Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Library is OPEN!!!

As of yesterday, our library is open!! We had a very successful first day! I will let the journal do the talking...

Day 21 - El Transito, Nicaragua - Monday - 06.27.11 - 4:38 p.m.
What a perfect opening day for the library! We started the day by mounting fans on the library walls and painting the library sign. Scott made us a fritata for lunch. We went to the public school to announce the library opening, and read a book to one class.

The kids showed up at 1:00 for our opening day parade. Emily made adorable animal masks for them to wear, and Scott hired 2 men with a truck that had a megaphone attached to teh top to follow us around announcing the new library as we marched the streets of El Transito holding our books high!

Just a pig in the mud :)

We returned to the library around 1:45 to see a few kids waiting at the library. At 2:00 the library officially opened! Children of all ages, about 20 to 25 total, went into the library, took down book after book, sat in a char, and read them cover to cover! The four of us wandered amongst the kids, reading to them and listening as tey read to us or told us what their favorite animals were. It was such a success! Darwin, our librarian, and 3 of his volunteers were so good to make sure that the books were put away appropriately and properly cared for. It puts a smile on my face knowing that more children will be here tomorrow at 2:00 to READ!

This is Christian, our little 2 yr. old neighbor! He got bit up by some sort of bug a few days ago, hence the weird scars on his face and arm.

Turning pages,


The Joys of Traveling

Day 19 - El Transito, Nicaragua - Saturday - 06.25.11 - 8:32 a.m.
We spent most of the yesterday working with the women making purses.

The quality and style of their work has imporved immensely!

We snagged some photos of the women to put on the Facebook page, ETCA [threads], and on the ETCA website, www.eltransitoarts.com:

Dina. She is also our cook. I love this woman.

Yasiri (Yasi).

Rosita (Rosi). The leader of the women.

Zorida (Zora).

Sonia (Soni).

Julie. The owner and director of ETCA.



And of coarse, we had to photograph the boys, too.



I had the women finish a handful of bags for me to take to the states and sell on Etsy! I really think they have a good cahnce at success on Etsy.

Emily and I spent the later part of the afternoon labeling books.

I wrote the labels...

and Emily taped on the labels.

We probably have about 100 books left to label!

Stopping for a coffee break on Julie's porch.

It's been a quiet, peaceful morning. I took the time to clean up our place before we came over to Julie's. Now I continue the peaceful morning with a hot cup of coffee, periodically galncing at a lovely vase overflowing with firey red flower cut from a nearby tree...

Day 20 - El Transito, Nicaragua - Sunday- 06.26.11
We had a busy day of getting the library ready for opening day, which is tomorrow!! We shelved all of the books last night and finished painting!

I LOVE the green!!

And now for this weeks adventure...

The man who owns the house we are living in came by yesterday to check up on things. After he finished, he offered to take the 4 of us out to dinner at his favorite fish restaurant that was "very close by, just up the highway." I should have known that what he actually meant was that this restaurant was still in Nicaragua.

We hopped into the back of his truck, the part where he piles his goods to sell, the part with no seats, and off we went. The ride was bumpy, to say the very least, and HOT. About 4 km into our trek, a family of 7 climbed into the back with us, which added to the hilarity of our situation. We were grasping anything closeby to keep from toppling over like dominoes. Another 7 km down, the family hopped out and we traveled on. Another 3 km in and we were stopped in front of a tiny red truck and it was POURING down rain. Apparently the five of us were supposed to squeeze into the cab of this tiny red truck because his agriculture truck had to go back to where ever it was going... So, we piled in. Emily and Scott squeezed into the space behind the front seats, Javier drove, Eric sat in Javier's lap (practically), and I took the window seat. My face became one with the window, we were packed in so tight. About another 2 km in, we felt a little jerk in the truck, followed by a strange wobble... Javier quickly pulled over.

Flat tire? I wish. We got out of the truck, in the monsoon, to find the tire, hub cap, bolts, and the rotor about 20 feet from the truck. Yes. The ENTIRE wheel to rolled off! Just fell right off of the truck!

So, there we are, 4 gringos who speak little to no Spanish and a Nicaraguan who speaks no English, drenched through, looking for tire parts burried in a muddy dirt road, in the pouring rain. We ended up finding 3 of the bolts, which it turns out that is how many there were holding the tire on in the first place. Ah.... so THAT's why the tire just popped off and rolled away...

After 20 minutes or so, another one of his agriculture trucks pulled up to save us. We climbed into the back, wet and slightly annoyed, and traveled antoher 20 km to the restaurant. Let's add those up, shall we?.... 36 km total from our beach house to the restaurant. "Very close" indeed. I will say, though, that the fish was incredible! Well worth our memorable trek. The fish was complete with head attached, eyes intact, and teeth displayed....

oh, the joys of traveling....

With mud on my shoes,


Birthday Girl

So, in order to not overwhelm you with the past 5 days or so of happenings, I am going to write about them 1 or 2 days at a time. Let's begin:

Day 17 - El Transito, Nicaragua - Thursday - 06.23.11 - 3:33 p.m.
Today we finished categorizing and cateloging all of the books, then we began labeling them! We had the future librarian, Darwin, come over and we showed him the system and explained what his responsibilities would be.

Darwin is on the far right.

From a distance, we heard the Eskimo ice cream cart bells jingling, so we dashed off to buy some ice cream mid sentence with Darwin. I mean, anything to cool us off, really.

Day 18 - El Transito, Nicaragua - Friday - 06.24.11 - 7:24 a.m.
The fisherman are particularly busy today. More men, women, and children out today then in days past this week. Two girls, about 8 years old, both wearing orange, were leaning against teh side of a blue lancha this morning, alughing and talking. It reminded me of summers with Ashton, my cousin and dearest friend. It's her birthday toady! Happy birthday, Ashton! You have officially hit your mid-20s. I'm fairly certain that whne we were 8 years old we invisioned ourselves owning a perfume shop. If our play fantasies had come true, you would be married to Rock Hudson, and I would have changed my name to Taylor. Thankfully our play fantasies remained just that - fantasies - and have since become fond memories impressed on our hearts. You remain one of the closest, dearest women in my life. I love you, best friend.

Lighting a birthday candle,


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sensory Overload.

The past week has flown by! We bought about 400 books in Managua on Monday afternoon, and have spent the last two days categorizing and cataloguing them.

The receipt for our books!!

Shopping for books

It's so exciting to see all of these books sprawled out at the Arts Center!

To catch you up on the last few days, here are my journal entries:

Jona drinking his Coca in the rain.

Day 15 - Managua, Nicaragua - Tuesday - 06.21.11 - Time unknown
I wish I knew what time it was, but I don't because i have been in bed sick all day. I started feeling ill yesterday afternoon and it has lingered. It's an odd combination of aches, shakes, cough, headache, and just overall weakness. I am not running a fever or vomiting, so I am hesitant to call it the flu. Poor Emily is sick throwing up today and Eric has had "the runs", so we are quite the sad bunch over here. but, don't you worry, Scott is feeling just fine :-)

Thankfully, Terri Marlett (founder of NICA) is letting us stay in her vacation apartment in Managua that happens to have air conditioning. We are so grateful to be here now instead of hot, sweaty, humid El Transito.

Day 16 - Managua and El Transito, Nicaragua - Wednesday - 06.22.11- 9:43 p.m.
Woke up feeling SO much better today, back to normal. Emily is also back to 100%, so we are ready to get out of Managua.

We ate breakfast at a delicious bakery, Sampson Bakery, and had a nice conversation with the owner, who also happens to be a painter. I had a gooey cinnamon roll with a cappuchino.

The next few hours entailed our serach for a place to mail off our postcards... to no evail. Mail just must not exist here. We ran all over Managua asking people where a post office was and the typical first reaction was a blank stare, followed by a list of maybes. We never did find a place... perhaps another city?

We then took a cab to the bus station that would take us from Managua to El Transito. Long story short............ We thought there was a bus at 11:00, but it turns out that the only bus to El Transito came at 3:00. It took us several minutes of wandering to figure this out and amongst the walking we encountered so many interesting/disgusting smells..... Oh, our poor noses..... I think in the entire 3 hours from the cab ride to the bus to finally entering El Transito, I inhaled a total of 1 of those hours. The smells were the strangest blend of body odor, rotting fruit, gas fumes, dirt, and garbage. Eek.

We ended up catching an 11:00 bus to Leon, which passes through El Transito. Bus rides to and from Managua are quite memorable. They CRAM these buses to teh brim with people, not even standign room is available by the time they shut those doors. What that means for those of us lucky enough to have a seat is the unsightly and unwanted crotch-in-the-face. That and teh endless push and shove of women's hips as they scooch their way up that impossibly narrow aisle with goods to sell. Yes. As if the bus wasn't crowded and hot and smelly enough, you get to experience, yet again, the joy of vendors putting candy and fried chicken and flashlights in your face. I will never understand the purpose of the flashlight vendor.

Needless to say, we were grateful to be back home in El Transito. We spent teh afternoon tearing open the boxes of 400 books that we purchased in Managua, categorizing them, and inputting them into an excel spreadsheet.

We have a lot more work to do, but it was a great start. It felt so good looking at our huge piles of books!

Tonight was the first night we were able to see the stars and my goodness, what a sight! Emily brought out some blankets and teh four of us lied down in the sand, staring up at the sky in awe. Every one of our senses was evoked:

The smell of fish, salt, and sand.
The sight of a vast dark sky glittered with shining stars cast above the rolling ocean.
The sound of waves roaring and crashing to the shore.
The feel of sand beneath our back and my husband's arm supporting my neck.
The taste of salty, humid air.

The universe is such a vast wonder. I am so grateful that my God gave me the senses to enjoy every aspect of it, and the knowledge and comfort of knowing that no happen-stance could have created such a marvelous thing.

With my nose stuck in a book,


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Una Problema Para Los Gringos

Eric uttered his first complete Spanish sentence today, "Es una problema para los gringos." We were so proud. It means, "It's a problem for the white people." This will make more sense at the end of this post.

For now, I will catch you up on my journal entries:

Continuation of Day 11 - 7:05 p.m.
Emily and I teamed up today to create a Facebook page for ETCA's products called, "ETCA [threads]". Please look it up and ask to join the group! We will be taking product photos this week and posting them on the page.

I drew up a few ideas for the women to embroider on future bags in my journal.

We are currently experiencing our second thunder storm during the night. The lightening show is stunning over the ocean, creating intense reflections across the water.

As the thunder rolls, Scott is making us a wonderful dinner of fried chicken, potatoes, and a cucumber/tomato salad. Yum...

Day 12 - El Transito, Nicaragua - 9:45 a.m. - Saturday - 06.18.11
I finished reading Poisonwood Bible today and have now started a new book called Little Bee by Chris Cleave. Both of these books so happen to be about white people's relationship with African people, which was not an intentional move on my part. Maybe I am supposed to learn something from this? Poisonwood Bible was set in the 1960s when Baptist missionaries were setting up missions all over Africa. After only reading 40 pages of Little Bee, it appears to be set now, in the early 2000s. We'll see where this book goes, but I'm afraid that it will only reveal more the amount of oppression Africa has experienced in part because of the Western world.

It's been a nice morning. Scott and I made pancakes with mango syrup this morning, which were delicious! The flies here are INSANE. They are in a constant swarm around you and your food all the time. Minor annoyance, I suppose.

- 6:30 p.m. -
We went for a long walk today, exploring the ins and outs of the village. We walked past both churches, to the private school, the baseball park, and down a narrow alley to the beach.

The alley was glittered with pieces of broken tile that Emily and I collected. You surprised? They were the most beautiful shade of pale aqua blue. What should I do with them....?

Our walk to the beach led us to a few hours of play in the waves.

Yes, those are pigs you see on the beach.

The boys attempted surfing, which in these monstrous waves was not very productive! The waves here are indescribably strong. Emily and I made friends with two little boys, Jonah and Dionisio. We threw a little nerf ball around with them on the coast for about an hour. I'm pretty sure the whole village gathered around to watch! All eyes on the gringos. The little boys happen to live just a few houses away, so now as we are relaxing on our patio, we see four little eyes peering through our fence calling, "Emily! Hannah!" We just tell them, "Hasta luego, ninos!" (See you later, boys!)

We are cooking fried chicken nuggest and chicken alfredo tonight, because our electricity went out and we had LOTS of chicken in the fridge! Apparently when the electricity goes out it takes a few days to get it back on.... which, seeing as how we already don't have hot water, and our stove runs on gas, we really aren't missing out on much. I am currently journaling by the lig.ht of a citronella candle - not quite as romantic or inspiring as say, moonlight, but at least there are no mosquitoes.

Day 13 - El Transito, Nicaragua - Sunday - 3:05 p.m. (now)
I am happy to report the the electricity DID come back on last night. But, like I said before, we were not really missing much. Our dinner was amazing! Julie came over to enjoy it with us.

This morning we woke up early and went on the most amazing hike I think I have ever been on. It is a close 1st place with hiking up some fourteeners in Colorado. We hiked along the Pacific coast for 4 hours during low tide. The places that we hiked are extremely dangerous during high tide, so we had to time our adventure carefully. The Pacific coast is very rocky, so hiking meant NOT treading along a sandy beach, but clobbering over cliffsides and boulders, watching as HUGE waves came crashing over the cliff to devour us if we ventured to close to the edge. There were certain points where we could stand at the edge of a cliff and see the Pacific rolling and roaring about 8 feet below us. It makes you feel so small to stand in the presence of such a vast blue space. Truly an amazing sight. We came across several tide pools, filled with sea urchins, animenis (sp?), sea slugs, and small striped fish. We stood in awe, staring into the depths of our newly found natural aquariums, not believing how close we were to such wonders of the sea. One such tide pool was about 6 feet deep, so we decided to jump in and have a swim! It was amazing! We could see right down to the bottom of the pool, so we knew nothing too large or creepy was lurking in its depths. It was the perfect refresher for our sun-scorched bodies.

Speaking of sun-scorched. We are so burned from our hike. Being that high on the cliffs put us pretty close to the sun. No amount of sunscreen could save us from getting at least a little burned. I, of coarse, being the whitest one in the bunch, probably suffered the most. But, I can safely say I have had worse!

Now to explain the title of this post.... Our caretaker at the house, Eddi, a local boy, asked us how to say "quemado" in English. We told him, "sunburn". Then Eric replied, in perfect Spanish, "es una problema para los gringos." It a problem for the white people. We had a good laugh at that.

Sorry for the lack of photos. I did not take my camera with me on our trek today because I didn't know whether or not it would get absolutely drenched. Maybe next time :)

With sand inbetween my toes,


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Los Gringos son Muy Contentos

The White People are Very Happy.

After 4 days of traveling what felt like the entirety of Nicaragua, we are peacefully back in El Transito.

I have been journaling every day, so I will share with you bits from those entries. To write out the whole thing would be an exhausting endeavor, plus, you don't wanna read all that ;-)

But first, a few photos of Scott and I hand washing our clothes in El Transito before Eric and Emily arrived

The fisherman working just outside our patio

Day 6 - San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua - 06.12.11 - 10:16 p.m.
Emily and Eric arrived today! We were an hour late picking them up from the airport because we confused the time...

Before picking up our friends, we went with Julie to see the new Catholic Cathedral in Managua. It is a grand concrete structure, with what looks like a cluster of hand grenades adorning the rooftop.

After picking up Eric and Emily, we took a bus to what we thought would be San Juan Del Sur.... wrong. It took us to Rivas, then we had to hop a SKETCHY taxi to take us the rest of the way. We found a really nice hostal, ate a good dinner on the beach, walked down for some ice cream, then returned just moments ago.

The beach in San Juan Del Sur is stunning.

Forgot to mention in my journal that the sunset was INCREDIBLE.

We spent hours on the beach just before dinner. Tiny boats dotted the horizon, with cliffs on either side. The cliff on the north side of the coast has a HUGE statue of Jesus on it that, as we recently observed, lights up at night with neon lights...

Day 7 - San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua - 06.13.11 - 10:33 p.m.
Had 2 hours of sleep last night... turns out the hostal we chose was immediately in front of an all-night dance club. That, and our air-conditioner decided to stop working at 10:00 p.m. We sweated through our sheets.

We spent the first half of today in San Juan, walking the streets of the mercado (market) and visiting the first lending library in Nicaragua. It is the library that we hope to model our after. We enjoyed seeing brightly colord buildings, families of three riding on one bicycle, and drinking bags of Cacao.

We then took a taxi to Playa el Coco, a gorgeous beach about 20 km south of San Juan.

Rocks littered the shoreline and cliffs surrounded us on all sides. HUNDREDS of tiny crabs crawled amongst the rocks, looking like pebbles rolling across the rocky terrain. A truly incredible site.

Can you see the crabs??

For dinner, we walked down the beach a little ways to "Lugs Place", a restaurant owned and operated by Robert, a Canadian. We were the only customers, as it is "off-season" in Nicaragua, so we were treated with an off-the-menu surprise dinner of pasta with a peppery tomato sauce and shrimp, with a side of fresh pan seared tuna. Robert also traeted us with one round of free drinks. I should mention that "Lug" is the name of a HUGE Napolean Mastif that belongs to Robert. Lug sat very still at the top of the stairs, watching as we entered. I did not even see the beast until his bear-like face met mine eye-to-eye!

Robert approached us after we ate dinner and told us that he was really touched by observing us pray before dinner, and then followed with, "and you guys still drink? Tell me about your faith..." What followed was a 20 min philosophical-spiritual conversation on what we believe, particularly who we believe Jesus to be and why we choose to live the way we do. Robert was pretty much drunk during this coversation, but it was beautiful and refreshing none the less. God is good.

Day 8 & 9 - Granada, Nicaragua - 06.14 to 06.15.11 - 8:00 a.m.

This morning, we went with the San Juan Del Sur Library to two different schools where they offer a "mobil" library, allowing kids from surrounding cities to borrow 2 books a month. We read books to the children, taught them their numbers in English, and helped lend the books. Such a sweet and neat experience.

We took a taxi from San Juan Del Sur to Rivas, a bus from Rivas to Granada. My experience at Rivas and now Granada, was my first true big-Latino-city experience and I'll be honest, I haven't really enjoyed it. But, that's most likely because at the Rivas bus stop, we had a small boy attempt to pick-pocket us 3 different times and had vendors shoving their various trinkets and food items in our faces for 2 hours. Then, we arrived in Granada close to dark, putting us in one of two places - either on empty streets, eerie with glowing street lamps and the occassional night walker, or in busy, crowded streets with vendors shoving their various trinkets in our faces for the entirety of the evening. They were like pesky flies, swarming all around us and landing on our faces, refusing to fly away despite our repetitive swats. I was so.... uneasy and uncomfortable the whole evening. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the evening was a group of 3 skinny boys, no older than 8 or 9, walking around the various outdoor spaces of the restaurants offering to make animals and flowers out of long leaves. The animals were cute, granted, and I thought it was actually charming - boys making the equivalent of balloon animals on a cobbled street - until I realized that these boys were hungry, earning their money for an older man, thus being forced to beg for food when he wasn't looking. It made me ill.

We are staying at a hostal called "The Bearded Monkey".

I have never stayed at a true hostal, but this is exactly what I had invisioned. Hippie-Central. If you don't have dreads, a bandana wrapped in your hair, or a leather braided necklace draped around your neck, you get a second glance. It is a really nice place, though. Everyone is so relaxed and kind. Free internet and coffee, too, which is a plus.

I hate to give the impression that the past day or so was all bad, because really it wasn't. I was just more overwhelmed by my feelings of frustration and nervousness than my feelings of awe.

We walked inside a beautiful historic church, climbing to its bell tower to see an incredible view of Granada, with Volcano Mombacho taking over the horizon.

The buildings here are brightly painted with white trim, and the streets are all cobbled and tiled, making for a beautiful, historic-feeling ambiance.

I am hoping that experiencing the city during the day will be more satisfying.

Day 10 - El Transito, Nicaragua - 06.16.11 - 2:45 p.m.
Granada was a much better experience during the day. The streets were filled with school children and the colors of the houses were all the more bright.

We found a little gem in the city - an art school, where artists and painters created and sold their works. We bought 2 paintings/ink prints of doors. They perfectly portray the brightness of the doors in Granada.
We were hit with rain for most of the afternoon, which put a lovely glossy finsih on the tiled sidewalks and cobbled roads.

We were able to purchase 20 books at a local bookstore in Granada called "Hispamer" for about $100! It was so exciting to make our first purchase for the library!

Making our way back to El Transito last night was so exciting for me. I was eager to show Eric and Emily our beach house and the art center. We went to bed pretty early, as we were exhausted from our travels.

Today, as every day in El Transito, has been a slow-paced day. I worked with the women on their bags for most of the morning and taught them how to make little rosettes out of scrap fabric. They finished making the CUTEST series of bags with embroidery on the exterior. I have already promised to purchase one.

We went out to Julie's beach property today and enjoyed a few hours on the rocky coast.

The waves burst over the rocky mounds in large sprays, like water bursting from a whale's spout.

The waves came in at a diagonal to the rocks, so the crashes occurred in perfectly timed intervals, as if Mickey Mouse were directing them with his wand in Fantasia.

Well, that brings us today. Sorry for the long entry! Hope you made it through!

We need and appreciate your prayers daily.