Settling In

I’ve been settling down in Nica. for the past four days but it doesn’t feel like it has actually been that long. When I arrived in Managua (the capital of Nicaragua), I was greeted by 14 other long termers ­– almost all of which were girls. There are 22 of us total, but the others won’t be getting here until the 29th.

We piled our stuff on top of a bus that came to get us and drove back to Chinandega. On the way we got pulled over three times because there is a new law in Nicaragua that requires foreigners to carry their passports everywhere they go (probably the worst idea ever)…We ended up bribing one set of cops the second time we got pulled over because paying $10 was easier than having all of our bags searched for hours. When we arrived at the property we were greeted by some of the permanent staff members. It was so exciting to see the faces of friends I hadn’t seen in almost two years because Facebook messaging, etc., isn’t quite the same.

At first I was nervous about meeting all the other long termers because I knew that a lot of them were down here together last summer as short termers (3 weeks) while I hadn’t been down since the summer of 2013. But everyone was so nice and welcoming from the start that by the time we got off the bus, I felt pretty comfortable with all of them. It is really cool that we get this summer to spend together because we are all from different parts of the country and go to/graduated from an array of colleges with varying majors so we can learn so much from each other.

The day after we arrived was dedicated to orientation and moving into our houses. For orientation we went to a cute little hotel about thirty minutes away where Josh, Catherine, Kara, Elizabeth and Shannon – all staff members that are living down here ­– walked us through the main goals of Amigos and the history behind the organization. It was really nice to learn more about the organization because it helps me personally understand where we come in as long-term servants and how we should present Amigos and ourselves to the group members that come in each week and the Nicaraguans we interact with everyday.

 “The Palacio” in Montserrat

We moved into our houses after a driving tour of Chinandega. I am in an orange and white house called “the palacio” or palace with 14 other girls. We have three large bedrooms with bunk beds, two bathrooms, a number of empty rooms with cubbies, and a large outdoor area that the bedrooms surround. Our house, in addition to the other long termer houses, is located in Montserrat – the neighborhood where Amigos for Christ has resided in for over a decade now. Montserrat is one of the more safe neighborhoods in Chinandega so I feel really comfortable walking to and from the property. Since the Nicaraguans in Montserrat are so familiar and close with Amigos, they are really welcoming to all of us. It has only been a few days and I’ve already met a number of the near by kids and adults on my street who’ve greeted me with hugs and smiles.

Yesterday we went to Valle Los Morenos – one of the 17 communities in Amigos 7-year plan which I’ll elaborate on in a post later – to see the finished water system. For the most part, we went to learn more about the specifics so that when group members have general questions we can answer them. I loved getting to know more about the way the water is extracted and pumped into the community, I’m not an engineer by any means so I hadn’t previously understand exactly how they work.

Saturdays are our day off so today I went downtown in Chinandega to buy a hammock with one of my friends. We got lost for at least 45 minutes and made circles around “el parque,” the park that the streets are centered around but eventually located a shop we knew I could get one at for a fair price. While walking down one of the streets, a truck drove by us with legit lions and leopards in a cage on the back…I guess you could say that is casual here? I snapped a pick with my phone so excuse the quality cause Apple has nothing on Nikon.

After we ran some other errands, we went to “La Colonia,” a grocery store here that surprisingly has a ton of American food in it. The produce is incredibly fresh and all native so I am planning on indulging in that as much as possible while I can. When we returned to Montserrat I went to the property with the other long termers to hangout and get some rest before our first group arrives tonight. Currently I am sitting at “Casa de Cafe” with one of my friends; the Cafe has the best coffee in town and conveniently offers free wi-fi.

As we’ve started to settle in, I’ve started to more clearly define my goals for this summer. First and for most is pursing wholeheartedly what God has in store for me and being patient with His plan. I know that living here and working for Amigos will and already is wonderful, but I also know I will face challenges and difficulties that I haven’t encountered before. I think part of trusting in God’s plan is approaching whatever challenges come my way with the kind of patience He has with all of us and just constantly reminding myself that I was called here for a reason.

Secondly, I want to find the courage daily to talk with our Nicaraguan staff and the Nicaraguans in the communities we work in because it can be really hard to find the confidence to speak a language I’m not comfortable with. It is so frustrating because the Nicaraguans are such incredible people and I desperately want to know and understand their life as much as I possible can. I studied spanish in high school but it has been so long that I’ve forgotten a lot, so much so that even the simplest conversations can feel like a test I didn’t properly prepare for. With time, my Spanish will certainly improve and I’ll probably remember a lot of what has piled on top of other information so building relationships and bridging that gap will get easier. I know they eagerly want to share with me and for me to share with them so I am really going to focus on that this summer.

Every summer Amigos has a motto or theme and this years is “come alive.” This past year at college I felt kinda like I was in this weird place where I didn’t feel inspired by what I was doing because I expected to be excited about everything I was learning when in reality, not everything is going to make you tick and feel alive. I think, just from some of the things I’ve learned here so far, that coming alive and being inspired to the point of acting upon it is really special and something that requires you to put forth effort and walk with open arms. We can’t just expect for that kind of fire to light itself but we also can’t light it on our own which is where God and all the beauty He has created comes in.

In short, things are going great and I look forward to sharing more with you guys each week.

Much love,

Kal