Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mr. & Mrs. Something

Hey all,

I don't have much time to be writing right now, so let me just get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Chinandega has a library. A library. I've been living in this town for two-and-a-half years and I never knew that. Not even a good amount of the locals know it! We had our Active English conversational class there today.
Enrique looking for a book in the terribly-lit library.
We also stumbled upon some of these gems:
Do you see them?
Showing Jorgito how to download the videos with a not-at-all-fake smile.
Chinandega is always full of surprises. Anyway, last week was good. The ministry here continues to be the highlight. It's what motivates us to get out of bed and it's the reason I keep coming back to Nicaragua!

This past Friday, Zach & I went to see Jorgito, who was very excited because Sandra recently bought a Samsung tablet. The very first thing he said when we arrived was, "Sam, how can I put Caleb videos on this thing??" I cannot tell you how encouraging it was to see a six-year-old boy more concerned with that rather than with downloading more games onto his tablet. Sandra & Jorgito don't have Internet access in their house, so we weren't sure what we could do at first, but then we came up with a plan. They live just a couple of blocks away from a café with free WiFi that we frequent pretty often, so we asked Sandra if we could take Jorgito there for a little bit and download the videos directly to the tablet. She happily agreed to it, so off we went! We were able to download just about all of the videos in no time, and Jorgito was thrilled. When we got back to their place, Sandra said that she was so glad he could have the videos available to watch any time he wanted. She's been doing a great job bringing him to the meetings and keeping up with her own study. As we were leaving the house, Jorgito gave us a big thank you and immediately started watching one of the videos. I can successfully say that it was one of the most gratifying moments I've had here, one that makes all the sacrifices worth it!

The wedding party walking to the ceremony.
Now, let's talk about another first-time experience I had yesterday: Being in a Nica wedding. Right? I never expected that to happen or had planned on it happening! Picking out the wedding party is not done the way we do it the States. I can sum it up this way: Basically, the bride handpicks every single member of the wedding party, including the groomsmen, whether the groom is friends with them or not. I could explain my feelings about the matter in more detail, but hey, it's a different culture. Now what is the groom's last name? I have no idea. I only learned his first name just a couple months ago, after having already been a member of the wedding party for three months! The bride was Mayerling, a pioneer sister in my hall. She told her bridesmaids to choose whoever they wanted to escort them down the aisle. Another tradition to consider is that the wedding party always does a major dance at the wedding reception here. I know a lot of couples do that back home too, but it's expected here, so the bridesmaids basically chose their groomsmen based off of who would be a good dance partner. Trust me, I wasn't chosen for my dancing skills. My friend Darling, one of the bridesmaids, is taller than all the other brothers in my hall except me and didn't want to look like a giant, so she chose to walk down the aisle with a fellow giant.

Whatever happened to limos?
Another tradition that many couples partake in here is that on the wedding day, the whole wedding party walks from the bride's house parading around in the streets to the Kingdom Hall. Yup. It was about a twenty-minute walk during rush hour traffic. We also had to cross one of the busiest intersections in town with a huge eighteen-wheeler behind us. Yup.

Regarding the dance itself, I won't say a lot about it, but I will say it was difficult, especially for a white boy who grew up in a small town, population 6,000, and was not raised in the Latino culture! They had us practicing two to three times a week, with each practice lasting about two hours. I won't lie, guys. It was intense. There were laughs, there were there were tears, there were arguments, and oh yeah, there was dancing. The dance involved lots of jumping and salsa steps. Let me tell you about my frustration with dance lessons: Instructors always tell you the same thing. They always say, "Stop thinking about it so much! Just do it! Let the music flow through your booooody!" Yet, the second you make a mistake, it's, "SHOULDERS STRAIGHT NO YOUR FOOT GOES THAT WAY MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT! But don't think about it so much. Just have fun!" It was hard to learn, but when the time came for our performance, I just decided to finally take that advice: I stopped thinking about it so much and decided to enjoy it! While we did make a couple mistakes, it was a lot of fun and felt like a major accomplishment just the same.

Yes, there is video evidence of this.
They also asked me to play some music at the reception.
I did two songs in English and one in Spanish (well, with some
English lyrics). It was nerve-wracking, but fun to try!
Sidenote: This is probably not a need-to-know thing, but I'll share it anyway because...well, that's what I do. I swallowed a fly during the dance, guys. Actually, I didn't even swallow it. It flew RIGHT INTO MY MOUTH during the song and was stuck in my teeth. I thought, "Oh man, I either have to swallow this or spit it out. Either way, I lose." I tried to spit it out very subtly, which just resulted in getting drool on my pants and me trying to subtly wipe it off later in the song. You can see all of it on the video. Wow. Sometimes I feel like I may reveal too much to you guys, but hey, we're family!

Now that it's done, I'm realizing that although the experience was busy and stressful, it was also a lot of fun. It was cool to be a part of a wedding in another country! I've definitely got some interesting stories that I know I'll be telling for years to come.

The wedding party with the newlyweds themselves, Rudy and Mayerling...something.
Thanks for reading. Hope you all are well!

Talk soon,


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Acting School


I'm a couple days late in posting this, mainly because Monday was busier than expected and I don't have anything too exciting to report. But don't close your browser! There will probably some substantial ramblings or rants at some point in this post.

For starters, our midweek meeting has changed from Wednesday to Tuesday. Yes, that's the most thrilling thing that happened last week. Anyway, our hall did an awesome job singing the new song! You can tell that I really mean that by my expression in this picture:

After practicing the song the first time. I was...happy.
Seriously, though, it went really well! We listened to it once and everyone nailed it on the first try. During the second time, I was feeling it so much that I even had to stop myself from walking in the aisle fist-pumping and taking it to the streets. Joy, just pure joy.

The change in the schedule has called for changing up my witnessing schedule a little bit. Zach leads a Wednesday afternoon group in El Limonal, a part of Ojo de Agua's territory. The group doesn't have much support, so I've been going out there with him on Wednesday afternoons the past couple of weeks. It's nice to get away from the city for an afternoon. I had forgotten how peaceful and quiet it is in Ojo's territory. Apparently, I can't escape it completely!

Zach doing a return visit. Ain't he phenomenal?
View of San Cristobal from La Colonia de la Policia.
As for the heat, we're slowly but surely entering the hotter time of the year. Today was the hottest it's been in a while (96° F, 36­­° C), but come April, we'll be wishing for those temperatures back. Sidenote: The mosquitoes have been RELENTLESS since I've been back. Seriously. RELENTLESS. That has everybody paranoid about getting chikungunya, a disease that is supposed to be worse than dengue fever. There have been a lot of reported cases of it in town, but it's hard to know for sure. Many of those reported cases are accurate, but then there are other people who immediately jump to these conclusions: Got a headache? Chikungunya. Did you just sneeze? Chikungunya. You have a slight itch on your arm? Chikungunya. But yes, you do need to be prepared. Thankfully, the mosquitoes have calmed down a little the past couple of days.

Miguelito receiving his gift today, complete with new pens.
(Sidenote: Bree took one of them for herself. Unbelievable.)
In other news, Miguel, a 13-year-old brother in our hall, has started regular pioneering this month! His parents began studying a couple of years ago, and all three of them were baptized last year. He's an awesome kid. He's got such a great attitude and spirit. Even when his parents don't make it to the meetings, he is always there no matter what and comes out preaching on his own whenever he has the chance, including every day of school vacation. When asked how he was planning on pioneering with school and everything, he said he would be taking out a personal territory to work in the afternoons after school. I don't know many kids that age who would have the motivation to do that on their own, but he does! As a gift, Ben & Bree got him a new return visit book. They even labeled it with all the different locations of our territory.

Finally, for the demo this week on how to react to an irate person, Rolando was faced with a tough decision when it came to choosing who would play the role of the angry householder. He would have to choose someone who is known for having a naturally angry disposition, someone who takes pleasure in putting others down, someone who could bring a child to tears just by staring daggers at them. At last, the villain was cast:

LOL he chose Bree. We were all flummoxed by this choice. Flummoxed. What was the reasoning behind it? Would you choose a kitten to scare away thieves? Would you unleash a ladybug to kill a cockroach? Would you scare your younger sibling with a picture of a butterfly? No? Then why on Earth would you think Bree, of ALL PEOPLE, could be capable of yelling at Jehovah's Witnesses, or anyone at all?!?! Okay, I'm done being mean, and now I'll tell you that she did a really good job, in all seriousness. We may have had to practice it with her about 50 times to get her to stop sounding so nice, but she got it down pat. (You'd think that after being a part of our family for all these years, she would know how to shout!) Plus, Rolando is smart, and I have to give him credit for making a bold and fun choice. Sidenote: That was the angriest I had ever seen Bree in the entire time I've known her, aside from one time when she refused to share some cookies. She would be the nicest do-not-call ever. (Other sidenote: She gave me permission to write all that.)

Alright, that's all I have to report this week. Things are going really well, but as always, I miss all of you back home. Let me know what's new!

Take care,


Monday, January 5, 2015

The Best of Both Worlds?

Hi all,

After a very eventful three-week excursion to the States, I've made it back to Nica once again, even if the airline lost my checked bag. Yeah, that's just one little tidbit to share from my trip, and if you'd like to know more, grab a juice box, shoot me an e-mail, and we'll talk about the ongoing trials and tribulations of a lad named Sam Roberts.

ANYWHO, there were a lot of memorable moments from the trip, most notably my friend Jared's wedding! He actually came to visit me for a week in February last year, but things were so busy at the time that I didn't end up blogging about it, so here's a picture from that trip.
He's been a good friend of mine for some time now, so it was great to be home for the big day, although I missed the ceremony. Again, e-mail me.

Me with Jared & Jocelyn
We'll have more on that trip later. For now, let me talk about what I arrived back in Nica just in time for: our assembly day! It was exhausting having just returned from the States, but it was still a fun weekend. Saturday was the big pioneer meeting before the assembly. There's a double Kingdom Hall here in Chinandega, which perfectly held all 288 present! They had the speakers in one of the halls and a video feed into the other hall. We were on the side with the video feed, which worked very well. Many brothers and sisters from our hall had parts, including Rolando, Leticia, Renee, Elvis, Meyling, and Elieth.

Yes, I'm talking about the brother on the screen.
This is Thomas Bear. He and his wife having been serving here for quite some time now. They're both German, and his accent comes through very strong when he speaks Spanish. Honestly, I think it sounds awesome! I could listen to him all day. He had two really good illustrations. First, he spoke of being in an airplane that's about to crash when the oxygen masks are released. You are seated next to a ten-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. Who do you make sure has their mask on first - the boy, the girl, or yourself? Actually, airlines emphasize that you need to put your own mask on first before you can be in a position to help anyone else! Similarly, we need to be sure that we are taking care of ourselves spiritually before we can be in a position to offer help or encouragement to anyone else. The other illustration he used had to do with our personal desires. He talked about how Google memorizes the things you search for and is able to remember your favorite items, no matter when you searched for them. If Google has the ability to remember the things that peak your interest the most, how much more so does Satan! It emphasized the need for us to be on guard more than ever.

The Chinandega sun shining down just as powerful as ever.
Once again, we had a busy night of sound preparation before the session. Many brothers stayed past midnight. I would have stayed longer, but I was still suffering from my severe one-hour jet lag, so I decided to call it a night.

I had an assignment that I'd never had before for this assembly: letreros. Basically, Ben & I were in charge of putting up signs on the offices of the various departments - administration, chairman's office, sound, and yes, even a sign for our department: the sign department. We also had to have my laptop on hand in case we needed to print off emergency women's bathroom signs, which I actually had to do quite a few times. Would the whole thing fall apart without us? Two things: 1) Hey, someone has to do it, and 2) I got to sit it in a somewhat-air-conditioned office for the day, so I'll take it!

No, I did not spell administration wrong.
The program was great - very frank and very much-needed. There were 32 baptized and a peak attendance of 3,169. Sidenote: my study Edwin lives right next door to the stadium. He could hear the whole program without even leaving his property, which isn't a bad deal. What's even better is that in the middle of the morning session, everyone was distracted by three toddlers who came out of nowhere running across the perimeter of the outfield. Sure enough, they were Edwin's kids. Yup, that's my study!

Taking down the sound system after the session. Here's a Where's Waldo activity: Find Ben!
Now that the busy weekend is over, I'm looking forward to getting back to my routine here. I'm really enjoying how things have been going, and that helped me to realize something while I was in Maine. I know I come back from every trip with a new lesson learned, and there have probably been some inconsistencies over the past few years, but this one was actually liberating. Everyone who has served in another land while traveling back & forth to their home country knows what it's like to live in two completely different worlds. In my case, the struggle has been being very close to both my friends in Nicaragua and my friends back home. Every time I go back to Maine, it's hard to leave for long periods of time knowing that time doesn't stand still while I'm away. People carry on with their lives, and I know it's a bit selfish, but you do feel cut off from everybody in a sense. It's not easy, but over time, I've realized that I'm still very close to my good friends back home, and being away has helped some of us to even strengthen our friendships. While I may not be actively involved in what happens back home anymore, I've maintained close ties with the people I love, and that's enough. I wouldn't trade the friendships I've made here in Nicaragua for anything in the world, and for now, this is the best place for me to be. At times, though, I wish I could have it both ways - be fully involved here in Nicaragua and still be fully involved in life back home, while being able to take advantage of all the luxuries there as well. However, here is the lesson: You can't have the best of both worlds. I know that might sound sad, but when I realized that, it was a huge relief. Right now, I feel like I have the best of my world in Nicaragua, and while I may not have everything back in Maine, I have all I need. Having that in mind is helping me to focus on what a privilege it is for me to be where I am and to be doing what I'm doing.

Okay, that's enough sap for one post. Talk to you all on Monday!

Take care,