The word that comes to my mind is overwhelming

Thank you Bryanna Maxey, IHM Parishioner and McNick Student, for sharing your reflection on your 2015 trip to CCBN!

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“If people were to ask me how was my trip, I would respond with complete honesty. My response would be that this trip to Nicaragua was hard for me. Don’t get me wrong it was one of the best times I have ever had in my life, but it was extremely difficult for me to see that vast poverty of the country. The word that comes to my mind is overwhelming. How is it possible for people to live like this? It breaks my heart to see anyone living the way that most people are in Nicaragua. However, my heart breaks even more for the children living in the poor conditions. These children are not getting the proper nourishment or education and it makes me realize how blessed I truly am. My bedroom alone is bigger than some people’s entire home. The poverty was just very hard for me to see. It’s not like it was only in one part of a city, but it was everywhere you look. I just want to be able to help these people even if it is something very small. This trip definitely opened my eyes not only about how I am currently living my life, but most importantly, how I want to live my life in the future. This trip helped me to fully recognize how much I love to serve others. Even though I am still not sure what I want to do with the rest of my life, this experience has shown me opportunities I didn’t even know existed. This trip made me realize that the rest of the world is much different than the bubble the U.S. is in. This just makes me want to be able to go anywhere I can in the world to help the people who need it most. I want to be able to leave this earth and say that I made it a better place in some way than before I got here. I don’t expect to save the lives of hundreds of people, but if I can truly help at least one person on this earth, I would call it a successful life. This trip makes me want to go on more like it and maybe even potentially go on a 2 year service trip. I definitely have a lot to think about regarding my future. No matter what, I want to choose a career that is centered around helping and serving others. It doesn’t matter if I own nothing, if I can serve others and meet these amazing people my life would be amazing. I don’t even necessarily have to do something globally. There are people in my own community who suffer greatly. One small action or project could surprise me and become something much greater that will not only benefit me, but will benefit the people who need help and want a better life. Yes, this trip was difficult, but it was eyeopening and I can’t wait to see what the future holds because this past week will definitely factor into the decisions I make.”

 

An experience like this moves us, shakes us!

Thank you Lauren Wulker, IHM Parishioner and teacher at McNick, for sharing your thoughts on your 2015 trip to Nicaragua!

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“In this very moment THIS is what I am living for- shared moments with today’s youth that offer a sort of ripening of the soul that comes with challenge. Up until last year the only traveling I had done to Central America was for myself – to learn Spanish, to volunteer, to be a tourist on vacation, to study conservation in the field, etc. My reason for being here this week is one of giving, sharing this experience with all of you. Sure, I have an arsenal of hilarious OK teachable moments that have taken place on McNick’s campus, but the richest and most profound memories of teaching that I will carry with me are the result of service outside the classroom – in the “real world” so to speak. Most of that revolves around accompaniment or solidarity in some way, e.g. Slidell, LA building houses after Katrina; Appalachian service retreat; Kairos, where perhaps for many of us we learn to accompany one another in our shared human suffering for the first time – and of course now in Nicaragua. Being with you in the face of challenge, love, laughter, bug spray, Spanglish, Mangues, rocky roads, street dogs and prayer is who and what I have been living for. Where I go from here – where all of you go from here will undoubtedly also be a place where community, service, and education stand as pillars.

An experience like this moves us, shakes us (like a sand shifter), until suddenly we experience a new kind of “awake.” It is our choice to live without dead time. It is our choice to choose the road filled with crowded buses, feces, hustling of good, poverty, rocks, chickens, and “adios.” It is our choice to say yes to the challenges this brings, the big questions that leave us wondering who we are, who we thought we were and who we want to be. Thank you all for saying yes. Vamos caminando.”

I want to live to love those around me

Thank you Sally Daoud, McNick Student and Visitor of CCBN Summer 2015, For Sharing These Beautiful Thoughts on Your Experience in Nicaragua!

“I want to live to love those around me and give them the love they deserve. We are born with different physical characteristics but we are all human, the same being. While poverty, distance, and injustice may divide us, love unites us. We were born with no thoughts of hate, cruelty and sadness yet we experience and witness it everyday. However that is when we must rise and give all of our love and kindness. If everyone could simply live in love and harmony we could lessen the bad in the world. There will be poverty. There will be injustice. There will be distance from our brothers and sisters around the world. But love is universal. It’s not something you acquire, it is something that you are born of. You were born out of love and it seems only fair that you share love with all those around you. So I want to live for love. Love for those who have harder time receiving it. Love for those who do what they have to do to make ends meet. Love for those who give so much and expect nothing back. Live to Love.

Words are not enough to describe this experience. What I have seen with my very own eyes in one word would be love. You expect the people and the environment to be sad and lonesome but you would be very surprised. The kindness and sense of community that I witnessed first hand at the Cultural Center in Managua is beyond me. Everyone shows nothing but love to one another. You see no hate, among the people, as if all they know is how to love. It is an example to everyone. They make the most of their situation and what they have and I heard no complaints. It was the most eyeopening experience I will probably ever have. It changes your perspective and outlook on life. You not only look but you really see. You listen not just hear. You feel emotions and have thoughts that have never occurred to you before. It’s renewing in the sense that you are not so different from them after all. We say that money, living situation, and job stability are what separates us, but take all that away and we are left with our thoughts, words, and emotions. You can connect with anyone you meet if you think that you are no better than them. We are all one, we are all united, we are all capable of loving one another.”

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Photo of the Day

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Classes are back in session at the Center as of this Monday, and we have 33 new students in our English class! It is a very diverse group, both in terms of ages and life experiences. Students range from a 12-year old who is just starting secondary school to a security guard at the U.S. embassy. This week, we have been focusing on building community in the classroom and making sure students feel at home at the Center. On Tuesday, we visited the library, where students completed a scavenger hunt and learned how to check out books.

The Angel of Batahola

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This Sunday, the Batahola community came together for a mass in commemoration of the 14th anniversary of one of our founders, Father Angel Torrellas.

When Angel and Margarita first arrived in Batahola, Angel began holding mass for the community under a street light just outside of where the Center is today. A trained musician, he soon began organizing music classes for youth in Batahola. Today, members of the Batahola community continue to celebrate mass each Sunday at the Center. Many of Angel’s former students have now become teachers at the Center, including guitar teacher Nineth Larios and choir director Juan Carlos Gaitan.

Below are the Spanish and English lyrics for the song “El Angel de Batahola” (The Angel of Batahola), written by the famous Nicaraguan musician Carlos Mejia Godoy after Angel’s death:

 

The Angel of Batahola

Written by Carlos Mejia Godoy

 

Those that knew you best say

that from the days of your infancy

They saw a cluster of stars

In the brightness of your eyes

Contemplating the snowy peaks

Of the high asturian mountains

You felt fated

To face storms and squalls

 

Angel of the children, Angel of the poor

Nicaragua won’t forget you

Here in Batahola, we will accompany you

On your eternal blue flight

 

As a young priest you responded

to the sweet voice of Jesus Christ

Since then you seemed to be

Made for great challenges

With your thirst for auroras and horizons

You crossed the sky and the waters

And one day you arrived jubilantly

Full of optimism to our country

 

A humble neighborhood of Managua

Was the fertile ground of your field

Here you poured out your soul

With the unforgettable Margarita

Rest in peace in this beautiful earth

Where you sowed your smile

From which emerges a spring of butterflies

Of flutes, of voices, and marimbas

 

El Angel de Batahola

 

Cuentan los que más te conocieron

Que desde los días de tu infancia

Vieron un racimo de luceros

Allá en el fulgor de tu mirada

Contemplando los picos nevados

De las altas cumbres asturianas

Te sentias ya predestinado

A enfrentar tormentas y borrascas

 

Angel de los pobres, Angel de los pobres

Nicaragua no te olvidará

Aquí en Batahola te acompañaremos

En tu vuelo azul de eternidad

 

Joven sacerdote respondiste

A la dulce voz de Jesucristo

parecías ser desde ese entonces

Hecho para grandes desafíos.

Con tu sed de auroras y horiantes

Cruzaste los cielos y las aguas

Y un dia llegaste jubiloso

Lleno de optimismo a nuestra patria.

 

Un humilde barrio de Managua

Fue la tierra fértil de tu milpa,

Aqui desbordaste toda el alma

Con la inolvidable Margarita.

Duerme en paz en este tierra hermosa

Que’onde vos sembraste tu sonrisa

Brota un manantial de mariposas

De flautas, de voces y marimbas

How does the CCBN give you hope?

What gives me hope?

Being able go to work every day at a place full of such positive energy fills me with hope. I love walking around the Center and hearing the sounds of violin echoing through the hallway, children laughing, and neighbors chatting about each other’s lives.

On a personal level, the Batahola community has been nothing but welcoming and kind. My co-workers are always more than happy to take the time to answer my questions about the Center and life in Managua. My English students were so patient with us as we took over the class and began to learn ropes of teaching.

It has been inspiring to see first-hand the impact the Center’s programs have on the community. In my first few months, I had the opportunity to accompany and observe in many different areas of the Center. During my time with the scholarship students, I saw older scholarship recipients giving back to the community by tutoring and mentoring younger students at weekly study sessions. As I accompanied the youth violence prevention promoters, I saw young people working to create social change by raising awareness among their peers around healthy relationships and violence. As a member of the choir, I’ve come to understand that the choir not just a musical group, but a community of people who help and support each other. It is a space for musical, emotional and spiritual growth.

As I reflect on all the experiences I have had here these past four months, I am so grateful to the community of Batahola for all they have shared with me and excited to see what this next year has in store. It is an incredible privilege to be part of a group of people working to build community and to make the world a better place.

 

Saludos,

Clare

How does the CCBN give you hope?

How does the CCBN give me hope?

That is such an easy question to answer, as I am inspired every single day at work by the beautiful and impactful events and classes at the Center.  This Center is a place of learning, guidance, creativity and imagination for community members of all ages.  Whether it is hearing the sounds of a young recorder learner, or participating in a violence prevention group, hope and happiness resonant throughout this center.  It is a safe haven for many women and youth; a place to come together, distress and focus on themselves.

My community of coworkers has been so welcoming as I begin to integrate myself into the Center.  Their dedication and hard work is visible in the various projects of the Center, the classes they teach and their willingness to listen to the members of the community.  The workers of the Center work to address the needs of the community and give them hope for a better future.  As I have gotten to know my coworkers, it has become clear through their stories and experiences at the Center, that they have received so much hope and love through their jobs.  The Center has provided them with not only an economic means to support their family, but emotional support, professional development, and community.

I see hope in my students that they can improve their English, or find a job using English.  The little kids in the scholarship radiate hope and happiness to be running around the Center, playing games with their friends or participating in tutoring.  

The Center brings together people of all walks of life and economic levels.  It brings together people to learn, to laugh and fundamentally to love.  This learning and love inspires change and opportunity in our community, which brings a hope for a brighter future to all those involved at the center, whether it’s a scholarship student, an employee or someone from the neighborhood. I am grateful to work in such a beautiful place, and I to have been filled with hope for the future of Batahola.

Arroz con Piña!

Delicious, sugary and cold refreshing “refrescos” fruit juices are a large part of culture in Nicaragua. Learning how to drink one is also a cultural lesson. These drinks are sold in plastic bags, which to a newcomer can be confusing. First you bite the corner of the bag, and then you attempt to balance the bag or not spill the brightly colored juice on your clothes while you drink it. I learned recently that the reason the juice is served in bags is because during the war there was little access to supplies, thus plastic bags became very popular and more accessible than cans or plastic. The habit has stuck and now must things are sold in baggies!

Having enjoyed various types of frescos here: passion fruit, dragon fruit, rose hibiscus, orange and more, I decided I wanted to learn how to make one! I hit the market, bought a pineapple, and called upon my Nicaraguan cooking teaching, my English student and neighbor! This rice with pineapple drink may sound a little strange, but don’t knock it until you try it! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

2 Liters of Water

1 Pineapple

1 Cup Rice

1 Tbsp of Raspberry Flavored Juice (this does not have much flavor and is more for color, can be left out!)

Sugar to taste

Steps:

  1. Slice and cube pineapple
  2. Put water, pineapple and rice in pot
  3. Cook until rice is thick and pineapple has softened, about 15 minutes
  4. Allow mixture to cool
  5. Blend mixture
  6. Add sugar to your liking and raspberry juice
  7. Drain Mixture
  8. Add ice and enjoy!

Photo of the Day

This week, our English class had a special guest– Yubelka, a former English student who studied with Sam and Andrea in 2012. Yubelka is now taking English classes at the Universidad Centroamericana, and eventually hopes to complete her masters in Canada. She shared some words of wisdom about language learning and encouraged our students to continue with their English studies.

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Yubelka and I with some of the students from our class

El Mercado Oriental

I love going to any type of market. I love buying large quantities of cheap produce, random knick-knacks, browsing odd items, so obviously when I learned the largest market in Central America is located in Managua, I had to go. I have now gone twice, and to say the least it is overwhelming! I wish I had photos to share with you, but under strict instructions from every Nicaraguan I told I want to go to the Mercado Oriental, I did not bring anything valuable.

The first time I went to the fruit and veggie section and the electronic section, with a mission of buying a new blender. There are a few sayings about the Mercado Oriental, everything is cheaper at the market and if you can’t find it there, you can’t find it in Nicaragua. My neighbor and her son were kind enough to take this gringa to the market, which is an adventure for sure! When we arrived in the electronic section, her son did all the bargaining and would not let me talk so we would not get charged a higher price. To arrive at this part of the market, we walked past tens of thousands of fruits and vegetables. Every vendor selling the same thing, at the same price yelling out “TOMMATTOOS, PEPPPERRS, COOORRN. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?? GOOD PRICES GOOD PRICES!!” Wanting to look at everything was a challenge, because you have to walk around rocks, mud and garbage. All of my senses were overwhelmed by the noise, the smells and navigating the market pathways.

The second time I went, I went with two CCBN employees to shop for decorations for the upcoming carnival for violence prevention in Batahola. I have never been to an Oriental Trading Company catalog warehouse, but I imagine this is what it would look like. There were booths and booths and more booths of piñatas, candy, and all sorts of plastic trinkets for goodie bags. Brightly colored beads, hats, papers, and again people yelling out “what are you looking for, great prices”. My coworkers were very conscience of protecting the gringa and guiding me through this market. I could see how it is very easy to get lost because there are about 20 different piñata vendors. As we passed through the used closing section, which is mostly clothes from the United States, we headed to the fabric section where there were more fabric options then I have ever seen in my life. Again the noises and the sights overwhelmed my senses. I was eager to look at everything, but instead focused on not getting hit by the tomato cart passing through.

The Mercado Oriental is truly an experience for a blonde young lady; I am glad to have explored this market with some locals who know their way around! And from my experience, it really seems you can buy anything at the Mercado Oriental.

Paz,

Natasha