Saturday, February 24, 2018

Final day of Nicaragua 2018!

With the end of the morning yesterday, our time of construction ended! On a personal note, having worn the same pants all 5 building days, it was very nice to put on something clean this morning!

First up was the Masaya volcano. It is an active volcano, but not erupting at the moment. But the lava is boiling (you can hear it!) and lots of gasses are being emitted. So from a distance you see a beautiful volcanic cone with "smoke" coming out!

Up close it's really neat. The wind was helpfully at our backs, which kept the fumes away and gave us a better view. As shown by pictures we saw from another group, at night the lava makes the gasses glow and you can see it jumping up!

The park also has a nice museum with some history around the volcano and geographic information about what we just saw.

For lunch we joined the other 3 groups in country this week on a boat ride into Lake Nicaragua to a beautiful island. There we had lunch and enjoyed some real R&R with kayaks, a pool, and comfortable chairs in the shade! Not even a bit of rain at the end could spoil it!

Before we headed back to Managua we stopped at a chocolate museum and store. There we had an extremely outgoing guide, Alejandro, who walked us through the process of making chocolate and its history in Central America. Plus, at the end were samples, including chocolate rum, liqueur, and tea!

We then returned to our first hotel because our flight is extremely early in the morning. But we had a farewell dinner out with Humberto, our assistant for the week, and Nelson, our driver for the week. Both have been friendly, outgoing, and very good-natured with our wacky crew.

Pr. Tom gave out mini flashlights to each of us, celebrating how we have let our light shine for others this week.

We hate to leave behind our new Nica friends, but we will be glad to see our families and our own beds and showers again!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Final Construction Day!

Out work today was short but intense. We had to mix enough concrete to pour the floor of the house and the front stoop, all before the fiesta time!

Mixing all of that by hand, on the ground, is not easy, especially working that quickly, but we got it done! And then Cappie worked with the family to decorate, aided by a beautiful creation by Larry in honor of the Nicaraguan flag!

Our helper from Habitat Nicaragua, Humberto, started off the ceremony, thanking everyone. Pr. Tom led the team in blessing the house, and Humberto presented Doña Marta with a picture we took with her on Sunday and a Bible, signed by all the team members. Ron and Cappie also had bought a small plant as a housewarming gift. Don gave the mason some tools used by us in the States, as well.

In addition, it was Doña Marta's daughter-in-Law's birthday, so we had cake!

After the ceremony (including a ribbon-cutting), the party began in earnest! We played musical chairs (Lori won!) and there was a piñata, which the kids expertly handled.

All too soon we had to say our goodbyes and head out for our R&R day! We drove first to the market in Masaya for a little shopping before heading into Granada. This is a pretty little town, full of tourists, but we are in a hotel that allows us to do a bit of exploring, too!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Construction Day 4

After the half day yesterday, we were back for a full day on site!

And it was a day of hard work. We were working on building out and pouring concrete for the front and back stoops, but also bringing a huge amount of dirt into the house and tamping it down to be the base for the floor.

This last task was complicated by the fact that the large amount of dirt that was delivered earlier this week had lots of rocks, and then it quickly disappeared, leaving us scrounging a bit and having to move lots of rocks to bring the floor up to the correct level.

But we managed, and got it all done! Then dinner was a lovely dinner out on the town at a steak house in Estelí.

It is so hard to believe the week is drawing to a close, but tomorrow is our last day in Estelí!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Day 3 of construction

As you can see, we have made some real progress! What started with just 3 rows of block laid has now risen to be a full house with the gables going on!

We put on the last full row of brick this morning, which is a row that also requires a great deal of concrete to be poured in—quite a labor-intensive project when you have to mix by hand and haul it all up onto scaffolding!

But we got it done, and helped begin the process of building the gables on the front and back.

That was it for the day today, though, because this afternoon was a tour of a cigar factory. We were not prepared for the fumes from the fermentation process, but we learned so much about all that goes into making cigars! It was incredible to be able to watch these people sort amazing quantities of tobacco leaves and so quickly roll the cigars. Everything was by hand, because machines just can't do it.

Tomorrow we return to a full day of work!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Construction Day 2

What do you do when you've already put up the four lines planned for the day before lunch? Why, add on two more rows before calling it a day, of course!

Today the building was all on scaffolding, which didn't seem to slow us down. Instead, we worked together to exceed the expectations of Habitat! All while enjoying music featuring requests from all our team members, and dancing (while on the ground, of course, since dancing on the scaffolding is against the safety rules!).

Larry also made a friend with a young man who is also a juggler and card trick expert, so our afternoon break was a nice little show!

We continued to get some excellent help from Doña Marta's son and his girlfriend, including with sifting sand for the mortar and tying rebar. It is always a treat to be able to build with our family and get to know them!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Day 1 of Construction

Before we went to the worksite this morning, we went by a partner of Habitat Nicaragua. This is the organization that helps with some of the non-building activities, and stresses working with youth to help break cycles of violence and poverty. That space is also where we have lunch every day.

When we got to the site, we were greeted by a shade tent with chairs, hard hats and waist supports, and our masons!


(Posted late because it didn't go through last night)

This morning, after an incredible breakfast spread, we had an orientation with the other teams in country, which included some excellent data. For instance, 48% of the people working in Nicaragua are underemployed. And the poverty line sits at $250/month!

Habitat Nicaragua does work that goes deeper than just building houses. They provide financial and economic training, and even participate in a micro-lending program for construction improvements. The benefit of these loans is that the recipients get assistance from engineers and architects to ensure that the improvements are quality.

From there we headed out to Estelí, stopping at the Revolution Plaza to hear about some political history and see the cathedral that was practically destroyed in the 1972 earthquake.

The drive was long, but featured some beautiful scenery as we traveled across the country.

Out hotel is beautiful and wonderfully calming. The sign declares that this is a stress-free zone, and that seems to be the case!

We had the opportunity to meet Marta, whose house we are helping to build. She has served as a soldier for the government, and had her daughter murdered in Guatemala and lost a grandchild to leukemia. She works for the local hospital as a phone operator and announcement-maker. But her health requires that her son and daughter-in-law live with her in her 24 sq-meter house. It was nice to meet her ahead of a workday.

We are actually building within the confines of her current wooden, ad-hoc structure. The family is crowded into what little space is left until construction is finished. But she owns a great deal of land to add on rooms as she can afford it.