Joanna in Nicaragua - Study Abroad Journal
Trece Dias Mas
Saturday, May 1
With thirteen days left and a deadline in sight for our final projects, the four of us have been hard at work each day. We have been at the Nehemiah Center from about 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday-Sunday, and sometimes even later. With the rainy season here, it is still very hot and now humid, but when it rains it cools everything down for a little while.
This week I had the opportunity to get some experience in the writing of grant proposals. They were writing a grant proposal to get funding to introduce a new crop in a rural area, which will dramatically improve the nutrition of the children. I tried to sit and absorb everything they were doing. This is one of the reasons doing a semester abroad is so great, because you do not get learning experiences like that in a classroom.
This week we did take a break for some fun. There is a famous Nicaraguan skateboarder whose video premier we went to. That was a pretty cool thing to be at and we were invited to the after party because apparently we have "connections," whatever that means.
At the current moment I am quite exhausted because I waited for my bus to come for 1 1/2 hours and it never did; I ended up taking a taxi to get to the Nehemiah Center and luckily got here right before the rain began.
Thursday, May 6
With only eight days left there are certain things I am looking forward to that I have not had the comfort of for the past couple of months:
- Getting my hair and nails done
- Mexican Food
- Flammin' Hot Cheetos
- Sleeping with warm blankets
- Driving my car
- Shopping at Marshalls
- Going to church
- Not sweating
- Using a washing machine and dryer
- The comfort of familiar things
There are also things that I am going to miss about Nicaragua...
- Seeing mountains, lakes, and volcanoes whenever I walk outside
- The people
- Taking weekend vacations to remote places
- Buying Mango de rossas on the street
- Buying amazing sugar bread things in the mornings
- My internship
- Being sun-kissed
- Going to the movie theater for less than $3
- Taking naps in hammocks
- The Kodak-ness of this place
The great thing about both of these places is that both have a piece of my heart.
Monday, May 10
Last night, Greg and I decided to take a break from the non-stop work and visit one of our favorite places: Mason Sur. Not only do they have great Margarita pizza, but the view is amazing, especially at sunset. It overlooks a laguna crater and gives you a view of the whole city, including the giant Lake Managua, the volcano, and some mountains.
After that, I went home to wash some laundry in the washing sink, for what I think is going to be the last time hand-washing my clothes for a while.
As for today, all my work is done! Today at 3:30 p.m. we are going to present our work to the staff at the Nehemiah Center. After, we are going to go out for dinner with Iskra, our go-to person, our host family, and Professor Dan for a final celebration of our time here.
The next three days we are going to do some final traveling and try to visit four different cities. This is what we are thinking...
Tuesday=Granada: See the city, eat at restaurants, and either go zip-lining or do a tour of islands
Wednesday=Matagalpa: Explore, eat, and see what there is to do
Thursday=Jinotepe/Masaya: Explore Jinotepe and eat lunch at this Chinese restaurant (one of my many moments of culture shock and awkwardness, a Chinese restaurant where they speak Spanish). Then, head to Masaya to explore, eat dinner, and do the Mount Masaya hike (which includes a cave tour)!
Somewhere in there, I am going to pack and be ready to take my flight back to busy Chicago by Friday morning.
Gracias a todos
Tuesday, May 18
I want to say thank you for all of your support while I took an adventure that God brought me to. On this semester abroad, I knew that God was going to open my eyes to things I never knew. And, it was during these four months I gained a better grasp as to what it means to love people the way Christ does. I can't tell you everything, but I will tell you some of the lessons I learned...
Many times when we want to help others in need we treat them as though they are in need of immediate relief, like clothing, money, food, etc. But really, these people are not in a life threatening situation; they should not be treated like they just survived an earthquake in Haiti. What they need is going to take more of a sacrifice on our part; they need a long term commitment of persons who are going to walk them through healing, help them find confidence, and challenge them to do things for themselves that they are able to.
An example of this is a question that I always struggled with; whether or not to give people on the streets money or food. I learned and I can confidently say that giving money or food to a person on the street is not helping them, it is only enabling them to stay where they are at. A better option would be to point them to an organization that is equipped to really help them out of their situation. If you want to commit to helping these people, then join in on an effort that God is already blessing by donating your time or money to those who have a grasp and a plan to treat the root causes of the situation.
With that said, make sure to take a closer look at where you are putting your money and time. It is a good idea to ask these questions: How much money is the organization actually using on those in need? How does the organization measure its success? Are the missionaries you are supporting being responsible and faithful with the money you are giving them? Is sending your children on an expensive mission trip the best way to help those in need with your money?
I want to challenge you, as I have been, to ask these important questions. To hear the stories of those who have been helped from mission organizations. To read books from and talk with those who are experienced in the field of poverty alleviation.
When I first began learning about these things, I almost felt discouraged to help and leery of doing something wrong. But, instead of leaving it at that, I searched deeper and did my research. There are many ways that I have changed my approach to serving and loving others, and I found that there is a deep need for me to be giving more of my time and money, I just need to make sure I am smart about how I am doing that.
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