nowhere do they manage to have the SAME meetings we all enjoy from the SAME literature and the SAME organization. It was also very encouraging working with Bro.Lee all day. He's a very humble brother who has an AMAZING life story and had a lot of good advice on how to be successful in your assignment. If you'd like to know more about him and his family, you can read the story of his father, Forrest Lee, in the March 1, 2001 Watchtower p.23. The quote for this post was taken from his article. What's not listed there, is the fact that after all he went through, he spent his last 12 years serving where the need was greater in Mexico.



Lenin Martinez manning the literature counter/sound booth/contribution boxes. Hey, there's limited space, you know?





All of us after the meeting less Bro. Chavez who's taking the picture








Floating KH in its dock








Katty and Noemi making a return visit






Me catching some rays! I know it's not very interesting but my Mom has expressed a need to see more pix of me.







This is Volcan Mombacho in the background. I can see this from my house! I love looking at it. Many times here I have wished to have my friend Flecky b/c she takes such amazing pix, and I know she could do this volcano much more justice than I have....oh, plus I just really love her and wish she was here :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

NURSE OLLIE



Ok, I admit it...this post is just gratuitous Ollie promoting.


After our convention everyone in the house felt pretty puny including Edwin, the oldest son that lives here. The animals in the house were very concerned. Bird Terry kept hopping up on him and checking under the washcloth to make sure he was good. Terry is obsessed with him and curled up just like a cat with him while he felt bad. Edwin's wife, Carmen, calls him Cookie sometimes as a pet name, and Terry kept calling out "Aqui estoy Cookie!" (here I am, Cookie). And....Miss Ollie did her part too. They had some quality snuggle time as you can clearly see here.

GETTING TO KNOW GRANADA ESTE




This sister is named Morena. She's a pioneer sister here in Granada Este and has been really sweet about inviting me on her afternoon studies so I can be out a little longer each day. She is AMAZING! This girl is the only Witness in her family. When she got baptized she turned her application in the very next day to start auxiliary pioneering. When 6 months were up, she then turned in her application for regular pioneering. In other words, as soon as she qualified, she jumped right in. She's now in her 4th year pioneering like me. She keeps me on my toes asking me about what I do for Family Study Night and what I thought about the latest mags. What an example!

HE'S NOT JALYN BUT...



Most of you have heard me talk about Jalyn Wright from my Summer Spanish congregation. Her mom, Candace, was a pioneer in the cong so Jalyn was our service buddy. Anyways....here in Granada Este we have Samuel. He's also age 2 and his mom, Marta, is a pioneer. He's ALWAYS out with us and is too cute! Jalyn's got him beat in attitude, but Samuel is into EVERYTHING and is quite the dancer :)

BIRDS OF A FEATHER...







I know I've discussed with some of the the 3 chocoyos (tropical birds) that live here at the house so I wanted to post some pix of them. There's Manolo (they call him Amargo because he just sits there all the time and never lets anyone touch him), Terry (the green one; she LOVES Edwin and giggles every time he talks to her), and Tiko (the blue one) from Costa Rica. Tiko is the one that bit me and drew blood twice. However, I'd like to report that we seem to have made peace, and he now gets on my hand so I can transport him from cage to tree, pet him, etc. I chose the pix of him where he looked the most peaceable...in others he was puffed out with his beak open!

I HEART ENGLISH


Granada folks on our bus ride to the assembly!

This is Geni & Cesar Ogando, the missionary couple who helped me decide on where to go in Nicaragua and arranged my current living arrangements for me. They've been in Nicaragua since 1997. She's originally from El Salvador and he's from DR but they've lived in Miami and NYC also.






My new single buds Shelina (left) and Nazareth (middle). At age 6, Nazareth moved to the US with her parents from Nica during the Civil War in the 1980s but now as an adult has decided to move back and help out






From left: Rachel (missionary sister), Stacey (serves in Managua Chinese but originally from CA), me, and Krystina (Stacey's niece who just moved here from HI to serve in San Marcos). Also alllllll single!
































This past weekend was the English District Convention which I attended. You'll see pix here of the Assembly Hall at the former branch site in Ticuantepe as well as some new friends I made. The English congregation here in Granada rented a school bus for the approx 45 min commute each day. We had a peak attendance of 603 on Sunday and 3 were baptized.


Although there are few actual English congregations, the assembly was full because everyone who speaks English but may serve in Miskito, Spanish, or Sign Language attended. I met friends from ALL over the world...British Isles, Trinidad, El Salvador, Romania. There were multiple missionary couples and special pioneers. I've actually never been in a place where all at the same time there was that much maturity gathered. It was really special.




You'll see the Assembly Hall was much more comfortable than the stadium we used for the Spanish assembly. It's all open but Ticuantepe is cooler than Granada so there was a nice breeze most of the time. The grounds themselves are beautiful....mountains in the back, beautiful landscaping, comfortable lunch spot under a tree...I could get used to this :)


And...this is a master of the obvious statement but...I love English. It was so nice to spend 3 entire days not having to think about what I'm saying. I think just living in a place where I'm speaking Spanish all...the...time instead of just in service/meetings....you know, it was nice to get a break.