3.16.13 CAMBODIA- the trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

 

Today was a travel day from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.

It started with Kim, Phil and Dylan contemplating how to say goodbye to each other.

Kim and Phil stayed in Phnom Penh two more days before flying home.

The rest of us headed back to Siem Reap for 5 more days of wonder and excitement.

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Before we even left the city our van broke down.  No worries, it was just another part of the adventure.  And without a doubt  it was the most  interesting stop at a car repair shop I’d ever been a part of.

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In between helping out with cables and hoses the boys who helped took a few minutes to make a few more moves in their chess (was it chess?) game.  While they worked I took pictures of the van,  the shop, a mom and her baby who were hanging out, the women cleaning her clothes, and anything that seemed  interesting like automotive parts (especially for CJ Arnesen) and stupas.   And all of this at one car repair shop. Jiffy Lube doesn’t have anything on this!

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And after an hour, we were off again for a 6 1/2 hour drive back up north.

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And Andrew, Dylan and Carol kicked up their heals, laughed a lot as they passed the hours together, and settled into writing Haikus about the Killing Fields and the Toul Sleng, Genocide  Museum.

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3.15.13 CAMBODIA- 2 DAYS OF DEEP REFLECTION part 2

Prison Camp,

Concentration Camp,

Internment Camp,

Detainee Camp,

Relocation Camp,…

no matter what you call it

there is no name capable

of disguising or assuaging  the horrors

associataed with such places.

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THE KILLING FIELDS

Yesterday we spent a handful of hours at The Killing Fields.  Having grown up during in the 60’s and 70’s, I was keenly aware of the Viet Nam War, but I now realize that all the news paper headlines, all the stories from friends who fought in the war, all the classroom hours spent studying this atrocity, could never have prepared me for what I saw  today. One would think that the continuous images splashed across the black and white TV I watched as a child, and the pictures in Life and Look magazines  would have prepared me.  But no mater how graphic or how intense the stories were nothing could have made me ready for the brokenness I felt after my time at the Killing Fields.

Today I shall share Haiku reflections written by everyone on the team.

JUDITH HAMILTON

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murder, agony

men, women, farmers, children

gone forever-why

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JANICE MAGGIORA

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 women brought to tears

children laughing, selling books

coffee shop witness

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land mine accidents

building their community

loving, hope-filled men

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CAROL DAMONTE

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you listen and cry

their words haunt your breaking heart

humanity moans

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remember them all

every life a bracelet now

a breeze cools the pain

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they were so lost, God

people’s hearts all turned to stone

can we seek justice now

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ripples tell stories

the dead rest untouched for now

watery dark graves

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 white flags surrender

the killing fields laugh out loud

no one makes it out

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 darkness turns to light

we pray for Cambodia

God is listening

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TOUL SLENG, S 21

Today we spent a number of hours at S21, Toul Sleng, the most notorious of the detainee/torture camps in Cambodia. I think one of the most painful parts of this camp was that it was a high school taken over by the Khmer Rouge with the single mission of  making people confess to crimes they did not commit in order to justify their torture and eradication. The painful reality of this atrocity really became real for us when Judith said, “Do you realize that Del Mar High School, where I taught and Dylan went to high school, was built 10 years before this school was built? (1959-Del Mar High in San Jose opened — 1969 the high school that became known as Toul Sleng, S21,  was opened)  Then we were hit with the sobering realization that LAUMC, our church, was built in 1957,  12 years before the Toul Sleng was opened)  All of a sudden the events of the Cambodian Genocide were more dramatically a part of our lives, part of our time lines, part of our world, and part of the depth of grief we were feeling.

Some in our group didn’t go in… some stayed for an hour and a half…I stayed as long as I could, 2 3/4 hours… until it closed. To be honest, that was too much time for my heart and not enough time at all to ask God to forgive humanity for the evil we brought upon our bothers and sisters.  I wish I could go back again to just sit, process, shake off the numbness so I could cry, and try to understand the sometimes twisted mind of humanity.  I just want to sit on the playground, invite God to sit along side me, and try to make sense of something that makes no sense, can not be rationalized, and can not be justified.

ANDREW MAGGIORA

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was once a high school

transformed to a hell on earth

unbelievable

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teachers taught the kids

then the kids killed the teachers

how could this happen

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all schools deserted

then transformed into prisons

hope turned to despair

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DYLAN DAMONTE

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classrooms became cells

and I thought my school was bad

God made me lucky

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rebels must confess

beat, break, bleed, smash, slash, crush, kill

rebels must confess

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so much pain around

yet a young one smiles still

disguised miracles

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DAVE HAMILTON

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My dreams sre broken

pain, fear, grief, are my life now

my world is apart

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CAROL’S CLOSING THOUGHTS

When darkness creeps into this world it is always important to find light.

It is in light that we find the strength to take one more step forward,

It is in light that we push away darkness,

It is in light that we find hope and courage,

It is in light that we know God is present.

Thanks for walking along side us these last few days.  They have been challenging.

Continuing to remember whose light we stand in.

Carol Damonte and the 7 Abolitionists, Dylan , Andrew, Janice, Dave, Judith, Kim and Phil

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3.14.13 CAMBODIA- 2 DAYS OF DEEP REFLECTION-part 1

Today was a day of profound sadness, deep anguish, and intense  heaviness.  Because of this I have decided to divide the events of Wednesday and Thursday into two posts focusing the first day on Human Trafficking and the second on The Killing Fields and S21, the Genocide Museum.  In doing so I feel I have a chance of making it through these posts.  I think the easiest way to find words for these two days is to go to feelings…so I shall express the two days in the form of Haiku.

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LIFE MOVES SO SLOWLY

WHEN  DARKNESS PIERCES THE CORE

HELP ME HEAL THIS PAIN

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TEN THROUGH TWELVE YEARS OLD

STOLEN YEARS OF INNOCENCE

CAN YOU REALLY HEAL

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FRIENDS MEET AGAIN

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FRIENDS LIFT THE DARKNESS

HEALING OTHERS IS YOUR CALL

THIS IS GOD AT WORK

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 THE BLOOM CAFE…a place for a mended tomorrow

(empowering survivors of trafficking and women at risk

through vocational training and employment)

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WHEN GRIEF HOLDS YOUR HAND

IT IS GOOD TO FIND SWEETNESS

IN CUPCAKES AND GOD

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THE HOLY COLLIDES

WITH THE BROKENNESS OF LIFE

 CHRIST BE BREATH FOR ME

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There is a sense of calm and focus that comes from writing Haikus.  I pray you have felt my day, known my grief and pain, and been nudged to offer up some kind of kindness or restorative hand to someone you meet along the streets, within your work place, or in your family today.

Be well and know our eyes continue to be opened  to the many ways we can live out God’s call in our lives to make a difference in this world.

Carol Damonte and the 7 other Abolistionist, Dylan, David, Judtih, Janice, Andrew, Phil and Kim

3.12.13 CAMBODIA- livelihood projects…this is the biggest way we keep people from being trafficked

BEGGING AT THE FERRY CROSSING

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SEWING HOPE IN THE WORLD

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HOW ABOUT A TRIM?

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TO MARKET, TO MARKET TO BUY A BUNCH OF SWEET PIGS!

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ON OUR WAY TO THE BASKET WEAVERS

 

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Hi Followers,

I am a day behind on our posts, but years ahead in what I have learned today. In one day we learned about the best way to keep people from being trafficked….give them a way and an opportunity to make a living.

Today we spent the whole day driving east towards the Viet Nam- Cambodian border to see the Livelihood projects that the United Methodist Church is involved in.  The projects we saw were all out in the country side….the places where poverty is so present…the places where no one wants to go because if they do they have to confront the injustice of it all.   Life is simple in the country, but this can not cover up that simple can stand side by side with poverty.   We visited 4 projects.  I will just give you a brief description of each since I will be posting pictures of each.

The one stop sewing shop-  rarely have I seen such beauty sold for so little.  The pride this young women had for the work she was allowed to do, because the United Methodists helped her build her business, was incredible to see.

Beauty shows itself again- if we had had more time we might  have been able to sit Dylan down for a quick trim at the in-home beauty parlor run by a wonderfully confident young woman.

To market to market to buy a fat pig- the pig farm/fish farm/cattle farm was like going to Old McDonal’s Farm!  So much life and even some new life…like 3 day old little piglets!

The basket weavers-  a handful of women split bamboo and wove it into simple, practical baskets. I think it must have taken about 2+ hours to make each one…and to think, they only received 33 cents for each basket.  Something just felt fundamentally wrong as I handed over $1.00 for 6 hours worth of work.

The Rice Banks- Rice banks save the lives of many people out in the country.  They allow people to move from starvation to fullness over the 2 months when their rice fields lay fallow.  When they are growing rice they pay it forward so they can take it out of “the bank” when they have nothing.  Boy, it would sure be great if the rest of the world could get on board with this kind of sharing and cooperation.  Like micro loans (loans given with justice in mind, not with the intention of deliberatly setting families into the downhill spiral of indentured servatiude for life)  Rice Banks keep families afloat and safe from people who prey on their vulnerability.

These livelihood projects made me feel so proud to call myself a United Methodist today.  And all I could hear in the back of my mind and forefront of my heart as set off to lead bible study (led by Kim) at a Methodist church  was the words of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

Our drive home was sobering as Marilyn Chan, our Methodist Missionary who led us through the day, shared her story of escaping twice from the refugee camps during the Viet Nam War.  Her story was one of agonizing pain, deep sorrow, strength and persistance, and unbelievable redemption.  And to think that she lived for a handful of years just 5 miles from my house in San Jose before returning to Cambodia to care for her people. Oh that I could have known her then.  And in the same breathe, oh that I have been given the gift of knowing her now.

What I discovered today is that life brings life. and love brings love, and  hope weaves it all together.

Until tomorrow when I shall share about the inspiring time shared with IJM (International Justice Mission), an organization that deals with human trafficking, and our afternoon at the Killing Fields.  There is still too much heaviness from time spent at the Killing Fields to share about it now.  Perhaps a night’s sleep will help me find the right words to share.

With gratitude for another day of living,

Carol Damonte and the other 7 Abolistionist, Kim, Phil, Janice, Andrew, Dylan, Judith and David.

3.11.13 CAMBODIA- to seek justice and love kindness and walk humbly with God

THE CHILDREN OF THE RAILROAD TRACKS

(formerly, the children of the dumps)

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THE GOVERNMENT ORPHANAGE

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THE CHILDREN OF THE MUSLIM SLUM

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THE CHILDREN OF THE ORPHANAGE

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THE UNITED METHODIST MISSIONARIES

(at UM Headquarters)

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Dear followers of the Abolistionist 8,

The questions we asked ourselves today were, “What is God asking of us in Cambodia? What is God asking of us as justice seekers?  Is God looking for kind people, people who will walk along side the word justice, people who understand what it really means to love mercy, not just seek mercy?”

These are the things we pondered throughout the day as we worshipped around the scripture Micah 6:8 with our new missionary friends at Methodist Headquarters, sang and danced with the children of the orphange in the slums of Toul Kork, walked the delapidated and crumbling stone hallways of the once thriving nunery -now government orphanage- moved through the single dusty street of the Muslum slum so painfully sucked in by poverty, and celebrated in song with at the Methodist church with the children of the railroad tracks -formerly the children of the dumps.

This was a day where we prayed we would learn to fully understand what it means to seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.  I believe we came close to aligning ourselves  with this call as we danced and sang in a blur and whirl of authentic loving and living along side children of great poverty and, oddly enough, of great wealth known through love.

Oh that we who have so much might be satified with less so others might have more.

Today was the kind of day we will find ourselves savoring and reflecting on again and again and again. And in doing so the growth we all seek will surely root and grow and flourish in each of us.

Until tomorrow, walk humbly with God.

Carol Damonte and the other 7 Abolitionists: Dylan Damonte, Kim and Phil Pendleton Bolles, Judith and David Hamilton, and Janice and Andrew Maggiora

3.10.13 CAMBODIA- from lightness to light

HOW MANY CAN WE FIT ON A MOTOR CYCLE ?

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CAROL DELIGHTS IN A SNACK OF TARANTULAS…FUZZY LEGS AND ALL

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BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS.

A BAG OF CRICKETS FOR CAROL , ANDREW AND DYLAN

 

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BACK TO BEING ON THE ROAD

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Dear Friends,
What a day today was. The morning broke with chickens clucking at 3:30am, a call to prayer, dogs barking, children’s groggy Sunday morning voices, and the promise of another opportunity to make a difference in the world. We spent the day driving through the country side from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and stopped along the way for lunch. It was here at our lunch stop that I had my first snack treat of spiders, tarantulas to be exact, after tasting the wonder of crickets for breakfast. Dylan, Andrew, Judith, Dave and I shared a cricket or two over breakfast, but I was the only one who decided a tarantula was worth a nibble. I was just hoping that the body wasn’t filled with anything too gooey or icky. Oddly enough, the body tasted a lot like I would suppose Ponds cold cream would taste. A little bland, but definitely fresh and quasi, well, maybe medicinal. I figured all of you would love to experience this with me so I have attached a few photos. Just thought I’d share my sweet snack foods with you. As you might guess, this evening I needed to floss…little legs and wings and pieces of furry legs were stuck in my teeth.

We made our way into the capitol city of Phnom Penh today. It is so big compared to Siem Reap. It is going to take some adjusting for sure. We met with Esther Gitobu, an amazing UM missionary who has organized the two days we will spend with the United Methodists. What an incredible woman she is; her husband, Ken, is wonderful too. Most of us spent the evening talking with both of them about our next two days which will include things like going to 2 orphanages, the livelihood projects which includes pig farming and agriculture, hammock making,sewing projects,etc., meeting with the children of the slums, a bible study which Kim Pendleton Bolles, and much more. We are now moving into the meaty part of our trip where we will step into our purpose for being in Cambodia. We will see first hand how education and job opportunities, both provided by the United Methodists, are the key to limiting Human Trafficking. When parents have jobs to create an income they don’t need to send their children off to make money, which is usually how children end up being trafficked. They also don’t need to sell their children with the hopes of making enough money to feed the rest of their families. Education is another key to keeping children and youth from being trafficked.

So, what started out as a light, fun day has now become a day of much introspection in anticipation of tomorrow. And now, as we join all of you online for morning worship, we are not surprised that we are feeling empowered for the journey ahead.

I wonder what Cambodia will bring me tomorrow? I wonder how God will use us to help heal this broken and fragile world? I wonder how we will move from the lightness of a fun day to the light of God’s purpose for our trip?

Love in the wonder of it all,
Carol and the other 7 abolitionists

3.9.13 CAMBODIA – eight abolistionist beyond LAUMC

THE FLOATING VILLAGES 

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THE MARKET PLACE

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BREAKING THE POVERTY CYCLE

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OUR HOTEL, THE GOLDEN BUTTERFLY VILLA

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   Suor Sdei and welcome to our first post from Cambodia.

The evening has settled in and although it is only 7:00pm we are all ready for bed.  Our traditional Khmer dinner was amazing even though I did eat a whole red pepper by accident.  Good thing they had milk to chase my mouth-on-fire. Funny, the milk is watered down sweetned condensed milk. Kinda surprised me when I had the first gulp. And to think all of this happened just before the song “California Dreamin” came on the radio!

Today we hit the outdoor market and got lost in a swirl and abundance of vibrant color, aromas that wrapped around our hunger, and sounds that could only be heard walking through the maze-like- aisles of a covered market. It was increcible. Shopping in places like this is an experience like none other…one that makes you know you are somewhere else is this big world of ours.

We spent the afternoon out at the floating villge of Chong Kneas.  The lake, Tonle Sap, which is incredibly big, has entire villages that float year round.  Although the villages are all divided between the people of Cambodia, Viet Nam, and Indonesia, all get along we were told.  How cool is that?  Anyway, we took a boat trip out to see the villages.  Because it is the end of the dry season the water was extremly low and muddy. The shallow areas of look like thick chocolate milk..  We had a driver who  told us all about the lake and it’s people. Needless to say, it was facinating, as we maneuvered through the dredged canals out to the lake.

So, everything is out on the water.  Gas stations, pig farms, retirement communities for the aging, orphanages, schools and on and on. Its pretty incrdedible. They live that way because the goverenment doesn’t charge them for land use since they are just floating. So they float in villages made up of poorly constructed structures that can barely weather the typhoons.

Tonight we are going to sleep to get a grip on this jet lag. Ok., Dyaln and Andrew are going out for a while to check out the night life of Siem Reap.   I continue to fall asleep about every 10-15 seconds so i think it is time to stop, but I have one more thought…

We saw some things that challenged us in our wanderings today. The thing that caused us the most concern was when we were asked to give money to an orphanage out in the lake.  We went to the community store that supplied the orphanage/school with food bought almost exclusively from foreigners.  It was a hard sell and none of us felt comfortable with what was happening so we decided not to make any donation.  We just felt like the money wasn’t being distributed honestly, or at least not in a way that made us feel comfortable giving.  But when we went to the orphanage, I believe as their last ditch effort to get us to donate, things got uncomfortable in our hearts.  We just didn’t feel like the children were the primary interest when it came to the donations being made.  Could we have all been off base?  Perhaps, but something was off.  As we returned back to the docks on our 30 minute trek, the guide, once talkative and funny, sat quietly at the back of the boat.  So, something was wrong….

I couldn’t help but wonder what Jesus would have done as he sat with the hungry and outcast preaching along the Sea of Galilee.  Would he have gone with his gut or gone with what God called him to do?  Was feeding the hungry children what we should have done or were we right to have listened and said, “not this time?”  What I have come to know on this Lenten journey is God is always calling us to care for the oppressed and those who have less, but God is also telling us to listen and discern and find Him at the center of it all.  We didn’t see God at the center of this request to buy rice for these children.  I can’t help wonder though, even though I believe I know, will the children be hungry tonight because of our choice?

We are pondering, searching, asking, and reflecting on all that is happening around us. I pray our hearts, minds and hands are all prepared to act as God is calling.

To all of you ready our blog, continue to surround us with clairty of vision and sense of real purpose as we move forward on our journey.
Carol Damonte

Coming soon… Cambodia trip blog

Map of CambodiaThe group bound for Cambodia departs on Thursday, March 7 and returns on Thursday, March 21.

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts!

 

Friday in Nicaragua

photoF1Friday we got to sleep in a bit and had our morning devotions at 7:00 instead of 6:30. After breakfast we said goodbye to the Living Water staff and our new friends from Nebraska and met our driver, Tomas. Tomas brought us to Matagalpa via the pottery village of Ducuale Grande in Esteli. After about two hours, we were in Esteli. Tomas didn’t know where Ducuale Grande was, so we stopped to ask some people on the street. They told us it was some kilometers north and gave directions to Tomas.  About one hour later, just when we were pretty sure we were almost in Honduras, we saw a sign for Ducuale Grande at the side of the road. We went down a dirt road and asked another person where the pottery store was. We had to ask another couple of people before we found it. Although there was a sign on the highway and one in front of the store, there weren’t signs at the other two or three turns you had to make.

At Ducuale Grande they make a special style of pottery from the indigenous clay with simple designs and fire them in wood ovens. The ladies were sitting outside near the ovens making the designs. We bought a few things and then got back in the car. We asked Tomas if he knew a restaurant in Esteli to have lunch. Tomas found a very nice Colombian restaurant with a view of the city.

After lunch we got back in the car for about another hour to get to Matagalpa. Tomas explained some of the sights along the way — tobacco farms with drying sheds, rice fields and other things. I understood most, but not all, of what he said. He did not speak a single word of English.

We arrived at Casa Materna in the late afternoon, settled in at the Casita and then walked into town for some wifi at the cafe and then dinner. We had pizza at the Italian restaurant we had eaten at last year. The weather is much cooler here-you almost needed a sweater.

Back at the Casita, we met another Dana who was visiting from Maryland. She was leaving the next day on the public bus to Masaya for several days of Spanish language school. We were impressed with her courage to travel alone on the bus.

Leslie & Dana

Thursday Well Drilling in Nicaragua

Thursday was a big day – the day of the well dedication. When we arrive at the worksite, the men had filled in the two pits we had used for the bentonite. Dana, Coleen, Kenya and I sorted and re-packed the boxes of hygiene education materials so they would be ready for the next group. Meanwhile, the men assembled and installed the hand pump for the well.

One of the Living Water staff dressed up as a clown and put on a show for the kids. He led them in several silly songs. The kids loved it.

Then we all gathered around the well. The Pastor said a prayer. Rosa, the community’s leader, thanked us for helping the community to receive a well. The five of us from the US each tried to say how blessed we felt to have been able to work with them to bring a well to their community. It was very emotional.

Rosa had prepared a delicious chicken soup for us. After lunch, we headed back to the Living Water house and then to the beach for dinner at a restaurant. The beach was lovely with a cool breeze. We walked along the beach, watched the surfers (including our Living Water staff person, Stu) and ate a variety of seafood for dinner. The sunset was beautiful.

Leslie & Dana