I remembered one thing I had forgotten to tell you about zip-lining. When the man (who was later to become my son, Humberto) was explaining zip-lining, he said, "If you fall..." and he pointed to a sign on a tree that said "Hakuna Matata." The girls started laughing and thought I didn't understand. "Mom, don't you get it - that's from the Lion King?" By then I was so stressed out I said, "I get it but I still want the man to go with me."
Home Stay Family
One of the best things that happened in Nicaragua was that we were able to meet the family Anna stayed with for her "home stay." This occurred in December and the home stay was with a family in the Cedro Galan community. When Anna came home for Xmas she brought a thank you card and a gift for me from the family where she had stayed. The mother Lorena had written a long note. The first few lines from the card were: Mama' De Ana gracias por permitirle a su hija de quedarse cu Nicaragua porque para nosotros los Nicaraguen se es de gran bendiciones que ella este con nostros nos ayuda con su solima y la ma's Importante so a more y amistad que nos da ella es ... Anna translated it the best she could. The main message thanked me for allowing Anna to come to Nicaragua and told how much they appreciated her as a teacher to teach them English and it said she was a good exercise instructor.
In Nicaragua we went to visit this family. The first time we went only thirteen year old Diana was home. Diana is in 7th grade and speaks perfect English. When I asked her how she learned English she said from the teachers at the Manna project. She has been going to classes for as long as the Manna project has been in Nicaragua which seven years. She was very appreciative and thankful for the help she has gotten from the Manna Project. Diana goes to a school where many missionaries' children attend. It is very much like an American school. She attends school all day long. Diana is an incredible young lady. She has wonderful social skills. She has wisdom beyond her years. Her older sister had been talking about meeting a handicapped girl who sounded like she had cerebral palsy maybe. Her sister said it was so sad and she kept crying when she met the girl. Diana said she tried to be happy and smile and laugh when she was by the handicapped person because she wanted her to have happy feelings. I have no doubt that she will accomplish great things in her life. She is hoping to go to college in the United States. Most children in Nicaragua only attend school half a day. Some students go in the morning and some go in the afternoon. This is true for older children also.Their school year runs from February to November. It sounds like they have 9-10 years of schooling.
Olga is one of Diana's older sisters. Lorena (their mother) is 45 years old and has seven children and four grandchildren. Anna became friends with Olga when Olga started attending the adult English classes. Olga has also helped Anna learn Spanish. (Remember Anna did not speak Spanish when she went to Nicaragua. Anna took French at Horace Mann and East because when she was in 7th grade everyone said the French parties they had in class were the best.) I met Olga several times. She is very serious and it is very important for her to learn and understand English. Anna said she works really hard outside of class to practice the lessons and improve her English. We were able to communicate pretty well. She expressed (many times) how thankful she was for Anna helping her. One night we were at their house with Olga, Lorena, and Diana and several of the grandchildren. Olga had run to a nearby venta to get some soda even though we had said we didn't need any. We stayed for quite awhile chatting (even though I sometimes didn't understand). Lorena (the mother) had said that everyone in the United States is very intelligent. We laughed and said, "Not everyone!" It is obvious that education is very important to her. Towards the end of our visit, Olga again expressed her sincere appreciation for Anna helping her. Lorena was also thanking us. And then I looked and noticed that Olga crying and then Lorena was crying. They both continued crying and telling us how much they appreciate Anna and the Manna Project's help. And Anna was telling Olga much she appreciated her help. Katie and I both got teary-eyed. It was truly very heartfelt and moving. They invited us to come back for Diana's Quinceanera. This is her fifteenth birthday celebration. This will be in two years. I really want to go back for it!
On our last night some of the PD's Nicaraguan friends visited and they played the guitar and sang together. The PD's have developed friendships with many Nicaraguans. We woke early in the morning to leave for the airport. It was 5:00 and dark as we drove. I was amazed at how many people were awake and standing at the side of the road at 5:00 a.m. There were people everywhere. As we drove into town we passed seven small horse drawn wagons with bundles of wood stacked on the wagons. In Nicaragua you can choose to live in which ever decade you choose. There is the modern (e.g., a few new cars, cell phones, Subway) and then the not so modern (e.g., chickens, horse drawn wagons, oxen pulling wagons, kids playing with sticks instead of video games). As we drove through Managua I had one last treat. I saw La Prensa. Stephen Kinzer has written about La Prensa. La Prensa has been the opposition newspaper in Managua. The editor of the paper was killed and his wife later became the president of Nicaragua. There have been times when the newspaper had to have their articles reviewed by government officials and there have been times when they were shut down. But they have endured. It was exciting to see it.
They say that it takes 21 days to develop a habit but I don't think it's true. I was almost up to 95% on the toilet paper thing in just one week. I was actually somewhat distraught in the Houston and Minneapolis airports when they did not have waste baskets in the bathrooms. I didn't know what to do! I was happy to have hot water at the hotel in Minneapolis.
After getting Katie settled back at Augsburg College in Minneapolis the next morning I drove home. The ride on I-94 and Highway 29 was rather boring. There were no people standing along the side of the road and there were no horse drawn wagons or carts. Sadly, there were no chickens. There was no yelling!
I had three hours to reflect so I thought about the great dedication of the Manna Project Program Directors (obviously I'm biased). We have always been proud of Anna and her accomplishments and are very proud her now. The Manna Project Program Directors are a very dedicated and flexible group of people. They have long days and go into places no one else would go. Of course, as a parent it is scary to have a child in Central America as the Peace Corps pulled 153 volunteers out of Honduras on Monday.
The people that we met in Nicaragua were like people everywhere. We met mothers who wanted the best for their children. We met Nicas who value education. We saw people on the bus who were exhausted from working long hard hours like hard working people everywhere. We saw people creatively developing products to be sold to others. There were children who want to learn and to play and have fun. The big difference between the United States and Nicaragua is that in the United States it is easier to have hope about the future. Have I mentioned how truly beautiful Nicaragua is? Did I mention how much I liked the chickens?