Everything looked pretty normal…. Yesterday.

Yesterday, we started our trip to Nicaragua and it was all travel.  The airport terminals were typical – uniformed airplane staff, security guards with sniffer dogs, duty free stores brimming with glittery displays.  The rental car was what you would expect – slow, clean, reliable transportation.  The hotel we arrived at was normal-ish.

But the reality was it wasn’t normal.  The physical signs were both obvious and subtle.

  • As a seasoned traveller, I’m used to crowded terminals and crowded planes with overflowing business class sections, however the 5 hour flight from Toronto to San Salvador had the smallest business class section I’ve ever seen (12 seats) and there were only 3 passengers.
  • During the 1 hour drive from the Managua airport to our Masaya hotel, we passed sweatshops with a parking lot filled with buses (not cars) because their employees needed public transport.  We passed several carcasses at the side of the road that were feeding stations for vultures.  We saw minivans overflowing with passengers who stared at our van full of gringos.
  • The hotel is a mix of Morocco, Mexico, and Camp Kahquah.  There’s no describing the experience.

For months we’ve been preparing collectively and personally.  We had packed hockey bags full of gear.  We were on a medication schedule that might suggest we suffered from a seriously embarrassing condition.  Medicated, overly cautious, and checking everything I ate, the last thing I felt was normal.

I woke up this morning to the sound of cats fighting World War 3 (vocally supported by dogs, birds, and roosters).  I lay there unable to go back to sleep wondering what on earth I was doing here.

As an early riser, I was up before the dawn.  I took the opportunity to open up the devotional guide.  I read both Day 1 and Day 2.  It was reassuring to know that others have been through this before and felt oddly apprehensive.

We arrived at the worksite/church and promptly fell into our roles.  The morning kids program had over 40 kids, and the afternoon program had well over 60.  The task of re-bar construction was productive and not nearly as hot as we expected.  We still took many breaks and by the end of the day we were all exhausted, overheated, and – yes – happy.  After dinner we had a devotional time, singing songs, sharing our experiences from the day, and expressing how much fun each of us were having.  We feel like we are starting to get to know the kids, the other workers, and the local pastoral staff.

The décor hasn’t changed.  The road leading up to the church hasn’t changed – it is still dirt with chickens, dogs and children happily roaming free.  Everyone on the team still has all their fingers, toes, and sense of humor.

I’m not feeling apprehensive anymore.  My stumbling Spanish is not embarrassingly bad.  Even though many things are not like anything I’m used to, it doesn’t matter, because, now,  I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

Here are some pictures from the day (click any photo for a larger version):