learning & leaving

This weekend marks the end of our 13 months with Manna Project. The year has flown by in so many ways. Honestly, anticipation of final goodbyes and getting on that airplane is really scary. This place has become our home, community members our family. Relationships here have grown real and deep, not replacing those in the States but absolutely paralleling them. Nicaraguan women nag us and feed us (hi mom!), little Nica boys wrestle us to the ground like brothers, local university students have become some of our dearest friends. Although it's easy to say that we'll come back, who's to say when we'll see these precious faces again?! People that were once strangers have become a part of who we are.

When our commitment to this place ends on August 9, it will be hard to walk away. But we know we're leaving MPI programs in the capable hands of the newbies, and we're departing with loved ones in our hearts. I think we can all say with confidence that we leave here renewed and with perspectives redefined, with new ideas of how the world should be and what our role is in the face of injustice. We have fresh eyes to see what is reality and how we can serve to make it a better place.

On a lighter note, here are other things we've learned:
-How to drive stick on third world highways (kind of like a video game with pot holes, cows, and running children)
-How to survive extreme awkwardness during home visits
-What to do when your neighbor pulls a gun on you
-Proper handling of two insane rottweilers
-How to entertain yourself during nightly power outages
-How to buy groceries for 20 and oatmeal/vitamins/milk for 50
-What to do when the road turns into a river
-How to ignore (or yell back at) the catcalls of every single Nicaraguan man

The list could go on. The point is, we've learned and grown and laughed and been frustrated and homesick and sweaty and played jokes and taught classes and served and been served and planned and failed and succeeded and been embarassed and lived in shacks and walked in a dump and danced the night away and wrestled with kids and picked fruit and argued about religion and politics and the meaning of life...

That's how the year seems: a total whirlwind of emotions and thoughts. As we poured into this underserved community and got dirty alongside its members, somehow perspectives on life were challenged and redefined. On Saturday, we'll walk away different -- and excited about how to take the things we've learned and use them in the next phase, whatever that may be.