Waking up today was a struggle to say the least, with all the work we have done our muscles ache with every movement and our skin is burnt red from the scorching Nicaraguan sun. Yet the beauty of NPH is the pequeños keep our spirits high and make the back breaking work well worth it.
Despite the aching of our bodies, anticipation for tonight’s posada was in the air and it did not disappoint. We joined the pequeños in a night of singing, dancing, and piñatas. Piñatas in the states may seem like a time for candy and some harmless fun. Here at NPH though, piñatas are serious business. The boys have no problems diving onto each other for a small dulce or fighting over whom next gets to take a swing at the life-size paper tinker bell. However, in this simple moment of whacking a paper-filled box, relationships are formed. We share smiles and broken conversations with the pequeños, learning more about them each day and them learning about us. Screams of joy and laughter continue to fill the ranchon until the last piñata has been torn to shreds. I don’t think a single person left without their hearts filled, even the often shy tias, who oversee the girl’s houses, couldn’t help but crack a smile and join in on the fun.
As the stars and moon shine bright in the clear sky it’s obvious to me the pequeños of NPH have become our family. They barged their way into our hearts and have made no plans to leave. While our skin tones and cultures are different, we have all found a place to call home here at NPH.
Con mucho querido, buenas noches from our family to yours.
I can’t promise this to be the most fluid blog anyone’s ever read; today we poured concrete and my arms feel like they may fall off any minute. Be patient with my mind as it bounces from place to place in describing the experience of this wonderfully sunny day at the NPH Campus, Nicaragua.
Our team woke up before 7AM today so we could hit the worksite by 8AM. We had the biggest concrete pour of our project today and successfully completed it. This left our whole team ready for a siesta by the time 4PM rolled around. Granted, the peqeunos we were working with were a little bit annoyed we couldn’t finish the entire sidewalk that evening. However, after about twenty minutes of “No podemos trabajar mas,” they got the idea that we could not and would not continue. Sometimes you have to know when to quit.
Regardless of how tired our bodies were, we had a visitor for dinner this evening. At 6PM we all checked in with each other over a cup of coffee. At 6:30, Marlon Velasquez – the national director of NPH – came to share a meal with us. During our time together, he explained that NPH was built on the foundation of being a family, not an orphanage. Respect to this property, land, and community was built through hard work by the pequeños for the pequeños. He told us how visitors come and go, but the ones who have the best time are the people who interact most with the kids. If you talk to the pequeños about the right things you’re “in,” but if you give them the tiniest ounce of pity… well, you’re probably “out.”
Even though my Spanish is broken, useless, and sometimes flat out wrong, I feel like I’m a part of this family. After three days of mentally exhausting myself to get words out, I think the peak of speaking a foreign language has started. They call me “Harry Potter,” and tell me I know Spanish well, I’m just too afraid to use it. Que bonita, Nicaragua.
Today began with our daily discussion on the word of the day. It was determined that our new word would be “devotion”, and with this word in mind we were to go about the day devoted to the present moment and in full participation with the work at hand. In the midst of discussing this word we were interrupted by the sight of cows walking past our door to the pasture that PWOB fenced using Neam trees during last year’s trip.
After breakfast we headed out to our worksite. The group divided into two so that we could continue working on the sidewalk and begin work painting the school house. The school house is being painted a beautiful blue color that resembles the blue portion on the flag of Nicaragua.
However, the highlight of the day came after dinner. Today was the first day of La Posada, which is a Christmas tradition that NPH practices where the children and staff reenact the night Mary and Joseph were seeking shelter and were denied many times before being accepted into an Inn. We were honored to experience a night of this very special tradition which included dancing and piñatas. The children presented choreographed dances in costumes to Christmas themed music, and afterwards they all enthusiastically tried to get the most candy from newly hit open piñatas. The night ended with yummy candies and cheerful smiles all around.
We started the project today after breakfast. We are building a sidewalk to replace a trail which is often like a slip-n-slide in the rainy season. We picked up our tools to start building the forms; Antonio, Vladimir, Victor, and Ricky, a group of kids completing their Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos year-in-service kids jumped in and worked alongside us. I think the main reason they were helping us was to get done quicker so they could play and win soccer and volleyball.
As we suspected, they did want to play and they did win…at everything. We have noticed with volleyball they just want to keep the ball in the air, even if that means kicking or head butting. No rules, just fun. The kids of NPH just want to have fun and we are reminded that this is easy to forget.
Later in the evening we shared our thoughts on the Ronald Rolheiser reading from his book, The Holy Longing. We split up into small groups and took games and toys with us to dinner at the girls’ houses. It was a lot of fun; I got to know Abigail and helped her with her English. She read to me so she could practice; she starts at the university this fall.
After almost 17 hours of traveling, we arrived at Jinotepe, Nicaragua, the home of Nuestro Pequeños Hermanos, NPH. Professionals Without Borders, PWOB, is a group of staff, faculty, and students from Seattle University. We currently have 13 people in Nicaragua working at NPH, a community of about 200 youths who have been orphaned, abandoned, or were at risk. Today was our first full day and we eased into it after a tiring 18 hour journey. Breakfast consisted of eggs and cheese and the wonderful flavor of fresh bananas, the taste of which you can only get from Latin America. We all agree they just aren’t as good back home!
The morning was spent taking a tour of the campus. We toured the dorms, the clinic and school and saw a pig being slaughtered. That will probably be tomorrow’s dinner. We were impressed with the growth of the fence built by PWOB during last years’ service trip. The fence was constructed to corral the cattle using posts of wood that sprouts into trees…and they were beginning to sprout! We think it’s funny that the project was called ‘pasteurization.’
After lunch we joined some of the girls in making piñatas for the Christmas Posada festivities that begin this week. Many of us are discovering how exhausting it is to try and communicate in another language, whether we can speak a lot or a little. However, soccer, or futbol, is a universal language and our game with the girls taught us a great deal about ball handling skills, true grit, and how to have fun playing in the pouring rain. The day concluded with Mass, dinner, and a friendly game of volleyball with the boys from NPH.
The people here are wonderful and very welcoming. Some of the students have been learning English and they are enjoying the opportunity to practice speaking with native English speakers. The journey is just beginning and we are expecting the arrival of the last three members of our group tonight. We will take turns posting here this week sharing a highlight or two from each day. Here’s a photo of piñata making.
Ciao a tutti! Mi chiamo Olivia! I am a junior Sociology major and Political Science minor. Born in the northeast, raised in the northwest.
I am studying abroad in Firenze, Italia through International Studies Abroad, a non-SU program. I will be attending Florence University of the Arts, which was founded just a few years ago. My course schedule includes Islam & Politics, Ethics of Globalization, Human Rights & International Criminal Justice, Gender Relations in Italian Society, and Social Psychology.
I have traveled to several places around the U.S., Vancouver, Toronto, and spent three weeks in London. I am very, VERY ready to expand my horizons. For me, studying abroad means learning independence and gaining perspective. I am excited to befriend new people and, if I’m lucky, hearken back to Lizzie McGuire and ride on the back of a Vespa through Rome! I am nervous about eating too much (not really) and running over budget. My friends and family are nothing but excited but I am also nervous about homesickness.
Stay tuned for shameless monument selfies! Ciao for now.
This is a picture of me from five years ago, when I went to France for the first time (and had to do the obligatory jumping pose as an obnoxious tourist, of course). I suppose a lot has happened since then, but I feel the same sense of giddiness now as I do then when I think about what’s in store for me when I get to France. My name is Kaitlin and I am junior at Seattle U studying French and English Literature. Starting in January I will be studying in Grenoble for 5 months with the SU sponsored French-in-France Program (in coordination with the CUEF program at the University of Grenoble) and then jetting off to Morocco with my class for the last half of May and puttering around Europe for the rest of June, maybe working on organic farm or something.
Having finished all of my finals today and just beginning to pack up my very messy room I feel the same way I did when I prepared myself to move to Seattle for college. I’m simultaneously ridiculously excited and preoccupied with the thought of how much I’m leaving behind. I’ve settled into a beautiful home with some very close friends here at Seattle U and now that I’ve reached my third year I finally feel like I’m a part of a community. It’s hard to think that I’m going to be so disconnected from what happens with my friends for the rest of the year (not that I won’t do my best to keep in touch). However, I’m really looking forward to seeing how my friends have grown and hearing about all of their experiences here in Seattle once I get back.