The Nica Report!

The on-line journal of journey to Nicaragua and back — May 2004


Four Years!

Hola! I'm Marie and I went to Nicaragua with my mother in 2004 to do volunteer mission work. You can read about our trip in the posts below. (For some reason when I recently republished my posts, the photos did not appear - at some point I will need to upload them again - sorry!)

Well, here it is four years later and we're heading down again and this time we're taking my daughter!

I've set up a new blog to chronicle our preparations for the trip and highlight our adventures once we hit the road.

Check the new blog often for updates and posts from my mom and daughter too!


2004 - Re-entry

I am now back in California, but I will catch you up on my last day + in Nicaragua.

Sunday morning I awoke with the knowlege I would be leaving the beautiful city of Leon that day. Reluctantly I dragged my suitcases to the vehicle that would be transporting me to Managua.

On our way to Managua, Mike, Maria (staffers from NY), Mom and I took a side trip to Leon Viejo (old Leon). Leon Viejo was the original site of Leon established around 1524. Leon Viejo was abandoned approximately 84 years after its establishment due in part to earthquakes and eruptions of the Momotombo Volcano. The ruins had been covered with volcanic ash and was hidden until the 1960's when excavations began.

Hearing that the ruins had been covered in volcanic ash, I was thinking Pompei - but it wasn't like that at all. Because of the earthquakes, the buildings had toppled leaving only the foundations. Using your imagination, you could figure out the layout of the buildings.

Leaving Leon Viejo we continued south to Managua. We pulled into the Las Mercedes hotel and after a nice lunch in the hotel restaurant, we said our goodbyes.

Once checked into my room I promptly took a shower washing off all the sweat and grim from our trip then taking a nap in air conditioned comfort.

I spent the evening watching TV and knitting - yes knitting! It was actually kind of nice to be doing something that I would normally do at home.

Six a.m. Monday morning found me at the airport waiting for my flight to be called. While hanging out in the airpot lobby, I soon realized I had developed Nicaragua's version on Montezuma's Revenge! Needless to say the flight was very interesting and I was lucky to have an isle seat.

We had a stop over in Houston, Texas, where we went through US customs and then were directed to our gate for the connecting flight to SFO. Once again the airlines did a switch-a-roo with the gates and we had to trudge back the way we had come (eh!).

The flight was an hour late in taking off so I arrived in SF later than anticipated. But at long last we touched down on California soil. I couldn't wipe the silly grin off my face in anticipation of seeing my husband and kids.

How could I relate my Nica experience to my family? Fortunately, they had been reading this Nica-Report and had a run down on what I did, but I was/am still at a loss as to how I could describe the feelings and emotions that shaped my trip and changed my life.

I called in sick to work Tuesday due to the afore-mentioned gastric issues, but showed up today ready to plow through hundreds of emails, etc. During the afternoon, however, I couldn't help but look out the window of my climate-controlled, glass-enclosed tower and think of my time in Nicaragua, shortly passed but already taking on a aura of unreality. I'm already planing my next trip!


2004 - Is it possible to live a lifetime in 10 days?

This morning Lucrecia, her husband Eddy and their three kids took Mom and me to the beach. We borrowed one of the base's trucks and piled in. It was about a 40 minute drive through the countryside to reach the Pacific Ocean.

And oh so beautiful! The waves were extremely rough so we walked up to an inlet where the water was calmer, although there was still quite a strong current. The water was so warm, almost like swimming in your bathtub. I had lived in Hawaii for a year in my early 20's and had lived at the beach, but I had forgotten how salty salt water was (duh, Marie, it's the ocean!). Lucrecia and I took a walk up the beach looking in the tide pools and trying to catch these little crabs.

Lucrecia's kids were a hoot to watch as they ran in and out of the water splashing and playing. The two younger ones (ages 9 and 12) especially loved the water and building sand castles. We had to literally drag them out of the water when it was time to go.

We only stayed about three hours, but that was enough. Despite slathering on tons of sunscreen, my shoulders are mighty tender tonight. On the way home, we picked up two girls, one from New York City and the other from the Netherlands, who were enrolled in a Spanish Immersion course in a neighboring city. We dropped the girls off at a youth hostel where they were to spend the night in Leon.

Today was my last day in Leon. It has been bittersweet as I bade goodbye to my Nicaraguan sister, Lucrecia, and her lovely family. It is amazing to realize that eventhough we have a language barrier, it was surpassed by our connection as women and our shared Christianity.

The people of Leon and Villa Soberana, eventhough they live practically on top of one another, have such a feeling of community and ownership of what little they have. The Nicaraguans are a very resourceful people.

I am glad I had these 10 days to sample just a bit of Nicaragua.

Tomorrow it's off to Manangua! We will swing by the site of the old Leon ruins (destroyed by volcano in the 1600's I think - I don't have my guide book in front of me). I will be dropped off at the hotel Las Mercedes and catch my plane out of here on Monday.

I probably will not have an opportunity to post again until I return home. So until then...

Vaya con Dios


2004 - On my own...

This morning I wandered the streets of Leon on my own. I was in search of a tile shop in hopes that they sold decorative tile made in Central America (I love the old tile used in many of the buildings throughout Leon). The directions given me were off by a block or two and I was able to stop and ask for directions (dictionary in hand, of course) and understand and be understood. Feeling quite smug I ran into Lucrecia's niece at el parque a bit later and ended up holding a conversation neither of us could follow - oh well.

Beautiful ceiling tiles in the church down the street from the Mercy Ships Base

By the way, the tile shop was a bust. They were selling tile that could be picked up at any Home Depot.

After leaving Lucrecia's niece, I headed over to the mercado. Once again I was accosted by vedors trying to drag me into their stalls, but I emerged unscathed. I did end up in what I called the meat mall. It is the section of the mercado where the meat vendors sell. I must say it was quite an experience. The smell was the first thing that hit me, not quite rotten, but on the edge. It was curious to see pig's feet and big sides of beef out in the open; not refrigerated or carved by hair-netted, white-clothed butchers at all!

After fleeing the meat mall, I stoped and purchased a CocaCola Light (Diet Coke, which tastes like Diet Pepsi - bleh). Their sodas are mainly sold in glass bottles with the bottle reused again, and again, and again. I bought the soda and walked off towards the Mercy Ships base drinking down my Coke. When I arrived, Michelle told me that I bought the drink, not the bottle and I needed to return it to the vendor! So off I went trudging back to the mercado and trying to locate the vendor I bought the soda from. Finally locating her, I nonchalantly walked up to the booth and handed her the bottle with a big "Gracias Senorita" like I planned it this way all along.

After a fabulous noon meal at Mercy Ships by Veronica, a Nicaraguan hired by the base to cook for them, and the English class with the girls, I set out with Maria (a long-term staffer from New York) to go shopping. We tried several shops for Nicaraguan t-shirts, but none were to be found. Ironically, I found Sacramento Kings and LA Lakers basketball jerseys, but no touristy tees.

We ended up back at the Parque Central (Central Park), which is in front of the Catedral of Leon and actually found a little shack with Nicaraguan-made items (but no t-shirts). In the actual park, there was a sidewalk vendor with touristy tees for sale (finally!) so I was able to score a couple for my kids.

Walking the streets of Leon is always an adventure. Pedestrians do not have the right of way and must watch out for vehicle and bicyclists. The cars especially like to weave in and out of traffic and buses bear down with horns blaring. Thank goodness most of the streets are one-way (however, I have no idea how they determine which way to go; there are no signs).

This evening Mike and Maria (long-term volunteers from New York), my mother and I went out to dinner at a taco vendor known to Mike and Maria. We decided to take the city bus in deference to my mother's walking ability (she's 79 after all!). The journey was a bit like "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," as the bus bucked and jerked screaming down the streets with the passengers hanging on for dear life. I must say, I have been very impressed with the males here in Nicaragua. Every time I have ridden public transportation, I have observed that the men have always given up their seats to the women - this has not happend to me in the USA for years! Once again the bus driver, as with the camioneta, has a symbiotic relationship with the conductor or corbrador (collector) as I later found out they were called. The Corbrador lets the driver know when he can proceed and helps passengers on and off the bus in addition to collecting fares and making change.

The taco stand was nearby the Catholic school, which was hosting an evening activity for the school-age kids. The play-yard (the size of a soccer field) was filled with hundreds of kids with a sound system blaring Nicaraguan rap music (very interesting, I must get the CD). The kids were playing basketball, volleyball, soccer, dancing or hanging out along the edges of the yard. I even spied some teen-agery types making out in the shadows (aw, I remember the days...).

The tacos ended up looking and tasting more like what we call taquitos (found in the frozen food section at Costco). They were amazing, served with a delicious cabbage salad with a sour cream dressing. This time, the vendor poured my soda into a plastic baggie with a straw poking out the top and kept the bottle (word must have spread through Leon about the crazy American who takes the soda bottles - heehee).

We chose to take a taxi back to the base eventhough I was kind of looking forward to another wild ride on the bus.

Good night all! Tomorrow - the beach!

2004 - Turista!

Thursday I played tourist. Edgard, a Nicaraguan staff member at Mercy Ships, took Michelle (the other short-term volunteer from California) and I on a walking tour of Leon. Our first stop was the Catedral of Leon, officially the Basilica de la Asuncion. This impressive structure is the pride of the city and of Nicaragua. It took 113 years of labor to finally complete in 1860. Michelle and I ended up climbing up to the top of the bell tower and clambering all over the roof (Edgard opted to stay on the ground). The view from the top was spectacular! Our tour guide pointed out many interesting land marks and give us a bit of a history lesson.

Our next stop was at the shop of the self-proclaimed Hippie of Leon. With long frizzy hair and several beaded necklaces hung around his neck, he certainly looked the part. On the walls of his shop are a multitude of photographs, pictures, newspaper articles and memorabilia chronicling Nicaragua's history. With a long bamboo pointer in hand, the Hippie of Leon began to point out pictures of interest and recount some of Nicaragua's troubled past. The most troubling photos were of the revolution.

When not regaling his customers, the Hippie of Leon creates [broken] tile mosaics.

Our final stop of the day was the Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Gurdian. This museum is housed in a lovely colonial home with works from Europe, Nicaragua and Latin America, some dating back to 1490 up to the present day. The house alone was worth the visit.


2004 - To Love and Honor

This morning my mother and I went to visit Lucrecia's 87 year old father who is dying of stomach cancer. We met Lucrecia's brother Renee at el parque, or the park, and he lead us to another brother's home (they have a large family) where the father was being cared for. Over the last five years, my mother had made friends with this family and knew the father prior to his illness.

We had to walk through one of the major mercados, or markets, to reach this home. The booths at the market are set up in close proximity to each other and looks much like a flea market. However, I was disappointed to see that most of their wares were cheap Asian merchandise. Some of the market extends under a huge metal awning (kind of like a freeway overpass without the freeway) and as I walked down the aisle, the vendors would actually reach out and grab my arm with the intention of pulling me into their booth. I was a bit shocked the first time, but after watching the locals, I learned to just brush them off.

Mom and I followed Renee through about three blocks of market and then turned into a metal shop. In the back of the property was the living quarters of Renee's brother and there was the father hunched over in his rocking chair.

It's hard to describe the living conditions of this family. They own the sheet metal shop and, as I said, their living quarters are in the back. While everything was neat and swept up, the floor was cement and the roof was tin with sections open to the sky. A cinder block and cement room had been erected for bedrooms with curtains to separate sleeping spaces. Another son assisted his father when needed and supported him as he retched. I know this is probably more information than you want, but I wanted to impart the care, love, and compassion this family showed to their dying loved one despite their (what we would consider less than adequate) living conditions.

The father snoozed a bit while conversation and the work day flowed around him. He is still very coherent and aware; he seemed pleased to see my mother again, but he is very weak and probably not long for this world. I am glad I had the opportunity to meet this man and his family.

Once our visit was over, we waded through the mercado again. I told my mother and Renee to go ahead and I tried my hand at conversing with the vendors, with my diccionario (dictionary) in hand.

After lunch and English class with the girls, Mom and I headed out to Villa Soberana once again to visit with her friends.

First of all we visited Raina whose husband and teenage son were killed in the mudslides caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. She and her remaining children relocated to Villa Soberana along with much of her extended family.

Reina is a seamstress and my mother brought over some fabric from her vast stash to give to her. Reina makes her garments on a old treadle sewing machine. Her bobbin winder had broke so she was winding the bobbin thread by hand.

We next walked up to Estella’s home. She is a tortilla maker and rises each day at 5 am to begin the tortilla making process. Each day Estela boils corn in lye water then lets it sit overnight. She then rinses the corn thoroughly and has one of her children take the corn to the miller to be ground and processed into a moist dough.

Each morning Estela begins to form tortillas by putting a handful of dough onto a circle of heavy duty plastic and begins to pat out the tortilla. As soon as she finishes forming the tortilla, she puts it onto a large ceramic wok over a wood fire. While that tortilla is cooking (no oil or fat is used) she begins to form the next tortilla.

She repeat this process making approximately 200 tortillas per day and sells them out of her patio to other villagers. She charges 1 Cordoba per tortilla, which equates to $0.6 each.

Our next stop was the wood-working shop of Luis. He specializes in beautiful carved rocking chairs with cane seats and backs. Luis's entire family live in the area behind the shop. This family includes a couple of brothers and their wives and children, a couple of sisters and the matriarch of the family, Olga, who sits by the kitchen presiding over the whole clan. Olga has bad feet. I looked at them and determined she must suffer from diabetes, but could not confirm this. She must be in much pain, but regardless she was smiling and kind. Once again, her family cares for her with great love and respect.


2004 - Another full Day!

This morning after breakfast and devotions, I started right in on varnishing wood boxes, with mesh used for catching leaves, in preparation for the rainy season (the varnish seals the wood so it won't split or crack). It was quite peaceful sitting in the front courtyard brushing on varnish and listening to the birdsongs. Although it was rather hot, a breeze would occasionally come sweeping down to cool my perspiring brow.

Later that morning, Mom and I took a walk to the city park and met a good friend of her's who has a vending booth there. Lucrecia is just a couple of years younger than me and we hit it right off. We joked that because my mom is like a mother to her that we must be sisters. Mocha and latte sisters!

The mid-day meal is the main meal at the base. The day staff join the resident staff for a large buffet meal. The last couple of days we have all sat around and talked for nearly two hours. The pace of life is certainly a lot slower than in the USA. It is a nice change to take more time visiting with friends over a good meal.

Each day at 2 p.m. several school girls arrive at the base for English lessons. Michelle, the other short-termer from California, has taken over the classes while she is here and I have had the opportunity to assist her. These girls (ages 12, 13, 14 and 22) really have a desire to learn English as a second language. Because I know practically no Spanish, we have kind of turned it into a Spanish as a second language class for me too. I was able to work with the two newest girls in teaching them the English alphabet and the sounds each letter makes. We had a lot of laughs and fun while learning together.

Near sunset five of us piled into one of the base's vehicles and headed out of town to visit an old abandoned fort situated above Leon. This fort was originally built in the late 1800's. In the 1950's the fort was expanded by the Samoza dictatorship and used to house the National Guard troops. During the Samoza years, Leon was always a hotbed of resistance, due in part to being a university town. However, the more the people cried for change the more repressive the government became.

In 1978-79, during the revolution, the Sandinista's held the fort and defended their city against the Samoza troops. The Contra War (approx. 1980-88) saw the fort still occupied by the Sandinistas.

It is sad to say that many political prisoners were held and tortured at the fort during its long history.

Today the fort is abandoned. There are gun stations positioned around the perimeter of the fort with a underground bunker in the center. Inside the bunker there are still bars on many of the rooms where prisoners were held.

While the history of the fort was heartbreaking, the view from the mountain top fort was breathtaking! We had a panoramic view; from the ocean on one side to the volcanic mountain range on the other. And Leon was nestled down on the valley floor. To top it off, we had a beautiful sunset.


2004 - Boy, am I going to sleep well tonight!

Today was quite a day! Breakfast was a do-it-yourself affair and then the staff, my mother and I gathered for prayer, sharing and devotions before starting the work day.

Because one of the housekeepers came down with the dreaded Dengue Fever, I was asked to sweep and hose down the front courtyard and colonade. Once that was finished, Michelle, a short-term volunteer (six weeks) from California, and I walked to the post office and then to the supermercado, or supermarket, to pick up a few things.

Leon was a beehive of activity with street vendors selling their wares, school children walking along in their uniforms, and vehicles racing up and down the streets.

The Mercado

After lunch my mother and I walked to the central park and caught the camioneta, or light truck, to Villa Soberana. These trucks are used as public transportation. They have a metal piping structure over the bed of the truck with canvas stretched over (similar to miliary vehicles). Inside are two long bench seats along each side. The camioneta careens around the corner with, what I suppose you could call, a conductor hanging onto the running board along the back. He would be calling out the route so the people would know which camioneta to board. This conductor would also take the fare and make change.

Once Mom and I boarded, we lurched throught the traffic, the driver having one foot on the accelerator and one hand on the horn. At each stop the conductor would let passengers off and on and then let out a shrill whistle and yell, "adelante," or forward signaling the driver to proceed.

My mom especially loves this drive. She likes to sit up front with the wind in her face, much like a dog hanging out the window of a car. I must admit, I had a pretty good time too. At one time we had about 19 people crammed into the back with a couple hanging off the end.

Once we reached Villa Soberana, which is about 2 or 3 miles outside Leon, we began walking up the dirt streets. All of a sudden we heard cries of "Sarita, Sarita" as villagers greeted my mother. These people love my mother and greeted her with open arms as well as I. We were invited in to many of their homes for quick visits. I took several photos and the children especially were intrigued with my digital camera because they could see their photo right away on the screen. Unfortunately, we were short on time and had to return to the city before nightfall.

Three girls of Villa Soberanna

After dinner I had the opportunity to show the 2003 performance of Picture of Jesus, a rock opera written by a very talented musician in our church. The staff enjoyed the performance very much and thanks to Kristi Corbet and Jebby's generosity, I am able to leave the video, as well as the musical CD with the staff members for their video and music library at the base.

It's late now, about 11:30 p.m., the rest of the base is asleep while I stare into this computer monitor.

Go with God - Adios!

2004 - Leon

When you look down a typical street in the city of Leon, you see a cobbled roadway with sidewalks on each side with barely enough room for two to walk abreast.

The streets are lined with buildings with flat facades. The buidings are made of adobe with three foot thick walls. There is no space between buildings, so essentially neighbors share a common wall. The doors open right onto the sidewalk. Owners often paint their section of the building to differentiate between properties.

Ther Mercy Ships base is housed in one such property. The doors open up onto tiled colonnades surrounding central courtyards. The front courtyard is landscaped with lush tropical foliage and one can hear a variety of bird songs.

The "formal" courtyard at the Mercy Ships Base

The back courtyard is more utilitarian. This is where the laundry and other chores are done. There are several large trees; however the courtyard is mainly cement. Clothes lines are stretched out across the back of the courtyard.

The back courtyard

Rooms, which house the Mercy Ships administrative offices and living quarters, open up off the tiled walkways. There is no glass in most of the windows and each room is at least 10 or 12 feet high. The toilets and showers also open up onto the courtyard, so as a result you must leave your room, walk along the colonade to reach the shower or toilet several doors down.

This particular property is approximately 100 years old and was the resident of the Somoza dictator when he would travel to Leon back in the 1940's and 50's. You can tell that at one time this was quite a grand house.

As I walked through the streets last evening, many of the homes had their front doors open to let the evening breeze flow through, and I could look right into their salas, or living rooms, and see beautiful homes with gorgeous tiled floors and lush courtyards behind. On the other hand, some doors open up on dirt floors of poorer families. There does not seem to be segregated "rich" or "poor" areas, but inter-mixed. Many merchants have their storefronts in the front salas, while their family lives in the rear of the property.


2004 - Greetings from Nicaragua!

It seems as ages since I left Sacramento, but it has only been two days. After spending about four hours at work Friday morning, I rushed home to finish packing. My mom and I left around 2:30 p.m. to drive to San Francisco.

Once we entered the City, we took a ride through our old neighborhood. My parents had moved to San Francisco in the early 1950's and bought their house on Nordhoff Street in 1953. My mother finally sold the house in 2000. It was quite a walk down memory lane as I wandered around the streets remembering my childhood. I even got to catch up with a couple of old neighbors.

This is the house I grew up in.

This is the view from looking down the street.

My mother and I then continue to our friend's Bill and Karen home where they welcomed us with open arms. I hadn't seen them in years and it was so good to get reaquainted.

Early the next morning Bill drove us to San Francisco International Airport and we were on our way!

The flight from SF to Houston, Texas was uneventful. I was able to get a few snoozes in, having been living on only about 4 to 5 hours sleep the last four days or so. Once landing in Houston, we had to go from the E terminal to the C terminal to board the Managua-bound plane. It would have been quite a walk, but due to my mother's advanced years (hehe), we were able to take advantage of the electric cart service.

As we joined the crowd milling around the gate, we were informed that our Managua-bound plane's gate number had been changed to the E terminal! Fortunately, we were able to flag down another electric cart and make the journey back the way we had come.

I haven't traveled with Mom in years and I found it quite amusing that every time I turned around she was striking up conversations with all sorts of fellow travelers. I really admire that trait in her. I tend to be quiet and reserved in similar situations, but Mom just walks right up to strangers and starts yacking. By then end of our journey, we had made several acquaintances and would smile and wave as we waited in customs lines and baggage claim. We even ran into one family in the hotel restaurant this morning.

This is Rosa, a fellow traveler my mother befriended.

The Houston-Managua leg of the trip was a bit turbulent and the Captain of the plane had everyone, even the air hosts, locked down. We arrived in Nicaragua around 8:15 p.m.

We stayed the night at the Las Mercedes Hotel across the street from the airport. My mom has stayed at this hotel many times over the last five years and has developed many friendships with the hotel staff. I was introduced around as "mi hija" (my daughter).

My mother sitting in one of the courtyards at Las Mercedes.

I found the Las Mercedes a very charming hotel with excellent service. We had a good night's sleep and had an excellent breakfast in their restauranté. Soon after checking out, Jane and Andrew, the interim director's at Mercy Ships arrived to drive us to Leon.

The journey from Managua from Leon took about two hours and we passed through villages, farmland and wilderness areas. I saw many shacks that would be considered condemned and abandoned in the US but were very much lived in here in Nicaragua.

At long last we arrived in Leon.


2004 - Leaving on a Jet Plane

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go,
I'm standing here outside my door,
I’m blogging now just to say “Goodbye.”

But the dawn is breaking it's early morn
My mom is waiting, blowin’ her horn
Already I'm so excited I could fly…

So wish me a safe journey,
Tell me that you'll knit with me,
Knit like you’ve never knit before…

'cause I'm leaving on a jet plane,
I’ll be back my dear blogging friends,
Oh babe, I can’t wait to go…

(adapted from Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver)


2004 - So what's the weather like down there?

I'll be spending time in what is called the Pacific zone, which stretches from the west coast to the eastern edges of the two large lakes, Lago de Managua and Lago de Nicaragua. This area is a dry tropical area, with high temperatures and relatively little precipitation.

As in any tropical country, Nicaragua has a dry season and a rainy season, though they vary from region to region. In the western part of the country, the dry season, also called verano or summer by the locals, runs roughly from November to April. Invierno, or the winter rainy season, lasts the other half of the year, from May to October.

I will be arriving during the transition of the seasons, so I may experience a wide variety of weather. While the dry season is preferable for travel, the rainy season—in the Pacific region—may consist of daily showers lasting about an hour each afternoon.

The temperature in Nicaragua varies little from season to season, though the heat during the rainy season can be uncomfortable (i.e. HUMIDITY!). Generally speaking, the temperatures range between 81-90° F during the rainy season, and between 86-95° F throughout the dry period.

I've linked a Weather Pixie in my sidebar, which monitors the weather at Managua's International Airport. While I was not able to link directly to the city of Leon, Managua's temps and humidity numbers should be similar.


2004 - Tell me what you want to know...

Folks ask me if I'm excited about my upcoming trip. Well, I'm the type that doesn't get nervous until I'm just about to go on stage, or feel the excitement until I'm strapped into my airline seat. So no, I'm not exactly excited. I'm expectant. I actually have a feeling of unreality; but I keep on with my preparations.

I have my suitcase down and am beginning to throw things into it as I think of them. Mosquito repellant (with DEET); sunscreen (50 SPF); flashlight; notebook and pen; swimsuit; Nicaragua guide; Spanish-English dictionary.

The Mercy Ships Nicaragua base will be my primary location. It is located in the city of Leon and has the basic modern amenities; i.e. flush toilets, showers (albiet cold water); kitchen and laundry facilities, etc. However, my mom has invited me to spend one or two nights out at the villages; i.e. very primitive surroundings.

On one hand I'm hesitant, but on the other hand, I want to go for it; experience all that this trip has to offer. Besides, I can't let my 79 year old mother show me up!


I want to hear from you. Tell me what you want to know about this trip, the mission, me, my mom. You may contact me by clicking the email link in my sidebar or by leaving a comment at the end of this entry (just click on the Comment link and a box will pop up).


2004 - So What Can I do to Help?

Several have asked what they could do to support my trip and the mission in Nicaragua.

For the Staff and Mission of Mercy Ships Nicaragua
The staff at Mercy Ships Nicaragua are all volunteers and do not receive a salary. Each staff member is required to set up a support base of individuals or churches to provide monetary and prayer support.

However, donations for the base and ministry are always a blessing. Following is a list of items that would be appreciated:

* Flashlight bulbs
* Batteries (all sizes)
* Duct tape/packing tape
* Sheets and towels
* Yellow legal pads
* Polaroid film
* Pens, pencils, markers
* Toothpaste, Tooth brushes, dental floss
* Soap, shampoo, deodorant
* Vitamins (adult and children), iron supplements, pre-natal
* Over-the-counter cold/cough medications
* Trip-antibiotic cream, anti-fungal cream, hydrocortisone cream
* Tums
* Feminine Hygiene Products
* Chocolate chips, peanut butter (smooth and crunchy), microwave popcorn, nuts, muffin/brownie/cake mixes (all hard to get or very expensive).
* Baby/Kids clothes and shoes
* Baby items (cloth diapers, pins, wipes, powder, diaper rash ointment)
* Craft items, face paint, coloring books, crayons, stickers, finger paint
* Spanish evangelism material, Bibles
* Reading material for the staff (current magazines, books, etc.)

I am more than willing to transport donated items with me. I am allowed two suitcases up to 70 pounds each.

Support For Me
* Continued prayers for safe travel and good health
* Monetary gifts (appreciated but not required)
* Reading The Nica Report for updates
* Making sure Graeme and the kids stay out of trouble while I'm away (smile)!

You may contact me in my comments or by email (marieedmondson at yahoo dot com) to coordinate donation pick up. You may also leave donations with the office staff at First Baptist Sacramento.

Remember, I fly out May 1st (actually leaving Sacramento 4/30), so I will need to have all items to me by Wednesday, April 28th.


2004 - So Where's the "Ship" in Mercy Ships Nicaragua?

Mercy Ships Nicaragua has it's roots in a prosthetic outreach deployed from Mercy Ships International in 1996 working with the hospital in Leon, Nicaragua. Through the "New Steps" program, this team specialized in providing prosthetic services for the people of Nicaragua. Among others, this team helped people who had been maimed by the fighting when the Somoza dictatorship was toppled, and later in the Contra War.

Mark and Lori Thompson*, the directors of the Mercy Ships Nicaragua land base, were working with this program, but saw many more needs and opportunities beyond the prosthetic outreach. Then Hurricane Mitch hit in 1998.

In responce to Hurricane Mitch, Mercy Ships sent the Caribbean Mercy to Nicaragua with relief supplies and medical teams, docking in Corinto, (an hour drive north of Leon on the Pacific).

The permanent landbase was born out of this response to Mitch. In addition to the Mercy Ships home office in Garden Valley, Texas, the land base in Nicaragua is joined with only one other land base in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa.

*The Thompsons are currently on a one year furlough in the USA.


2004 - Typhoid and Cholera and Malaria, Oh My!

In preparation for my trip, I logged on to the Center for Disease Control's Travel Destination Site.

Living in such an antiseptic society here in the US, we often not aware or just forget the fact that diseases still run rampant in most areas of the world. According to the World Heath Oranization, the group with the highest mortality rate, for the year 2000, within the Nicaraguan population were children between the ages of 0-4. Contrast that with the USA for 2000, our highest mortality rated group was 80 years and over!

So armed with my travel itinerary, I set off for the Travel Clinic at Kaiser to receive inoculations and medications for diseases such as Hepatitis, Typhoid, Tetanus-diphtheria, and Malaria. My mom has foregone taking additional medications for Malaria (although her shots are up to date), I guess she figures at age 79 there's not much else that could put her down - Go Mom!

Although we will be spending the majority of our time in the city of Leon, we will be traveling out to the villages of Villa Soberana and La Palmerita to visit with the people and assist with the outreach programs in these communities. If you would like more information on the specific programs established for these two communities, you can click on the name of each village above and you will be redirected to the specific page on the Mercy Ships Nicaragua website.

2004 - First Contact

Back in the early 1980's, both my husband Graeme and I were volunteer staff on board the Mercy Ships flagship, The Anastasis. In fact that’s where we met and were later married in July 1985. Here’s a picture of us on our wedding day (just remember that was nearly 19 years ago!).

Graeme served for a total of two years and I for one year.

Around the same time my father retired from 40+ years as a merchant seaman and took a position on the Anastasis as it’s Chief Engineer. He and my mother served together with Mercy Ships for 10 years.

There are many stories I could recount about both my, my husband’s and my parent’s experiences with Mercy Ships. I may at some point post them here, but right now I just want to give you an overview of our association with Mercy Ships.

In a nutshell, “Mercy Ships, a global charity, has operated a growing fleet of hospital ships in developing nations since 1978. Following the example of Jesus, Mercy Ships brings hope and healing to the poor, mobilizing people and resources worldwide.”

You may access their website here. It is also linked in my sidebar to the right.

2004 - Knitti-Who?

You may have noticed in my masthead the byline, "Knitti-me's on-line journal of her journey to Nicaragua and back — May 2004." So who or what is knitti-me?

Knitti-me is my alter-ego; knitting and me. Some people look at me askance when I share with them my advid interest (dare I say obsession) with knitting. Others understand my fascination with fiber arts and crafts. (Hi to all my fiber-obsessed knit blogging buddies out there!)

I have a passion for hand-dyed yarns that come in a variety of textures and fibers. I love the way the colors play with and against one another as they are woven into unique fabrics. I have often mused while knitting away with a gorgeous variegated yarn, “Who would have thought that mustard yellow and fuschia would go together, but it works!”

One can look in nature and see a multitude of colorful and textural combinations that God put together for our pleasure. Imagine a sunset or a field of wild flowers. Many of the fiber artists I correspond with take their inspiration straight from nature, giving their hand-dyed yarns names such as Flame Lilly, Baja, Yukon, Peppers, Frosted Crocus, and even Seaweed.

As I knit I often reflect on how each yarn could represent a person’s life with the variances of texture, color and hue giving witness to that person’s life experiences. Each yarn is different, each yarn is unique—just like we are. But when our lives are woven together, it forms a beautiful tapestry.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

2004 - Disaster!

In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch ravaged the country of Nicaragua. For a period of ten days, Nicaragua was bombarded with torrential rains that produced landslides and floods effectively destroying crops, livestock, dwellings, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, electrical and water supply systems.

Hurricane Mitch was the most devastating natural disaster in Nicaragua’s history. An estimated 3,800 Nicaraguans lost their lives and 800,000—18% of the population—were left homeless.

Prior to Hurricane Mitch, Nicaragua was already among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. In 1997 it was estimated that 47% of Nicaraguans lived below the poverty line. The hurricane exacerbated this situation. The future was bleak for the homeless families struggling to survive.

In the Nicaraguan city of Leon, the staff of Mercy Ships Nicaragua also experienced the fury of Hurricane Mitch. Those of us throughout the world that were in contact with the base anxiously read firsthand e-mail reports of the devastation. Mercifully, the base and staff of Mercy Ships Nicaragua were not severly affected by the hurricane and were therefore available to begin immediate relief efforts in tandem with other community and international organizations.

Since the destruction of Hurricane Mitch in October of 1998, Mercy Ships Nicaragua has been effective in procuring and distributing over 285 tons of food, four tons of clothing and over $250,000 (US) worth of medicine and medical supplies to nearly 110,000 people per year for two years. They have also been instrumental in the decontamination of an estimated 1,500 drinking water wells that were contaminated during the devastating flooding.

Although the staff of Mercy Ships Nicaragua remain 'positioned' for relief work, their emphasis since early 1999 has been on longer term developmental transformation of rural Nicaragua. Today, their efforts are primarily focused on three communities of hurricane refugees for whom they have helped to relocate, acquire land and construct new homes. Current efforts are toward the economic, agricultural and educational development of these three communities.

2004 - The Nica Report

My name is Marie and this is my blog chronicling my journey to Nicaragua scheduled for May 1-10, 2004. Check back often to follow my progress as I prepare for and experience Nicaragua.