Reflections by Brandi Rhone – Member of July 2006 Delegation to Limay
La Vida Nica!
Nicaragua is a spirited Central American country. Rich with colors and sounds that grab your attention everywhere you look. It has old dilapidated building and streets, scars from civil wars and natural disasters across the nation, as well as ultra modern locations like the New Cathedral and shopping malls like the ones found in Managua. You would be hard pressed to look around and not see beautiful mountains and volcanoes framing the background of the awesomely photogenic landscapes. That is unless you’re looking at the
sunset over a glass of Flor de Cana on the Pacific Coast. No matter which coast you
visit first, the other coast will be just as new and refreshing. Sunrise to sunset, Pacific Ocean to Bluefields bay, even down to the cultural make-up, the diversity is evident. Its easy for us to let life distract us from enjoying these little, yet profound moments, and we often take them for granted. Your dulled sences will awaken in Nicaragua. I visited Nicaragua with Casa Baltimore/Limay, a friendship/sister city oraganization that gives humanitarian aid and supports developmental projects that committee members started in the city San Juan de Limay (Limay for short, pronounced “Lee-my”). Apart from Limay we visited Bluefields (atlantic coast), Esteli, Managua and Pochomil (pacific coast).
All of these things are great and true. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the glory of it all, but after a while, some of the realities do hit you hard. Many of the governmental policies keep the country deep in foreign debt and the proof of that shows up in the daily lives of the Nica people. It is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after all (right before Haiti). Mandatory blackouts (to conserve energy) across the country can feel like a blessing and a curse.
During the day its not so bad it seems until you actually need some thing that requires electricity. I’m not really talking about things like a television or even house lights. In the case of Limay, if you don’t have power you cannot even shower. The water has to be pumped down to the valley city and that involves the use of electricity. If they find that there is not power in the morning, they cancel classes because they don’t have any water to cook food for lunches. Not that it would do them any good to miss classes for this reason. They still couldn’t cook at home either. So either way it’s bad for the kids there stomachs and brains don’t get filled. So where is the blessing? Well it comes from what you have to do to make up for having no power. Some of the best conversations of the trip came out of not having any power. We all sat together, talked about any and everything waiting for the lights to come back on. In Limay we would go to the park and watch the boys play “1 goal Futbol”, the court lit by a full moon (super padre!), and
I would chat with one of the daughters (Casta Alicia = Tita, Limay committee members – seen in the picture) of my Nica host family. Then with the light of day you see homes made of trash bags wrapped around sticks. Homes that are one good, hard, rain away from melting which are made out of unprotected mud bricks. Even with this, you wont be inspired to leave, but to lend a hand in making a change.
I met a lot of interesting people while in Nicaragua. Many of them were extremely grateful for the work that Casa Baltimore has done to help improve their lives. They kissed and hugged and prayed for God to bless us, for just being remembered. They feel so isolated, even from their own government, mostly because of good roads in and out of the city. Some of the most appreciative were the Senior Citizens that came out to receive food as part of the monthly handout to the elderly that cant work or don’t have any family left by. They came near and far, and if they sent someone who could carry the food back for them and every one said, “Thank you.”
I really enjoyed talking to the scholarship students. Mostly because I can completely relate to them and I know what a degree means for them and the opportunities it will create for them. All of them work really hard at being successful, not just for themselves but also for their families and their town. From English to Law to Teaching, these students are destined to do great things for Limay. They also know how to have a good time. Two of the ladies performed traditional dances and later Claudette (my sister) performed a Candle Dance and taught some of us how to do it. It was very nice. We all danced to some raggaeton and tried chatting in Spanglish. It felt like half the neighborhood showed up. Later some came even hiking with us to El Zapote. I really loved it. Just because you’re in difficult circumstances does not mean that you can’t find a reason to smile and enjoy the things in life that money can’t obtain.
Most everyone in Limay that we met had a lot of pride. Not it the selfish sense of the word, they were proud of the positive changes being made in and around Limay and that they had a hand in making them happen.
You felt that they had a real sense of community, and a willingness to help each other out. Tranquillino is one of the members of the Casa Baltimore/Limay group in Limay, and when anyone has an issue that we could possibly help with, he is the one they know to go to with a request. While we where there he was pulled aside often by people looking for assistance or with a proposal for the micro-loan program. Tranquillino remembers the days when Limay was more prosperous, when there was more employment and when there was access to educational tools. That is why he and the other committee members work constantly with Casa Baltimore and other groups for places like Japan and Spain, to improve the conditions in Limay.
We discussed many other issues that effect the lives of the people in Limay , and mostly probably every other place in Nicaragua and the world, such as underage pregnancy, single parents, incest, machismo, alcohol and drug abuse, drop-outs, etc. We felt that these things were important to address because they cross class, and culture lines and have an effect on a peoples overall morale. The sharing of ideas and solutions is encouraging because it’s more difficult to fix something if you deny that its broken and don’t identify the source of the problems.
The best part of the trip for me was how my personal motivation for helping out changed. I participated in this venture as a way to give back something positive to Latin America. I feel that Latin America and Africa get put to back of our minds to pull out only when we want to go somewhere Exotic for vacations.
We often relate to them in terms of “us” and “them” or “they”, forgetting that in this world bent on extreme globalization, that we have to deal with everyone more often and in closer quarters. People generally think that people stay in poverty out of laziness. For the people in Limay that is far from the truth. Theirs is a result of civil wars and Foreign policies that keep them in debt, overall lack of access to resources and capital. In the past many of the Nicas in Limay were farmers so their love and respect for the land discourages them condoning destructions the land for monetary gain. So they find other ways to survive and do what they can to educate the world about what could happen to them if things continue to go unchecked. The spirit in Limay is infectious and I do not see the citizen as charity cases, looking for a handout but as Friends, looking for support to get through the rough times. Friends are supposed to do that for each other when they can. So when ever possible that’s what I want to do, if nothing else be an encouragement for my new friends to keep going forward in their efforts in bettering Limay. Thanks to all those that helped in any way with this years Delegation. Your efforts were not wasted. –
All photos by Brandi Rhone