The Beach

sb09, nicaragua-style

For some college students, spring break means seven days of sun-tanned, alcohol-sodden fun. But for those who make the trek down to Managua, the week is far from parties and carefree lounging (although we throw a bit of that in too!) The arrival of Vanderbilt last weekend marked the beginning of Manna’s spring break season. Each week of March welcomes one or two groups of university students who live and serve alongside PDs in order to connect passionate young people in the States to the faces and hearts of the developing world.

Vandy’s group arrived eclectic and enthusiastic, excited to jump into life here. The week began with an overnight trip to Laguna de Apoyo and led into busy days shadowing literacy and math classes, helping in English groups, and co-teaching women’s exercise. The group witnessed La Chureca, planned a community-wide field day, and ate with a Nicaraguan family. And amidst, or perhaps despite, such a packed schedule, these students really loved on the Nica kids as if they’d be present here beyond a simple seven days. With stickers and candy and hugs and games, gringo and Nica came together over goofy photo shoots and four square competitions and semi-crazy (totally chaotic!) water balloon tosses. Yet with the culmination of the trip around a campfire Friday night on the beach, I realized how their reflection could so spur my own.

As the leaders of this Vandy group, Kyle and I walked away from the week with a new delight and fervor for life here. It is both gut-wrenching and incredibly precious to accompany someone as they witness a place as real and as injust as La Chureca. Leading these wide-eyed students through the mounds of trash, through the smoke and vultures, past the dirty children with their light hair and distended bellies, I was compelled to behold it all anew. And to see it with fresh eyes was to see it with a vulnerable heart, with a renewed sensitivity to the fact that life in this place is neither good nor right. Over the past seven months here, of entering this “neighborhood” within a dump twice a week, my emotions have become impervious, somehow indifferent to the poverty of this place. I used to cry; now it seems normal. And in this way I see the entries of these spring break groups as an immense gift – they keep us zealous and passionate, each time offering us new eyes through which to see the world we serve.

Thank you thank you, Vandy.

finding joy in beaches and basura (trash!)

As a reward for studying hard and acing their end-of-semester tests in December, Maddie and I organized a trip to the beach for our respective intermediate and advanced English classes. This morning we filled up two large micro-vans with gringos and Nicas and started the hour-long trek down pothole ridden highways and bumpy dirt roads. The weather couldn't have been more perfect or the water more refreshing. Norman and Gabriel jammed out on the guitar. Dayana and Fabiola collected nearly a hundred sand dollars. The boys played sand soccer and the girls tossed the Frisbee around in the ocean. Emilio was buried in the sand and had his body shaped into a beautiful sirena (mermaid). Adriana, Gelme, Elena and Olga had a sand and water splashing fight. I learned that Mercedes' favorite song is "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and more about Olga's life as an aspiring attorney. All in all the day was wonderful and injury free, phew! Getting to know our neighboring Nica community via our English program has been a HUGE blessing thus far and I'm excited to deepen these friendships in the upcoming months.

Last week our Child Sponsorship team had a long overdue meeting with the La Chureca clinic staff and Ministry of Health officials to sort out some long standing questions and concerns. We thankfully made some headway and plans but continue to be frustrated by miscommunication that seems to plague our program. But wait, good news… we're graduating a number of children who have reached and maintained healthy weight, woohoo! Thus, we'll have ample room to enter more needy children in the upcoming months. I'm saddened to see a number of my favorite children and mothers go – familiar faces will be exchanged for new families and stories once again – but overjoyed that some of the children have grown and have some semblance of 'healthy bodies' amidst such a toxic environment.

Working in La Chureca has been by far the most challenging and shocking, yet joyful and rewarding, experience that I have had thus far in Nicaragua. It's one of those "you can't understand 'til you see it" kind of places, and even then you may not believe it exists. I feel compelled to overcome these insufficiencies and somehow share this incredible place with you. Here is a trailer for a short film being made about Día de Luz, a day long concert and celebration sponsored by 'Love, Light and Melody' in La Chureca. The film documents last year's event, which is when I was first exposed to La Chureca while on a spring break trip with the Nicaraguan Orphan Fund. Please check out the video and other pictures on this website to get a fuller picture of this place I have grown to know and love.

Peace, Christina