Thursday, December 18, 2014

Accomplishments

Hello!

I've been back in the States for a little over a week now, and while I love seeing my friends and family here, I gotta say, guys: I'm missing Nica. Weird, right?! Every time I come home, I don't think about Nica at all whatsoever because it's hard to think about Nica when you're so busy stuffing your face with hamburgers and hot dogs since, you know, that's what all Americans eat three times a day every day. Actually, I really miss Nicaragua because I feel like I've finally gotten into the right place and a great routine down there. So yes, I miss it! However, instead of continuing whining, a skill in which I exceed, I will fill everyone in on the events that took place before I came home.

For starters, I finally did one of the things I've been the most afraid to do during my whole time in Nicaragua: drive.

"I'm Erling Téllez and I approve this message."
Anyone who has been to Nicaragua, or Central America for that matter, understands what a big risk that is! Here is the basic principle of driving in Nicaragua: You and ONLY YOU have the right of way - not pedestrians, not any other vehicle, not roadkill, only you. You don't have to wait for anybody. You just go as fast as you can and if anyone dares to get in your way, it's their fault, not yours! It sounds nice until you're on the receiving end. In retrospect, it probably wasn't that big of a deal, but nonetheless, it was another goal accomplished! On this particular day, we went with a group of friends in our hall to a beach in Corinto. It was a great afternoon spent with people who have become great friends.

Us with Erling, Rebecca, Jennifer, & Douglas.
Another major accomplishment occurred, but for Ben and Bree: they did their first demonstration in Spanish together. It was the demo about starting a Bible study on the first Saturday of the month, and they smashed it.

As for what happened next, well...remember San Cristobal? The volcano adjacent to Chinandega? Remember how it erupted right when I arrived in town in September 2012?

Remember how it erupted again just three months later and spewed ash all over town, resulting in many damaged lungs and evacuations?
Yeah, I was walking to get my morning coffee that day when I looked up and saw THIS.
Well, we hiked it last week! (Kids, please do not look to me as a good example.)

Actually, we semi-hiked it. We wanted to reach the top by sunrise, mainly because hiking it in the hot sun would've tripled the difficulty. That involved staying up until 2:00 AM and riding with the tour guides to a farm where the trail began. The drive to the farm was supposed to take about an hour, but the road was pretty rough - rough, but not impossible to navigate. All that is required is some ambition and work ethic, neither of which our truck driver had. We weren't even halfway to the farm when we got stuck in a rough patch of the road. We could have easily made it out and did everything we could to guide our driver out of it, but he seriously would not listen to a word we said. He did the opposite of everything we suggested and even when we tried to smooth out the path for him, he refused to drive through. I can understand that it was 2:00 in the morning, man, but we're paying you for a service! We spent about 45 minutes arguing with him/trying to help him until we realized how much time we had wasted. He wasn't going to drive us there, so we had no choice but to just leave him (along with the truck) and walk to the farm ourselves.

Walking to the farm was a hike itself. It took about two hours, and it was just as physically exerting. We were supposed to reach the farm by 3:00 so we could make it to the top of the volcano by sunrise, but we didn't arrive at the farm until about 5:00. I would've preferred to just finish the whole hike anyway since we had already gotten that far, but I also had to leave for the airport at 4:30 that afternoon. Actually, I would've finished it anyway, but another brother in our group who was leaving on the same flight as I was still needed to get back to León to pack his things. All of that, along with the fact a few others in our group weren't feeling that well, led us to the decision to call it a day (or night? We all got mixed up!) and finish it another time. We were disappointed, but we didn't consider the trip a waste by any means! While we were waiting for another truck to come pick us up from the farm to bring us back into town, we still managed to hike up a portion of the trail to get some decent photos.

Pretty satisfying view!
I have to say, being able to view Chinandega from the volcano that has been the background in so many of my photos all this time was a very satisfying experience. For once, the town itself was in the background! It has been such an intriguing aspect of my time in Chinandega ever since I arrived, and it was very cool finally checking it out. Although we only did a portion of the hike, it still felt like another major accomplishment - this time, for all of us. 

Don't be fooled. The top was a lot further than it looked!
After making it back to town, it was a mad rush to get ready before I had to leave for the airport. I will say, though, that it was frustrating having lost an entire night's sleep and not finishing the hike! It really threw off the rest of the week, but I've managed to catch up on all that sleep now, thankfully. I even slept on the airplanes, which I've never been able to do! Now, I've got a few weeks left here in the States and then it's back to Chinatown. I'll report during that time if there's anything worth reporting!

The result of me checking to see if my camera timer was working. Apparently, it was.
Sidenote: I noticed that this page has now gotten over 25,000 visits. Thank you all for keeping up with me!

Take care,


Sam

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Sea House

Hello!

Yes, I know, I've missed a few weeks, but we've had a lot going on, which I will proceed to explain in this long post, so kick back, relax, and please keep your cursor away from that exit button!

A few weeks ago marked a historic event for some of our friends in La Norte as Bree showed them how to concoct one of the most intriguing concoctions in all of concoctivity: a burrito.

Before I get 37 comments saying, "Don't they eat burritos every day three times a day?", let me just tell you: No, they do not. Burritos are a Mexican dish. Mexican things come from Mexico. Mexico is not Nicaragua. Good night.

It was very entertaining to watch Bree show them the ropes. Although they turned out a tad too spicy, it was a smashing success, so much so that Mayerling demanded a copy of the recipe for herself! And, of course, yet again, the night had to turn into a mini-dance party.

My studies with Jorgito have been going well, and now, thanks to Eduardo and Zach, they've gotten even better. They came up with the idea to get all of the coloring and picture activities from the website bound into several books for the kids in Ojo, and they gave me a copy to give to Jorgito! I gave it to him on Friday and he loved it. We did the picture activity about Noah's ark and were able to have a good talk about the lessons learned. Since he and Sandra are attending meetings now, we also watched the new Caleb video about commenting.


Alright, now let me get to the big stuff. For the very first time, my parents came to visit Nicaragua! Actually, it wasn't just them. Bree's father, Lenny, and my sister, Kayla, also came down! They only had a week free to come down over Thanksgiving break, but we made the most of their time here. For starters, this is how they were welcomed at the very quiet airport:

  video

The fact that I'm writing this more than two weeks after the fact but still being able to vividly remember specific moments from their visit says a lot - my sister having an argument over getting ripped off within the first five minutes of their arrival, my parents not realizing that my friend Moisés could actually speak English, my mother bargaining with a street vendor, just so many moments. *Sigh.*

For starters, the Mainers spent the weekend in Chinandega to meet everyone and see where I've been hanging out all this time. It was a very surreal experience for me. I've been coming back and forth to Nicaragua for over three years now, and during that time, I had always imagined how my parents would act in different situations, and to see all of it become reality was worth the wait. After a day of kicking back at the nicest hotel in town (perks!), they came to La Norte's public meeting.

The Roberts & the Martins taking over Chinandega.
The meeting was a fun experience for everyone. We helped the visitors prepare their own comments and they all did a great job delivering them! It was also really nice for them to meet my friends in La Norte. Even though nobody had a language in common, everyone was nonetheless thrilled to meet each other. Sidenote: One of my studies, Edwin, came to that meeting with three of his seven kids! I was so happy, but I couldn't sit with his family and mine at the same time, so my friend Braulio looked after him for me. The kids also behaved perfectly for the whole duration. Hopefully, he'll come to more in the future!

Sunday was another memorable day. My dad, Kayla, and Lenny came out witnessing with us, an experience which can only be summed up by this picture:
Any caption ideas for what the man on the left is most likely thinking would be readily accepted.
Renee helping Kayla prepare for her turn.
All teasing aside (well, maybe not all), it was one of the most memorable mornings of service I've ever had. In addition to everyone being troopers by walking in the hot sun and humid air for two full hours, seeing them willingly participate with their simple presentations was more than I ever could have asked for. I don't think they truly understood what we've been dealing with here until that morning! We had as easy of a morning as we could have had, though, and ending it with some cold drinks at the café downtown.

Lenny doing a great job on his presentation.
That night, we had a good ol' fashioned Nica fiesta for the family. A lot of our friends from La Norte came as well as Ervin & Yorleni, my two good old friends from Ojo de Agua. There was dancing, there was games, and there was gallo pinto, prepared by yours truly! Yeah. That's right. I did it. Well...I did have a bit of help from Tanya, Chelsey, and Darling, but it turned out great! We actually made way too much of it, but thankfully, everyone was willing to bring some home with them. But you see, a Nica fiesta includes many other things besides the aforementioned. Other necessary happenings include an excess of soda, a lack of enough fans, and an inconceivable amount of sweating. My family had the pleasure of experiencing it all.


If you're wondering why I'm making these pictures so small, it's because I'm trying to cram way too much into one post. But you can enlarge the pictures by just clicking on them!

After the party, we finished off the week by renting an incredible house in San Juan del Sur. Considering it was the first real vacation my parents ever had since they got married, they wanted to go all out, and boy did they ever. 

 


The house was the perfect getaway, and being able to experience it not only with my family but as well as with close friends that might as well be family was pretty cool as well.


The whole visit was one which none of us will forget for sure! Many of my friends also told me that meeting my family helped them to understand why I am the way I am a lot more. Good thing or bad thing?

Okay, that's seriously all I can write for now, because did I mention I'm writing this from Maine?! I'm just back for a few weeks for a wedding and then I'll be back in Chinatown for Memorial season. I've got more to report on things that happened before I left Nicaragua, so I'll try to write about that ASAP!

Talk soon,


Sam

Monday, November 17, 2014

Only in Nicaragua

Hello there!

I was just looking through all the pictures I took over the past week and if I were to judge the entire week based off of these photos, I would only say that it was...interesting?

For one thing, the guys and I went to the local performing arts theater to watch one of our English students in her dance recital...
A manly way to spend your Friday night.
...I managed to construct a 5-4-3-2-1 card house, which is a new personal record...
It had to be photographed as it will probably never happen again.
...Ben, Bree, Josue, & I managed to see a movie and get the theater to ourselves...
We at least had it to ourselves for the first ten minutes of the movie.
...and as another Nicaragua first, an ice cream truck passed by the Kingdom Hall after Leon's English meeting yesterday. That's right. An ice cream truck.
"Aren't you guys wondering why we never drive this thing through town during the
day - you know, like, when it's actually hot?"
I wish I had logical explanations for why we do what we do and why I choose to photograph very mundane things, but all I can think of is...hey, it's Nicaragua.

Okay, on with the rest of the week...

Ending a hot morning with cake & coffee.
November has been treating us very well! We had another great week of service. Jefte came witnessing with us in La Colonia de la Policia on Tuesday and we had a great time. Him and I found a very interested woman with whom we were able to start a study in the Bible Teach book. She wrote down every scripture we read so that she could look it up in her own Bible later. She has children and was drawn to the lesson about how to have a happy family life. We told her that I would come back with Bree the following week to demonstrate a study, which we will be doing tomorrow. She said that she'd be waiting!

Studying with Edwin.
Also, it was cool enough
that I lasted a full hour
without rolling up my sleeves!

On Wednesday morning, nobody showed up to the group, probably because it looked like it was going to rain. However, it actually worked out very well for us. The three of us were able to go do some of our studies to fill up the morning, and it went great. I had my study with Edwin, and we switched things up by beginning the lesson in the Good News brochure about how to recognize the true religion. That really captured his attention. I'm hoping it will motivate him to make it to one of the meetings. He says his goal is to come to the meeting the week that my parents visit, which is this Saturday, as it turns out!

Renee went away for a couple weeks (Did I mention that she joined me in La Norte? Well, she did, and it's been good helping each other out once again!), and Bree covered one of her Bible studies in the meantime, Claudia. She works in Parque Central, but she always puts everything aside so that she can study. She's also been prepared for every study and looked up the scriptures ahead of time! Bree also does a great job of conducting.
As you can see, Ben has all the essential supplies for a study here: publications, sweat rag, and a bottle of 7-up.
"Do you realize how selfish I look sitting in this
chair while you just stand? You so did this on purpose."
I was also able to find another one of my studies, Erling, at home that morning. We continued our discussion of the second lesson out of the Good News brochure, and he did great. He comprehends things very well, but he is also very patient with himself. He is very humble and sincere, even to the point where he insists that I take his seat, no matter how much I protest! Honestly, I feel like a bum taking his seat like that, but we would never get anything done if we kept arguing over it. He always keeps his brochures and magazines close at hand, and he's continued reading them on his own. It's very refreshing to see, and I hope that he can make it to a meeting soon, too.

Friday morning was also very encouraging. Ben & I started a study with a woman on the first call using the "Why Study the Bible?" video. Her aunt and her grandmother are Witnesses, and she said she'd always been curious. We placed the Good News brochure with her and briefly demonstrated a study. She said she'd love to continue on with it, and once again, we told her we would bring Bree with us next week so that she could! Sidenote: Ben also started a study on the first call the same morning with a very interested guy.
Showing the video...and not really knowing what to do with my left hand.

The view while crossing the bridge into town.
I was doing calls with Erling later that morning, and he was commenting on how he's noticed the overall boost of encouragement the congregation has had as a result of us being here. He noted how people stay after the meetings to associate much more now and how ministry support has also improved. I'm not mentioning that to pat ourselves on the back, but rather to show how bittersweet it is to hear things like that. It feels really good knowing that you've been a help. I feel very much attached to this congregation already. However, the hard part is hearing those words and knowing that you won't be able to stay forever. Even just going back to the States for a few months is hard when you know it's such a substantial amount of time. But we're definitely making the most of our time here until then, and I can honestly say that my joy is being renewed day by day!

Oh, and pictures like this one also renew my joy...
Is it because one of these things is clearly different from everything else? Is it because Ben is being heavily stared at by the woman on the right? Is it because he's turning into a full-on clone of our Dad? I can't decide.

Talk soon!


Sam

Monday, November 10, 2014

Enough of the Charade

Hi all,

I should be folding laundry right now, but why do that when I can procrastinate?! It's been another week full of some of the usual as well as some surprises. For one thing, the repainting of our Kingdom Hall has been completed! Here's a before and after shot:

Before
After




It's a huge change! I haven't gotten a picture of the inside yet because it's not completely done, but it's the same color as the light blue on the side. The brothers did a great job painting, although I have to admit I think I liked the yellow better. But hey, I'm adjusting.

Working one of our more rural territories yesterday.
We've been getting into a good witnessing routine together. Having the extra support really helps all three of us. (It also gives me some HILARIOUS stories to tell about Ben's progress in learning Spanish.) The brothers and sisters in the congregation have also been very helpful and patient. Honestly, though, while we were out preaching and walking through the territory as a group yesterday, I was listening to Ben chatting with Erling and Bree talking with Ivana, her partner for the morning. Although they were both still having a little trouble with it, I realized that they've actually picked up more Spanish than they realize! They're doing their best and it's paying off. (P.S. - I would never say that to their face, so enjoy reading this, Ben & Bree.)

You can tell the lady in the back is thinking, "Why are there so many white people in my yard?"
Bree reading one of the paragraphs.
Above is a new study Ben has picked up. His name is Guadalupe, and Ben placed a Good News brochure with him and his wife a week ago. He had showed them the "Why Study the Bible?" video and they both were very interested. He and Bree went back a couple days ago to continue the discussion, and I went as an emergency translator/pretty much only to take pictures. It went very well and he said he'll be awaiting their visit tomorrow!

I had begun studying the Good News brochure with a man named Erling, but hadn't gotten him home in a couple weeks since he's been busy with work. I got him home last Tuesday and saw that he already had the brochure on hand. He's been reading it in his free time, and has already read up through chapter five! We had a great study that afternoon. Hopefully we can continue it on a regular basis.

Only had time for one unflattering picture
with Jorgito before I had to go!
Yesterday, I went to give the public talk in another congregation here in Chinandega. Everything went fine, but after I concluded and was walking off the stage, I heard a very familiar voice call out, "Sam!" I look over, and who do I see but Jorgito with Sandra! Out of the thirty-some-odd congregations in this town, I just happened to give the talk in the very hall that her study conductor belongs to! Sandra told me that she had gone to one of the Sunday meetings, but apparently they've been going every Sunday for the past month! She's loving it, and she said Jorgito is making some good friends at the Kingdom Hall. That was one of the best surprises I've had in a long time. After everything they've been through with Jorge's death, it's great to see that they're doing the best thing they can do: relying on Jehovah. I still remember the days when she wasn't very open to the idea of me coming by to study with Jorge at all! 

Last night, the Zimmerman family had a party which included a fun game of Bible charades. I was laughing way too much, so I only managed to get one picture! Bible stories that were acted out included King Solomon & the dispute over the baby, Daniel & the lions pit, and Balaam & the donkey.

The kids were acting out Abraham getting ready to sacrifice Isaac.
For the Zimmermans, cooking is their expertise, and they make awesome gallo pinto (to be featured on the next edition of Que Pasta...after mamonchinos...). It was Ben's first time trying it...
...and I think I liked it! He did finish it, after all. Oh, and Bree will eat anything.

Again, nothing can be done without turning it
into a dance party. Show us how it's done, Zach!
Oh, would this be a good time to talk about the mice in our house?! No? Well, I'll talk about it anyway. There have only been two, and they were tiny, but sorry, bros. If there's a mouse in my house, it will not be making itself at home. They're clever little dudes who still managed to pick the cheese off the traps we got, so we had to resort to getting that sticky paper to trap them, and that seems to have done the trick. I'll spare you the details of his death (cue a bunch of people calling us inhumane for killing a mouse) and skip ahead to the part where I had to walk around the neighborhood with a plastic bag containing a dead mouse, looking for a public trash can. We had a dead mouse in the trash last week, and guys, believe me when I say that was one of the top three worst smells I've ever experienced in my life, so there was no way we were about to go through that again. But just picture the scene: I'm walking down the street with this plastic bag, holding it as far away from me as possible, and I guy walks past me with this expression of "Do I even want to know what's in that bag?" and I just nodded at him, mentally telling him, "No, you do not." Finally, I found a resting place for the mouse in a trash can in a little park down the street. 
Bree with Ashley, one of the best nine-year-old
publishers I've met!

We don't have anything too crazy on our plate for this week. Our parents are coming to visit in less than a couple weeks, so we're all trying to get in as much service time as possible before then. They'll be coming to one of our meetings while they're here, so it's my goal to have at least one of my studies come to the meeting so they can meet them. We'll see how it goes! It'll be great for Mom & Dad to meet everyone in the hall, and vice versa. Really looking forward to it. I'll talk to you all next Monday, and I hope you're well until then.

Take care,


Sam

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mixing Things Up

Good day!

We have officially entered into my favorite time of year in Nicaragua. The rainy season may be over, but November, December, and January are the three coolest months of the year. The high humidity that coincides with the rain is gone, and the last few days have been b-r-eezy! For all you Mainers, I know that may not be easy to read, considering the first snowstorm of the year just hit you like a ton of bricks, but I live in the hottest part of the country. Just let me have this one.

This last week was another one for the books (or blog, in this case). Preaching has been getting better and better for all three of us. Both Ben & Bree conducted their first studies in Spanish!

Ben conducting his first study with Juan on Tuesday.
Erling had a nice call with Juan, the guy pictured above, and passed it onto Ben. After preparing carefully, we went to see him on Tuesday afternoon and studied lesson six out of the Good News brochure, and Ben did very well! It helps that Juan is very interested. He answered every question in his own words and comprehended each point fully. It should work out very nicely! I think it shows that you shouldn't waste time being afraid to try to get studies right away when learning a new language. Just jump right into it! It's one of the best ways to learn quickly.

The weather may be cooler, but we still, you know, live in the hottest part of Nicaragua.
I was concerned about one of my studies, Donald, since we had been having difficulty finding a time study that worked for the both of us. However, we've finally settled on Tuesday afternoons, and the regularity has been paying off. We studied the second lesson a couple weeks ago and watched the video about God's name. He loved it and asked, "Where can get that video for myself??" He took down the website address so he could find it himself!


Zach & I watched the David video with Jorgito on Thursday, and he loved it. Once again, a few of his neighborhood friends snuck in to watch it with us. Both Zach & I had only seen the video once before when we were little, so I think all of us learned something from it!

Sidenote: Tuesday night, I had the sudden urge to move our furniture around (turning in my mother). This is what it looked like before...


...and this is what it looks like now!


The couch feels way better over in that nook (where I am currently sitting and writing this post). I made Ben & Bree sit with me in the new living room to test it out, and we found that having it all in a separate, enclosed area actually encourages more conversation! (I'm always looking at it from the psychological side of things.) That night, I was still so excited that I couldn't sleep, so I got out of bed at 10:30 PM while Ben & Bree were in bed, and just sat in one of the rocking chairs with a huge smile on my face! ...I probably reveal too much on this blog sometimes...but yes, that's what it's come to. I know that no one is as excited about it as I am, but if you are, call me.

Sidenote: I put this picture on the side by accident, but I think I like
how it looks. Does it make the blog look more interesting? No? Okay.
At least it saves space.
Where was I...oh yeah.

Friday night, we had some friends from our hall over for some karaoke and card games. It turned into a very fun night, and Eduardo brought my old friend from Ojo, Ervin, which made it even better! Some of the card games may have gotten a little violent and resulted in two swollen fingers, but that's a risk you have to take. (Wow. NEVER ask me for advice.) Ben & Bree were really glad we did it. It's another great way to dive right into learning the language. Hang out with the locals! We really want to do it much more often.

One thing you'll learn very quickly here: You can't have a gathering
without it turning into a dance party or lesson of some sort.
Great night, great people! Sidenote: Erling's off his crutches.



The weekend was also busy. Our Kingdom Hall is going to be repainted, so a major cleanup needed to take place before the painting could be done. The brothers organized two full cleaning days to happen on Saturday and Sunday. Since we have three other congregations meet at this hall, it kind of threw off some meeting schedules, so the Central congregation attended our meeting Saturday night. We crammed 162 people into the hall, with some brothers kindly giving up their seats (Not me. I had the Watchtower reading. Snap!). We had a pretty exhausting week, so Ben & I just went to help out for a bit on Sunday.

There was a lot of help from all four congregations, with many coming and going at different times, so there was steady support throughout the day. There was a lot that needed to be done: scrubbing the floors and walls, sanding down the window sills so they could be repainted, and some landscaping work. Ben & I helped sand down the window sills.


Notice the red Fanta? Again, some things cannot be done without certain other things.
Having...so...much...fun.
"Quieres mamonchino?...Did I say that right?"
Eliezer & I being productive.




We wish we could have stayed longer, but we had to get home because I had to work and Ben & Bree had to get ready to head out to Leon since he was giving the public talk in the English congregation there. To make up for our not-so-great support, we distributed a couple of bags of mamonchinos (to be featured on the next edition of Que Pasta). Just the same, it was nice to see how well-supported the work was. The brothers always come together for these projects, no matter where you are in the world. That, along with this week's Watchtower, reminded me that our unity really does show that we have the true religion!





I think that's all for now. Ben & Bree are at the beach today while I'm doing laundry. Obviously, I'm not upset about that. I'll take a laundry day over a beach day any day! This next week should be another busy week, so be sure to check back in next Monday!


Take care,


Sam