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Mission Trip to Nicaragua

FullSizeRender1On Friday, May 13th, my husband Skip and I arrived at Cleveland Hopkins Airport at 3:45 AM to catch a flight to Managua, Nicaragua.  It was going to be our first mission trip ever!  Unfortunately, mechanical problems delayed us and 3 others for 13 hours at the airport.   When we finally arrived in Houston, we missed our connection by 5 minutes.   Stuck overnight at the airport, we headed to Pappadeux’s Seafood Restaurant in the terminal for what would be our last real meal before heading to Managua.   We over-nighted at the Holiday Inn, and left the next morning at 5:00 AM to board our flight to Manauga.

Upon arrival, we were met at the airport by a friendly Spanish couple who drove us on our two hour scenic and mountainous drive to the town of Chacraseca, Nicaragua.   The old and very hot rickety van finally made it to our destination.  However before we could settle in, we met with the locals who were preparing their carts for the annual procession.   It  was the Feast of St. Isidro which represents the farmers.  We helped decorate a horse-drawn cart with balloons, flowers, and ribbons and began parading down along the dusty road to the beat of a small band, singers and the omnipresent fireworks.

The procession had its fill of livestock, with decorated horns, and scarfs wrapped around their necks.  Walking in a hot 100 degree temperature along the muddy road to the church, I looked into the faces of the people that I met for the first time.  They were welcoming us with love and hope. The purpose of our trip was a partnership program with the people of this village, to help tear down a concrete block bread oven to make room for a community center,  to interact with students in the schools, learn about their culture, their hopes, and dreams, and to unite our church with theirs.

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I knew this was the beginning of what was always in my heart.  It was a hands on labor of love in a whole new culture that I have never before experienced.   These beautiful people who had nothing welcomed us with no expectations.

Back at the Casa de Paz, or Peace House, after the long two travel days, it was time to set up my sleeping quarters. The small room for the ladies had 3 bunk beds and there were 8 women. I opted to sleep on the porch in a cot outside under a mosquito net.  At least the nightly temperature was in the low 90’s, vs the heat inside.  The thin cot was workable, and although I kept my arms and legs covered to avoid any bites, a few insects manage to make it through. I was so tired, I just fell asleep, but was quickly awoken at 4:00 AM to what sounded like fireworks, and a series of explosions. (I was reassured that the Nicaraguans were still celebrating the feast). However an hour later, the rooster at the foot of my bed started crowing, and nestled by my head was a stray dog trying to get my attention… so needless to say, I had very little sleep that night. Most mornings were like that and although the rooster was very cute, I didn’t want to become too friendly with it, since it would most likely be tomorrow nights dinner. Although I spotted a Scorpion on the wall, and some ugly looking bugs crawling by, there was such feeling of peacefulness.

IMG_1956We were served rice and beans at all three meals, along with fruit or some other peeled vegetable. Our favorite cook, “Estelle” walked 3 miles to work every day and cooked our meals in a wood burning stove. The other women who cooked for us, brought their children to work, and we all fell in love with one little boy in particular who would rest in a hammock while his mom continued to work. Despite the fact that I barely ate anything, I didn’t lose any weight.  (Maybe it was the chips and granola bars I took with me).

IMG_17481The next day, we had a firsthand look at the efforts of Just Hope with its micro loan program which helped women become self-sufficient.   We stopped at a Ferreteria (a hardware store), where our donations helped the business to sell these items for a small profit and also visited the home of a women who has established a business by making about 100 tortillas daily and selling them to the locals.

We visited the schools and brought them supplies, and led them in songs and dances. Meanwhile, back in the center of town, the others donned dust masks, safety goggles and wielded shovels, sledge hammers and a pick axe to remove debris and take apart a concrete  oven.  We all went different ways; some to the clinic, to the families homes, the schools, the upcoming farmland, and to the church.       Many of the homes only had dirt floors, and no plumbing; but one thing in common is the loving family bond that was shared.

IMG_2065We visited the town of Leon, and also a beachfront restaurant where we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.  The dark volcanic sand and numerous shells were glowing. There we met children who with a “pinky-finger” promise, asked us to buy their goods.  They also waited for us to finish our dinner so we could box left overs and they could take them home. Of course, we ordered extra meals, and knowing this, the last of my fruit snacks and goodies were pre-packed for them. I received a parting gift of shells from a young man whom I gave my boxed food to. In Spanish he said to me  “Nunca me olvides”……..translation ……”Never forget me”.  (I never will).

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We traveled to a Coffee Plantation called Selva Negra where we spent one night.  It was a beautiful balance of an organic farm, coffee plantation and wildlife forest area.  It is tourism at its best in Nicaragua. There was also horseback riding, long hikes in the forest, solar cabins with beautiful views, white swans on the lake, and being in the mountains, it had a welcoming cool temperature.

IMG_22611To sum it up, I am so appreciative for what I have, for all that I take for granted, for my family and friends.  Reality check: America… a wonderful place we live in.

One of the best gifts we received, was to bring back to Cleveland Ohio with us Padre Tomas from the church in Nicaragua.  He stayed here for 3 weeks.  It was an awesome journey.  He had never been to the United States before, and our fellow missionaries, our priest Father Sal Ruggeri from St. John of the Cross, and many others showed him respect and love.

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Nights in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is renowned for its majestic varied landscapes, from lush plains to volcanoes, and large lakes to tropical rainforests. This paradise offers some of everything, with pristine beaches and Caribbean coast, vibrant nightlife, mountainous coffee farms, and the colonial cities of Granada and Leon. Find surfing adventures in San Juan del Sur, or experience exotic wildlife from birds to monkeys in local estuaries. Experience culture and natural reserves in Central America’s second largest city Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. Discover the secrets of the Emerald Coast’s verdant jungles, rising cliffs, untouched beaches, and charming fishing villages. Nicaragua’s beauty is unparalleled, and is further enhanced by its robust history and warm hospitality.

Resorts We Recommend

Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa

“Mukul” is the Mayan word for “secret,” and at Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa on Nicaragua’s Emerald Beach, another secret is ready to be discovered every day. This hidden gem offers breathtaking views of turquoise waters and verdant mountains, hikes up dramatic cliffs, and short helicopter rides to beautiful islands and fascinating volcanoes. The Emerald Coast of Nicaragua is a 30-mile expanse of Pacific shoreline strewn with pristine jungles, rising cliffs, untouched beaches, and charming fishing villages.

Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa is the first luxury accommodation in Nicaragua, and opens to 1,600 private acres of lush vegetation. This hotel features 37 guest accommodations, each of which offers space and privacy in a style that compliments the natural surroundings and provides stunning ocean views. Furnishings are crafted by local Nicaraguan artisans, and reflect the traditions of the country.

Real InterContinental Metrocentro

This urban oasis is located in the center of the entertainment and business district of Nicaragua’s lively capital. Situated next to the country’s largest shopping mall with over 120 stores, this hotel offers prime access to the local culture of Managua, and is just minutes from the airport. The Real InterContinental Managua provides a comfortable base for exploring the culture, beaches, and varied landscape of this eclectic city during your down time.

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