~ Empower. Inspire. Encourage. Innovate. Enhance. ~ Autorizar. Inspirar. Animar. Innovar. Realzar.~

The first week has come and gone and I have the itch to get to work but Mother Nature seemed to have other plans for me…

My last blog was from the breezy veranda of La Mariposa it was not long after when the clouds rolled in with vengeance and darkness fell upon what felt like all of Nicaragua. As I sat there having just clicked post, sipping my beer, witnessing all this weather, it never occurred to me that it would be a hurricane. It just felt like another windy-about-to-rain-but-likely-wont-late afternoon. WOW was I wrong! It started with a mist, then a steady rain, that sometime about 1:30am woke everyone up with a torrential down pour that lasted for the next 24 hours.

When Monday morning rolled around I headed off to class (mind you it is outdoors) in the pouring rain. We tried as best as we could, to get as much work done as possible accomplished but, the rain just kept coming down harder and harder…At break I thought to myself, that’s a damn lot of rain! My conversations class is conducted inside the main building so we were a bit more protected…By noon I was freezing; wearing long pants, two t-shirts, a sweater, and my rain jacket (thank you Jami). The game plan was to head to Managua about a half an hour drive north and tour a few museums.

La Mariposa is positioned on somewhat of a hill, not at the top but far from the bottom. I was not quite prepared for what was in store for us once we came down and round the bend. I was sitting in front seat with Bergman our driver when we both looked to our left and saw about 30 people standing outside. There were men in rain gear and make shift roadblocks were being set up. It was pouring hard and muddy water was rushing through the street as we passed by. Bergman, who we have teased relentlessly about this, knows everyone and phone to ask what had happened. My Spanish has improved tremendously as far as comprehension goes but one word stuck out that  I didn't understand deslave. He hung up and looked at me and said landslide. My heart sank. Here I am, rolling with the crew on a day trip to tour some museums in Managua and these people have just had everything literally washed away.

Let me try and create an image in your mind, of this scene, to give you an idea of what it was like. I am living in second poorest country in the western hemisphere. People here live in houses that are made of bricks, some concrete, most corrugated metal and a few sticks of wood and plastic bag material -if they are lucky. They don’t have much at all. They do not have running water, flushes, and often no power. There is no emergency shelter or emergency workers to come rushing to the rescue. So, when something like this happens it is beyond devastating. It is horrifying. People live in remote regions and the modest emergency aid they have available takes a long time to arrive. ((Thankfully the Sandinista's do not fool around when disasters strike unlike some governments I know....echmmm *USA*)) Hospitals are not exactly around the corner like in my city; neither are the police or anyone with a telephone. It is really gut wrenching. 

As we drove away I felt pangs of guilt but we carried on…More on that scene later.

Managua is the capital of Nicaragua and has all the same characteristics of any other large city; a lot of people, poverty, crime, great big buildings, traffic, peddlers of all types, and a strong military presence (for us police here the Sandinista Army).  Bergman reminded us we were in the city and to lock up and put our cameras and nice things out of sight. People literally walk up to the vehicle and will ask for money, try to sell you a paper, wash your windshield or rob you. It can be a bit hairy to say the least. The clouds seemed to cut us a bit of slack as we began our jaunt through the city.

We had the fantastic opportunity with Bergman acting our tour guide to visit a couple of museums, a park, and the launch for Lago de Nicaragua. The lake is fantastic in it is sheer mass and the volcanic mountain range  that surrounds it is simply breathtaking. It is similar to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, however, I think this lake is larger. The museums were incredible. I find Latin American Arts very intriguing, the way they use it as a means of political expression is powerful be it: art, poetry, or music. The rain returned as we made our way to La Mariposa.

That evening, after we had yet another incredible meal, I had gone for a little walk in the garden to visit the monkeys when I noticed one-by-one everyone gathering in the library. Knowing that is where the television is I joined them. I discovered everyone at La Mariposa standing in the library with Paulette watching the news. The words were garble in my head -but- it didn’t take much to put the horrific images together with the words on the screen to realize the area we had passed earlier was the one on the television. At that moment a chill came over me and an eerie quietness came over the room. Paulette translated for us and was deeply impacted by what she was seeing and hearing as this is her home town, her community, where her friends are and work is. Watching loved ones lose everything in such a devastating manor is beyond heartbreaking.

After the news, everyone wanted to help monetarily and with any extra items we might have packed. The interns were to go investigate in the morning and report back at lunch the next day. By lunch 15 families were staying in one building with as many children of them 3 were pregnant women. At that time they were dubbed the highest need. As the rains continued so did the number of victims and by dinner more than a 100 other families were reported in another location. By Sunday October 16th more than 2,500 families were seeking refuge in a shelters throughout the area. Keep in mind Nicaragua is no bigger than Tennessee so when I say area it is most of the country.

This past week, all that was on my mind was RAIN and HELPING. It rained harder and harder and harder for the next, well it is still raining…8 days and counting. I had the opportunity to visit the high need families Friday. It was wonderful and sad. For a little while, I would like to think we brought a little joy into their world. We read, colored, played ball and giggled with the kids and the adults. I am not proficient enough to carry on an intelligent conversation but a smile, hug, and a chicklet goes along way when you have lost everything.

One of my favorites was Daniella, a sweet little girl who when I arrived just stared at me emotionless. I winked at her. She raised her eyebrow. No smile. I raised mine she repeated. I raised my other one, she raised both. I made a fish face at her and she stuck her tongue out and smiled. We were inseparable, she sat by my side coloring, not a word spoken, then we watched the boys take pictures with my camera and laughed and laughed. I felt her little hand touch my hair so I touched hers then she laid her little head on my shoulder and I tucked her in under my arm. She wanted a hug or maybe I did. All I know is I didn’t let go and neither did she. A hug…everyone needs one of those... We were there for about an hour and leaving her, all of them, was very difficult but, we promised to be back and on Monday and part of our group did return. Plans to go every few days are in the works as these people will likely be living in this small space for the next two months. Before I left Nicaragua I saw many groups go up and play with the kids, bringing toys and donations to the parents and the children. I consider myself blessed to have been living among some of the most generous loving people. Big or small, gifts, money or just the time of day it was phenomenal to be apart of personally and to witness from a distance the goodness of so many.

I have made a few other visits since this has happened and will post a new blog in a few days. My hope is the rain is leaving. We have had quite enough between the hurricane, high winds, torrential rains, floods and landslides. It is time for some good weather to move back in to Nicaragua and let the sun dry up all this mess. 

More on the journey to the daycare, library and school soon!   
As Told By Jules: Journeys in Central America and beyond


Anissa said...

Oh Juli I hope the rain goes and stays gone for awhile so things can dryup & everyone can return to whatever is left of thier home. can't wait for your next blog. And why wouldn't a smile from you cheer up any little girl ?

Juli said...

Thank you so much Anissa...The sun came out for a few hours a couple times today. I'd near forgotten what it looked like and had to hunt for my sunglasses! lol It just started to rain again but it is softer soooo perhaps it is on it's way. I have had a emotional week at the Panama School in that I am a mix of joy and sorrow all at once. Tears just fall at random first with joy for fulfilling my dream and then with pain and frustration over the conditions in which these beautiful children live, laugh and learn. Daniella stole my heart <3