Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 9 - Flying Home (Or How We did a Texas Touch & Go)

It was a dark and quiet morning disturbed by the unusual tones coming from my cellphone's alarm clock. I had chosen a particularly odd set of alarm ring tones so as to not oversleep my 4am wake up call, and I was not to be disappointed. Six hours earlier I had laid me down to sleep and prayed the Lord my soul to keep while all of the others continued to chat basking in the evening coolness of the cabana. At one point I drowsily recalled hearing Pastor Scott and Bernardo come in, but my consciousness was not awakened much more than that. And I had slept on to the accompaniment of my now familiar friend, my CPAP machine. The side benefit of this little device is that I awaken fully refreshed even with just a few hours of sleep. And this was the case on this dark morning.

I took care of my morning post wake-up needs and found myself dressed, packed, and ready to go by 4:20am. I went outside and tried to determine if there was life in the ladies' bedroom. Hearing nothing, I waited until 4:30 before knocking on the door and a drowsy but beautiful Angela came shuffling across the floor. It seems that her watch alarm had not awakened her.

True to his word, Adrian was there promptly at 4:45am and we loaded our gear into the van. The roads on the way to the airport were dark and it was especially important to not hit one of the many bicyclists or horse drawn carts that have no lighting or other alerts to warn traffic coming up from behind. But the flip side of the early hour and darkness meant that there was little traffic. Adrian skillfully wove the van in and out and around various slower moving vehicles with his customary beep of the horn and flash of the headlights. It was a quiet ride and we didn't say much. We had had a good week together and knew that no further words were needed. We left it all during our time of service.

Arriving at Augusto Sandino Aeropuerta around 5:30am, the first vestiges of the dawn light began to show. We exchanged goodbye hugs and words, and I left Adrian with a few things including a package of his beloved Cheetos. I had purchased them a day earlier but never got around to eating them. Inside the terminal, it was a beehive of activity. It seems that virtually all of the major airlines have departures around the same time, and there were hundreds of people in the check-in ques. We found ours and dutifully waited our turn to check the two bags we weren't carrying on. Armed with our boarding passes and a completed Nicaraguan immigration form, we wound our way through the airport to immigration and cleared that just fine. Then we went through the airport security with it's scanners and obligatory laptop out of the luggage and in a bin step. I observed people not taking their shoes off, so I didn't, but forgot to remove my cellphone. No worry, I just removed it from my pocket after going through the scanner, and the security lady wanded me right on the spot, and I was cleared to pick up my other items. Try that at a TSA checkpoint in the states.

At our gate we had a short wait for our 6:45 boarding. Like last year, there is a secondary manual search of carry-on items, and that went well. Soon we were on our airplane and headed for Miami where we had our longest layover.

Disembarking the plane in Miami, one has to walk down a labrynth of halls and walkways and escalators to reach American immigration where once again we joined the que ( one of 20 or 30). Clearing immigration, we discovered that we had to claim our luggage and then follow the yellow dots on the floor (affectionately named the Yellow Brick Road by Angela) to leave the checked luggage at the collection point and then follow the blue dots on the floor to our departure gate (well at least much of the way there - the rest was a Lewis & Clark discovery mission). Right next to our gate was a little sandwich vendor and I enjoyed a nice little Italian baguette sandwich while Angela enjoyed a salad.

Boarding the plane, we took our assigned seats; and waited for take-off. And we waited, and we waited some more. Soon a vicious rain squall came across the airport.

Finally the pilot came on and indicated they were being delayed due to the weather and how it was affecting the loading of the cargo door. Finally nearly an hour after our scheduled departure, we began to taxi. But that was soon to come to a stop when the pilot announced that we were number 12 in line for take-off. I did some quick calculations and figured we would arrive in Dallas' DFW airport about the time our flight was to be boarding. And we were not to be disappointed. The flight was smooth and I continued to read my Neal Peart book, Roadshow, which is a fascinating account of his motorcycle ride between venues of his last concert tour with the band, Rush, of which he's the drummer and lyricist.

Arriving in Dallas at 4:05, it took 10 minutes to taxi to the gate and another 10 minutes to get off the airplane. We walked quickly to the overhead tram which whisked us down to gate 30 from about gate 11. As we walked up to the gate, our names were being called, "Bowman, party of 2, you need to be on board!" We literally walked on along with another fellow from our flight and found our seats and this packed S80 took off for its nearly 4 hour flight to Seattle. I found it amusing that the longest flight leg had the smallest plane and no video or audio. So, I listened to a bit of Steve Green until my Zune lost battery power; and finished my book.

There was a fluffy blanket of clouds covering the area to the south of Seattle/Tacoma and Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier poked their snowy peaks through the fluff. Over the 520 bridge the pilot executed a sweeping left hand 180 degree turn to set us up for a southbound landing on 16R (the new 3rd runway that I had never landed on). Angela was able to see our neighbor's new grass from her seat. A smooth touchdown led to a short taxi to the gate. Upon deplaning, we made a restroom stop after which I struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman who asked me where we were traveling from. (He might have noticed my Nicaraguan shirt). When I said I was coming from Nicaragua, he mentioned he was 82 and on the board of CAM (Central America Mission) and he had spent 52 years in Haiti and led teams there and to Brazil and was very familiar with the various works in Nicaragua. It was a good conversation. I hope I can be as energetic at 82 as he was.

On the chance that our luggage may have made the flight, we headed for baggage claim. There was really no way it could have made the "touch & go" connection in Dallas. After a few turns of the luggage system, however, I spotted the flourescent CCM luggage tags attached to each piece of our luggage. Wow. American Airlines really scored in getting our luggage to us with no delay.

So the 2009 mission trip comes to an end. It certainly had its challenges. It had its victories and accomplishments. And I trust we made a small impact on lives in Xiloa (actually the barrio was called Miraflores). The need is there. Would you consider joining us next year?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 8 - Recreation Day

We enjoyed a nice recreation day with the Mingo family. Our day started with a false start at Fortaleza el Coyotepe, but there were several school bus loads of students. So we headed to the Masaya Volcano.

We made a stop at the visitor center which was quite good. Then we made the steep drive up to the crater's edge. It's way closer than we can get to Mt. St. Helens crater. It's a steaming & smoking cauldron. Note that cars are parked facing away from the crater for a quick escape!!

There's also a 177 step staircase to the highest point where we took more photos and had our photo taken by a Belgian tourist.

Leaving the volcano, we headed for the fort. This fort was built in colonial days to defend Managua from invaders. In more recent times it was a prison with torture chambers. It was a very sobering tour. It's now owned by the Nicaraguan Boy Scouts who operates it as a tourist attraction.

We also saw many bats and one very venomous spider.

Our lunch stop was at the MetroCenter mall.

Heading back to camp, we took a side trip to Ticantuepe trying to find a waterfall and some parrots. However, the road required a 4 x 4 vehicle so we didn't complete that trip.

So it was then a damp ride back to camp where we sat with the Mingos and chatted. For the Bowman's it will be an early 7am flight to Miami. The others will head for the beach with the Mingos.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 8 - Xiloa - Thursday

Today was our last day at the barrio. We finished our last painting chores and took the opportunity to walk around the barrio. On the northern boundary of the barrio is a very polluted stream that smells like spent laundry water. Also there is all sorts of garbage littering the shore. We also had a discussion with the church's guitarist about the need for a well so that crops could be grown without waiting for the seasonal rains.

Once again and for the last time we enjoyed lunch at the pay beach ($3) before driving over to the free beach. That beach is apparently very unsafe and is no longer as nice as the pay beach. There are very nice
homes that are faint shades of their former glory. It's sad to see such wanton destruction of the neighborhood.

Back at the barrio, Rachael S led the VBS for today and did a fine job. We also took a group picture.

Here are a few random pictures of children after the feeding.

We left a number of soccer balls and enough money for blocks for the latrine and the conversion of a window into a door and a door into a window. In addition, we left our painting tools and painting supplies. Pastor Pedro gave a few words of thanks for the work the team did and for the gifts of things and money.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 7 - Xiloa - Wednesday

Today went the best of the 3 days. We painted the front of the church as well as the north wall which faces the SS room. I was also able to go out with Adrian and Pastor Pedro to acquire a concrete toilet and mounting slab for $25. For the first time the church will have a latrine.

Once again we went to the beach and most went swimming.

For some reason a number of the rambunctious boys weren't there today. Plus we were able to use the newly painted church and that seemed to help reduce the number off distractions. We were also able to break the children up into 4 groups of 11-14 and review the Bible verse with them.

After the feeding, I observed the ladies working on their beadwork and it was very moving to see them working silently + productively.

We have one more day with the children tomorrow and we are looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 6 - Xiloa - Tuesday

Original blog post from the phone:

Our day with the kids went a little better, although there are definitely some more active boys. Bernardo did a good lesson on the resurrection. The interior painting is complete. Tomorrow we'll focus on the exterior. More detail will be in the detailed upload later after we return.

The guys room seems to have some sort of ant infestation as we are constantly killing them.

Our lunch time at the beach was good and several were able to swim.

Uploaded blog report on 8/16/09:

After a very refreshing sleep, we headed out for Xiloa at 8:10am. You like the precision of the reporting, I know. We made a stop to pick up Kaela, a fuel stop, and a stop to pick up a sack of concrete.

Arriving at Xiloa, we were once again greeted by the children (although not quite as many as yesterday). They were much better in staying out of the church and the team quickly was able to paint the remaining 1/2 plus a second coat on the entire interior. It's looking very sharp. We even had time to paint a few of the concrete posts in the front of the church.

We took our lunch break at the same location at Lake Xiloa, and today it was virtually empty because there was no holiday. Several took the opportunity to swim and others just napped.

I also took the opportunity on the drive back to the community to photograph some houses belonging to people even poorer than those in the community we are ministering.

Back at the community, we assembled the children in the schoolyard in the grass and they were a little more attentive today, but there remained about 4 unruly older boys that tended to be quite disruptive.

It seems that the favored "sport" is for one person to go down on his hands and knees behind another while a 3rd person pushes that person off balance over the person who's on his hands and knees. They think it's great fun, and it's clearly an attention getting device. The Lazarus story seemed to go well and I hammed it up as first a sick Lazarus and then a dead Lazarus and got wrapped in TP and a white towel. The kids were really concerned as to whether I was dead or not. It seemed to get and keep their attention as all good object lessons do. We finished the lesson and they marched single file back to the van for the pico and water distribution which also went a bit more orderly today.

After the food and water distribution, we had a chance to observe the ladies of the church as they created necklaces, bracelets and earrings from magazines using some techniques that Cheryl taught them. They are quite beautiful and these small items, once sold, represent a chance for the ladies to earn a bit of a living. The project is called, "Beading Poverty".

It was then a short drive back to the camp and we found a stick insect which brought great pleasure to many of us. It's an amazing creature that looks just like a stick with branches and doesn't move very fast. The detail on the head is simply amazing.

And did I mention that a cold shower felt really, really good?

As I write this we are waiting for dinner and after dinner we'll practice our teaching time for tomorrow .

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 5 - Xiloa

Today we had our first day of painting and working with the children. The day started with a trip to the bakery to get triangle rolls (Picos) for the feeding. We also needed another bag of cement, but because it was a holiday, not much was open.

We stopped to pick up Kaela and gave Adrian and Cheryl their anniversary cards:

Arriving at the church, we met Pastor Pedro; and we located our paint supplies. We mixed up the primer and primed the entire inside of the church in about an hour.

Switching to the color coat, we were able to paint 1/2 of the inside by shortly after noon.

We cleaned our equipment, and headed for lunch at a public park ($3 fee) on Lake Xiloa about 6 miles from the church.

Returning to the site, we learned that we would be teaching outside in a schoolyard. This proved to be very challenging, and the kids were very restless with no other adult supervision other than us.

We then organized the feeding, and that went pretty well.

After the feeding, Angela + I tried to play a simple game with a soccer ball to try to teach cooperation, but it was challenging with a number of bullies that came in and out of the game. Fortunately it was easy to identify them.

For tomorrow, we'll need to change our strategy as we have way too broad of age spectrum, and it's in an open area.