Saturday, December 21, 2013


I wanted to do a separate section for the animals and modes of transportation frequently seen in our territory.  Last week in the "God's Will" brochure, it mentioned that missionaries will often have to acclimate to rustic forms of transportation.  I'm not a missionary, but I've definitely seen some of that, and wanted to share it with you.  And the animals!  They are both a constant source of worry and joy for me here.  I've seen things done to animals here I could never talk to anyone but Jehovah about, but at the same time, the fact I get to be with them every day makes me so happy.  Here we go!
Rabbits of my student.  She has assured me they are pets not dinner.  Super sweet and love to be held.

My student has a little dog that's like Ollie's twin!  She even has some of her little personality traits.  Her name is Isi, and she makes me remember Mimi 10 years ago

Nindiri doesn't have taxis.  We have caponeras...guys who pedal covered bikes around town.  Poor things are always a sweaty mess when they're done transporting me around.

Horse and cart is still the #1 method of transporting goods in Nicaragua

Can you pick out the pelibuey in this picture?  It's like a cross between a goat and a sheep.

If you are a farmer here, you more than likely till your fields either by hand or with oxen.  They use Brahma bulls here which are big and POWERFUL.  I learned the yoke goes around their massive horns, not their necks.  That way, if they rebel, they can't move their heads around to gore anyone.

I met this woman in service last week.  She wanted me to see her land, and when we went in the backyard this little goat came running up to her bleeting.  She was saying, "Come on, Monchita!"  Soon as Monchita made it to her, she picked her up and gave her a snuggle.  I couldn't resist a picture and a little snuggle of my own :)

The same woman owned the biggest turkey I've ever seen.  Those are medium-sized dogs next to the turkey!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I've gotten some recent requests for territory pictures, so here you go.  My new territory is a lot more rural which I love (my feet do NOT love) because it's shadier and full of farm animals.  Yeah!  You guys have asked how we did last month on our campaign for tract #38?  Really good!  We covered our territory, and most people were very receptive to the tract.  We have a mainly Evangelical territory (similar to Southern Baptist or Pentecostal) so when we asked if the dead will live again, they said, "Yes! To be judged!"  It made for a great opportunity to teach what the Bible means when it says the "unrighteous" will be resurrected and why.
I love this shot!

Me in front of my study Yahaira's house

Clara studying with Miss Heyling.  The next study, she had 3 other relatives join in!  This girl is like 10, 11 years old and every time we come, she's sweeping the yard, burning trash, cleaning up her brother, etc.  She's such a responsible worker already and just LOVES her study.

This is often how my feet look at the end of the morning preaching.  Unfortunately, even after a good wash, they still have permanent sandal lines.  Now you understand why we often use socks in service!

Here's our "large army" out one day in full Nicaraguan service uniform.  Socks with sandals? Check!  Umbrella?  Check!  Winning smiles?  Check!

Monday, December 16, 2013


Yesterday, I'm talking to my friend Jim about how I regularly get sinus infections here because of allergies to all the dust and smoke in the air, but I'm taking a vitamin pack every month and two months have gone by with no sickness.  So to punish me for bragging, about an hour later over lunch I feel a familiar tickling in my throat and itching in my ears.  Sunday I woke up with a swollen, sore throat, didn't go in service, and have spent many glorious hours just rotting on my couch Internet surfing to "rest my body".  I came across a blog I like to follow about a sister in Guinea, West Africa who's also sick and talking about all the crazy remedies and superstitions about medicine in her country.  It made me laugh so hard because it's so similar to here.  My favorite quote?
"You have a stomachache? Oh then you have worms. Well, you probably have malaria and worms. Probably because you ate Mangos before the second rain of the rainy season..."
For instance, if you have a cold here, it's because you:
  • ate pineapple after dark
  • took a shower after dark
  • ironed or straightened your hair and then opened the refrigerator 
  • walked barefoot in your house
  • drank something cold when you were overheated
Here's some quotes Nicaraguan women have told me:
  • Shawn, this meal (of pork ribs) is fat free.  I made it last night, let it sit on the counter overnight, and scraped all the fat off the top just now!  *side note* Yes, I ate it anyway and miraculously, it didn't make me sick.  Hey!  They were ribs!
  • We don't serve drinks when we have soup at a meal because if you mix a cold drink with hot soup you''ll (searching for word)....(Grandma jumps in with the kicker) You'll die!
  • If you want to have children in the future, you shouldn't hold cats.  Their fur makes you sterile.
  • If you go too quickly from hot to cold (see ironing then open fridge above) it will cause face paralysis.  You can, however, go from cold to hot with no problem. 
  • Walking barefoot in your home causes leg arthritis because of the cold, cold tiles in your 90 degree, unair-conditioned home
  • Once I drank water a sister's house and when I was done, she just put the glass back on the shelf.  I reminded her it was dirty because I drank out of it.  Her response?  "No it's not; it was just water." 
Here's some other home remedies I've heard:
  • Your kid has chicken pox?  Bathe him in his own urine.  It'll heal him right up!
  • Feeling pain after giving birth?  Put cotton in your ears.  It's the cold air entering your body causing your pain.  Not, of course, the fact you just pushed a watermelon out of a lime.
  • Anything from a stomachache to an eye itch can be cured with antibiotics. You just buy them from the corner pharmacy with no rx and no dr's appointment

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Our congregation here in Nindiri recently got invited to a Kingdom Hall build in Monte Tabor.  The RBC situation here is quite different than in the U.S. so I was excited to go and see how it's done.  Here, they do have RBC members they invite to builds but not a lot of them.  Basically, every week, they invite a different congregation to participate.  We went with a congregation from Masaya to assist the RBC members and Monte Tabor members.  By the way, Monte Tabor is outside Managua on the way to El Crucero.

Sisters as well as brothers made a big contribution working

From top of the triangle going clockwise:  Johan, Melvin, and me.  Some members from my new congregation

Relaxing in the bus after lunch.  From left to right:  Argentina, Ivan, Melvin, Johan, Oneida, and Bruno
Some differences I noted:
  • no safety training
  • HARD, MANUAL labor.  There were maybe 2 electrical devices on site.  Everything else was done by hand like mixing concrete and separating sand from rocks for the concrete mix
  • because of the labor-intensive work, it takes a lot longer, so these are definitely NOT quick builds.  It usually takes a few months to finish a KH
  • snack girls? water girls? provided lunch?  No, no, and no.  If you didn't pack it, you don't get it.  However, in true Nica fashion everyone packed enough for a family of 5 so there was a lot of sharing

Monte Tabor was really appreciative of the volunteers, and I got to make best friends with a shovel and wheelbarrow.  Thankfully, the climate is a bit cooler in Monte Tabor so we had a nice breeze and a cloudy day, so I only came home a little burnt....but a LOT sore the next day :(

Monday, November 25, 2013


So many people have questions on how we need greaters support ourselves here.  I recently ran across a post which offered excellent suggestions:  My Journey: Online Interpreter Job Wanted .  Just click on the link to learn more :)

**UPDATE 01/13/2014**
Guys, the suggestions on this post really work.  I set up a profile with oDesk and got the first job I applied for.  It's paying my living expenses here in Nicaragua with a couple hundred bucks extra each month.  I do recipe translation online according to my schedule.  I'm paid per the recipe so I control how much I make a week.  Try oDesk out!

Friday, November 22, 2013


FYI guys, I recently added a page to this blog with a long-ish summary of my journey to becoming a need greater.  It holds the same title as this blog post and can be found just under the title next to the word "home."  Check it out and let me know your comments.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Even though I've been here a couple years and feel pretty comfortable with how things work here, every so often I have experiences that show without a shadow of a doubt that I am definitely not Nica.  One recently happened at my DC and has to do with washing.  If you had to pick between the 3 methods shown below, which would you choose?
Lavadero and pila...the ridged section (lavadero) is for scrubbing.  The deep section (pila) is the water reservoir for rinsing

I think you all know this beauty

Flat rock for scrubbing, lake water for rinsing
I, like most of you I'm sure, choose the washing machine.  I have yet, to date, lived in a place without one, and it was #1 on our list of things to buy when we moved to Nindiri.  I'm fortunate, though.  Probably 90% of Nicaragua still washes by hand.  However, at my DC I was put in a situation where I had to wash using the pila.....correction:  had to clean a very dirty mop head in front of my entire congregation using the pila.

Picture the scene:  3 pilas all attached to each other with me and 2 sisters at each then 2 brothers between us all scooping water regularly to help out.  I thought, "I've got this.  Very quietly I'm going to ask Shema (the brother next to me) how to do this and then no one will know my handicap thus avoiding a big, embarrassing scene."  To which Shema responded loudly in My Big Fat Greek Wedding style (you don't eat no meat?!), "What?!  You don't know how to wash by hand?!  That's ok, I'll explain it."  Apparently, the trick is to just scrub to death against the ridges until you feel like your arms will fall off and you no longer have any fingernails.  Only then is the mop head truly clean.  And when you have 50 people behind you screaming, "Dale, Shawn, dale!"  (Go for it, Shawn, go for it) failure is not an option.  Let's just say I ended up with a fairly clean mop head, a very tickled congregation, and no feeling in my biceps until the next morning.

I'll never take my washer for granted again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Although our Circuit Assembly isn't until January, we had our Circuit Pioneer Meeting last Friday.  Turns out the other half of our circuit was doing their C.A. this past weekend, so we got the meeting early.  I thought you guys would like some facts about my new circuit and a great photo of my fellow Nindiri pioneers.
Location was at Piedra Quemada KH.  I found it to be particularly beautiful.  The long building to the left are apts for the C.O. and a need greater couple from the States
 We had the meeting at Piedra Quemada for Nica Circuit #7.  That circuit is made up of 22 congregations, 1,991 publishers, and 180-185 regular pioneers.  We average 5 studies per pioneer.  The needs of our circuit were to increase our number of students and ensure we're taking steps to make them progressive Bible students.  What did I most take away from the meeting:

  • Jehovah is an orderly god.  He expects his servants to imitate him.  I should conduct my service in an orderly way and my person, supplies, and even home should always be orderly.
  • I have to be a better student of the Bible.  I need to schedule specific times to read the Bible without rushing, make sure I understand the information, then meditate.  I'll never improve my teaching abilities otherwise.
  • I have to guard against discouragement.  I need to think positively about my territory, my students, my fellow workers, and the hard-working elders helping to direct me.
Hopefully, putting these items into practice, I'll have a successful 2013/14 service year.

Here's my new buddies.  Starting from left back row:  Alexis, Ivan, Johan, Larry.  Front row:  yours truly, Selene, Clara, Argentina.  Only Julissa is missing; she couldn't get off work.
I've been getting to know the Nindiri pioneers a little more and have really started to value them after learning more about them.  We have one pioneer who's still going after having cancer twice, a pioneer who's only been baptized 4 years, a pioneer who is incredibly zealous although having rheumatoid arthritis from a young age, 2 pioneers who are family heads as well, and 2 pioneers juggling a demanding work schedule on top of it all.  I see I have a lot I can learn here in Nindiri.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Between Granada and Nindirí sits a natural lagoon called Laguna de Apoyo.  It was formed by the Masaya Volcano centuries ago, and is a really nice place to swim and hang out.

So on Sunday, a sister from my new congregation said a little group wanted to take Shelina and I there.  They packed a picnic and picked us up and we spent all afternoon swimming, grilling, and making new friends.  Can't wait to do that again!

Selene serving us grilled pork ribs and beef, cucumber & tomato salad, and tortillas

Fabiola and Mery serving up

Shelina taking a quiet moment to herself

Friday, November 1, 2013


The most exciting thing happened to Shelina and I yesterday.  We have been feeling so glum that everyone we know in the States has gotten a new English Bible and we just had a PDF to read.  Don't get me's been amazing to hear everyone's stories of the Annual Meeting and see pix of their new Bibles, but it's not quite the same as having the real thing, you know?!  That's why when we went to visit our friends the Solowiejkos who just got back from the States, we were shocked and excited for THIS.....

 And yes, I am smug that I'm all the way in Nicaragua and still get to read the new Bible without having to go to the States first.

Here's a gratuitous shot of my niece Camellia with her new Bible.  I swear she's the cutest kid ever!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I've actually said goodbye to Granada Este not just because they've split but because I've split!  Yes, Shelina and I have moved to another city and congregation (just me on the congregation move) as of September 30th.  That's why you haven't heard so much of me lately...been getting settled.

It was a long and hard decision, but ultimately we decided to move for financial reasons.  Granada is such a touristy town that prices were increasingly going up and up for us.  For example, our light bill had quadrupled in just the year that I was living with Shelina!  We had tried to find other accommodations in Granada for less money, but it just wasn't happening.  So one day talking with other need greaters living in different areas we discovered that in just moving cities we could cut our expenses considerably.  They told us of a brother's house in Nindirí up for rent so Shelina and I went to see it and we loved it.  Fast forward a month and we're here now!  I can't tell you how much I love getting double the house for half the cost.

Nindirí as a whole is really nice.  It's more rural so we're getting to live a much quieter life; no more drunks outside our window at 3am or 18wheelers driving down our street every 5 minutes.  It's really nice and clean and known for its two parks and how most homes have really lush gardens.  Another plus is that we're closer to the capital and typically about 5 degrees cooler than Granada at all times.  I actually wear pants to bed now!  

There is just 1 congregation here, and they've really put themselves out making us feel welcome.  Sisters have transferred studies and return visits to me so I can keep my time going and they gave us a little welcome party last Sunday!
complete with food!  what a nice surprise!
naturally it was a dance party
My new congregation has about 100 publishers but only 8 pioneers and a ton a rural territory.  Oddly, most of the pioneers here are brothers, so they were really excited to get a female pioneer.  I'm excited too to get moving in my new territory.
here's our new house

My favorite part...our interior courtyard complete with built-in grill (see rear left of wall) and water tank!!!!  Yeah,  no more bucket baths!!!

My least favorite part...the massive tarantula that decided to appear last Thursday night.  I apparently can do scorpions but not tarantulas.  After I started crying trying to kill it, Shelina stepped in.  Hey, we all have our limits, ok?!

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Well, it's official....Granada Este is no more :(  but for a good reason!  Between us and our sister congregation Granada Norte, we had enough publishers to make a 3rd congregation, so the divisions began and the name changing started as follows:
1.  Bartolome--new congregation
2.  La Villa--former Granada Este
3.  Pan Casan--former Granada Norte

Each congregation has between 60-70 publishers and 2-3 elders.  You know the most exciting part?  Each congregation has reported increased attendance since the split!  Looks like Jehovah is certainly blessing the work in Granada :)

The night the list went on the info board of who would be in each congregation.  Many tears that night as teachers found out they'd be in a different territory from their progressive students and long-time friends would be separated after years together.

Number 11 Alixe and Pilar at their last meeting together.  They're called that because they're always together and they're both so skinny it looks like the number 11 walking towards you.
 We got to do one last shabang as a congregation, though.  Many members of Este and Norte were invited to participate in the drama at this year's District Convention.  Our final performance fell the weekend right before the split.  I had the privilege of participating for the first time!  I worked with a couple other sisters in costuming coming up with how we wanted each character to look and then putting that into action.  Jehovah made it so easy for us through use of the excellent illustrations in his publications.  We had a blast!
Pilar (Queen Ester) and I right before her performance.  What a beautiful queen she made!  She was the perfect choice because she's often reminded me of Queen Ester.  Beautiful both inside and out.

Mission accomplished!

Monday, September 16, 2013


I'm dedicating this post to David, Shayla, and Shaylita.  

David is the brother above with Shelina.  He is an El Salvadorian brother serving in English.  He very generously picked us up upon our arrival to El Salvador and offered us a tour of the city.  From the moment we met him, he and his family showed us extraordinary love.  He showed us where the grocery store was to get our lunch, where the assembly was being held, the mall, and the famous Wal-Mart we heard about.  He carried our suitcases up to the room and made sure we got checked in ok.  The next night, we got to meet his beautiful wife Shayla and daughter Shaylita when they took us out for pupusas.

Saturday night, this family went out to eat with the family they had generously offered housing for during the convention.  When they arrived back at their home, they discovered thieves had broken in during the convention and stolen everything of value from both them and the family they were hosting.  All of this while they're also busy (financially and emotionally) supporting a close family member with cancer.

The next day at the convention when we heard the news, we immediately rushed over to comfort them.  Their reaction was amazing.  They told us that when their 5-year old daughter saw everyone upset she said, "Don't be sad.  We need to pray."  And that's exactly what they did.  And their viewpoint?  "Maybe this is just the push we need to simplify and serve Jehovah more fully."  They expressed their appreciation for the assembly program--there was so much information about how our trials don't come from Jehovah and don't express his displeasure with us or show that we're doing something wrong.

What an example to imitate!

Friday, September 13, 2013


You all know me so I'm sure you've already guess the other part I loved about El Salvador--the food!  No, seriously, it was like visiting the U.S.  They use the U.S. dollar as currency, they've got chains I'm familiar with like Zara & Nine West, and they have restaurants I know.  Like what?  Drumroll please....

Can you hear that?  Yes, those are angels singing!  That's how I felt when I walked into THE ONLY STARBUCKS IN CENTRAL AMERICA!  They ONLY exist in El Salvador for some reason.  Ahhhh, Wifi and a frappuccino.

Where else did we go?  Not the Pancake Shop Pancake Shop!!!! But....
Denny's!  What's crazy is that I think I ate at Denny's all of one time when I lived in the U.S. and yet I was so excited to see it here.  Grand Slam, here we come!  You wanna know how I know I've lived here too long?  When we scanned the menu, we saw that certain soft drinks and juices came with free refills, something unheard of here in Nicaragua.  I told Shelina "if I just had a plastic baggie with me I could order a refill, put it in the bag, and then I'd have fresco at lunch."  Sad, huh?

And last but not least....

Oh, Mexican food how I've missed thee!  We spent Saturday night with a new couple we met serving in Guatemala (shout out to Kimberly and Trevor!!!) and enjoying blackberry margaritas, chips/salsa, and enchiladas. Ahhhh!  And for those of you reading this thinking "you live in Nicaragua; all Latin food is the same, right?"  Wrong.  Don't get me wrong, I love Nica food but oh, how I've missed my spicy Mexican. Hopefully, this will hold me over for a while.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


August 30-September 1 my roommate and I traveled with Granada English congregation and visited San Salvador, El Salvador for the "God's Word is Truth" District Convention.  I wanted to share some of the highlights with you.  First time in El Salvador.  And the convention was made up of English speakers (some serving in English congregations other whose first language is English) from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

mmmm sweaters and scarves! A.C. bus trip for about 14 hours

This was the sight that welcomed us in San Salvador. They even had brothers waiting to take us to our hotels and home stays.   They took such good care of us!

Me with one of the new releases.  Don't mind my crazy friend Jim in the background.

Saturday night we went out for the El Salvadorian national food pupusas.  They were worth the wait.  Imagine warm tortillas filled with goodies like squash, pork rinds, cheese, beans etc.  Yum!

David, Shaylita, and Shayla.  David picked Shelina and I up the first day and gave us a little tour of San Salvador.  Then his family took us out to eat Saturday night.  Sweetest family ever!

Some sisters from one of the English congregations in El Salvador came in native dress on Saturday

What did I most take away from our trip?  Hospitality.  I kid you not when I say the El Salvadorian brothers bent over backwards spending time and money to make us feel comfortable during our time there.  We had an experience Sunday evening that showed us that what we Americans consider hospitality is a poor man's excuse.  These friends have a percentage financially of what we do and yet were offering absolutely everything they had to us.  I think the brothers' attitude there can be summed up by what Bro.Jorge (baptized only a month) told us Sunday night:
"I want to learn English.  Before, it was to be better equipped at my job.  But now, I see there are so many English speakers in Jehovah's organization!  If I don't know English, how will I know how to help them?!"
It was also amazing to me how timely Jehovah's information always is for us.  The assembly really focused on the confidence we have that Jehovah is always there for us even during really difficult trials.  Some of our brothers were facing challenging circumstances leading up to and during the convention, and I know the information presented was a comfort to them.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Well, after two years here in Nicaragua, it was bound to happen.  I, too, was going to have a crazy story about a tarantula or lizard or in my case SCORPION making its way into my peaceful home.

It all happened a couple weeks ago when I got called late night to ask if I could brings snacks to Sign Language Pioneer School in Masaya the next day.  I said yes! and started baking.  That venture lasted until about midnight when I wearily sat on my bed.  I finally got it together to head to the bathroom and found myself following about a 6 inch long, black, angry scorpion!!!!  So I did what any girl would do....stared at it a good 5 minutes making sure it never left my sight.  Finally, I stopped hyperventiling, grabbed my largest, sturdiest shoe, and starting pounding like there was no tomorrow.  Then (you just never know) picked it up with kitchen tongs and threw it over the balcony into the street where hopefully it got run over a few times.

next to my size 10
I'm proud to say I did all this without screaming not even once.  I feel like Wonder Woman!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Well, I just found out the sale on my car didn't go through, so I thought it couldn't hurt to post an ad for it here and maybe between all of us we know someone looking for a good, reliable vehicle.  Here are the stats and some pictures:

  • 2007 Honda CR-V EX 2WD model
  • 79,000 miles
  • Automatic transmission
  • White exterior with black trim, gray upholstered interior
  • All new tires as of Spring 2011
  • Sunroof/moonroof with tilt, 6 disc in-dash CD changer, MP3 compatible stereo with AUX input, front/side impact airbags
  • Tinted privacy windows, removable cover for trunk area
  • Never been in accident, regular maintenance performed, excellent condition
  • $13,500 price negotiable
  • Currently located in Affton (St.Louis), MO 
**UPDATE 01/14/14**
My car sold!  Please disregard this post :)