Some final thoughts about my Nicaragua trip

Now that I'm sleeping in my own bed, not doing "bug checks" at night (Dorritt was especially concerned about scorpions, and we did kill one) and showering in a real shower, I can remember the beauty of the country-here's a photo of a bandera flower, taken at the Hotel Raizon in Maysaya, Nicaragua, where we spent our first and last two nights.

What a beautiful, complex and infuriatingly "messed up" world we live in, where folks can work really really hard and still have nothing, where a beautiful country can house so many people in poverty (Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, after Haiti). We met a woman from Ecuador who now lives in Chicago and is an environmental engineer for Texaco. She was amazed and touched that Americans would come to Nicaragua to help build houses. Kind of restores your faith in all of us, doesn't it?

Here's a "parting shot" taken at the airport in Managua. Emily, Alexa, Lauren and Becky, looking very happy to be on the way home! I don't yet know how, but I know that this trip has changed me (and all of us who went on it). It sounds silly and trite but I definitely received more than I gave (I'm not a very good house builder) and came home with a much healthier perspective on what it means to be happy and successful. Now if I can just figure out what that means in my daily life, I'll be all set!

More about Nicaragua

Now that we've been home for ten days I've had more time to think about the trip, about the folks I met, and what this all has meant. It sure makes me realize that for some people in the world "leisure time" is only a dream. Tuesday night of the week we spent in Nicaragua some people from Guanacastillo visited with us to share stories. These are people whose days begin at 5 or 6 AM and end around 7 PM-when we asked what they did when they weren't working, the women talked about cooking and cleaning and the men seemed to not understand. They were very interested in knowing what the retired folks did (Anne and Ruth Deemer are retired).

We did get to have some fun with our new friends. The families threw a big party at the dedication of the houses and the whole community came-here you see Tim, our Bridges coordinator, talking with Lidio, the father of the family for whom we built our house. The women, Dona Marta, Thelma and Maria Ofelia, expressed their gratitude. The party was really for the children, with pinatas, candy and music, and Ritz crackers and canned sodas for the gringos. The women and children danced with us, the men watched. Here you can see everyone getting ready and Anne taking pictures. The folding chairs in the background were for us, the guests of honor.

The finished product

There's more to tell and I'll blog some more later, but here's our finished house, all but the roof. Here's our team, along with the masons and the family (and a few extra kids who we picked up along the way!)

Getting to the work site

Now this was a trick-we rode in the back of a pick up truck. Sometimes we rode inside. Talk about dusty! Here's Emily, Ruth and Dorrit standing up in the truck bed.

Day to day living

So here we were in Nicaragua, and where did we sleep? The twelve of us women slept in a church, while the two guys (Andrew and Brian) slept in a school. Tim, Erik and Parisa took turns staying with us, so sometimes there were more than two guys. This picture shows our mosquito netting and our cots. The green bag in front is Anne's, and the blue one next to hers is mine. Three women from Papayal, where we were staying, cooked for us. Dona Santos in the pink shirt cooked for us, along with the woman standing next to her.


We didn't work all of the time. When we weren't working we were eating, sleeping, resting or sightseeing. Wednesday after we finished work we went into Managua-here we are having dinner in a restaurant. The next picture shows you how we usually had dinner-outdoors. We swam at Lake Apoyo on Saturday (the day we arrived). Lake Apoyo is a beautiful crater lake. You can see it in the background-this picture doesn't do it justice. Here are all of us looking fresh, in spite of the trip and the fact that we were up at 2 AM to get to the church parking lot by 2:50AM to be at the airport at 4 AM for our 6 AM flight to Miami-what did we do that we deserved the "early" flight?

Nicaragua Day Three

Well by day three some of us had already had Somoza's revenge-Anne was sick and not able to work. Did I mention that it was so hot that I sweat even in the shade? Here you can see Lauren, Ruth, Emily, Julia and Dorrit drinking water. Anne and I made our team of seven. We had lots of help, as we were working along side a team of Nicaraguan masons, and half the village must have turned out to lend a hand. We had to get the wall up half way, then pour the cement. It needed to dry from Wednesday at noon until Thursday morning. In this picture you can see the form for the concrete.

Nicaragua Day Two

After we dug holes for the foundation we buried the reinforced steel and mixed concrete. All of our work was done by hand. Here's Anne getting ready to mix cement. Fernando is behind her in the red shirt-the whole family (including two year old Christofer!) worked with us.

Nicaragua Day One

How do I describe a week in Nicaragua in a few words? I guess I don't. Bridges to Community does it best-look at their website and their video. Fourteen of us from First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown went to Guanacastillo with Bridges and we built two houses in one week. We split into two groups of seven. I'll try to capture my experience in a few pictures-here's the "before" on day one. We dug holes for the foundation-I have never worked so hard in my life! The house will be built on the right. The sand and rocks for mixing the cement are in two huge piles in the middle of the picture. The cinder blocks on the left will make up the house-a one room 12' by 16' house that Lidio, Maria Ofelia and their children, two year old Christofer Alexander and five year old Isiana Yoelka, will live in. Eleven year old Fernando, Lidio's son with another woman, also lives with them.