Wednesday, October 31, 2007
All three of us went to the Huembes Market this morning. Nefret wanted to pick up some gifts and Lauren and I thought we might find some cool things to send back with her as well. We took the bus there and shopped for about an hour before Lauren took a taxi to work and Nefret and I took the bus back home.
Lauren told me that there were only 3 kids at the orphanage today - the rest were either "out looking for a new school" or "being punished," as the story seemed to change throughout the day. Hopefully she will find out more tomorrow.
Nefret and I had a great lunch with the street kids. Nefret got a chance to talk with Ninoska for a long time while I went with the other kids to play on the rides. Turns out Ninoska isn't going to school right now because her school doesn't currently offer her grade. She says her classes will resume in January. Her dad is a security guard in Masaya and she only gets to see him once a week. although it is good to learn a little bit more about her I now just want to know more. We gave the kids a big bag of candy for Halloween, which they seemed to enjoy.
After lunch Nefret and I went and got my ID made to enter all of the baseball stadiums, and all of the LNBP (Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League) games, for free. The journalist I met yesterday, Gerald, told the ID office that I work for the Baltimore Sun. Now I have this hilarious press pass with my picture, name, and "Baltimore Sun" on it. I love it. The season just started so hopefully I will go to some games soon. I was just looking on the website - turns out my boy Gerald made the page with the schedule. This is a crazy country.
Gerald emailed me late last night and repeated his desire to help the kids. I emailed him back this afternoon to thank him for the pass and to ask him when we could meet to talk. I hope we can do that soon.
Ok, we are about to lose power and then go see Tommy, but I hope everyone is well. I'll write more soon.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Hello! I am honored to join the cyber world as the guest blogger for Dylan and Lauren’s blog. Though I have to say I have never blogged before, I am excited for this opportunity to share with you my experiences so far in
Today I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Lauren’s orphanage. It was an especially exciting day, however, because an organization called Frontier Horizon (Dylan traveled with this group a couple summers ago) brought the orphans to a beautiful resort in
I don’t think I have ever seen children having so much fun doing the same thing for such a long time. They were content with what they were given, and they never wanted more. Nobody even asked for ice cream. It was offered to them, and though they were thankful to receive it, they were not looking for it, nor did they ever whine for more. It is unheard of that 10 children in a pool would not fight, but not one tear was shed. They only wanted to be cuddled and loved and thrown around in the pool. They eagerly offered this to one another by taking care of each other, feeding each other, playing with each other in the pool like siblings who can overlook any rivalry. Through blatant contrast, I was reminded of some of the kids I baby sit for at home; they always want to do something else…they are never content with one activity, one soda, one candy. It’s never enough; they always want more. If it means taking down their sibling in a fistfight, they will do what they can to make sure they get more.
As I played with the orphans in the pool, I was convicted. Do I live like that? Always wanting more and never being satisfied with what I have? Within that conviction, I realized there is a poverty that exists within me and within the culture of the
Hello! This is Lauren - I am interrupting Nefret's blog to let you know that I have loaded some pictures from todays adventures. You might have to scroll through some other orphanage pictures to get to them - but I promise they are there. Here's the link:
If I had to describe today’s events, and in fact my whole Nicaraguan experience thus far, I would say the following: First,
I took the buses to Metrocentro to have lunch with the kids. I didn’t get off the bus until the stop following Metrocentro, meaning I rode past the kids as they were working on the other side of the street. I’ve seen them at work before but it still breaks my heart. Only Ninoska, Sonia, Leonardo, and Kevin joined me today. I haven’t seen Carlos or Milton in quite some time. The other kids keep telling me they are at school. We made sure to order extra food for the kids to take to them, though. They were disappointed that Nefret wasn’t going to join us but were pleased to hear she would be back tomorrow.
We enjoyed a nice lunch at Tip-Top. I was thrilled to discover a non-fried option – an iceberg salad with some grilled chicken – and the kids got their usual 3-piece combos. I talked with Ninoska about her school. She told me all of the classes she takes and also that they take the bus to out front of Metrocentro after school so they can wash windshields. Like yesterday, everyone was upbeat, friendly, and engaging.
We sat down and I noticed a young white couple, whom we had seen at the airport on Thursday, sitting at the table next to us. I didn’t really think anything of seeing them again other than it was quite coincidental. Every time I see another “gringo” I wonder what his story is.
As we were cleaning up a well-dressed Nicaraguan man came up to me and asked me if I speak Spanish. When I told him I only speak a little bit he sat down and started talking very slowly with me. He told me that he recognized the kids I was with from the street and asked if I was with them on behalf of an organization. I told him I wasn’t, and he responded that he wanted to help and asked me how he could do so. Recognizing the limitations in my Spanish I decided that offering him my email address and phone number might be the best option. As I was writing, he asked me if I like baseball. Clearly I responded that I did, and he told me he was going to help get me an ID to enter the stadium. He then told me he is a sports journalist who works for both the local paper and the LNBP, the Nicaraguan professional baseball league. He also told me that the white guy who was sitting next to me, who at this point had gone, was Clyde Williams, an American baseball star here in
If you want to, check out this story from ESPN.com about Clyde Williams. There is a video of him getting a cab right outside of Metrocentro, where I meet the kids every day.
At this point I didn’t really know what was going on or what to think. He then started saying things that I did not understand. Eventually I grasped that he wants me to go to a place to get an ID tomorrow, and that he is going to contact me soon to talk about helping the kids. Beyond that, I don’t really know what he said. I plan on going to the place to get an ID tomorrow. In
The kids were quite patient with me during this encounter. After Mr. Hernandez left we went over to the play area next to the restaurants. I haven’t seen the kids happier than they were for the 20 minutes or so we rode the rides and took lots of pictures. In stark contrast to last Friday, I haven’t seen them smile this much, ever. And to think this is because we played on the kiddy rides and took pictures.
After we left the mall we met up with both of the kids’ (they are all either brothers/sisters of cousins) moms. They insisted that I hold their babies and then took many pictures of us. They thanked me for taking the kids to lunch. I was so touched because I could see how genuine they were with their thanks.
The kids walked me to my bus stop and I couldn’t help but think how great the Lord is. I sensed His joy today in a new way. At least for a few hours the kids could experience pure, childlike joy, untainted by the reality of their situation. I’ve spent the whole afternoon reflecting on just how “good” our time together was.
I’ve been thinking about ways in which I can help these kids in a more permanent fashion. Buying them lunch every day is good, but I realize its impact is far from long-lasting. My best idea so far is to see how much it would cost to send them to a full-day school, thus cutting down on the time they had to spend washing windshields on the street. There are many details that will need to be worked out, for example; making up for the potential lost income, transportation, if the moms will even agree, choosing kids, etc., but I am going to talk to some people about the possibility. Also, if anyone has any ideas please don’t hesitate to let me know (email@example.com).
Enough for now. Lauren and I are hoping to give you a special treat sometime soon. Stay posted.
I made my return to the
After class I walked back to Metrocentro to meet the kids and Nefret for lunch. I was anxious to sense the kids’ behavior and attitudes after Friday’s confusing events. I’m glad to say that the kids were back to their normal bubbly, giggly selves today. I’m still not sure what the reason for the difference in their demeanor was, but I was relieved that they were back to just being “kids” today. I realize that, as we spend more time together, our relationships will deepen and they will reveal more of themselves to me. It would be naïve to think they will be happy-go-lucky all of the time, but I am thankful that they are okay.
The girls have been asking for sandals for awhile now and Nefret told them she wanted to buy them yesterday. Nefret and the two girls disappeared into Payless (yes they have that here) and I was left trying to control three boys running around with dripping ice cream cones. One boy thought it was fun to try to turn off the escalator. Nefret and the girls emerged with the shoes likely just before we were, understandably, kicked out.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. We went to the grocery store, sat by the pool, cooked dinner, and sat around and talked in the dark due to the power outage.
Today Lauren and Nefret are headed to a resort with Vinny, a man who runs trips for volunteers here, and the kids from Lauren’s orphanage. I’m sure they will have a great time!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Nefret and I were in for quite a treat at church. The worship was great. Worship is always much more lively here than at home but today was even more intense than usual. I felt like I was at a party instead of at church. The band was rocking out and there were even women dancing with flags and ribbons up front.
To our surprise a man of obvious Non-Nicaraguan heritage approached the pulpit to give the sermon. I quickly recognized that his Spanish accent sounded much like mine – bad. Another gringo! He spoke in Spanish for about 5 minutes before switching over to English. A translator helped the vast majority of the congregation understand the language I was quite pleased to hear. Perhaps the most humorous parts of the service for me were the times Nefret, Brad, and I would be the only people laughing, since the Nicaraguans had to wait a few seconds until the translator translated the pastor’s jokes.
After church we had a chance to hang out with the orphans from Casa Bernabe – the orphanage where we’ve stayed during our last two Spring Breaks. I really enjoyed watching Nefret reconnect with some girls. I got to see my friends Giovanni and Manuel for a bit, too.
We lounged around here for the afternoon. I watched some football and called my parents and Grandmothers on Skype while the girls read and watched a movie. We were supposed to have dinner with our friend Ramon tonight, but unfortunately he is sick. Hopefully we can see him later in the week.
Tomorrow I am headed back to Spanish school in the morning – only for 2 hours this time – and Lauren is headed back to the work. I think Nefret is going to hang around a coffee shop and then join me for lunch with the street kids.
I’m both excited and anxious to see how the kids act tomorrow. After the change in demeanor we witnessed on Friday I don’t really know what to expect. I clearly do not have any skills in counseling and can barely communicate with them. Part of me is frustrated because I don’t know how to make the situation better. I can’t even really ask what the problem is. I am being humbled, though, and reminded that the only things I can really offer are my presence and my love. I know, deep down, that those are the most important qualities, but I always face that temptation to try to do more. Confronting my inabilities is yet another way in which I’m being humbled.
Pictures from our trip are up: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dwnicaragua
Yesterday was certainly full of activity! I played soccer with Esmir and some of his college friends this morning and had lots of fun. Lauren and Nefret relaxed by the pool until Esmir and I returned around . We had some lunch before Nefret, Esmir, and I headed off to Volcan Masaya (Masaya Volcano) for the afternoon.
The bus ride to the volcano was crowded and long but definitely worthwhile. The volcano was amazing. It was much bigger than I imagined and quite spectacular looking. We spent some time hiking up to see this cross and look at the beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. Afterwards we took a tour of some caves nearby. They were pretty neat although the flying bats were a bit scary.
Last night Nefret, Lauren, and I went to a restaurant near our apartment which we’ve wanted to try. We had a great meal. I was quite tired from the soccer and hiking so I fell asleep early.
That’s all for now – hope everyone is having a great weekend back at home. We’ll be back in 2 ½ weeks for thanksgiving!
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Poverty is complicated. People are complicated. These terms are messy and impossible to put in a box. I realize that by merely attempting to describe these words as “complicated” I am violating my previous statement.
I really want to write paint a picture of simplicity regarding the plight of the kids I’ve been hanging out with. I want to believe that they are ideal kids, perfect in manners, behavior, and very mature. If all of these factors held true then I would, every day, describe the time the kids spent laughing and enjoying themselves at lunch.
In light of these unfair expectations I think it’s important to recognize that these kids are just that – kids. In addition, they live incredibly tough lives and are being forced to handle situations, and the ages of 11 and 13, that none of us ever wants to face.
Today was tough. Don’t get me wrong, the kids and I still had a great time, but it went a little more complicated and deeper today. Our friend Nefret joined us and she was awesome with the kids. She also speaks some Spanish which was very helpful.
Usually they are upbeat, smiling, and happy when we eat. This alone is impressive, considering they are merely getting a short break from washing windshields and begging for money. Today, though, they all took turns being upset. While we were trying to order Kevin sat down in the corner, looking quite downtrodden. Nefret and I convinced him to get up, but the episode set the tone for the day. Later, Ninoska refused to eat; claiming that she ate a big breakfast and would rather draw. We didn’t really know how to handle this situation besides encouraging her to eat. After that Sonia was upset and Nefret and I couldn’t figure out the exact reason.
My best guess is that the kids might be getting a hard time from either family or friends since they get treated to lunch every day. Maybe this is untrue, but it’s the best I can come up with. If this is true, no wonder these kids are having trouble dealing with the situation. No wonder they weren’t completely overjoyed to be there with us. I wouldn’t be either if I knew I was going to be pressured afterwards. Again, this is just my conjecture so who knows what the real reasons are.
Despite these incidents we still had a great time. As usual we spent a solid hour after we finished eating drawing and learning a few new English words. Nefret brought along a bunch of clothes so this morning we went through and picked out outfits for each of the kids. They seemed really excited about them. All of them held the clothes to their noses and smelled them, obviously quite pleased that they were new.
During lunch Sonia showed us some cuts she had gotten after falling in the street. One in particular looked like it might be infected so after we said goodbye to the kids Nefret and I walked to the grocery store to buy some Neosporin.
Usually when I arrive to meet the kids they see me and come running before I see them. Because of this I’ve never seen the kids actually working. Since they weren’t expecting us to return with the Neosporin, however, we saw Sonia washing a car’s windshield and begging for some money. It was heartbreaking. Wasn’t this the girl who draws goofy pictures and laughs at my terrible Spanish? Although I knew what the kids do when they’re not with me I still had a hard time actually seeing them working. We were able to give her the medicine. Hopefully she uses it throughout the weekend.
Nefret and I then started walking to a coffee shop about 15 mins away when our good friend and neighbor Ramon pulled up on the side of the rode next to us and offered us a ride. Ramon is a very successful businessman and drives a Benz. He had to turn around to take us to the coffee shop, and in doing so we passed the kids working on the other side of the street.
The emotions I felt in that moment – driving by my friends the street kids in a Benz – capture the range and depth of thoughts and feelings I have here in
Often I struggle with how I should feel. How can rich people live with themselves when they see the immense poverty around them? This question gets uncomfortably convicting when I really think about it, since I have to label myself as a “rich person.”
With great frequency I ask general “why” questions like this only to find myself responsible for answering them.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
We are very excited - our friend Nefret is flying in tonight for a week! Somehow I am going to force myself to stay awake past 9pm to wait for her flight. This will be especially difficult if the baseball game is as boring as it was last night.
Today I again found myself learning a lesson about selflessness from my friends the street-kids. I arrived for lunch – they always seem to spot me far before I see them – and noticed they were extra giggly. We went to Metrocentro again and they excitedly asked for the camarones (shrimp) we had yesterday.
I had purchased some colored pencils yesterday which they enjoying using after we ate and practiced some English. As always, I received many beautiful pictures. I think our fridge will be covered by Tuesday at this pace! While the other kids were drawing pictures, Ninoska was quite focused on copying some sentences from a page she had brought. She was adamant about keeping her work a secret from me, telling me not to look repeatedly.
As we were about ready to leave Ninoska handed me un regalo (a gift) wrapped in a plastic bag and the note she had worked so hard on. In addition to Ninoska’s kind thank-you note the kids had brought me a pair of sunglasses. Their mother sells them to cars stopped at traffic lights, and the kids said they had all chipped in and picked out a pair. The parable of The Widow's Offering, when Jesus values the poor widow's contribution of two coins over much larger, yet not as heartfelt, offerings from the rich, came to mind.
I was so touched that these kids, who have virtually nothing, were generous enough to get me a present. Even more moving was their excitement to give it to me. I can’t help but think of much of Henri Nouwen’s writings in his journal Gracias. He repeatedly observes the simple, childlike faith held by the poor. Those without the false temptations of security, power, and importance that are inherent with wealth can often recognize truth easier. The poor are forced to face the reality of their situations without the masks of money, success, reputations, and jobs that we – I – like to turn to.
This pure, unpolluted faith is what we’re all called to seek. I was reminded of Mark 10:15 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the
More to come soon, but just wanted to post that link.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Another day in
Lauren went off to work and I did a little more research on graduate schools and internships before heading off to have lunch with my friends who clean windshields. I was determined to exercise some demons and again took the bus, despite yesterday’s difficulties. The 106 and the 119 treated me very well today, and I made it to Metrocentro in about 30 minutes.
The kids spotted me when I was about 50 yards away and came running up to greet me. The five from yesterday, Carlos, Milton, Ninoska, Sonia, and Kevin, along with two more kids circled around me and started speaking way too quickly for me to understand. After a few minutes Sonia’s mother came over; she sells sunglasses on the street, and there was some issue about who was allowed to join me for lunch. Initially Sonia’s mother sent her back to work, meaning she would not eat with us. I realized how much I enjoyed her company by how upset I became. I tried my best to convince her mother to let her come, and eventually she consented. There was more discussion and eventually the regular five and a little boy named Ysaac were allowed to come.
These kids work on the streets for most of the day so clearly their experiences have forced them to grow up prematurely. Underneath all of the poverty, dirt, and hunger, however, they are still kids. Sonia and Ninoska excitedly brought with them plastic bags of clean clothes to change into. They hurried off to the bathroom and emerged smiling like they had just put on their prom dresses. It was an adorable scene. I have been thinking about how to most accurately describe that moment. Maybe the best way of putting it is perhaps I got a glimpse of how God sees us. Hopefully that makes sense, it’s hard to explain.
The kids wanted to eat at Pollo Campero again so we again ordered a family meal and found a place to sit. I had already eaten yesterday when I took them to lunch and they had insisted that today I dine with them. I went to get more plates and when I returned they had given out the food, placing a huge breast, an entire bag of fries, and a soda at my place. Although this might not seem substantial, I found it telling of their generosity since not only did they give me the biggest piece of chicken but also there weren’t enough fries or cups to go around. These street kids were more concerned with me, a rich American, getting a good meal than their own wellbeing. Amazing. They spurned my attempts to trade pieces of chicken, and eventually complied when I told them I wasn’t very hungry. Only when I pulled out my water bottle and told them I would rather drink that did Ninoska accept the soda. It was quite humbling.
We had a great time learning some English words for foods and household items as well as drawing pictures and doing math problems. When they asked me if I had a big house in the
At one point Sonia asked me (this took about 5 repetitions and hand motions for me to understand) if I was spending a lot of money on these lunches. How does one respond to that? I told them it was fine, not a problem. They then insisted that on Friday they would only eat ice cream because I was spending too much on their food. Again, I was humbled by their selflessness. I did my best to tell them they could get whatever they want on Friday, hopefully my point got across.
I’ve been thinking a good amount about how I can best serve the kids. My friend Andrew gave me good advice, telling me, “You want to give them a tool, not a crutch.” I know that simply taking the kids to lunch is not a permanent answer to their problems. I am hoping that the small amount of English I teach them is a helpful skill. Most importantly, though, I hope that they feel loved, cared for, and special for a couple hours a day. I’m excited to see them again tomorrow.
Monday, October 22, 2007
After spending much of the morning at home looking at potential graduate school options I decided to get out and enjoy the nice day. Our landlady, Doña Norma, happened to by driving by so I was able to stop her and show her our broken oven and leaky sink. Supposedly she is sending someone to fix both issues tomorrow, but it’s
I wanted to go visit my friends Sonia, Kevin, and Ninoska, the street kids I had lunch with on Friday and debated whether to take a bus or a taxi to the Metrocentro area. I decided on the bus and boarded the trusty 117 near our house. The bus was fairly crowded – I was forced to stand – but not too bad. A few stops later, however, about 25 more people boarded the bus and I understood that, out of necessity, Nicaraguans do not have the respect for personal space that I’m accustomed to. I was holding onto a pole, sweating like crazy, apologizing for my backpack being right in this woman’s face. At this point I started to question my choice to take the bus.
Any doubt I had that I should have paid the $1.50 for a taxi was erased when we picked up about 10 more people at the next stop. Although I don’t usually have any problems with claustrophobia I was starting to get a bit uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to move, much less get off, when we reached my stop, so I rode the bus for another 10 minutes or so until I could squeeze through and reach the back door. I realized I was near the Huembes market, quite far from Metrocentro, and took a cab to meet the kids. Lesson learned – don’t take the bus during the lunch hour! :)
I walked through Metrocentro and out to the street where I had met the kids on Friday. I didn’t see them at first but I guess that they saw me, as they ran across the street and gave me big hugs. They asked me what I had for dinner last night, and when I told them “chicken and rice” they told me, laughing, they had “solo uñas” for dinner. It took me a couple seconds but I remembered that “uñas” means “fingernails.”
Two of their friends, Milton and Carlos, joined and we headed into the food court for lunch. On the way the girls wanted to stop at the bathroom so the fellas and I hung out and waited in front of one of the shops nearby. A security guard approached us and started ushering the kids away. Only when I told him that they were with me did he stop bothering them. After the girls rejoined us and we started walking towards the stairs, passing him along the way. I heard him say on his radio “cinco niños…” I remembered that the kids were hesitant to enter Metrocentro because they were wearing dirty clothes, and now I realized why.
We enjoyed a nice lunch of pollo frito (fried chicken) from Pollo Campero. At one point I asked if they wanted to learn English and they all excitedly responded, “si!” So, thus commenced our informal English lessons. We learned the English words for all of the food we were eating as well as how to say, “my name is,” and some numbers.
After lunch we walked back to the corner where the kids work and I promised to meet them again tomorrow for lunch and more English lessons. We hugged goodbye and I started walking up the street. About 30 seconds later I heard the kids calling my name and saw them running up to me, wanting to walk with me to the next major road. They starting talking about lunch tomorrow and, after repeating their sentences many times, I finally understood that they were telling me they were going to bring ropa limpia (clean clothes) to lunch tomorrow.
I loved eating with the kids today and am looking forward to tomorrow’s meeting. Maybe none of my attempts at finding a job are working out so I would be free to hang out with some street kids during the day. Who knows? I am learning, albeit reluctantly and quite slowly, to stop asking “why?” and instead pose the hypothetical question, “why not?”
Sunday, October 21, 2007
21 de Octubre
I have returned!
It has certainly been long enough since I have contributed to this blog – and I apologize for my absence. I think that I’ve been a little silent on the blog front as I’ve been trying to process all that I witnessed in the past week. But, it’s been long enough. I am now ready to share about my first week at the orphanage…
This past week has been unbelievable. I spent everyday, Monday through Friday, at the orphanage working with the kids. Perhaps it would help to start from the beginning…
When Dylan and I first started planning this trip, I knew if I was going to be serving down here, I wanted to be working with children that were not regularly receiving visitors and support – children that were in need of being shown some additional love and attention. Back in June, when I first met the children from Hogar de Douglas orphanage, my heart melted. I knew that was where I wanted to be spending my time. In June, the orphanage was located in a very small setting – overcrowded and understaffed. The majority of the children were sick, had head lice and ringworm and had never even seen a toothbrush.
On Monday morning, when Keren came to pick me up to bring me to the orphanage, she informed me that they had relocated. Much to my amazement, when I arrived at the new orphanage – I could not have imagined a greater blessing. The orphanage itself is enormous in comparison to the old grounds. The children look so healthy, clean and happy. It was as if I was looking at an entirely different group of children than I first saw four months ago.
Immediately upon seeing me, the children scrambled to give me hugs, shouting “Tia! Tia!” again and again (tia is aunt in Spanish). There was such simple joy in their faces at the prospect of having a visitor, a new playmate – and their excitement just continued to grow when they learned that I would be working with them through the end of January.
Since Monday, I have come to learn the names of all 13 children currently living at the orphanage. They range in age from about 15 months to 8 years old.
Poncho, the man who runs the orphanage, thankfully speaks some English and so we are able to communicate with one another. On Monday we established a basic schedule that I should work from around 10-3 or 4. The older children attend school about a mile-and-a-half away from the orphanage from 7-12 in the mornings, so I work with the younger children in the mornings. That means that we spend about an hour practicing colors, counting to 10, learning how to say please and thank you. Granted, you must realize that this is as much a school lesson for me as it is for the children – as it is entirely in Spanish. Except I am the one teaching the Spanish. After their school lesson, we usually play with legos – allowing me a chance to quiz them on the colors they practiced that morning and then spend a bit of time sitting in the front room – me with about 4 small children piled onto my lap in a rocking chair and the rest scattered about my feet chattering with each other. During this time we attempt to practice simple English words like mom and dad; however, if I’m being honest, it generally deteriorates to rounds of the face game.
Then, around 12 or I leave to pick up the older children from school. Sometimes I walk by myself, sometimes Poncho or one of the other women from the orphanage come with me. As I said, the school is about a mile-and-a-half from the orphanage, and by the time I arrive at the school, the children are never done with their lessons. So, I usually sit on the steps to their school room and listen in. I am not really sure how they determine who attends the school or not, but I have discovered that anywhere from 5 to 8 of the children from the orphanage attend the school on any given day. Once school is over, we spend a few minutes getting everyone situated, piling me up with everyone’s schoolbags, and then we all hold hands and get started on our way back to the orphanage. It has become a bit of a tradition that we stop at this little man’s shop along the way home to get a small snack. The shop has a big covered, marble porch where we all huddle together eating snack and everyone goes around the circle and tells me – in very slow Spanish how their day went. Once everyone finishes, we continue on our way back home. If it’s nice out, we make another stop in the park that we pass through on the way home. We usually spend about 30 minutes or so there playing on the swings and racing around the park until everyone’s too hot and sweaty and ready to head back.
By the time we make it back to the orphanage it’s usually time for lunch. While all of the children sit down to eat, it has become my responsibility to feed baby Kevin. Kevin is somewhere around 15 months old and absolutely priceless. Around on the dot, regardless of whether lunch has been brought out yet, he finds me and climbs up in my lap (we usually eat in the rocking chair). So, I spend lunch time feeding Kevin and then we rock until he falls asleep with a full belly.
After lunch, everyone gets a bit of free time. Generally we all sit in the front room and the older children like to teach me silly Spanish songs that I do not understand while the younger kids continue to play with legos, calling out the names of the colors of the blocks as they build. As they get bored, we move on to reading one of the books that’s usually lying around – this almost always winds up being an English copy of Jingle Bells. I am not sure what the fascination with this story is – but the children love to admire the colorful pictures of Santa – despite the fact that they do not understand the words I read to them; however, the colorful pictures provide a perfect opportunity for us to practice the colors that we are learning.
When free time ends, the children again split into two groups – younger and older – and sit down at their respective tables for homework time. It is my responsibility to work with some of the younger children (ranging from 3-6). Each of the children has a blank notebook that I write their daily lessons in. Last week we practiced writing the numbers 1-20 and then learned how to do la suma (addition), subtraction and multiplication. Again, I must remind you – this is all in Spanish. Imagine how difficult it was the first time you were learning how to count or add and subtract – and then imagine if some random person who didn’t speak your language tried to teach you. Precisely. As much as I am struggling to teach in Spanish – these children are showing remarkable intelligence. They are grasping the concepts much quicker than I would have imagined – especially considering my very broken Spanish instructions. Once our number lessons are over, we work on the alphabet for a little bit and then practice simple Spanish sentences. In order to do this, I write sentences (or numbers or math problems, etc.) at the top of each page in their notebooks and then they work through them each day. We do this for about an hour-and-a-half until the children begin to lose patience.
Then – we move on to the English lessons. All of the children above 3 gather together and we practice a new English lesson each day. Last week we focused on learning the numbers 1-10. The children have made remarkable progress – and are so eager to learn. In addition to the numbers, they have also learned the primary colors, mom, dad, please and thank you.
Poncho has explained much to me about life at the orphanage. Almost all of the children have parents that are still alive. In fact, every Friday is parents’ day. Friday mornings the parents come to visit their children and see how they are doing. The majority of the children were placed in the orphanage because their homes were violent/abusive or their parents could not afford to care for them. On Thursday, I witnessed my first parent visit. The mother of two of the boys at the orphanage came a day early for her visit. She came weighted down with bags of popcorn, candy and soda. I watched as she sat outside with the boys, chatting with them as if this was normal. I suppose it is, but I just couldn’t understand. Along with the boys and their mother was a girl – I would guess about 12 or 13 – the boys’ sister; apparently her mother had decided not to give her up, only the boys. When they left, the older of the two boys sobbed and sobbed, questioning how God could possibly do this. “Doesn’t my mother love me?” he kept asking between sobs. I watched, teary eyed, as Miguel, his younger brother, hugged and comforted him. Miguel calmed his brother and whispered to him that he loved him, no matter what happened. Then, the brothers came over to me and we just rocked in the rocking chair together as I tried to understand how this all made sense. How is it that a 6 year old boy should have to comfort his 7 year old brother? How does a mother come to keep her daughter and abandon her sons? I witnessed this and just struggled to find God at work.
Then, on Friday, Poncho told me that I should come a little later in the afternoon so that the children could have time with their parents. So, instead of arriving around 10, I delayed my arrival until . When I arrived I found half the orphanage in tears. No one’s parents showed up for the parents visit. The majority of the children were crying, asking again and again where their mom or their dad was. “Why would God do this to me?” I listened to one of the older girls ask. “Why doesn’t my mother love me enough to be here?” How do you respond to that? What words are there to comfort a five year old child that seems to be repeatedly abandoned by their parents? And where exactly was God in the midst of this?
But as I held the children that afternoon, I started to realize – he is in every one of them – he is in each one of those children. I watched as the older children went around and sat with the younger children, hugging them and whispering consoling words to them. I watched them see God’s love in each other. Slowly, they each put aside their own struggles to care for those of the younger and the weaker. And despite the enormous disappointment that they faced that morning – they still had so much love to offer to one another.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Another ridiculous day in
During the ride we found out that Walter works for a cell phone company and lives far away. That’s about the limit of dept my conversations in Spanish can reach. Upon reaching Metrocentro he asked to exchange emails and phone numbers. Only in
We bought the phone cards and Lauren headed to catch her bus while I went to the coffee shop to read since I wasn’t due to meet Roberto at Scooter King until . He generously offered to drive me around and look at automatic scooters, despite the fact that we’d be visiting his competitors. I finished Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved. I didn’t know much about the book before buying it but have always been a huge fan of his. He didn’t let me down.
The book is Nouwen’s attempt to appeal to seekers. He attempts to avoid Christian lingo and any assumed familiarity with “religion.” The relation between the book’s form and content is quite clearly intentional. The book is simply a letter to his friend Fred, who prompted him to write the book. The informal, intimate mode is a perfect medium in which Nouwen states, then expounds upon, the simple message, “You are beloved.” He encourages Fred to consider the notion that God loves him and discusses the ramifications for Fred’s life if he truly believed this. Nouwen beautifully describes the life of the beloved, in which one possesses an inner peace which allows life’s struggles to be viewed as simply a way to become closer to the Lord. Although Nouwen’s intended audience was seekers I was extremely challenged.
After finishing the book I sat pondering Nouwen’s assertion that “our life is the greatest gift to give.” Nouwen’s statement reminded me of 2 Corinthians 5:14,15 – “Jesus died for us that we might not live for ourselves but for Him.” What if I really took that seriously? So often I don’t want to. I love being in control of my life. To die to myself is to completely give up control, an intimidating thought.
With these questions dancing in my head I headed up the street to get some lunch at the sushi place on the way to Scooter King. Practically as soon as I reached the main road I was approached by two street children – kids who wash windshields at stoplights and hope for a
Over greasy chicken, fries, and cokes I got to know Sonia, Ninoska, and Kevin. Sonja, a cousin of the other two, is a third grader who likes soccer and wants to be a doctor. Ninoska is a fifth grader who wishes to help poor kids when she grows up. Kevin is a huge baseball, basketball, and fulbol Americano fan who likes studying math in the 3rd grade. He wants to be a sports commentator.
I felt like I was having a meal with my cousins instead of with kids who go to school in the morning and beg for money in the afternoon. We drew pictures, told jokes, and laughed at my terrible Spanish. The kids thanked me profusely for the meal. I was struck by their selflessness. Sonja took great pleasure in serving us our food, with herself last. Ninoska and Sonja wrapped up their leftovers for their families. The kids asked for my phone numbers and promised to call.
I’m writing about this story first and foremost to note how easy it is to forget the joy that comes with service. I fall victim to this every day. My brief time with the street kids was a much-needed reminder that they way of the Cross, living for others, really does bring about true peace and contentment. This notion is completely illogical in our society, which thrives on competition, and thus requires us to place ourselves out of our comfort zones. God promises to be faithful in claiming that giving of oneself really is a blessing. One merely has to look to his example – “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many," – Matthew .
I met Roberto around 2pm and he took me around to six different dealerships to look at scooters. I didn’t end up buying one, as the cheapest one was $1,320, but I thoroughly enjoying spending time with him. He went to college in
Roberto gave me many warning about places to avoid in
I also had a chance to talk to him about faith. He asked what my religion was, and I struggled through telling him that I don’t follow a denomination. He told me that he doesn’t follow any religion because he has trouble juxtaposing the Church, with all of its money, with all of the problems in the world. “Jesus was poor. He spent time with poor people,” he told me. I agreed, acknowledging that the Church has made many mistakes, then noted that I try to base my life on Christ’s because of the very reasons he put forth. It was a great conversation. We’re trying to meet up to watch baseball sometime soon.
The Lord is good. Living here has made me realize many of my shortcomings, which in turn has led me to rely on Him for strength. I have been so blessed by the Nicaraguan people as they continuously offer their assistance to me and show me what service looks like. At times I’ve struggled immensely with missing people back home but, again and again, God has used prayer and the support of family and friends to keep me going. I am so grateful to be here. Although there are many peaks and valleys I’m starting to realize more and more that God is not calling me to be “successful” here, but rather to merely seek Him in everything I do and everyone I meet.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Every day seems to bring forth new challenges and blessings. I am sure that this is as true in the
For the first three days of the week I’ve made excursions in the morning but then just been relaxing back here in the afternoons. The down time has been nice but I’m itching to do something to serve and experience more of the country so I called my friend Brad and asked if I could go with him to the Colegio Cristiano La Esperanza (
The school is located in La Chureca, the trash dump in
At the beginning of the day I joined Brad while he helped with the preschoolers. I enjoyed watching and listening to them all sing songs and have fun. Their teacher, Norman, a 21-year old Nicaraguan, reviewed weather vocabulary before moving onto time. Brad and I decided to go visit the clinic, located right behind the school, since I’ve never been. The clinic is small and sparsely decorated. Brad told me that only about 10-15 people go to the clinic each day, a staggeringly low number considering the odds of staying healthy in such atrocious living conditions. He explained that the people can’t afford to give up valuable time they could have been working.
We left the clinic and decided to walk around a bit to get a better feel for the community. I am realizing how much I enjoy just simply seeing and experiencing
Ever since March 2006, when I first visited La Chureca, I’ve had no trouble believing that hell must resemble what goes on there. This is not a unique parallel to make, in fact it’s often hard to avoid after experiencing the place. Brad told me many things about the dump of which I was completely unaware and gave me even more trouble in understanding La Chureca. He put it very well when he said, “I’ve always known La Chureca is hell. Now, after hearing what I did yesterday, I think it’s hell for many more reasons.”
My understanding of La Chureca, before today, was that those who live there have no other options. I believed that the residents were financially forced to live there and sort through the trash for a small amount of money. Turns out, for many families, it’s not that simple. Brad told me that a significant number of families choose to live in La Chureca because they can practically escape from the requirements of everyday life. For instance, drug and alcohol use are rampant, as is sex, prostitution, often of young teenage girls, and domestic violence. The police won’t bother those living in the dump, though, allowing all of these activities to flourish. He said that he was told that virtually every girl has had sex, often as a result of abuse, by the start of her teenage years. Although this storyline is certainly not applicable to every family it does make the dump even more confusing and upsetting.
I asked Brad if the kids know enough to realize that there is life outside of the dump. He responded that they do, as they watch tv from time to time, but they don’t believe they are worthy or able to live any other way than they do. Logically, Brad said, the kids have significant problems with self-esteem. Rarely do they receive much support from their parents, who, as one could imagine, are often dealing with many complicated issues of their own. The kids can’t envision themselves doing anything other than following in their parents’ footsteps.
When Brad and I left the school around lunchtime we planned on walking through the dump-city to get to the bus stop. A truck happened to be driving by so we jumped onto the back and held on while the driver swerved to avoid holes and huge puddles. I sat in silence as I witnessed the people of La Chureca at work. The truck made a turn back into the dump so Brad and I jumped off the still-moving vehicle and into the mud. We walked the last ¼ mile or so out of the dump back to the street.
As I walked past people I felt upset, sick, angry, and confused. How does this exist? Before today I thought that the answer was to simply blame to owner of the dump, who rents the land to the government and therefore makes money off of La Chureca. While he certainly deserves a lion’s share of the blame, pinning him as the sole culprit would be irresponsible and ignorant. What about the people who choose to feed their addictions in the anarchist community rather than care for their kids? However, I recognize the power of addictions and therefore realize I should be more concerning with offering support rather than casting blame. What about the citizens of
I’ll leave you with quick anecdote that best describes my experience at the dump today. Brad and I were sitting and watching a teacher lead a group of kids in song. The kids were having a wonderful time singing and acting out the motions which accompanied the song. I looked over and saw one boy, happily participating, covered in flies. He had a substantial cut on his nose which, along with his level of cleanliness, attracted a swarm of flies. Here he was, though, singing and dancing with everyone else, unaware, or perhaps more appropriately, not believing that he, as a child of God, deserves a better life. Watching this boy broke my heart. I think this story speaks volumes not only about the inherent goodness and beautiful nature of children, but also the terrible lie that we often believe; that we’re not good enough or not worthy to be loved, have dreams, or even simply to be clean.
My prayer for La Chureca is not groundbreakingly unique, but I do believe it could have unspeakably huge ramifications. I pray that the kids simply realize how much God loves them and that they can see Him reflected in their faces and in their lives. If only they could see themselves how God sees them; as his beautiful and perfect children, whom he passionately and fiercely loves.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Hey! I had an enjoyable morning so I want to write to share a bit.
Lauren and I were walking through our neighborhood to the bus stop when a Mercedes slowed down next to us and a man asked us, in English, where we were going. When he heard we were going to catch a bus he offered us a ride, which we clearly accepted. Turns out the man, Ramon, lives in this baller house just outside of our apartment complex. He’s a powerbroker who works for the NYSE. If I didn’t know we were in
I then visited Compassion and found out that Maria Jose is sick today but that she would call me as soon as she comes back into the office. Afterwards I stopped by Catholic Relief Services, located about 3 blocks from Compassion, to get some information. The director was out of town but I was able to get a brochure describing, in English, their work in
After visiting CRS I took a bus to Cetro
The attitudes of servitude displayed by Ramon and Roberto are yet more examples of the beautiful nature of Nicaraguans and Nicaraguan society. Lauren and I have been the recipients of more unsolicited help than we could ever dreamed of. A businessman gives us a ride and ends up repeatedly thanking us. A salesman spends his own time and energy trying to help me in my job search.
These events are particularly noteworthy to me since I am re-reading Henri Nouwen’s Gracias right now. The book is Nouwen’s journal from his time in Latin American in the 1980s. Nouwen expresses thoughts, emotions, and reflections that I resonate with yet am incapable of expressing with the eloquence and depth with which he writes. He also challenges me to recognize God here. Our experiences, while different in the basics of where we are, who we’re serving, etc., are strikingly similar.
One observation Nouwen makes is that he went to
I’m sure I’ll more about Nouwen later. He is my favorite writer. If you get a chance to pick up Gracias you should, as it is basically this blog although about 5,000,000 times more introspective, challenging, and better written.
This post is long enough. Hope you are well.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Yesterday was fairly ordinary. The highlights of the day were going to church and having Esmir and Brad over to watch football in the afternoon. It rained quite a bit, forcing us to stay inside and merely stare at the pool through the window.
Church was pretty cool yesterday. We watched a video clip about Team Hoyt. If you don’t know their story, and even if you do, it’s definitely worth watching. The son, Rick, was born with cerebral palsy and cannot walk or talk. After his father, Dick, pushed him in his wheelchair in a benefit race in 1977, Rick communicated that he didn’t feel handicapped when they were racing. Since then they have competed in over 65 marathons, 200 triathlons, and biked/ran across the country. It’s an amazing story of a father loving his son. I cry every time I see the video, and today was no exception.
This morning I went to Compassion to talk with Maria Jose but found that she is in training all day. I left my number and she is supposed to call sometime. I figure I will probably head back there tomorrow sometime. If it’s meant to be it will work out. Otherwise, I’m sure there is something else I am supposed to be a part of that that will be revealed in due time.
I took a couple buses home from Compassion today, which was a good experience. It was nice to get the routes figured out. Hopefully I remember which ones to take and don’t hop on the wrong one next time! When I was walking home from the bus stop I saw a man driving a pick up truck who looked just like my friend Andrew Caffrey. It was uncanny.
Right now Lauren is at the orphanage she will be working with. I can’t wait until she gets home and tells me all about it. Tonight we’re meeting a friend of a friend from WM for dinner. She happens to be studying here and it’s always nice to meet another person from the States.
One other interesting thing - our neighbor seems to be quite fond of ridiculously cheesy American love songs. Usually we hear Mariah Carey or Celine Dion. Today we heard "Take my Breath Away" from Top Gun at full volume. It was tight.
Alright, I’m out. Hope all is well back at home. Be sure to watch that Hoyt video if you are interested.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
new birthday pictures posted:
new birthday pictures posted:
Yesterday was my birthday celebration, perhaps the ultimate day of Nicaraguan success thus far. I started my morning rewashing the clothes that I have washed two previous times, but that just never manage to dry on the clothesline due to the incessant rain. As a result, they pretty much permanently smell of mold and mildew. I woke early and thought that I might take advantage of the brief sunshine, and quickly rewashed and hung my clothes. Unfortunately, the sun did not last long enough – and my clothes were soaked by the rain about an hour later. Perhaps the fourth times the charm? We shall see.
Anyways, sometime later Dylan and I stopped by La Union (the supermercado) to stock up on groceries and supplies for my birthday fiesta. What exactly happens at a Nicaraguan birthday party? What are you supposed to serve people? Dylan and I certainly had no idea. Our plan, if anyone questioned, was merely to exclaim that whatever we were serving them and offering for entertainment was how things were done in the states – figuring no one could question us.
After loading up with groceries and party supplies - including a rainbow and cloud themed cake (that the baker managed to drop, thus smudging about 2 inches of the blue sky frosting – we were hoping for a discount after still agreeing to take the cake, but no such luck), the grocery store guy helped load us and all of our groceries inside a taxi in the midst of the downpour, all the while ensuring that I, and my precious rainbow cake, were shaded from the rain. We were set for the party – a semi-broken piñata, my frosting smudged birthday cake, a stocked fridge, and lots of Nicaraguan snacks.
Again, the incessant rain put a bit of a halt to our original plans of a pool party, but we quickly adjusted. Last week I had casually mentioned to Esmir that I would like 23 coconuts, chopped out of the trees by the pool, as a birthday present (what doesn’t taste better when drunk out of a coconut?). So, when Esmir arrived, he quickly grabbed Dylan’s newly purchased machete and headed out towards the pool. Obviously, we all followed. Esmir dragged one of the poolside chairs over to one of the coconut trees and scrambled up the back of the chair so that he could more easily hack the coconuts off. As I watched, wide eyed, Don Luis (the guard) comes running out of his security post arms waving. My first reaction – Dylan and I are done for. We are going to be kicked out of the neighborhood for defiling the community garden. But, again, I must remind myself, we are in
Once again, Don Luis comes scurrying out of his security post, arms waving. This time – Esmir had not noticed the wooden cutting board nestled into the ground – again, for just this purpose. Oh
Other than that – the rest of the evening was delightful. Dylan and I had no idea who to expect at the party, as we had not requested anyone to rsvp – but we had about 10 guests show up for the party. Who knew we even had 10 Nicaraguan friends? We spent the majority of the afternoon with everyone crowded around our little living room area, the soccer game on in the background, while everyone chatted and got to know one another over drinks, snacks, pizza and cake. Did I mention that our pizza was delivered – in the midst of the downpour – on the back of two mopeds? Anything can happen in
Over cake and ice cream, Angel – our friend from Momotombo (the real estate agency) regaled us with stories about all sorts of ridiculous “Nicaraguan” healing soups – cockroach soup – or tea if you prefer – to heal a cough, rat soup (according to Angel, all meat in Nicaragua is made of rat – they just don’t tell you. But don’t worry, we’re pretty positive this is a lie.). Granted these stories came out after Brad told us about starved tape worms emerging from people’s mouths into a cup of milk and cockroaches getting stuck in people’s noses for two weeks before dying and falling out. Perfect cake conversation, don’t you think?
Unfortunately, the piñata did not make it into our celebrations last night – but he is now hanging (quite literally) from our staircase, on display. We have decided it might be best to save him for a party with the kiddies. In the meantime, he serves as the sole decoration in our home.
All in all, I believe it was definitely a birthday celebration for the memory books. I am so blessed to have been surrounded by friends and to have been able to celebrate and have such a wonderful time down here.
Much love to you all.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
2 - This morning I made a big stack of chocolate pancakes and ate them, along with a chocolate slim fast shake. I pictured myself sitting at the Nautilus Diner in Timonium with my father. The only thing missing was the small jukebox on the table. It was lovely.
Friday, October 12, 2007
We finished our two-week session of language school today! I think we’re going to try to squeeze in some more classes once we get our work schedules figured out. I went to Compassion today but need to go back on Monday because the lady I needed to talk to was in a meeting. So, I’ll head back there on Monday morning and hopefully we can work something out!
We’re looking forward to Lauren’s birthday party tomorrow! We invited our Spanish teachers and we think they might actually come. Some other friends have told us they’re coming so it should be lots of fun. We’re just hoping the rain holds off and we can enjoy the pool. Lauren and I are having trouble deciding what to serve. We’re hoping to get inspired at the grocery store tomorrow.
Today was fairly uneventful, which was fine with us. Lauren took a walk to the real estate office to drop off a thank you note and party invitation while I went to the outdoor market to buy a piñata, bucket, and water cooler. I made a poor decision by purchasing the piñata within 2 minutes of arriving and thus was forced to carry a 4-foot Pooh bear around the market trying to find the other items. It was comical. The highlight of my day came when I purchased a machete for about $2.50. I plan on using it to cut down some bananas and coconuts growing outside our apartment. I do feel more manly just having bought it, though.
It’s almost so it’s about my bedtime. Hope all is well. We miss you all very much, thanks for all of the support!!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
El Jueves, 11 de Octubre
So, apparently I have some catching up to do. Again. It’s funny that I don’t really have much to do here in
But first, let me just celebrate this one large feat – we have internet! Okay, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Dylan and I started our day off fairly strong – I was feeling a bit better and we were both ready to face a day of school (with only three days left, we were thinking we could both handle it…). After finally catching a taxi to school, the downpour began (and lasted the majority of our day). Once at school – I received the news that I was being assigned new teachers. No longer would Claudia and Hanzel – my English speaking, very enjoyable Spanish tutors – be my tutors. Instead, I faced two hours of conversation with Eva – who speaks not a word of English – but, happily looks up every other word in her Spanish/English dictionary – and then two hours of grammar with Jema – Dylan’s tutor – who also speaks not a word of English. Unfortunately, Jema is not such a fan of the Spanish/English dictionary and so we struggled through our time together. While I was in the midst of my translational battles, Dylan was busy taking his exam to move up to Spanish level 3. Needless to say, as Dylan is such a stellar student, he passed the exam with flying colors and is now a successful Spanish level 3er.
After class we rushed home to meet Angel (our real estate friend) who was to serve as mediator between us and the CableNet people – who were coming to fix our internet. After less than fix minutes of computer tinkering, our internet was up and running. So, other than the blackouts, Dylan and I are now successfully connected to the digital world of communication. As a result, we spent the remainder of our evening taking advantage of our new connection and catching up with everyone back home.
Did I mention that somewhere in the midst of all that Dylan managed to carry a five gallon tank of water home – about 2 miles – instead of getting a taxi? He’s a baller.
Now, for today’s adventures…
Dylan and I are both feeling much better. We are attributing this to that 5 gallon tank that Dylan carried home yesterday. Well worth it.
Class today was a struggle – but good. Only one more day to go. Again, I struggled through my time with Eva and Jema – but had a brief break while I took my exam to move up to level 2. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the results of that exam – but I am feeling rather confident about my performance. Hopefully level two will begin tomorrow…
Not much happened today….
Dylan filled out invitations for my fiesta on Saturday. I am getting very excited to see what will come of this. Tomorrow we are stopping by the market to pick up a piñata. I promise we will be sure to post pictures of Saturday’s entertainment. Other than that, we have cooked our first batch of beans today. According to the instructions, they should have only needed four hours of cooking time – but, we cooked them from about 7:30 this morning until 9:30 tonight (minus that three hour blackout). They seem to be slow-cook beans. Tomorrow we are planning on consuming beans with all three of our meals. It should be delicious.
Okay – I think that is all for now. Again, I apologize if it appeared that we had disappeared for awhile.
I am looking forward to the end of our intensive language study, as it suggests the start of our service work down here. I am anxiously anticipating all that next week may offer – in terms of new adventures and new possibilities.
Thank you all again for your continued support and encouragement.
Miss you all.