The Estrada Family

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

six years in pictures

How can I sum up 6 years with words? Not possible. So instead, I searched my facebook albums and my computer for the best pictures I could show you to tell the story of my last 6 years in Nicaragua.

2008

I lived at Arms Of Love Children's Home.

I lived at Arms Of Love Children’s Home.

Doson's 1st birthday party.

Doson’s 1st birthday party.

I was a bridesmaid in Juan and Tania's wedding.

I was a bridesmaid in Juan and Tania’s wedding.

I just love this picture of David and Doson... so I threw it in.

I just love this picture of David and Doson… so I threw it in.

2009

Meagan came to visit and we went on bus adventures!

Meagan came to visit and we went on bus adventures!

We zip-lined over extinct volcanoes filled with water.

We zip-lined over extinct volcanoes filled with water.

I learned how pineapples grow.  (admit it, you weren't sure either...)

I learned how pineapples grow.
(admit it, you weren’t sure either…)

I had fun with kids!

I had fun with kids!

...and more kids...

…and more kids…

...and these girls (Karla and Vanessa).

…and these girls (Karla and Vanessa).

I went to the circus.

I went to the circus.

I got engaged to this guy.

I got engaged to this guy.

interlude... beautiful parrots!

interlude… beautiful parrots!

2010

I married the love of my life.

I married the love of my life.

2010

I had the best bridesmaids a girl could ask for.

Canadians came to visit!

Canadians came to visit!

Just another picture that I love...

Just another picture that I love…

We bought land and started to build.

We bought land and started to build.

Our niece, Sol, was born.

Our niece, Sol, was born.

We moved into our house. (I can't believe it was ever that empty!)

We moved into our house.
(I can’t believe it was ever that empty!)

2011

We found out we were expecting.

We found out we were expecting.

Our niece Kelly was born.

Our niece Kelly was born.

David was super-uncle!

David was super-uncle!

2012

Our lives changed forever.

Our lives changed forever.

I think this is my favourite picture ever.

I think this is my favourite picture ever.

Our nephew Nico was born.

Our nephew, Nico, was born.

And almost immediately the Bethany and her cousin were fighting.

And almost immediately the Bethany and her cousin were fighting.

This little girl made our days more exciting.

This little girl made our days more exciting.

2013

This.

This.

Our nephew, Jefferson, was born.

Our nephew, Jefferson, was born.

Bethany took her first plane...

Bethany took her first plane…

...to Canada!

…to Canada!

Bethany met her great-grandfather.

Bethany met her great-grandfather.

...and her great-grandmother.

…and her great-grandmother.

I wrecked my friends car two days before Christmas...

I wrecked our friend’s car two days before Christmas…

...and got this lovely collar to show for it.

…and got this lovely collar to show for it.

2014

This little girl just keeps growing...

This little girl just keeps growing…

We started building an addition onto our house.

We started building an addition onto our house.

Our nephew, Jean Carlos, was born.

Our nephew, Jean Carlos, was born.

I FINALLY became a permanent resident of Nicaragua!

I FINALLY became a permanent resident of Nicaragua!

It’s been six, amazing, sweaty, fun, emotional years.

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Part 3: Eleven years, His voice, His plan = My Story

When I came back from my second trip, I decided I needed to learn Spanish. I was going to live in Nicaragua after all. So when I picked my first semester classes for my 3rd year Spanish 101 was on my timetable.

Spanish class was torture. I barely passed. I am evidence that languages are better learned in the field. I remember thinking to myself “well, I’ll just have to hire a translator when I live in Nicaragua”. Haha.

Summer 2006 and 2007 I was back at the ranch as the Rec Coordinator, and in the off-season I spent every weekend there. During my second semester of third year I began to realize that I wasn’t as driven as the other students in my program. Some of my friends were already sending in applications to grad school programs, and I just wasn’t motivated.

By the beginning of my 4th year I had an epiphany: I don’t like school.

I know, I’m slow,  it took 3 years of university to figure that out. All I could think about was Nicaragua. Instead of studying I was googling ministries in Nicaragua, and day dreaming about going back. Med school was out of the question. I couldn’t imagine having to wait another 4 years to go back. After a lot of prayer, I made a final decision. I changed the courses I was taking to the last 3 credits I needed to graduate with a general BSc, and applied to graduate in December. At the same time I started looking more seriously at ministries in Nicaragua. I had 4 months free, and money that I wasn’t going to be spending on tuition, so I started looking for a place where I could volunteer for a few months.

I decided to do a short solo trip because I was a little nervous about committing to anything longer. What if I couldn’t handle it? I wanted enough time that it wouldn’t feel like a short-term trip, but short enough that if I realized I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t have to change my ticket. I decided to go for 2 months.

There was one website the I kept going back to in all my searches. I must have read it 50 times. It wasn’t a big ministry, and the website wasn’t fancy, but it called to me. It was a little school in Managua. So I emailed, “Hey, I have two months and I want to know if you could use some help.”  and got the response “Ya! sure!”

January 21st 2008 I was back in Nicaragua for the 3rd time. The beginning was hard. I still struggled (hard) with the language, but I loved the little school and the neighbourhood I worked in. I was picked up at the airport by a woman and her husband. She was the director of the school, and we instantly got along really well. At the time she had a beautiful baby boy who was 2 months old (He’ll be turning 7 in November!)

About half way into my second week she suggested I start taking Spanish classes (I couldn’t spend my entire 2 months here only speaking to her!), and she suggested a great teacher: her younger brother, David.

February 8th, 2008

February 8th, 2008

David and I hit it off really well, and soon we were “novios”. I knew pretty soon after we started dating that I would marry him one day.

During my two months here I helped out at an orphanage for three weeks. I think it was during that time when I was really sure I would be moving permanently to Nicaragua. I had been working with kids for almost eight years at the Ranch, so working in an orphanage seemed like a was a logical next step for me.

2008 was my last summer as Recreation Coordinator, and boy it was a hard one! I look back on that summer and know that God was preparing me to leave my home and the place I loved the most. It was the hardest job I have every done, but the job I loved the most. I am still so grateful for the time I worked there. It helped shape me into who I am.

As I prepared for the big move I started getting anxious about the language barrier. Thanks to David I spoke a lot more Spanish then I did before, but I was going to be living in an orphanage where there were no other staff who spoke English. I prayed (and prayed and prayed and prayed) that God would help me. “I need some supernatural Spanish here, God!

And let me tell you, He answered.

I think my high school teachers and university professors can attest to the fact that I’m not the smartest kid out there. I think 5 years of French, and Spanish 101 can show you that I do not learn languages easily (ask me to count to 10 in French… I can’t). But when I moved here, the Spanish just started flowing. There were times that I opened my mouth and words I didn’t even know I knew came out. It. was. a. miracle.  There is no other way to explain it.

Moving to Nicaragua in October 2008 was the fulfillment of a plan that God called me to 5 years earlier, but it didn’t end there. Now David, Bethany and I are in it together and I never get tired of hearing little whispers and hints from God about whats to come.

I know now that when ever I hear silence, it not because Gods not there, or he doesn’t care, it’s because he is waiting for just the right moment to tell me the next step.

I know now that even though I can’t see where the path is taking me, I need to enjoy every twist, turn and bump, because each step in the journey is important, not just the destination.

 

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Part 2: Eleven years, His voice, His plan = My Story

Summer 2004 I worked as Head Counselor at Circle Square Ranch in Brantford – my first time on the Leadership Team – and September 2004 I started my first year of university at UW (University of Waterloo). As time went on, and my Nicaragua trip was further behind me, I began to question if I was really called to Nicaragua, or just to be a missionary. As I considered other places I would like to go, I applied for a 5 week summer trip to Tanzania with other students from my school, but I didn’t make it on the team.

Summer 2005 I was back at the Ranch, this time as the Recreation Coordinator. The Ranch quickly became my second home, and I started working weekends with retreat groups when I started back at school. Around October or November of my second year at UW, I went to a Med-club meeting and someone announced a potential service opportunity: A medical trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I signed up as soon as I could. An opportunity to go to a place I love, doing something I love? Heck yes.

May 2006 we traveled to Costa Rica and began our two week service learning trip. Truth: I hated it. The food, the language, the heat… I struggled with all of it. I remember questioning what God was thinking. “Sorry God, I must have heard you wrong. I’m not going to be a missionary. I just want to go home“. I was counting down the days until I would get to go home. We finished up clinic in Costa Rica, and made our way towards the Nicaraguan boarder.

Something amazing happened. When you cross the boarder from Costa Rica into Nicaragua, first, you have to leave Costa Rica, then you walk over about 100m of no-mans-land, and finally you enter Nicaragua. As I walked I had this crazy feeling come over me. It was that feeling you get when you finally come home after being away for a long time. It was the feeling I got when I drove down the load driveway to the Ranch. It was a feeling of peace. I was entering a country that I had only been in once before, two YEARS ago, and I felt like I was going home.

In that moment I knew two things for sure. 1. That feeling of peace came from God and God alone. 2. This was His way of telling me “Two years ago I didn’t tell you you would be a missionary just anywhere. I was being specific. Nicaragua will be your home“.

Ometepe Island

Ometepe Island

The rest of the trip wasn’t necessarily easier after that. I still struggled with the language. I still hated the food. But I didn’t want to go home anymore.

Because a part of me knew that I was home.

—–

If you made it this far you’re in the home stretch! Part III will be posted tomorrow!
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Eleven years, His voice, His plan = My Story

October 28th, 2014 marks six years living in Nicaragua. I like to call it my Nica-versary. In honour of my six years here I decided to write out the story of how I got here.

A lot of people assume that because I am married to a Nicaraguan, I moved here for him…

False.

…David was a bonus thrown into plan that God gave me way before we met.

Eleven years ago, I was in my last year of highschool for the second time (wait, what? Ya, for real. Long story short, the Ontario board of Education decided to change EVERYTHING, including getting rid of grade 13- or OAC – in our province, and I was in the first year of the new plan. So we graduated with everyone a year older then us. Double the graduates = a lot harder to get into any universities. This girl cracked under the pressure and so I had to re-take a few classes and take a few new classes to pull up my average, even though I had already graduated). I was part of the Student Leadership Team in my church, Spring Garden Baptist in Toronto, and I was trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life.

I prayed and prayed during that time that God would give me a little guidance about where I should go to University, and what He wanted me to do with my life. The response: silence. I was SO frustrated. Almost all my high school friends had gone off to university. They had plans, and goal, and they knew (more or less) what they were doing. And I felt stuck. God had no plan for me.

And then one night at a leadership team meeting the first step in God’s long and elaborate plan was placed before me. We were told that there was an opportunity for the SLT to go on a missions trip to Nicaragua. I knew immediately that I wanted to go. I got home from Church that night, put the pamphlet down on the table and said “I’m going to Nicaragua in March!” I don’t remember exactly what my parents said, but I know it wasn’t all positive. The next day my dad brought home a printed out version of the CIA fact-sheet on Nicaragua with a bunch of highlighted reasons why I couldn’t (or should’t go).

But I was 18, and insisted that I would fund raise the $2200 I needed to go on my own, so I signed up.

Over the next 6 months as we prepared for the trip I felt like I was still getting no response from God about my future. I started getting acceptance letters for Universities in early March, but I had no idea where to go or what to do with my life.

On Thursday March 11th, 2004 I stepped foot in Managua for the first time in my life. It was hot, and smelly, and beautiful. When I woke up the next morning I actually forgot that it was my 19th birthday for the first hour or so.

Our trip was what I would typically call an “exposure” trip. We were introduced to various ministries, we painted a church, we built a basketball court, we went sight seeing, we cut grass with a machete. We were split up into groups of 2 or 3 and sent to live in houses with Nicaraguans. We rode on big, brightly decorated school buses, or in the back of pick-up trucks. We saw joy and hope in the midst of  poverty and suffering. I think I can safely say that everyone on the team was changed by what we experienced.

Volcan Masaya

Volcan Masaya

Wednesday was the day that stood out the most to me. Probably because its a day that changed my life forever. We were visiting a school and playing with the kids out in the school yard. We brought a parachute and some balls and just had fun. We were surrounded by probably 150 kids, and as I stood out there, in the middle on the yard, with kids running around me, for just a minute I felt like everything got quiet. And then I heard His voice. God. He spoke directly to me and said, “You’re going to live here one day”.

I remember getting back on the bus after our time at the school and crying with one of my friends. God DID have a plan for me. I had be frustrated and angry for months because I felt like God wasn’t listening or talking to me. But what he was really doing was waiting. If he had told me back in September that I was going to live in Nicaragua one day it wouldn’t have made any sense. He had to bring me here first before he could reveal his plan to me.

When I got home I was finally able to make some decisions. I chose to study Bio-medical Science at the University of Waterloo. My plan: undergrad>med school> somehow eventually become a missionary doctor in Nicaragua.

You’ll have to come back for part II. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t go to med school!

 

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How to make rice: Nica Style

Disclaimer: if you are looking for exact, step-by-step directions
 to make the perfect pot of rice every time, look somewhere else.
 When you ask a Nicaraguan how to make rice you will get the most
 vague, un-exact set of directions you've ever heard, and you will
 be left with a million unanswered questions (That everyone will
 answer differently).  This is the country where people use fistfuls
 as a measurement. Everyone makes rice a bit differently. 
Sometimes it tastes amazing, sometimes its just...rice.

Not bragging or anything, but my mother-in-law has the rice thing down. Her rice is always great. I have heard lots of people talk about how “Doña Mer (Mercedes) makes her rice grow” (aka, it expand). If you really know how to cook rice, it grows.

It took almost 4 years of marriage before I finally broke down and asked Mer to teach me to cook rice HER way. David taught me early on…and it was so confusing I just didn’t cook it. Then we got a rice maker, and David happily ate rice for a few years without telling me that rice made in a rice maker just isn’t the same. (One day one of his brothers finally spoke up and I realized I had been serving sub-par rice for years!) Since Mer taught me, I’ve been making rice at least once a week, sometimes more. It’s actually easy to do once you figure it out.

So here we go. The most vague set of cooking instructions known to man.

First, you need the right cookware. You can’t just cook rice in any old pot, you know? If you use a pot with straight sides you will likely get rice stuck in the bottom that will burn and ruin it all. I recommend something like this pot:
POT1
You can buy cast aluminum pots like this anywhere in Nicaragua. They sell them in the markets and on street corners. You can buy ones small enough for a kids play kitchen, and big enough to cook rice for 100+ people. I can cook 1lbs of rice in this pot. I could probably get 2lb in there if I was really careful when stirring.

You will need:

1 cast-aluminum pot with lid (or something similar).
1 big metal spoon. (a wooden spoon doesn’t efficiently scrape the bottom of the pot.)
Rice (Some people are passionate about the quality of their rice. We use El Faisán.)
vegetable oil
onion, chopped
salt
water

[You're probably asking, "how much?". Well, here's the thing: I don't know. When I was taught how to cook rice there were no measuring cups or spoons used. You just have to eye-ball it. When I made this rice I didn't measure the oil, salt or water. I used 1lb of rice, and about 1/3 of a medium-sized onion.]
How to cook rice:

1. Travel to Nicaragua and purchase a cast-aluminum pot. (Just kidding! But hey, if you come down, swing by my house!)

[optional step: wash your rice. I seriously don't understand the washing the rice thing. It would make sense if you are buying rice from the big open sacks in an open air market. But even when Nicaraguans buy the pre-packaged rice they still find it necessary to pre-wash the rice. To wash the rice you need to pour it into a bowl, and cover it with water. Swish the rice around with your hands a bit and then pour out the water. Repeat until you think the rice is sufficiently clean.]

(Full disclosure: I don’t pre-wash my rice. And when I do, I think it tastes exactly the same.)

1. Turn on your burner to high, add some oil to the pot. If you add too much oil your rice will be…oily. So stick with just a bit. If I add to much I either scoop some out with a spoon, or add extra rice!

2. add your chopped onion to the hot oil, mix it up a bit.

Oil onion

3. When your onion is nice and sizzle-y, pour your rice into the pot. use your spoon to coat the rice in the oil.

4. (this part was hard for me to get the hang of.) Don’t hover over your rice! Let it cook a bit in the oil. Do other things, prep the rest of your food. Every once in a while go back and give the rice a stir. Some of the grains of rice should get a nice toasty colour.

5. I add my salt at this point, only because if I don’t I will forget completely. To make true Nicaragua rice you need to add more salt then you would think is necessary. Nicaraguans love their salt. Add your salt and keep toastin’!

mix salt

7. When your rice is nice and toasty (but not burnt) its time to add the water. Careful, because when you add water to hot, oily rice you are going to get some instant boiling and sizzling. When my mother-in-law explained how much water I should add, she showed me with her finger. If you put your finger straight down in the water until it barely touches the rice, the water should come up the top of your nail (the cuticle).

But here’s the thing… the water is BOILING. How are you going to put your finger in there?! And, with all the onion/oil/toasty rice the water is not going to be clear….so its hard to see when the rice is!

So keep this in mind: Too much water will ruin your rice, it will be soggy and over cooked, and you can’t fix it later. But too little can be corrected later by just adding an extra sprinkle. So, just like the oil, less is better.

8. Give your rice a stir every few minutes as the water is boiling down.

9. When the rice is still wet, but there is no visible water ON TOP of the rice, (there are holes in the rice where the water vapor is escaping), give your rice a stir, turn down the heat to low, and put the lid on.

add water

10. Again, don’t hover! Check and stir the rice every once in a while to make sure it’s not burning. When it seems to be getting dry give it a little taste. If it’s a bit hard, sprinkle some water over the rice and leave it a few more minutes.

11. Enjoy your (hopefully) tasty Nicaraguan rice!

028

You can serve this rice with everything.

Literally.

(Actually, in Nicaragua many people think that if there is no rice, then it’s not really a meal. Even if there are potatoes, and pasta, and bread, you still need your rice!)

p.s. Sick and tired of plain white rice? (ya, me too sometimes!) Use chicken broth instead of water for a yummy change. Or add carrots (chopped or grated) and other veggies. There are endless ways to make rice less boring, Let me know if you have any secrets!

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dreams

Just a note before I start writing what I actually WANT to write about: 
If you ask me how I'm doing, the answer most likely is "I don't know". 
Literally my day is filled with such a roller coaster of emotions, I 
don't think I can sum it up in a quick response. In Nicaragua, when 
you ask someone, "¿Cómo estás? ("How are you?), you sometimes get the 
response "Aqui". Which literally translates to "here". I guess that is 
a good way to describe how I'm doing. I'm here. In the middle of it all.
Yesterday was probably one of the most physically painful days of my life. 
I didn't fully realize that by opting to let things happen "naturally" it
meant that I would be signing up for a pain that is a slightly scaled down 
version of labour and delivery. Complete with about 5 hours of escalating 
contractions that quickly progress to being right on top of each other, 
and whole bunch of stuff that you don't want to read about on a family blog.
I don't really know if the physical pain was just adding insult to injury 
(i.e. I already lost my child, now I have to feel like I'm delivering 
it too?) Or if helped to have a physical pain to go with what I was feeling 
emotionally. But either way, today is a slightly better day. My physical 
symptoms of the miscarriage are starting to diminish. And, though 
emotionally I still have a ways to go, I fell like the physical healing 
will help me get back to a somewhat "normal" life. Whatever that is.

Alright, now on to what I came here to say…

dreams

I don’t dream very often. Actually, I probably do, but I don’t remember my dreams very often. But sometimes, not very often, I have very vivid, almost real dreams.

I believe that God speaks to people through dreams. There are so many examples in the bible of God speaking to people through dreams that it would take to too long to list them all here. But I don’t believe that its just something from biblical times; I believe God speaks to people through dreams today.

When I was only 8 weeks pregnant with Bethany (and we still hadn’t told anyone yet), a woman from our church told me that she had a dream where she saw me standing in church holding a baby. She believed that God was telling her to tell me that soon we would be parents. It was such a relief to hear her say that. And I am so thankful that God gave her that message for us.

I had two dreams last week that were so vivid that those few minutes while I was waking up I truly thought they were real. And now, in retrospect, I think God gave me those dreams to help me with closure.

The first dream, about 5 days before the bleeding started, was beautiful. I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. She was perfect. I saw her clearly. Her skin was a little bit lighter than Bethany’s was when she was born. And her eyes were a light, honey brown colour. She didn’t have a a head of thick black hair like Bethany did, but wisps of  light brown hair. In the dream we were sitting on our couch, talking to some people over Skype (who had apparently helped with the delivery…via Skype – that was the only bizarre part of the dream!) and I was nursing my new baby daughter. The part that stands out to me the most was the name. We named her Amberly. I don’t know anyone with that name, I don’t think I have even heard that name before. But it was so vivid. Amberly.

When I woke up I was so hopeful! By that point I already knew about the possibility of a blighted ovum, and I was concerned that we didn’t hear a heartbeat the week before.  I felt like this dream was hope that everything would be ok.

But the next dream, two nights later, was the opposite. I was lying in the ultrasound room in the hospital, and my doctor was checking for a heart beat, David was standing behind her. Then she turned the screen towards me and explained that there was no baby, that the sac was empty, that I was having a miscarriage. In the dream I left the room and just screamed and cried uncontrollably. I woke up feeling out of breath, and extremely confused.

The crazy thing is, that second dream was an exact depiction of what actually happened on Wednesday morning. When we got into the car after leaving the hospital I told David. “I dreamed this. Exactly how it happened.”

Except for the crying. I mean, I cried, I cried hard, but at the same time, as Dra. Aragon told me that the sac was empty and that there was no baby, it was like I had already been prepared for the news.

I don’t know exactly why I had that second dream, but I do think it helped with the impact of the news. It reminds me that God is in control of everything, that he has our days planned out before we are born.

And the first dream? I think God was giving me a few precious minutes with my beautiful little girl. The image of her is forever etched in my memory, and I know I will recognize her one day when I get to heaven. She’s lucky. She got to skip this sometimes crappy, sometimes painful earthly existence and go straight to eternity with Jesus. If it can’t be me holding her in my arms (or my womb) at least I know its Him. Its comforting to know that she is having fun in heaven playing with her cousins.

And of course I looked up the name Amberly yesterday. It comes from the name Amber, and means “beautiful jewel” or a warm honey colour. Having never heard the name before, it fits her pretty perfectly.

I am so thankful that God let me see my baby girl at least once. And, although I am still struggling to get through this and come to terms with why this all happened, it is so nice to be reminded that my God loves me and is carrying me through it all.

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empty

Blighted Ovum, definition:

“A blighted ovum occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus but doesn’t develop into an embryo. It is also referred to as an anembryonic pregnancy and is a leading cause of early pregnancy failure or miscarriage.”

I.e., your body is tricked into thinking its carrying a baby, when in reality there is just an empty sac in there. Same syptoms: nausea, hunger, fatigue, etc, but no baby.

This Friday I would have been 10 weeks.

At 6 weeks I went in to see my doctor because I had some abdominal pain and spotting. An ultrasound showed a tiny sac, just the right size, in the right place. Nothing to worry about. “Come back in two weeks and we’ll check for a heart beat to make sure that everything is ok”.

At 8 weeks I was back. Another ultrasound. The sac was bigger, I was feeling all the right symptoms, but she couldn’t get a heartbeat from a regular abdominal ultrasound. “Thats ok. Some times its hard at just 8 weeks. Come back next week and we will double check.”

I decided to wait an extra week. If the baby needed time to grow, I wanted to give it all the time it needed.

We had out ultrasound scheduled for Thursday. But last night (Tuesday) I started bleeding.

My doctor told me to come in today. She didn’t make me pay for an appointment with her, and she didn’t even make me pay for the ultrasound (because two weeks ago was inconclusive, she didn’t report it to the hospital, and said I could come back with the same receipt).

And there was the sac. Not round like it use to look, but more like a deflating balloon. The edges were no longer defined, they were blurred. And the sac was empty.

My doctor suggested a D&C, but I opted to let everything happen naturally. As long as I don’t run a fever, and the bleeding eventually subsides (in the next week or so) I should be fine. I do have to go back in a few weeks for another ultrasound to make sure nothing got left behind that could potentially cause an infection.

And just like that…it’s over.

I don’t know what else to write. I feel like I’m in a daze, like my head is full of fog. I feel like a huge chunk of my heart was ripped out  today, leaving a big, dark, empty pit in the middle of my chest.

I feel empty.

 

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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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