Monday, April 28, 2014

No Water, No Power, No Car, No Shower=Life in Nicaragua

No Water, No Power, No Car, No Shower=Life in Nicaragua 

Our patience is certainly being tried at the moment!  It is the hottest part of summer here, which means unfortunately, water shortages!  This past week it has been routine for the water to be off for most of the day & then come back on in the evening for an hour or, if we’re lucky, more.  Now that we have realized the routine, we can be prepared, but our the first full day at home was quite a shock, no washing dishes, no cleaning, no doing laundry, washing hands, taking showers or even flushing toilets!  Now when we hear the water start sputtering out of the faucet we all get busy, filling up every bucket & pot we can find, filling up our water filter for drinking, washing the dishes as fast as we can, & if we’re really lucky manage to squeeze in a shower & load of laundry.  To make life even more interesting for some unknown reason we also have no power today.  Sigh.  We sure do take for granted the simple things we use everyday, until they are suddenly gone.  Can’t tell you how nice a cold shower feels after a long hot day.

Our shower also broke last week so we were getting clean with water pouring directly out of our wall for several days, while trying to avoid the electrical wires above;).  And we’ve been dealing with car troubles…more on that later.

We did have a fabulous Spring Break over Holy Week.  We enjoyed a much needed break and some quality family time & had fun exploring some new parts of Nicaragua.  We drove south to San Juan Del Sur and discovered some beautiful practically deserted beaches.  (Had to drive on some pretty remote & isolated roads to get there).  One of the beaches we went to (Playa Hermosa) is where they filmed Survivor Nicaragua!  So that was exciting for us, as we are pretty big fans.  We also found out they will be filming another Survivor season there very soon, so that beach will be closed for the next 4 months.

We also finally made the boys happy by going to the top, literally, of two active volcanoes; Volcán Mombacho & Volcán Masaya.  They were both quite thrilling & scary (for me at least!).  Mombacho reminded me of a roller coaster ride at Six Flags (the kind I don’t do anymore).  We had to go up in one of the park’s large trucks, think of a combination between a semi-truck engine & safari type truck.  Then we pretty much went straight up the mountain with numerous nail biting switch backs, where I was just praying we weren’t going to literally fall off the mountain.  Once we made it to the top, it was great though!  We hiked around the crater which is now covered in a dense tropical forest, we even found several vents where we could see & feel the steam rising out of the volcano.

The drive up Masaya comparatively was a piece of cake, but this volcano is very much still active!  There is a constant sulfuric cloud rising out of it’s large crater.  It’s pretty incredible you can drive right up to the top, park in the parking lot (facing out in case of sudden eruptions), & then you can look straight down into the crater.  You can even take a horse back ride tour to look at additional craters  & take a night tour where you can usually see the lava glowing (we opted not to do this because of present earthquake risks).  There was also a very good museum demonstrating why Nicaragua is called the Land of Lakes & Volcanoes. 

Next we visited one of those lakes (the prettiest & cleanest in the country) Laguna de Apoyo, which is actually inside a crater.  It is a beautiful pristine lake, soothing, & quiet, rare sites for Nicaragua.  The kids & Mike spent at least an hour diving down & clearing out rocks so they could safely jump off a ‘diving’ board of sorts.

We also visited the historical town of Granada (the first city claimed by the Spaniards in all of Central America).  It is a charming, though very hot & loud, city with a surprising number of expatriates living there.  Found a delicious bakery owned by Americans that even had some gluten free cookies, a real treat for myself & the boys!  Granada is right off Lake Nicaragua, which looks more like an ocean.  We took a boat tour one day to see Las Isletas, more than 160 small to large islands created by a volcanic eruption in the 1400s.  These islands are actually for sale so many of Nicaraguan’s ‘rich & famous’ own houses on their own private island, of course most of the information the tour guide told us about them was wasted on us because we have no idea who any of those people are.

After all this fun we headed for home, but who knew the fun wasn’t over yet!  As some of you have already heard, our car surprisingly broke down in the middle of no where!  Dread…Apparently the clutch went out.  This could have been much worse so we are so thankful it wasn’t.  There was a safe place to pull over on the side of the road, and literally two minutes after we all piled out of the car to escape the awful burning smell, another missionary family stopped to help us.  I didn’t mention that this was Good Friday which means in this country that absolutely everything was closed, & even the highway was close to deserted.  So the fact that this family was driving by at the exact moment we broke down felt like a miracle!  So…we left our vehicle (not really a good idea but hey fortunately it wasn't stolen) & piled into another vehicle which already had 6 passengers, two puppies, a baby monkey & this families’ belongings as they were moving to a new town!  The Benedict family was so wonderful & gracious to us, they dropped us off at the next closest town (about 45 min. away) where the Mendoza family from school came to rescue us & tow the car back to Matagalpa.  Few.  Made for a very long evening but we were soooo thankful we didn’t end up hitchhiking or walking to find help, did I mention there was no cell service?

So, it has been a trying yet humbling couple of weeks but somehow it just seems kind of like normal life here.  The clutch was replaced in our car, but unfortunately it still has a terrible smell when we drive it (even after getting the engine cleaned) & black smoke is coming out of the exhaust pipe.  So, no car again until we can get it looked at again.

We know that all of these experiences will be lasting memories some day and they certainly do make us stronger, & bring us all together.  Also just makes us appreciate how much we use water & electricity which helps us as we consider so many of our neighbors here who are without those luxuries every day.  We also are working hard to just accept there is no prior notification here, no one to call to ask when the power or water will come back on, no explanation, things we Americans are so used to.  So enjoy your next shower, or glass of water straight from the faucet, have a glass for us with ice:)  Cheers!
Easter Sunday at NCA

Sunday, April 6, 2014

We hit the Big 9 0 !!!

We get 90 days on a tourist Visa, are allowed to extend once for another 90 days and then required to leave the country for at least three days.  Our 90 day mark is this coming Wednesday so we made a trip into Managua this weekend to apply for new visas.  It was a fun trip!, got to stay with friends (The Boersema’s) who are a wonderful family from Canada here doing work with NCA and other Nicaraguan Christian Schools, go to an English Speaking international church service (which was very renewing), and get some much needed grocery shopping done.

An added perk of our visa trip is that the immigration office is actually in a shopping mall.  So, felt like we stepped into modern day civilization for bit, or at least lots of familiar marketing and fast food from home.  Cinabon, McDonalads, Pizza Hut, ya know all the places we never eat at, at home but still kind of fun to see.  We all got to pick something for lunch in the food court, found some needed items for our home, and spent some time in air conditioning!  (It’s very Hot in Managua!)
Another bonus of coming to Managua is getting to go to Price Smart, which is the Nica version of Costco, auuugh:).  The mom’s reading this can appreciate why this is so exciting.  They don’t have everything that Costco does, but enough items to stock the fridge for a while.

We have one more week before our Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is our ‘spring break.’  School and life is still going really well (Annette’s entire class knows the alphabet!).  We feel like we are getting more used to our life here each week, even though we continue to see and experience things daily which really make us go hmmmm.

Our staff has daily devotions, and the primary and secondary have separate worship services once a week.  Teachers take turns leading those.  Annette led staff devotions and the primary worship last week, and Mike will lead staff and secondary this coming week.  That adds a bit more planning and preparation to our already full week but is a really fun opportunity to share our faith in a different way than the Nicaraguans may be used to.

Holy week has brought about some interesting and hopefully thought provoking discussions at our school.  Often, Christians here consider themselves to be either Evangelicals or Catholics. For various historical reasons, the Evangelicals often have negative connotations of Catholics.  We had some understanding of this but were still surprised to learn that because of this the Evangelicals really do not celebrate Holy Week or even place much special emphasis on Easter.  So it has been especially meaningful for Annette to teach the meaning of Holy Week to her class, to show a video explaining it to the primary grades, and lead a discussion on what we can learn from Jesus, his followers and even his enemies from those important Bible lessons leading up to and following Easter.

Jesus set an incredible example to us all on being a faithful servant, loving one another even His enemies, trusting in God even when He was hurting the most & up to His last breath.  Jesus’ own disciples and followers had doubts and did not believe what Jesus had told them, while His enemies after witnessing His strength on the cross finally recognized that “He was the Son of God.”  We think there is a lesson for all of us in these passages wherever you might find yourself on your faith journey.  But the Good News is clear, Jesus did die for our sins, he died for you and me, and we can rejoice in His Resurrection.  Holy Week is truly Holy, an opportunity to relive the meaning and message of Jesus’ death and to celebrate the Holy Spirit alive among us and in us today.

                                  We pray that you all have a Holy Filled Holy Week
                                                        & A Joyous Easter!

                                                          The Muellers