Monday, November 14, 2011
Recently a sister from the congregation named Lola Palacios graduated from college with her degree to be a chef. Of course, we had a party to celebrate. And, being that I'm in a Latin country, of course it was a dance party. It doesn't matter if it's graduation, baby shower, wedding....we'll dance! The 1st picture is another sister from the congregation named Laura doing a traditional Nicaraguan dance for Lola. You know how when we're little they teach us square dancing in school (at least that's what they did in Missouri)? Here they teach folk dance. The sister on the left side in the blue shirt seated is the guest of honor.
Look that's me dancing! The brother in the white top and black pants is Lola's brother, Manolo. He's the best salsa dancer I've seen. He's supposed to come to the house 1 night and give us all lessons, yea!
Granada enjoys the title of the Oldest City in the Americas. It was established in the 1500s by Spanish settlers and still boasts a load of colonial architecture. This is a church in town built in the 1800s called Xalteva.
I picked this flower in service....never seen anything like it
There's a bridge in our territory that goes across a causeway. Yesterday I stopped and took this photo. Rainy season has its cons, but look how green everything is! That dark spot in the the background is Volcano Mombacho half covered by a cloud. Overlooking the trash, kids (and men) peeing in the street, and mistreated animals I really do have a beautiful territory.
Here's our regular pioneers after our meeting Saturday. From left to right there's Mario, Emirick, Ana Rosa, Miguel Angel, David, Morena, Connie, David, Sandrita, Marta (daughter), Jandra, Ana Luisa, Pilar, Hector, Eva, Amalia, and Marta (mom).
This is my new C.O. and his wife. His name is Aaron Perkinson and hers is Eunice. He's originally from Illinois but has served in Nicaragua for about 16 years now. He came down single and later married Eunice who's from here. They served as special pioneers in different areas of the country and even in Nica Sign Language. We're their first circuit :)
You want to know how to identify JW's in Nicaragua? Just look for skirts, hats, and umbrellas....mainly umbrellas as you see here. It's not for the rain--it's for the sun. The sun here is brutal especially in the morning. Don't we look cute heading out to the territory?!
Do you guys remember how I used to have to BEG, I mean BEG, Claudia to make me plantain? Well, here, they're a staple of everyday life. When you fry them (either green or ripe) they call them tajada. The other day, I offered to make them for lunch and look how they turned out!! I fried and lived!! Take that, Claudia :)-
This is me after the meeting Saturday night. Mom wanted a full body shot :)
I know this blog has been a lot about my new congregation and my new city/country, but I haven't talked a lot about my personal experiences in the territory. After a full 2 months here, I can say it's good! I have 2 formal studies and after this week (their 3rd study) I should have 2 more. We work our territory about every 3 weeks and yet the householders are SO receptive. It's very easy to get r.v.'s and place literature. Service can be very tiring because it's a lot of walking in the heat of the morning, but it seems like the householders can see when we need a break and are great about pulling out a couple chairs for us to chat for a while. The other pioneers here have also been really supportive about making plans in advance to go out in the afternoon together to do studies and r.v.'s.
If you'll remember, when I first came here to Granada Este I spoke to the elders and they explained they didn't really need me. Well, this week we had our C.O, and I talked to him about where I should go. He asked how my budget was here (Granada is the most expensive city in Nicaragua), how I felt with the family with whom I live, and how the territory/congregation seemed to me. I told him all was good. "Stay," he said. He said although the congregation is big and has a lot of pioneers there's a couple things they really need help with and to which I can contribute:
1) return visits
2) meeting attendance
Plus, they haven't had anyone serve here in 5 years and he thinks the experience would be good and encouraging for them.
He said that when he/wife were special pioneers they were assigned to a territory that was worked every 3 weeks also, and he wondered why? The issues were the same there....the congregation loved to preach but wasn't so great at return visits. He told me the key wasn't working the territory MORE, it was working the territory BETTER. The majority of our territory probably thinks our purpose is giving a brief message and leaving a magazine or brochure. They probably don't even know about our Bible study program because it's never been offered to them. I think he's right because the couple times I've just up and offered it, the householder has accepted it. One time I left magazines with a young lady named Tatiana and asked her if she owned a Bible. She said her Dad had just given her one as a gift, but when she showed it to me it looked new as if she'd never opened it. I asked her if she wanted to learn how to use it and find out what's inside and she said yes! We had our first study Thursday and when I asked her when to do the next study, she said "tomorrow!" She's proving to be a great student, and I think maybe her husband will study too.
So he wants me to do return visits and especially in the morning when the big group goes out so that everyone can see that they're important. I also think that's important because before, when I tried to cut out early to make return visits my partner was VISIBLY upset and gave me a lecture enumerating (I kid you not, #1, #2 etc) reasons why house-to-house was important.
Meeting attentance is the other thing. We have 103 publishers with about 30 students w/kids attending. However, our average is 99 Wednesday night and 110 Saturday night. You can do the math. Even during the C.O. visit which usually produces huge numbers, we had a peak of only 140. He wants me to set the example in meeting attendance and encourage others to do the same when possible.
He said that in a few months if I feel like I need some excitement I should check out 2 congregations south of here--Cardenas and Rivas. Cardenas is on the south side of Lake Nicaragua really close to Costa Rica. It has 8 publishers. It's mainly rural and the town has no running water but apparently is beautiful and shows a really good response to the ministry. Rivas is the big city close to Cardenas. It has a couple congregations, but 1 of them only has 3 pioneers. I met a sister at the English conv. who's serving in Cardenas, so I'll have to pay her a visit and check it out.
For those of you who know Ollie, you know her affinity for her kitty bed. Well, unfortunately, that was one of the things we had to leave behind. My cat, Spencer, is enjoying it now at my parent's house :) Everything here is tile and wooden furniture so there's not a lot of soft fuzzy spots for Ollie to rest her laurels. As a result, we've caught her sleeping on a hammock that was on the ground, dirty clothes pile, and the bath mat. I finally took pity on her and went a couple weeks ago to Masaya to look for a bed for her. Masaya is the folk center of Nicaragua and you can find just about any kind of handcrafted good there. Anyway, we met a progressive Bible student there (she had her Watchtower lying on her stand) and she GAVE me this basket or canasta. Then the other Saturday when I came home from service, there was Ollie inside cuttin' her z's....Carmen had sewn her a pillow to go inside. Now, we all know Ollie hates having her picture taken but doesn't she look cute in her bed?
Everyone here makes fun of her in it because normally the canastas are used by vendors. They put their fruits, veggies, bread etc inside and walk around neighborhoods yelling out what they have for sale. Most of you who I've spoken with on the phone probably remember hearing them in the background because they start VERY early and end VERY late. Everyone says we should take Ollie around her her canasta yelling "Ollie Ollie 5 pesos!" I'm offended......she's worth so much more than 5 pesos :)
Last Sunday was election day here in Nicaragua. What does that have to do with the fish pictured above? Well, normally Sunday's a long day in service for us but due to the fervor surrounding the event it was suggested we don't go out that day. So here in the Castellon house we did what any good Witness would do under the circumstances--we cooked a big meal! No really, we bought these whole fish from a vendor who bikes around every morning selling his catch from the lake...they're called guapote. For you Spanish speakers, you'll recognize the relation to the word guapo (handsome). It's because the fish is apparently only found here in Nicaragua and tastes delicious by the way so they feel it's not just guapo, it's guapote!
For being a freshwater fish, it was delish. They opened him up and filled him with salt, garlic, basil, and chile and then fried him whole. We ate him with a squirt of lime and a side of rice with stewed tomatos/onions on top. Heaven! As you can see in the 2nd pic, I caught on pretty quick how to clean those bones right up!
As a side note, Miss Ollie enjoyed about 3 fish heads afterwards, so I'd say the day was a success.