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  • Writer's pictureNick Parkes

Nicaragua: Viaje de Esperanza: Part 1

Miami from the sky. The last stop before Managua.

The flight to Managua begins boarding in 5 minutes. This is my first experience flying into Central America and I am paying attention to who is on this flight with me. I expect to see the families, both young and old lining up to return home, I assume. The tourists are fascinating to me. The elderly couple, presumably from Spain based on the tags on their luggage intrigue me. There are many young adults ready to board as well. It seems as though many of them are travelling from Europe as I hear languages that sound like Spanish, German and maybe others, I am not certain. The bleach blonde hair from the guy wearing surfing brands who fits the stereotype of young American surfer-dude confuses me a little bit. We are departing from Miami. Without much fuss we board the plane and depart for Nicaragua’s capital. 

We land early and I recall all the instructions I have been given. I have my address. I will go through a security check point. Exit the airport and wait for my driver. Got it! The wave of heat exiting the plane was a welcome reprieve from the months of a not-so-bad Saskatchewan winter. I was glad to not be in the storm back home, so now to take in my surroundings. 

I connected with my driver and then began the deep immersion into Nicaraguan life. The sights and sounds of Managua were enthralling. The taxis and buses looked more like a rolling parties than public transport. Flashing lights, decorations and intermittent horn-honking provided many spectacles along the drive. What were those moving boxes? Imagine a pallet style box that could hold a fridge or other appliance appearing from around the next bend. As it passed I saw the driver on a bicycle in this modified taxi. Enterprising! This is a place that makes a plan with what it has.

The 2 hour trip was little longer due to Google maps struggling to connect us with the Youth Retreat happening. We got there with an exciting little detour down a less-than-ideal road, even by Nica standards. The driver seemed a little rattled, I wasn’t, we were on an adventure so bring it on! 

The welcome was phenomenal! From being reconnected to the interns and camp friends to meeting the teens on the retreat I had my moment of feeling a little like a celebrity. That celebrity status also might have afforded me the luxury of actually getting a sleeping pad for the tent I would sleep in that night. Most did not get that luxury. 

Daybreak revealed a whirlwind of experiences that would unfold over the next week. I got to experience worship in Spanish, games that crossed-cultures and even earned the Canadians a bit more respect for being tough! One of our interns got baptised in a river with two of the Nicaraguan teens. We fished together for tiny fish in the river and then all of us and our luggage piled into the back of a truck and we made our way back. 

Finca is the home of the ministry here. A spacious farm with numerous fruit trees, a large open plan building that creates opportunities for indoor and outdoor games, lessons, crafts, parties and learning. Reflecting on this place it feels a lot like the Garden of Eden might have felt. I think many who experience it would agree. This is our base and this is where the girls are staying. 

The guys are a 5 minute walk away in the village. Our house was simple and rustic. Cement structure, 2 bedrooms, a living room and a washroom. Laundry involves a hand washing station outside. That’s pretty much it, any kitchen would have to be makeshift as it doesn’t have one, but that’s OK. Rebecca feeds us many suppers and and we eat other meals at Finca or on our excursions. Rebecca is one of our neighbours who cooks for us when we ask and feeds us so well. Getting to know her and her kids has undoubtedly been one of my highlights. They have shared stories with us about how they have been impacted by the repeated trips from the interns. At first we were just tourists but, slowly, as new interns keep coming they have become more curious. That curiosity has allowed us to connect and to connect deeply. The night we spent 3.5 hours after supper chatting and going deep will forever be etched in my memory banks as a very special time.

A week is not a long time, so it was incredible how many different experiences were crammed in. We travelled to the beach to play in the ocean, experience a postcard sunset and nachos and great conversation. This is where many of tourists flocked too. I’m pretty sure this is why surfer-dude came. We don’t really see tourists where we are, they are here, living the good life. 

We got to explore downtown, seeing the sites, the markets and the churches. The latter surprised me the most. Each church has a sign with it’s name and date on it, much like we might see in older churches in Canada. Our old churches are 125 years old. Nicaraguas old churches are 500 years old! You don’t think about that until you see it right in front of you. 

A typical day involves working together with the youth on projects around Finca in the mornings. The afternoons is Kid’s Class where the younger kids come after school for help with their homework, crafts, puzzles games and Bible stories. This is where so many relationships are made and we can connect with the community and serve the kids and families. 

On occasion there are some special events. One particular day we took the kids on a field trip into the city. We went to the zoo, peered into a volcano and ran wild in a dinosaur play park. This was a big deal for these kids. Some had their parents come with them and you could see it was a big deal. They were dressed up so smartly, their hair brushed, their shirts tucked in and all looking pretty dressed up. More kids showed up than normally attend the kids class. There was almost double the number of kids for this trip. This seems to be a great way to possibly make some new connections with kids and parents in the community.

It was nice to have our own bus on this day. The public transportation in Nicaragua can be quite challenging for Canadians. There is a system of “Chicken Buses” which is the most common form of public transport. These are North American school buses that didn’t meet acceptable standards and so they get shipped to South America for use. At first I thought they were called Chicken Buses because they were yellow. I was wrong, it’s mostly because this is the most common way to get around, so if you are going grocery shopping this is how you get your groceries home, no matter what you get. In Canada we get chicken that is frozen and packaged nicely. In Nicaragua you can get your chicken that way, but sometimes, more commonly, the chickens come unfrozen, with the feathers still attached and squawking. This is one source of discomfort for Canadians, but probably the bigger challenge is that we are used to having a nice comfortable personal bubble. We get uncomfortable when people, especially strangers, get too close to us. Bubbles get popped here. There is no maximum load capacity on the chicken buses. If you fit, get on! Chickens and all! 

To be continued….

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Mar 21

Sounds absolutely amazing 👏

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