When we arrived in Nicaragua we were assigned three missions: pour concrete to build a sidewalk connecting the homes to the school, painting the school with new paint to improve student pride, and spending time with the pequeños. Today was the finale of each mission. Sitting with the group this morning adding final touches of blue, we were serenaded with Christmas Mass rehearsals of “Gloria” accompanied by the djembe. We will never look at a sidewalk the same. 10 days has gone so quickly and tonight was an example of the family we have seen here at NPH and the family that we have now become a part of.
One of the special traditions of NPH is presentations by the pequeños as they say goodbye and thank you to their new family members…us. Returning to Casa Madre Teresa (our home during our visit) from the presentations is a happy yet somber walk. There is the tug of being ready to return to Seattle, but there is also the tug of a newly found home and the formation of special friendships that have just begun. There is something about putting your hands in the soil, sitting with pequeños of all ages, walking amongst their fields, using their tools, and listening to their music that continues to pull you in ways we will continue to unravel as we begin to face the reality of heading home to the US.
This morning I [Bri] woke up with such comfort; I felt as if I was home, that I belonged here. The long days of hard work and intense heat has broken down any barriers that keep me from feeling like an outsider. For most of us clothing choice is determined by the “smell test” and every meal we share is the most delicious food we’ve ever tasted on a simple plastic orange plate. We’ve learned it is much easier to simply eat with our hands. This trip has been so much more than a service trip. It feels like global engagement has taken such a powerful role in the education of our students and it has been meaningful to contribute while also gaining a better perspective of what is going on in the lives of current Seattle University students.
Today at lunch we sat with the littlest penqueñas. Before every meal the little girls take turns leading us in prayer. You can imagine what it would be like to hear a 7 year old decide what she’d like to pray for… what she would like to pray for today is her sister to pay better attention during the blessing.
Love is found everywhere here. You see it witnessed by the boys walking with their arms around one another whether they are heading to the soccer field or to go work. You see it as everyone gathers to say a blessing for every meal. You see it in the loving expressions of the tias and tios (aunts and uncles) as they gently nudge the pequeños.
For us it is holding a pequeño on our laps as we watch the presentations each night in the Ranchon, playing soccer endlessly, pressing their hands into the sidewalk that will be a new path to school for them. Love is found in the shouts of “Hola Hola”, “Buenos Dias”, and “Como Estas” wherever you go. When language challenges dissolve and a pequeño grabs your hand and laughs out of sheer joy when you mess up a word. Love can be expressed without words and we have truly experienced that at NPH.
Now to learn how to actually speak Spanish and plan a return trip next year.
Kristen Kirst (Director of Advancement Communications and Marketing at Seattle University)
Brianne Vanderlinden (Assistant Director of Special Events at Seattle University and is a 2007 SU graduate.)