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Rev. Elizabeth
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« on: March 14, 2013, 04:23:34 PM »

Vignettes from the Campo; El Bejuco Nicaragua, 2013

We had no real idea where we were going; it doesnít even appear on google maps; yet, we were on our way; two vehicles laden with food and heath kits and school supplies and mattresses and our own personal gear.
After a tasty meal in San Jose de Las Remates (which is on the map!) we began the final leg of our journey. The road into El Bejuco is stony, dirt, narrow, and in some places, treacherous.  Each hill drops into a wallow where, often, a stream flows. 
Our vehicle labored up  each hill often scraping bottom in the wallows.  The ride was long, sometimes unnerving, but  the scenery became increasingly beautiful as we wound our way up and down through what remained of a dry tropical forest.  Bromeliads of all sorts decorated spreading tree branches; scattered cows dotted the hillsides.
Trees punctuated the green hill pastures;   you could see how the forest had been cut back to create a semblance of pasture. An occasional tree with  pink or orange blossoms glistened in the sunlight.  It was stunningly beautiful.
The few houses were tucked into level areas on the steep hillsides, and occasionally there were houses close to the road.
Despite the fact that the houses were scattered widely, that people walked miles every day to work on the coffee farms, visit, worship,  there was a strong sense of community, perhaps generated by the existence of the coffee co-op, where we would be staying.
None of us had even been this way before. It was all new, and wonderful and beautiful.
 1. Sounds of the morning...
  One sleeps fitfully on a cement floor whose hardness is ameliorated by a thin foam mattress.  Daylight begins to creep across the sky at 5:30.  Soon  our cooks Marta and Thelma, who have walked several miles to serve us, will arrive. Laughter and chatter is followed by the  violent sound of a machete thwacking pieces of wood as Marta cuts wood for the fire that will cook our breakfast. A rhythmic slapping sound says that there will be fresh corn tortillas for breakfast. The rush of water tells me that Gerald is taking the first cold shower. One by one by one birds begin to sing to each other.  Clattering hooves tell me a vacero is riding by with milk. I step out to watch the clouds slowly lift off the mountains  revealing the fields and forests that roll and stretch in front of me. And if I am still.  And if there is quiet.  And if I listen carefully. I can hear them; off in the distance, on the ridge of the forested mountain, they are there, and I can hear them.  How far away that ridge is I donít know; a mile, perhaps  as the crow flies.
No, matter, I listen and can hear the faint whoo-whooing of howler monkeys in the treetops, talking to each other; looking for food, tending each other.

2. Itís All Relative.
There had been  email chatter amongst the group.
Joel, the CEPAD coordinator for the mountainous area we were going to visit had told us it was going to be Ďcool.í Should we bring long pants and long sleeved shirts: how many?  We knew we might be getting dirty doing agricultural work; we wanted to be civil; we didnít know if we would be able to wash clothes...what to do! All of us ended up taking up precious luggage space by packing long pants and long sleeved shirts. 
And,  of course, after a long and hot day of visiting and walking and learning, the evening brought a breeze and lower temperatures.  Ah, we realized, this, this breeze, this slight drop in temperature,this was ...COOL! We all  looked at each other and laughed!  Cool, they donít know cool.  This is just right.     We rejoiced in the cool.
Itís all a matter of perspective we declared, laughing at ourselves.

3. Sometimes old fashioned is better....
And then there are umm, well, the bathrooms.In  an attempt to be up to date, the folks who built the coffee cooperative building  where we stayed--essentially an empty building of concrete with a separate kitchen area--had installed  two sinks and two toilets, both with running water. Alas, the water pressure was too great for the plumbing that was available, and since there was no handy hardware store, they had to turn the water off or be flooded.   So,  Sunday morning we awakened to no water at all.
The kind farmer up the road offered that we could avail ourselves of his latrine.   Up the road we treked, through the gate, past the cows wandering in to be milked.
The farmer kindly put a third side on the latrine for us. The view was spectacular.
Walking back we all decided that a latrine with a view of the mountains was far better than non working modern plumbing. 
4.   Finding joy in the lack of things.
There had been electricity. We saw the fixtures, the switches.  At great expense the community of scattered farms had purchased a turbine for a hydro plant.  Alas, no one told them that the turbine wasnít big enough for the power of the water.  The turbine broke; there was, no electricity. 
Evening came quickly once the sun dropped behind the steep hills.   We sat in the growing darkness with our flashlights ready. Often we ate  our rice and beans by headlamp and candles. We would occasionally stop talking to listen to the insects and night creatures calling; buzzing, chirping.  We reveled in the fact that  because the moon was full and waning we had moonlight.  And when clouds blocked the moon  we would walk out to the middle of the road, turn off all our lights, look up, and as our eyes adjusted we began to see the sky fill with stars, and see the milky way, streaming across the sky.
5 Yup, gotta keep thinking about that perspective
Unless you stay at the Intercontinental or some other fancy hotel, the concept of a hot shower is a dream. We werenít at the Intercontinental. we were in the cement coffee co-op building in the middle of nowhere.  Sudden shrieking; giggles; noise..indicated one thing:.someone is taking a shower. The water pressure was strong; the shower, a garden hose; the water; freezing.  The only way to deal with it was to exhale loudly; exclaim, and afterward, be happy in being clean and no longer sticky.
In Managua, the water comes from a dribbly shower head, and the temperature at its warmest is tepid.  However, when we returned from the mountains to our place in Managua suddenly  that tepid water became hot!
6 It was just a little church
Service trips have allowed me to worship in a small Catholic church in La Paz, beneath Vulcan Mombacho, in a Catholic church in Batahola Norte, a center of learning and service in the barrio Batahola. And I was warmly welcomed in all these churches.
At 9 I heard bells ringing and knew that  somewhere was a building that served as a Catholic church.  It was expected that we  go to the evangelical church whose service began at ten.
Birds carolling around us we walked up the dirt road, and there it was:
a little church, cement blocks, metal roof, shiny new tile floors, a small bema in the front with a lectern, and the universal plastic chairs;
There were neither flowers nor cross nor candles.
The pastor,dressed casually in an open necked sports shirt, welcomed us expansively.
Knowing  I was a pastor asked if I would like to read some Scripture of my choice.  I assented and looked for some I thought appropriate for the day.
Marta, our powerhouse cook, community leader, is also a leader in the church, and she began worship by  welcoming  us into their midst  and then she sang a  powerful, heartfelt song.   Alternately one person would sing a solo, and then the whole church would rise and sing; sometimes the songs were lively, filled with spirit and energy; sometimes they were plaintive and  thoughtful
The pastor played the guitar, and someone accompanied him on the accordion.
I sat and listened; awed that so many could sing all the long songs by heart.  Good grief, we were lucky we could remember the lyrics to one verse!!!
The pastor gave his sermon, alternately being silly and serious--the little ones left for Sunday school...and then he asked me if I would say a few words...hmm...I though I was supposed to read.  Oh well.
7 Ah, the children...
She was about 15 we guessed, but we hoped she was older; it was early morning and she had walked from somewhere up to the coffee co-op to meet a friend with a toddler.A charming girl with rich black hair, coffee colored skin and a bountiful smile,
she held in her arms a delightful baby girl of about 2 months old.  Of course, all we abuelitas gringas descended on her and she allowed each of us to take a turn holding her baby, cooing  at her baby, and essentially making fools of ourselves over this sweet infant. What did she make of this flock of strange white-faced women? We donít know, but she was patient with us, smiling benignly as we loved her baby. Her babyís name was Genesis.

  He just showed up one morning, hovering around the edges of whatever activity was going on. He was about 11 or 12 and his name was Ezekiel, but everyone called him Kiel. One of our team members played a fierce game of catch with him, and that was it.  He was ours.  Soon he was helping the cook, traveling with us, listening to us and watching us.  He would sit and watch us knit with great intensity.  Saying he wanted to learn how to knit, we asked someone who was coming into the mountains to look for knitting needles  in Managua, but they couldnít be found.
 Of course, we wondered why he wasnít in school. With the help of our translator we discovered that he had been kept back in the 2nd grade since his attendance was so poor. He was a good reader, having read the newspaper aloud to one of the team members. We found out that he was apparently the youngest of his family, and his other siblings were much older. Perhaps his parents got tired of trying to get him to go to school; perhaps he was humiliated by being 12 in the 2nd grade, even though he was in a one room schoolhouse.
  It was difficult to eat lunch while he just stood nearby, so we invited him to join us, and he would wait until everyone had served themselves, then he would get his food and sit with us. He would be sure everyone had a chair before he sat down. And none of this was done obsequiously; he was just a polite kid. Though he was reserved,  he found ways to be helpful; we enjoyed his presence and would often tell him that even if he just wanted to be a farmer there, he needed school. But who were we to tell him how to live a life for which we had understanding.
It was a sad parting; there were many hugs, and very graciously, he came around to each of us, shook our hand, and said Ďadios.í I see him now, shyly smiling, his baseball cap pulled down, a shock of black hair sticking out, and his sunglasses on the brim.
Adios, Kiel.  Dios te bendiga.
There are more...
 Always, there are more stories, more memories, more images than words can describe. Stories that linger, create sadnesses, joys, and thought.  Stories that suddenly emerge at the sight or sound that evokes a memory. 
And, too there are the faces: of the children, bemused by this strange white lady who wants them to sing  of Lionel, earnest, passionate leader of his community; of Marta with her ready smile; of all the people who wandered in and out of our times.  Faces, real people, shared lives, shared presence. Love.   
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woodstoves2
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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2013, 09:42:45 PM »

Thank you for sharing your treasures.
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Chris Santee
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« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2013, 04:09:45 PM »

Dios te bendiga !
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Rev. Elizabeth
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2013, 06:25:26 AM »

Thank you, Chris!
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Rev. Elizabeth
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« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2013, 10:15:15 AM »

Bumpta bump bump
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rod anode
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2013, 01:53:15 PM »

too long of a read what does it say?
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Norton
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2013, 03:02:49 PM »


Rod, it says this:


Vignettes from the Campo; El Bejuco Nicaragua, 2013

We had no real idea where we were going; it doesnít even appear on google maps; yet, we were on our way; two vehicles laden with food and heath kits and school supplies and mattresses and our own personal gear.
After a tasty meal in San Jose de Las Remates (which is on the map!) we began the final leg of our journey. The road into El Bejuco is stony, dirt, narrow, and in some places, treacherous.  Each hill drops into a wallow where, often, a stream flows. 
Our vehicle labored up  each hill often scraping bottom in the wallows.  The ride was long, sometimes unnerving, but  the scenery became increasingly beautiful as we wound our way up and down through what remained of a dry tropical forest.  Bromeliads of all sorts decorated spreading tree branches; scattered cows dotted the hillsides.
Trees punctuated the green hill pastures;   you could see how the forest had been cut back to create a semblance of pasture. An occasional tree with  pink or orange blossoms glistened in the sunlight.  It was stunningly beautiful.
The few houses were tucked into level areas on the steep hillsides, and occasionally there were houses close to the road.
Despite the fact that the houses were scattered widely, that people walked miles every day to work on the coffee farms, visit, worship,  there was a strong sense of community, perhaps generated by the existence of the coffee co-op, where we would be staying.
None of us had even been this way before. It was all new, and wonderful and beautiful.
 1. Sounds of the morning...
  One sleeps fitfully on a cement floor whose hardness is ameliorated by a thin foam mattress.  Daylight begins to creep across the sky at 5:30.  Soon  our cooks Marta and Thelma, who have walked several miles to serve us, will arrive. Laughter and chatter is followed by the  violent sound of a machete thwacking pieces of wood as Marta cuts wood for the fire that will cook our breakfast. A rhythmic slapping sound says that there will be fresh corn tortillas for breakfast. The rush of water tells me that Gerald is taking the first cold shower. One by one by one birds begin to sing to each other.  Clattering hooves tell me a vacero is riding by with milk. I step out to watch the clouds slowly lift off the mountains  revealing the fields and forests that roll and stretch in front of me. And if I am still.  And if there is quiet.  And if I listen carefully. I can hear them; off in the distance, on the ridge of the forested mountain, they are there, and I can hear them.  How far away that ridge is I donít know; a mile, perhaps  as the crow flies.
No, matter, I listen and can hear the faint whoo-whooing of howler monkeys in the treetops, talking to each other; looking for food, tending each other.

2. Itís All Relative.
There had been  email chatter amongst the group.
Joel, the CEPAD coordinator for the mountainous area we were going to visit had told us it was going to be Ďcool.í Should we bring long pants and long sleeved shirts: how many?  We knew we might be getting dirty doing agricultural work; we wanted to be civil; we didnít know if we would be able to wash clothes...what to do! All of us ended up taking up precious luggage space by packing long pants and long sleeved shirts. 
And,  of course, after a long and hot day of visiting and walking and learning, the evening brought a breeze and lower temperatures.  Ah, we realized, this, this breeze, this slight drop in temperature,this was ...COOL! We all  looked at each other and laughed!  Cool, they donít know cool.  This is just right.     We rejoiced in the cool.
Itís all a matter of perspective we declared, laughing at ourselves.

3. Sometimes old fashioned is better....
And then there are umm, well, the bathrooms.In  an attempt to be up to date, the folks who built the coffee cooperative building  where we stayed--essentially an empty building of concrete with a separate kitchen area--had installed  two sinks and two toilets, both with running water. Alas, the water pressure was too great for the plumbing that was available, and since there was no handy hardware store, they had to turn the water off or be flooded.   So,  Sunday morning we awakened to no water at all.
The kind farmer up the road offered that we could avail ourselves of his latrine.   Up the road we treked, through the gate, past the cows wandering in to be milked.
The farmer kindly put a third side on the latrine for us. The view was spectacular.
Walking back we all decided that a latrine with a view of the mountains was far better than non working modern plumbing. 
4.   Finding joy in the lack of things.
There had been electricity. We saw the fixtures, the switches.  At great expense the community of scattered farms had purchased a turbine for a hydro plant.  Alas, no one told them that the turbine wasnít big enough for the power of the water.  The turbine broke; there was, no electricity. 
Evening came quickly once the sun dropped behind the steep hills.   We sat in the growing darkness with our flashlights ready. Often we ate  our rice and beans by headlamp and candles. We would occasionally stop talking to listen to the insects and night creatures calling; buzzing, chirping.  We reveled in the fact that  because the moon was full and waning we had moonlight.  And when clouds blocked the moon  we would walk out to the middle of the road, turn off all our lights, look up, and as our eyes adjusted we began to see the sky fill with stars, and see the milky way, streaming across the sky.
5 Yup, gotta keep thinking about that perspective
Unless you stay at the Intercontinental or some other fancy hotel, the concept of a hot shower is a dream. We werenít at the Intercontinental. we were in the cement coffee co-op building in the middle of nowhere.  Sudden shrieking; giggles; noise..indicated one thing:.someone is taking a shower. The water pressure was strong; the shower, a garden hose; the water; freezing.  The only way to deal with it was to exhale loudly; exclaim, and afterward, be happy in being clean and no longer sticky.
In Managua, the water comes from a dribbly shower head, and the temperature at its warmest is tepid.  However, when we returned from the mountains to our place in Managua suddenly  that tepid water became hot!
6 It was just a little church
Service trips have allowed me to worship in a small Catholic church in La Paz, beneath Vulcan Mombacho, in a Catholic church in Batahola Norte, a center of learning and service in the barrio Batahola. And I was warmly welcomed in all these churches.
At 9 I heard bells ringing and knew that  somewhere was a building that served as a Catholic church.  It was expected that we  go to the evangelical church whose service began at ten.
Birds carolling around us we walked up the dirt road, and there it was:
a little church, cement blocks, metal roof, shiny new tile floors, a small bema in the front with a lectern, and the universal plastic chairs;
There were neither flowers nor cross nor candles.
The pastor,dressed casually in an open necked sports shirt, welcomed us expansively.
Knowing  I was a pastor asked if I would like to read some Scripture of my choice.  I assented and looked for some I thought appropriate for the day.
Marta, our powerhouse cook, community leader, is also a leader in the church, and she began worship by  welcoming  us into their midst  and then she sang a  powerful, heartfelt song.   Alternately one person would sing a solo, and then the whole church would rise and sing; sometimes the songs were lively, filled with spirit and energy; sometimes they were plaintive and  thoughtful
The pastor played the guitar, and someone accompanied him on the accordion.
I sat and listened; awed that so many could sing all the long songs by heart.  Good grief, we were lucky we could remember the lyrics to one verse!!!
The pastor gave his sermon, alternately being silly and serious--the little ones left for Sunday school...and then he asked me if I would say a few words...hmm...I though I was supposed to read.  Oh well.
7 Ah, the children...
She was about 15 we guessed, but we hoped she was older; it was early morning and she had walked from somewhere up to the coffee co-op to meet a friend with a toddler.A charming girl with rich black hair, coffee colored skin and a bountiful smile,
she held in her arms a delightful baby girl of about 2 months old.  Of course, all we abuelitas gringas descended on her and she allowed each of us to take a turn holding her baby, cooing  at her baby, and essentially making fools of ourselves over this sweet infant. What did she make of this flock of strange white-faced women? We donít know, but she was patient with us, smiling benignly as we loved her baby. Her babyís name was Genesis.

  He just showed up one morning, hovering around the edges of whatever activity was going on. He was about 11 or 12 and his name was Ezekiel, but everyone called him Kiel. One of our team members played a fierce game of catch with him, and that was it.  He was ours.  Soon he was helping the cook, traveling with us, listening to us and watching us.  He would sit and watch us knit with great intensity.  Saying he wanted to learn how to knit, we asked someone who was coming into the mountains to look for knitting needles  in Managua, but they couldnít be found.
 Of course, we wondered why he wasnít in school. With the help of our translator we discovered that he had been kept back in the 2nd grade since his attendance was so poor. He was a good reader, having read the newspaper aloud to one of the team members. We found out that he was apparently the youngest of his family, and his other siblings were much older. Perhaps his parents got tired of trying to get him to go to school; perhaps he was humiliated by being 12 in the 2nd grade, even though he was in a one room schoolhouse.
  It was difficult to eat lunch while he just stood nearby, so we invited him to join us, and he would wait until everyone had served themselves, then he would get his food and sit with us. He would be sure everyone had a chair before he sat down. And none of this was done obsequiously; he was just a polite kid. Though he was reserved,  he found ways to be helpful; we enjoyed his presence and would often tell him that even if he just wanted to be a farmer there, he needed school. But who were we to tell him how to live a life for which we had understanding.
It was a sad parting; there were many hugs, and very graciously, he came around to each of us, shook our hand, and said Ďadios.í I see him now, shyly smiling, his baseball cap pulled down, a shock of black hair sticking out, and his sunglasses on the brim.
Adios, Kiel.  Dios te bendiga.
There are more...
 Always, there are more stories, more memories, more images than words can describe. Stories that linger, create sadnesses, joys, and thought.  Stories that suddenly emerge at the sight or sound that evokes a memory. 
And, too there are the faces: of the children, bemused by this strange white lady who wants them to sing  of Lionel, earnest, passionate leader of his community; of Marta with her ready smile; of all the people who wandered in and out of our times.  Faces, real people, shared lives, shared presence. Love.   
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Rev. Elizabeth
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2013, 04:13:06 PM »

Thanks,Norton.  Rod, I wrote it in vignettes so that you don't have to read it all at once!!! You can read it section by section!!! 
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Chris Santee
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2013, 06:58:40 AM »

too beautiful not to bump
we are fortunate
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Take Care & God Bless,
             chris
csantee@myfairpoint.net
(802) 849-2758
(802) 782-0406 cell
www.TheFairfaxNews.com
Rev. Elizabeth
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2013, 08:04:33 AM »

Thank you, Chris.
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mkr
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2013, 11:36:27 AM »

Thank you so much for sharing!  What an amazing experience for you Rev. Elizabeth!
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"Life is too short, so love the one you got!"
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