I just returned from El Salvador the other week where I was visiting a couple of good friends with whom I studied abroad in Uganda (one of them lives in El Salvador now). While I was there, I also had the opportunity to go to the march commemorating the anniversary of the death of Monsignor Oscar Romero. Reflecting on my experiences and how I have been feeling these past couple of weeks, I decided to include an excerpt from “The Romero Prayer” which seems very fitting.
“We cannot do everything
And there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
And to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.”
You know, sometimes I just wish I could snap my fingers and things would change - I would be fluent in Spanish, relationships would be instantly formed, my coworkers wouldn’t have to worry about money and safety and good, affordable health care, teaching would be a breeze and I would be able to actively engage my students in class, there would be an end to all the violence around the world, etc. Things don’t quite work like that, though, and I think that there is much to be learned throughout the process of struggling towards these hopes and dreams.
Relationships take time. I am very grateful for the relationships I have formed and continue to develop within the community where I live. Sometimes, though, I feel the desire to have my own friends outside of this community. I absolutely love my coworkers! They make me laugh and we have found ways to joke around despite the culture and language barriers. Yet, I haven’t quite reached that stage where conversation always flows easily, partly because of my Spanish and partly because I’m not really sure what to talk about. With time and comfortableness, I have confidence that these friendships will continue to grow. Throughout all of this, I have been amazed by the patience, encouragement, and openness of my coworkers, their willingness to sit and talk to me, and most of all to share their lives with me.
Being in a new place, a different culture, attempting to speak a different language, a new role (I’ve never taught before), with different people, there are bound to be challenges. At times I feel like a little kid just starting to learn to speak, how to get around, being incredibly dependent on others. What incredible joy and beauty and blessings are being revealed to me, though! I am thankful for the strong sense of community and hospitality I find in Nicaraguans, for their willingness to be vulnerable, to welcome me into their realities, to take me by the hand and accompany me. I have so much to learn about humility and accepting help, since those of you that know me well know that I am usually stubborn and very independent. However, so much good can come from the intercambio and sharing of ideas, love, and culture. It’s all about taking baby steps, one step at a time, walking to the edge and jumping into the unknown and all of those other cliches. It’s about inviting myself over to one of my coworker’s house, risking the chance of being rejected or worrying that it might be uncomfortable not knowing what we’ll do. The other weekend, I did just that, though. I went over to a coworker’s house and it was really good. Yes, it was slightly awkward for a little bit but then we cooked lunch together, which was quite entertaining for both of us as she tried to teach me how to cook. We also watched part of the movie “Up” and played dominoes when it got too hot inside. After visiting with her husband after he got home from his class at the university, I headed back home very happy for the time we spent together and her generosity.
So, all in all, I guess what I’m trying to convey is that the journey is not always easy and doesn’t always feel good (feeling embarrassed, inadequate, homesick) but I am learning so so much everyday. Whether that is new Spanish vocabulary or taking risks or admitting that I need help, it is a continual process of growing, being broken, and refilled until I overflow. I continue to be thankful for the support of family and friends back home. While the physical distance may feel vast, I feel connected by love and prayers.
I’ve also decided to add some fun little tidbits about what life in Nica looks like for me.
You know you’re in Nicaragua when…
-- I am told by my co-workers that what I am currently eating that day for lunch is not really tough chicken (like I thought) but in fact it is tiburón, aka shark!
-- I start sweating at 8am and find out that the heat index reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit that day.
-- I prefer drinking a fresco, fresh fruit juice served in a plastic bag, to bottled juice.
-- riding the bus is a workout, with so many people squeezing on and trying to get off and crazy bus drivers, trying to keep my balance and find a place to stand sometimes leaves me feeling like I just lifted weights.
-- seeing volcanoes out my window on the way to work every morning has become the norm.
Bianca and I - yes, we are sitting in buckets of water... I told you it gets hot here!
Incredible sunset with rain off in the distance
Napping in the hammock
The friends I was visiting in El Salvador