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?