The Estrada Family

A Nica-Canadian family, living in Nicaragua and starting a family!

Nica-Facts: Quakin’ and Shakin’

I thought it was time to bring Nica-facts back from the dead, and what better topic then earthquakes! The ground’s been shakin’ around here for the last few days, so I thought a history lesson might be necessary.

41 years and 5 months ago, on December 23rd 1972, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake destroyed Managua, approximately 5000 people were killed, 20,000 were injured, and 250,000 were left homeless. It was probably the most influential natural disaster in Nicaraguan, if not Central American history, sparking a revolution and a civil war…but that’s for another day.

41 years before THAT, on March 31st, 1931, approximately 2,000 people were killed in an earthquake that destroyed Managua.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

It doesn’t stop there! There have been major Managua-destroying earthquakes recorded at 40-45 year intervals for the last 200 years!

So ever since 2012– 40 years after the “big one”– everyone has been on their toes. Every quake or tremor reminds us that the next “big one” is overdue. We were on borrowed time.

Until Thursday April 10th.

Since Thursday, Nicaragua has experience magnitude 6.1, 5.1 and 6.6 earthquakes, plus hundreds of aftershocks and tremors. But non of those actually originated in Managua.

And that was all I was planning to write, but then a friend of mine posted this on their facebook. The shallow fault line that runs through Managua, that is responsible for the devastation of 1972 has become active for the first time in 41 years. The government is asking the citizens of Managua to take “extreme measures of caution” including sleeping outside, or with doors open.

Even as I type this, we are watching the news about a magnitude 4.9 earthquake that just happened about 20 minutes ago in Managua.

Alright guys, if you haven’t started praying for Nicaragua…now’s the time to start!

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Nica-Facts: safety

Alright, this has to a quick one. Every other Nica-Fact post was written days in advance, but it’s 6:30 am on Monday, and we are leaving in 30 min to set up clinic.

Phew, I just made it.

So, did you know that despite the fact that Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, it is also one of the safest? Those two things don’t normally go together.

I wish I could tell you more, but I have to run, so I’ll leave you with this article that a friend of mine shared on Facebook which gives a few theories as to why Nicaragua doesn’t have the same problems with large Latino gangs as countries like Honduras and El Salvador do.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2013/05/130531_nicaragua_muro_anti_maras_jcps.shtml

It’s in Spanish, sorry. But google translate is a wonderful resource!

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Nica-Facts: RAAN and RAAS

So, like I said last week, Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments, and 2 Autonomous regions.

The two autonomous regions are commonly know as the RAAS  and RAAN.

They are the two largest regions in the country, and they have the lowest population density. They were actually part of the same Department, Zelaya, up until 1987, when the Charter of Autonomy was established in the new constitution. 

Since I’ve never been there myself, I had to rely on the internet, and what I’ve heard from other people, for all my information. I hope I’ll be able to visit at least the capitals of both regions in the future! 

RAAN

RAAN stands for Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte (North Atlantic Autonomous Region), according to a 2005 census, the populations is 249 700. It is the biggest region in the country. The capital of the RAAN is Puerto Cabezas. 

The RAAN is divided into 8 municipalities, and some have really funny names: Bonanza, Prinzapolka, Waslala and Mulukuku are a few examples.

A large portion of the RAAN is jungle and rain forest. There are some areas that you cannot get to by car, you have to go by plane or boat. I have heard that there are mosquito as big as birds.

RAAS

RAAS stands for Región Aunónoma del Atlántico Sur (South Atlantic Autonomous Region). According to a 2005 census the population is 382 100. The capital of the RAAS is Bluefields. If you want to travel from Managua to Bluefields you have to fly, or take a bus and then a boat down the Rio Escondido (the hidden River) from El Rama to Bluefields.

The Corn Islands are also part of the RAAS. It has been my dream for years to go on vacation there. We are saving up to celebrate our 5th anniversary there. Beautiful:

Travelling to the RAAS or the RAAN you will encounter many people who don’t speak Spanish or English. Creole-English is common on the coast, and Miskito is spoken in many areas of both regions.

The culture on the East coast is completely different then that of the western part of Nicaragua, even the houses and typical foods are very distinct.

75% of the population of the Caribbean coast live in poverty and extreme poverty (source). The illiteracy rate is  43%, and as high as 55% in rural areas  (compared to Nicaragua’s overall illiteracy rate: 24%).

Come back next Monday for more Nica-Facts!

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Nica-Facts: The basics.

Let start with some basic facts about Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America.  As a comparison, its total area is slightly smaller then the size of New York State. To the south you’ll find Costa Rica, and Honduras to the North. The pacific ocean is to the west, and the Atlantic to the east.

Nicaragua has 15 departments (think: provinces or states) and 2 autonomous regions (like territories).

The population of Nicaragua is 5.7 million (source).

There are 19 active and/or dormant volcanoes in Nicaragua (source), including Central America’s youngest volcano, Cerro Negro, which was “born” in 1850.

Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, 2nd poorest in the western hemisphere behind Haiti. 48% of the country live under the poverty line.

[Note: I thought "poverty line was kind of an ambiguous term, since it changes for every country, so after a lot of searching I found this (here):
"[Nicaragua's] official poverty line is US$350 in income per year. Of the nation’s poor, 17 percent live in extreme poverty, earning less than US$185 per year.”
Can you imagine living on $350 A YEAR. Or how about the 17% of the country that lives on just $185 a year. Wow. Just, wow.]

Nicaragua’s oldest city, Granada (founded in 1524), is actually the oldest colonial settlement in mainland America (source).

Managua is the capital of Nicaragua. It’s population is 1.85 million (source). Managua is the centre of all activity in the country. The city has been destroyed twice by major earthquakes in the last 100 years. Once in 1931, and again in 1972.

The average daily temperature depends on what part of the country you are in. Up in the mountain around Jinotega, its usually a comfortable 25°C (77°F). Just 170km south, in Managua, the temperature is around 35°C (95°F) daily. And in Leon and Chinandega, the temperature is almost always above 35°C, and sometimes over 40°C (104°F).

Well, thanks for coming by and learning a bit about Nicaragua. Look for another Nica-facts post next Monday!

Do you have any specific questions
that I can answer in a future Nica-Facts post?
Leave them in the comments and I
will do my best to answer them!
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Nicaragua

Well, since I vowed to blog more this year, I thought I would try to commit to writing a series of posts about Nicaragua. I can’t guarantee long posts every week, I might just tell you a quick fact or two, but every Monday I will try to post a little something about the country that I love!

I will always remember that just a few months before I moved here, a friend of mine was talking about Nicaragua as if it was in Africa.

I guess that can be my first fact: Nicaragua is NOT in Africa. It’s part of Central America, which is technically part of the Continent of  North America.

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There, see? short and sweet. And maybe someone out there just learned something new!

Join me back here next Monday for more Nica-facts!

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3rd World

Fun fact about me: I hate the expression “3rd World Country”

I cringe when I here someone say it.

Have you ever looked up the definition? The original meaning come from the cold war era, and it’s way outdated. Today, “3rd world” refers to a “poor” country and “1st world” refers to a “rich” country. I bet if you asked someone what classifies a country as 3rd World, they would have a hard time answering.

For me the problem is, that the phrase comes with a feeling of condescension. No one from a so-called “3rd world” country would ever use that term to describe their own country. Who uses it? People from “1st world” countries. Its a ranking system.

1st World =Best world.
2nd World = (No one actually uses this term anymore)
3rd World = less then the best.

Its doesn’t leave any room for movement. The term “3rd World” is stagnant. So when someone from a developed (“1st world”) country uses  “3rd world” to describe a poorer country, its as if they are saying “We are 1st, you are 3rd. We are rich, you are poor. We will give a bit of our excess, maybe some used clothes, send a bit of money, to try to help you live within your 3rd world classification, and you will take it and you be eternally grateful. We are worth more then you.”

It also give the impression that “3rd world” countries need outside help; they can’t improve on their own. They are dependent on the 1st world. There is an implied sense of helplessness.

So, what term do I use to describe countries like Nicaragua?

“Developing”

“3rd world” sounds negative, but “developing” is positive. it gives hope. Its not a stagnant word, it implies movement. Yes, Nicaragua has been plagued by corrupt governments, natural disasters and hunger. But by calling it a “developing” country, you are saying that there is a movement towards something better. Yes, Haiti was basically destroyed by an earthquake 5 years ago, but since then they have been constantly rebuilding, and trying to get back on their feet and better themselves. There is movement. There is progress. Haiti is developing.

As I was looking online for information about the term “developing country” I can across this on wikipedia, which I think is interesting. Apparently “developing country” is also a controversial term. It says:

“There is some criticism of the use of the term ‘developing country’. The term implies inferiority of a ‘developing country’ or ‘undeveloped country’ compared to a developed country, which many countries dislike.”

Doesn’t that seem so backwards? It does to me. The article also says this:

“The term ‘developing’ implies mobility and does not acknowledge that development may be in decline or static in some countries, particularly in southern African states worst affected by HIV/AIDS.”

A wise friend and mentor once told me that she tried to make a point of never calling her children (or foster children) liars. Because if you are constantly telling a child that they are a liar, they are going to grow up believing it, and thus, they will lie more. Instead, say “you are lying” because it gives them a chance to change.

When we classify a country 3rd world, it doesn’t give any opportunity for change. The people have been damned to a life of poverty and corruption, and there is nothing they can do about it. “1st world” people come down and try to band-aid things, but it wont fix the big problems. But a simple change in vocabulary can give so much hope. Saying that a country is developing means its a work in progress (even if progress is so slow it’s hard to see). It puts the power back in the people’s hands.

Living in Nicaragua, I have seen that what appears to be static from the outside might actually be progressing when you take a closer look. I cringe when I hear people label Nicaragua as 3rd world because I see progress here.  Nicaraguans are hopeful, hardworking and tenacious people. They are proud to live in such a beautiful country. I think they would be offended if they knew that people from developed countries labelled Nicaragua as 3rd world because they do not think they are inferior, and I think that’s true for any developing country.  I want to speak hope over Nicaragua, and the rest of the developing world, so I took “3rd world” out of my vocabulary.

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The Bears

Bethany's favourite toys

Bethany’s favourite toys

*Sigh* The bears.

Bethany LOVES these bears. The first two were given to her from teams that have come down. She paid so little attention to them that they wound up in the “give-away” box just before Christmas, but suddenly she spotted them and they became her favourites. Then her Mimi got a hold of two more…and now they are a family of four.

After swimming with her two favourite bears.

After swimming with her two favourite bears.

At least one winds up in the wash every day. She bathes with them. She takes them swimming, she pushes them around in her little stroller.

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She was showing the bear all the birds that were flying around.

She was showing the bear all the birds that were flying around.

She sleeps with them, and eats with them (and shares her food with them!) At church, she sits them all on one chair beside us. She carries them around like babies, and put them to sleep on our bed.

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More than once she has farted and blamed in on the bears…

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Who knows how long the bear phase will last. It sure is cute!

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2014 – Goals

Along with talking about what goals we accomplished in 2013, David and I also talked about what goals we would like to accomplish this year.

So, here we go.

Spanish School

In the last four months of 2013, David`s Spanish classes have picked up. He already has 2 intensive courses (4 hours a day/ 5 days a week) booked for 2014, and other students that are continuing with their 3 class/week schedule. We are also thinking about the idea of doing online classes via Skype. Our goal is to have 8 consistent clients, and teach an intensive class at least every other month.

Translating

I love translating, I really do. I really enjoy working with teams and meeting new people, seeing old friends, and travelling to parts of Nicaragua that I would never see otherwise to help people. But leaving home for a week at a time is hard on me and Bethany, and especially David, who has to play Mr. Mom while I’m gone. I would like to have more written translation jobs that I can do from home. I worked on a huge project in Nov/early Dec of 2013, and I should have another one in Feb/March. But I’m also going to be away translating for groups for about 6 weeks from mid-Jan to the end of February. It would be hard for me to give it up altogether, but I would love to at least limit the amount of time I spend away from home.

Marriage

David and I have a goal to go away for a weekend together. Maybe Ometepe? maybe El Cañon de Somoto? We also plan on working through the devotional “The Love Dare” together.

Oh, and we are planning on going to Corn Island for our 5th wedding anniversary (Feb 2015) so we need to start saving money now…

The House

We are bursting at the seams here. We haven’t built anything onto our house since we moved in at the end of 2010, other then the front porch, and we are ready to expand! The small addition we have planned would allow us to actually have a sink in our kitchen and give Bethany her own room.

Potty Training

This mama is so ready for Bethany to use the potty. Bethany – not so much. She is afraid of it. I think we actually just need to buy a different potty – the one we have is a hand-me-down from a cousin, and its weirdly tipsy. I’m not going to force her onto the potty…I’m going to wait until she is ready. But, seriously, I don’t want to be packing a diaper bag a year from now.

“The Project”

Like I said before, there is a whole other blog post on its way devoted to this, but God has given us some big plans for our community of Los Cedros. We are hoping to start an Alpha course, through our church (VAM- Vida Abundante Managua) with some of the youth that live around us, and we would like to start reaching out to our community more.

Saving

We are going to open a bank account. Ok, that sounds crazy even as I write it, but we don’t have one! Back when David worked in Managua he was paid directly into a bank account, but when we moved to Los Cedros, and he was getting paid in cash, it was just a hassle to have an account that we didn’t ever use. We’ve been a 100% cash family for the last 4 years. That means anytime we needed to save for something we had a bunch of cash tucked away in my underwear drawer (or maybe another secret location!). But, this year we plan on saving money, so David is going to open up an USD account and our goal is to put away at least 10% of all the money we make this year.

There you go! Goals for 2014.

What about you, do you have any goals/resolutions for this year?
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2013 – a year in review

Well, its officially been too long since my last blog post. I apologize. I’m going to try to work on that. A new year brings new goals and plans, and one of mine is to blog more often…well see how that goes.

David and I were talking the last few days about goals for the new year. We don’t do resolutions, but to list out life goals for the next year has worked well for us in the past, and so, as we were running errands, or working around the house, we got to talking about what goals we accomplished in 2013, and what we want to see accomplished in 2014.

Lets start with what we accomplished this year.

We took Bethany to Canada.

David said way back in 2012 that he wanted to send me and Bethany to Canada so she could meet our Canadian side of the family. With the cost of travel and our very minimal income, I was skeptical, but God worked it all out and the tickets were given to us by a close friend. It was a fantastic trip, and we were so happy that Bethany was able to meet my entire family, and most of my friends. We stuffed our faces with Canadian treats, and brought back as much stuff as our suitcases would carry!

We stepped out in faith.

At the end of January David finished his job at the Children’s Home next door and he started teaching Spanish “full” time. (I use quotations because we would have wanted it to be full time, but a lack of students made that difficult for some time!). It was scary at first, and there were times that we discussed whether or not we had made the right decision. We both knew that God had made it clear that it was time for David to leave his job, and we knew that God has told us he would provide for us, but when we came back from Canada David didn’t teach a single class for over 2 months (All of his students were away or busy), and we started to worry and wonder if it was time for David to start looking for a full time job. It was mid august, and I was close to finishing all of the translating jobs I had booked. As our circumstances got gloomy, we brought it before God and asked for guidance. Less then a week later David had a full month of classes booked with two new students, for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and from September to December David was incredibly busy teaching. God made it pretty clear to us that we had done the right thing, and to continue with it. 2014 will bring more clients, and more classes!

We bought a car!

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This is our beautiful blessing! Its gets very economical gas mileage, and gets us where we need to go.

Bethany

Well, she wasn’t born in 2013, but last year – boy, did she grow!

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February 2013

She learned to walk, to run, to hop, to speak 4+ word sentences, to count to 10. She can sing “rain rain, go away” (en español), She will eat just about anything that is put in front of her. She wakes up every morning and says “buenos dias papa!”, and when she walks away she says “bye bye! Amo!” (I love you). This little girl amazes me every day with the things she learns. She speaks both Spanish and English, sometimes combining them both into one sentence. (“Shhh, Oso [bear] esta sleeping!”). Nothing about her is baby anymore. She is pure toddler!

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December 2013

David went back to school.

Since finishing high school, David has wanted to continue with university, but working 6-day a week jobs made that difficult. In February he enrolled in pedagogy (definition: the science of education) which is basically like teachers collage, but also includes school administration. Its a 4.5 year program, and he has class every Saturday.

We focused in on God’s calling for our lives.

There is much more detail to come in a blog post just dedicated to this topic, but I can say now that God has given David and I some huge visions and has brought us together with people who have the same dreams. We are so excited about what God is doing in our little community of Los Cedros!

All in all, 2013 was a year full of blessings. We had some rough patches, including a car accident, and a funeral for a 1 month old baby girl, but we will continue to praise Him in the midst of it all.

…Coming soon… 2014 goals…

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Oh Canada!

In less than two week the Estradas will be in Canada!

I’ve been making lists in my heads for weeks (maybe months?). Things to pack, things to buy, things to eat while we are there, things to show Bethany, people to visit. All my lists are blurred together. I should probably start writing things down, its about time I start packing.

Can I just say how hard it is to plan what clothes to pack for Canada? Nicaragua is easy.  Clothes for warm hot weather. If its the rainy season maybe throw an umbrella in there. But Canada? Like two weeks ago it was still snowing. Now it is hot. It could be cold, hot, humid, rainy. We own very few clothes for cold weather. Bethany actually only has ONE sweater.

Ok, I don’t want to talk about what to pack anymore. Just thinking about it is stressing me out. (can you tell I’m going to procrastinate on this?)

Probably the only thing we bought here in Nicaragua to take up is coffee. Ten pounds of whole bean Nicaraguan coffee straight from a roaster. No fancy bags. We buy in bulk! Most of it is for my parents, Meagan and Jeremy, and of course for David while we are there. Sorry, friends and family, we are not bring up and little trinkets and gifts that you will just put on a shelf until the next time you clean house. I’ve bought more then my share of cheap memorabilia over the years. If you want some of my coffee let me know, I see if I have some left to share with you!

Things to eat? I have been making this list since I came home from my last visit! (TWO years ago)
-Cheddar cleese. Its so expensive here. We usually buy one block a month from Pricesmart and I try to make it last as long as I can. Bethany loves cheddar too. So we are going to eat as much of it as we can while we can buy it cheap!
-Blue cheese. Good ol’ Danish Blue. I love it. I craved it while I was pregnant. mmmm.
-Apples. David would be happy if he could eat apples all day long. Thats not an option here where apples costs more then a dollar each.
-Tim Hortons. Wow, stereotypical Canadian, eh? Actually, this is on David’s list. He fell in love with Ice Capps the last time we were in Canada together, and has since then unsuccessfully searched for any kind of coffee shop here that sells something similar. I wouldnt mind eating a few everything bagels with herb and garlic cream cheese, too.
-The deli section of a grocery store. Oh man I miss cold cuts that aren’t balogna. I’m going to eat a lot of sandwiches (with cheddar cheese, of course!) while we’re there.
-My Dad’s hamburgers (please, Dad?!)
-Penrose Fish and Chips. Pretty sure I eat this every time I’m home. Its so good.My mouth is actually watering right now just thinking about it.

Places/People to visit
-Centre Island in Toronto. Its a pretty inexpensive way to spend the day as a family.
-The Toronto Zoo! I haven’t been there in more then 10 years. I’m excited to take Bethany there.
-Canada’s Wonderland. This is on my wish list. I would love to take David there, since he’s never been to an amusement park before. Is out of our budget though. (Does anyone have any great connections, or cheap tickets?)
-Anything free or almost free in Toronto (suggestions welcome!)
- We have some people to visit outside Toronto. We will probably be taking a few weekends to travel to the Brantford area, and up to Collingwood/Orillia area. Not sure when we’re going or where we’re staying yet, but we’d like to visit anyone who wants to see us!
-La Bella Managua. Its a Nicaraguan restuarant in Toronto. I want to go with my family, so they can experience a bit of the food that we eat here. Not that I cook the rediculously delicious food that is shown in the banner there. But other people do, and I get to enjoy it. Since my parents have never been to Nicaragua, I think they should try the food at least once!

Well, I think thats all my lists. Am I missing anything? I guess I should actually start packing now. Gah.

Oh, and check this out. I love Canada.

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