Tuesday, July 31, 2012

León, Nicaragua - July 31, 2012

What have we been up to lately? Well, where do I start - Masaya market, shopping for Abuelitas, La Paz Centro for more census and a study, CO's visit, first Pioneer Meeting, and the beach..... not to mention the day to day boring stuff we all do.

Picture from Solentiname Archipelago in the Primitiva style
On the day that we went to Ticuantepe to clean the Assembly Hall we were asked if we wanted to head into Masaya to the market. We had been to the tourist market before but this time we were heading to the market that the locals shop at - we couldn't wait. The prices at this market are much better than at the one that the tourist all head to - it's also more like the market here - all jumbled together and exciting (for those that like that kind of thing - whohoo!) We didn't have a "plan" of anything in particular that we wanted to buy but when Nathan mentioned that he was looking for some paintings we knew what we wanted. We had sold our "Nicaraguan" picture before we moved here with the intent that we would replace it when we could - well!, today was the day. We plunged into the market and quickly found a stall that was selling artwork. The lady asked what we were looking for and we told her that we wanted artwork from the Solentiname Archipelago. Oh, "primitiva" - Si! We looked at many different paintings that she had but none were quite "it". She took us to another booth that also sold the type of artwork we were looking for and bingo! there it was and at rock bottom prices too! For less than $15.00 (much less than the original piece we had bought in Granada) we were very happy indeed! The rest of the afternoon we spent looking for a set of Abuelitas (rocking chairs) for one of our friends. This was an adventure in itself - who would have thought that there was such a difference in design and comfort. Also, there doesn't seem to be the "buy more pay less" attitude. Our friend was actually quoted a higher price to buy 4 chairs than if she purchased two sets of two! She finally settled on a set she liked, we strapped them into the back of the truck and we headed home - via Pricesmart (this place is a real budget breaker and somewhere we may have to avoid in the future if we are going to keep on budget).

Pat and I are slowly working through the census in La Paz Centro. We usually plan to leave León early in the morning so that we can do a couple of blocks of census before we head to Jose Luis for his study. We keep finding some great English speakers. It is going to be a challenge for our congregation to keep up with all the interest! It's a good thing we keep having visitors to help with our territory!

The visit from our Circuit Overseer was really encouraging. Brother Turner had so many great suggestions to help us with our ministry and we look forward to implementing them. We were so excited to attend the Pioneer meeting - even if it was only half of it. We are sorry that this is the only visit we will have with them - they head to Mexico to work with an English Circuit. In fact they are heading to the lovely Yucatan and Quintana Roo one of our favorite areas! We wish them all the best.
Pioneer Meeting in Leon, Nicaragua

This past Monday we decided we deserved a swim in the ocean. We were disappointed when we left León because the skies were overcast and there was a little drizzle of rain. No worries though once we got to the coast - lovely blue skies awaited. Also, this was the first time that we found the water to be relatively calm - you could actually swim just in front of Playa Roca - our favorite hangout in Las Penitas. We arrived just in time to enjoy lunch and then headed into the waves. Throughout the afternoon we were joined by more friends who decided that it was a good day for the beach.

Natalie and Debbie

Andrea, Jasmine, Natalie and Caroline

Pat enjoying a peaceful moment at Playa Roca

Odd pictures of the week:

an iguana on the window
How to get your bed home from the market

Friday, July 20, 2012

León, Nicaragua - July 20, 2012

We just had our first Special Assembly Day here in Nicaragua and it was a real treat. It was held in Ticuantepe on the former Bethel grounds. We had a special "sneak peek" at the property on the day before the SAD because we went with a group of brothers to clean the facility for the next day. Here are some pictures that we took of the property.

As you can see, the seating area is open on the sides. This allows for a nice breeze - but also the birds, animals and plant material have access to the area and so it needs to be cleaned very thoroughly before an assembly.

Seating Area

Former Residences

Baptism Pool
The Assembly Hall grounds

Relaxing Area under the Tree

Happily, there were many helpful hands and it didn't take too long before the facilities where cleaned and ready for the next day. 

Enjoying the Lunch Break
When Sunday came it was a very early start to the day. We had to be at the Kingdom Hall for 6:15 a.m. to catch the small buses that the congregation had secured to transport everyone to the Assembly. Thankfully, everyone was on time and by 6:40 a.m.we had started the 2 hour trip to the Assembly Hall.  We had 274 in attendance for the afternoon - a very international group too! Along with the many Nicaraguan brothers there were Canadians, Americans, British and Australians in attendance. We met some of the folks that had traveled all the way from Pearl Lagoon (doesn't that sound so romantic) on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua - a journey of over 9 hours on boats and buses. They were tired but happy to be in attendance.

We have decided to dedicated Fridays to cultivating the interest that we have found in La Paz Centro. Pat has a study that he has in the afternoon - Jose Luis and we are still working on completing the census. I don't know how it happens, but Pat keeps finding people who love to feed him. When the study with Jose Luis is finished for the afternoon, Jose Luis makes Pat something to eat. So far he has enjoyed some Arroz rellenos and tacos. He promises to make Vigaron the next time we come.  

Interview with Brother & Sister Turner (CO & wife)

Next week we have the visit of our Circuit Overseer and his wife - Brother and Sister Turner. This will be their last visit with the congregation so we are looking forward to meeting them before they move on to their new assignment. Since we are auxiliary pioneering we are excited that we will be included in the pioneer meeting.

We finally received the hotel assignments for our District Convention in San Salvador. We were able to book a room in a hotel right across the street from where the convention is being held - yeah we can sleep in! I looked on Google Maps and there looks to be a Wendy's within the same block as the hotel - we'll have to check it out and see if we can get a Frostie - yum! San Salvador seems to be very Americanized with prices to match - so we will have to keep close tabs on our budget! The congregation has organized a bus to transport everyone to the convention. It will be much easier for everyone to go together and we are looking forward to the company on the journey. It seems like we are becoming very international travelers - I believe we will be adding Honduras and El Salvador to our passport stamps. I just wish that this would satisfy our "visa renewal" requirements, but unfortunately El Salvador is part of the C-4 (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua) and so it doesn't count. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

León, Nicaragua - July 11, 2012

Nicaraguan Taco
Quite a while back we had heard rumors about a "bald bus" (aka topless bus) that runs in the evenings Friday-Sunday. A group of us from the congregation decided that since the evenings have been so nice lately we would have a ride on the bus and then head out for a snack. Sounds like a good plan - right?? Well, unfortunately, the bus isn't running right now. It could be because it is off tourist season or due to the revitalization of the downtown area - whatever the reason there was a group of very unhappy people... who quickly got over their disappointment - taco anyone??? Yum, we love tacos.  When you think of tacos I'm sure you are thinking of the yummy tacos you get north of us in Mexico, and I must admit that is what I was thinking too. I keep forgetting that tacos here are not at all like the ones you get in Mexico - they are more like taquitos. Taquitos topped with salad and crema - oh so different, but a good different if you know what I mean. So instead of a ride on the bus we satisfied ourselves with yummy tacos, sodas and nice company.  We'll be keeping our eye out for when the bald bus returns and try again.

Our plants in the garden continue to grow, however the tomato plant is starting to look a little sad - the lower leaves are turning yellow. We do have 3 tomatoes growing though - so all is not lost! We have two pepper plants but only one looks healthy - they have both flowered and we hope to see some results soon. The papaya plant/tree is now about a meter high. From what we have read it should flower soon and then we will know if it is male or female. If it is female and is pollinated then we should have some fruit but if it is male then there won't be any fruit and we'll have to decide if we are going to keep it or pull it out.  The cilantro is still doing well and is nice to have to add to our salsa when we make it. Nothing else took root - but honestly, it's hard to get "into" gardening when you are always attacked by the ants....

We've had quite a few visitors to our congregation lately which has been a nice addition. Lexi (pictured in the last post) has been here for almost a month and so will be returning to the States soon has been a joy to get to know. Right now we have 4 sisters visiting from North Carolina - Caroline, Andrea, Jasmine and Natalie - they will be here until the end of the month and are really helping us get our census done.
Census in Providencia

This coming weekend we have our first SAD here in Nicaragua. It is held on the old Bethel grounds in Ticuantepe which I hear are very beautiful. We will meet all of the other English congregations in Nicaragua (although I'm not sure if those from the Atlantic coast are joining us) as well as many English speaking needgreaters who want to have the SAD in their own language. It will be an early start on Sunday because the bus leaves the Kingdom Hall at 6:30 am and I think the drive will be 1 1/2 to 2 hours. We are really looking forward to Sunday!

Well, it seems like word has got out that we have a really nice house and all the "unattached" critters want to move in. Pat has been busy removing small lizards and things from the house.... Sunday night - just as we were getting ready for bed I noticed a small, furry creature move past the bathroom door... hummmm, 

"Pat, I think there is a rat in the room" - I said it very calmly - you'd be impressed! 
"What?? Are you sure"
"Yep, I'm pretty sure. It went over towards the dresser". (I then proceeded to climb onto the bed with my feet firmly out of reach)
Pat started to look around, moved the dresser - banged on it. "There's nothing there - are you sure?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm pretty sure. Why don't you open the sliding door so that when you find it you can push it out the door".
Pat opened the sliding door and then proceeded to look around the bookcase to see if there was anything there. In the meantime the rat crept out from under the dresser and tried to head back to the bathroom.
"Um, Pat - there it is.....over by the dresser". (I'm still sitting on the bed with my feet off the floor - someone needs to supervise these things)
Heroically, Pat was able to maneuver the rat out of the room with a little bit of persuasion from the broom and quickly shut the bedroom door. We knew that there wasn't anywhere in the living or dining rooms that the little guy would find to hide in and the door to the kitchen was closed. Therefore, we figured it would make it's way out the front door. We had a little discussion about whether or not rats could climb up onto beds and then went to sleep safe in the knowledge that the rat was gone.

The next morning Pat got up to make coffee and didn't find the rat anywhere and so we thought we had managed to get rid of it pretty easy. It was laundry day and when I took off the cover to the washing machine I discovered that rats can climb - yep - there it was sitting on top of the washing machine, hiding under the cover! I don't know who was more scared - me or the rat! Thankfully (for us anyway) when it ran off, it went away from our house. Sad to say, our friend has now become a problem for our neighbour.....
Sorry - no pictures were taken during this event!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

León, Nicaragua - July 1, 2012

The climate seems to have changed a little in the past week. We haven't been getting as much rain and the wind has picked up. We still get a lot of cloud - but we seem to be spared the crazy thunderstorms that marked the beginning of the rainy season. It's beautiful going for a drive out into the countryside because everywhere you look is lush and green - much nicer than the dry season.

Debbie & Lexi
We have been continuing to complete the census in a number of our territories. It is amazing the results we are all having and are locating many interested people. Remember that I told you we went to La Paz Centro a few weeks ago to do census? Well, Pat and I have since returned to visit with a man who showed interest and have started a bible study with him. He has many questions (why the name Jehovah's Witnesses, why no blood etc.). The first day that we called back we were startled to find that there was some kind of protest going on in town - you know the type - burning tires, wearing masks, carrying sticks - you get the picture.  - you can be sure that once we ran into this scene we decided it was time to head for home. We have since returned to find that peace was restored and there was no lasting damage - we still haven't found out what the protest was all about.

Another service experience is with a call that can only be done at 3 pm. Well, I'm not normally out at this time because I find it is still too hot. So, since we were in the area I thought I would try it about 11:30.... The young girl wasn't home but I left our phone number with her sister. Later that afternoon I picked up my phone to see that there had been 7 calls from a particular number. I figured they would call back so I kept my phone beside me and sure enough within a few minutes the phone was ringing. I explained to "Valeria" that we were looking for English speaking people to talk to them about the bible. She said that she was Christian and that she wasn't going to change her religion. I said I understood that and I told her that perhaps sometime in the future when I was in the area I could stop in to see her. She said that she really wanted to meet me and could I come by next week. So... we met yesterday and had a nice chat for about 1/2 an hour. She too had quite a few questions. One of them was in regard to her church - she told us that her pastor has told them that they should go out in the preaching work and talk to people in their neighbourhood. She was ok with this, however, she was upset because the pastor was trying to send them out in the community but he wouldn't take the lead and show them how to do it. She wanted to know if it was the same with Jehovah's Witnesses or whether the "leaders" in our congregations preached too. I was able to explain to her that it was important for brothers in a position of oversight to be "leaders" in the preaching work just like Jesus was. She has a real appreciation for the bible and wants us to come back.  We have an appointment to go back and see her in two weeks with the "Was Life Created" Brochure.

We are getting to see more and more of the different sides to León. One evening we were working out in a new "subdivision" where the lots are huge and are usually surrounded by large fences and have multiple guard dogs. It was so funny when we were approaching this one street and the three dogs were barking their heads off - warning us to stay away (or so it seemed). However, when we got up to them they happily turned around and "guided" us right to their house.
Guard Dogs - "Don't come down here"

Guard Dogs - "It's ok, follow us".....
I was laying in bed the other morning and listening to all of the "morning" sounds:  the rooster (which actually crows all day long), the horses clopping down the street, the motorcycles being revved up; the load speaker with someone already going through the neighbourhood at 6:45 selling his good.... it's such a mixed up life. Modern and old fashioned at the same time - but somehow it all works pretty well. Well, that is until the modern convenience - like the bus - stalls or breaks down. I was on the bus the other day when the driver stalled it when he stopped to pick someone up. He couldn't get it started and all of us passengers didn't quite know what to do. The attendants (they guys that collect the money) got off the bus and started to push it so that the driver cold "jump start" the bus.... only thing is, we had to get through a busy intersection. It was frightening to sit on the bus as it was slowly inched forward into the intersection and the traffic wouldn't stop for it. After almost creaming an oncoming taxi a second bus came along and effectively blocked the traffic so that the attendants could get the bus going fast enough for the driver to jump start it. After that, he had to go flat out in order to make up the time he lost. Scary! but not as bad as those camionettas - but that's a story for another day.

Gardener removing plant material

Pat and Scarlet conducting a census

Sergio and Lexi

Pat, Nathan and Theo

Volcanoes in the distance