Saturday, October 3, 2009


Sweaty is one word that describes Nicaragua for me. Others are poor, tumultuous, impressive, and exceedingly beautiful. At least 70% of the population lives on less than US$2 per day, and many live only slightly above that mark. Poverty, political and social repression, and violence are continued themes in Nicaraguan history, and many problems still linger today. However, Nicaraguans are exceedingly perseverant, and continue to work to improve the living conditions of their country.

On September 21, the entire LASP group traveled for about 12 hours, including stops, to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. And let me tell you, Managua is hot. Ice water showers are the only ones available, but I was extremely thankful for those brief, blissful moments. In Managua, we had several speakers and were able to visit several parts of the city. One of the highlights for me, was a talk with Dora María Tellez, the leader of a small Sandinista party that has been outlawed by the current government. As a woman in her early 20’s, she was a leader in the guerrilla movement against the repressive and violent Somoza dynasty. Since winning the struggle against the dictatorship, she has worked within the government in health, as a representative in congress, and now as a leader of a leftist party. Señora Tellez is now in her 60’s (I think), and could snap me in half with either her pinky or her words. One thing that really struck me about her talk was that she began medical school to be a doctor, but after seeing other problems decided that fighting for the rights of Nicaraguans was more important. Therefore, she changed directions completely, and left to fight for freedom. What struck me about this is that she recognizes that medicine is important, healing people is important, and the healthcare system is important, but decided that what was important to her was to change the poverty and daily life of the Nicaraguans. It’s not that one is more important than another, but she could not devote her life to both medicine and politics. This spoke volumes to me, as I try to decide what to do with my life. There are so many areas in which I wish to help, but I cannot devote my life to every single cause I encounter, both in the States and the rest of the world. I simply can’t do it all. But she reminded me that focusing on one passion does not invalidate another. A simple lesson, but one that I’ve had a difficult time learning.

Two Thursdays ago, we left to meet our Nicaraguan host families. My host family (and Destry’s, by coincidence) lives outside of Masaya, an important city for artesian crafts. I was connected with my family through a microfinance institution called Alternativa. They have received loans for their farm. They had cows, goats, pigs, chickens, pheasants, dogs, cats, roosters (who crowed beginning at 3 am), and a horse. They also have many fruit trees near their home, and a few acres of fields in which to grow corn, pinolin, corn, beans, and other products. I spent hours picking through the beans, and even worked in the fields for a few hours. We were supposed to work for the morning, but they decided that we weren’t accustomed to such difficult work, so we needed to rest. They were right. I am such a weakling. It was definitely an enlightening experience to realize that my 65 year old Nicaraguan mom and dad had worked this way their entire lives, without other options. If they didn’t labor, they didn’t eat.

I lived on the family compound with a bunch of people, many of whom I never quite figured out their names or how they were related. My parents, Amanda and Juan, do not have any formal schooling, but have 10 children, about half of whom are now teachers. The family was very affectionate, and I enjoyed my time with them. There were several entertaining moments. For example, I was constantly asking to help cook or clean or something, but was denied almost every time however. One day, however, they kept calling me over to take a picture of me doing things like stir the rice. However, once the picture was done, all helping would abruptly stop. I also played many card games. At one point, we decided to play poker, but it is definitely not any type of poker that I have ever played before. Destry and I eventually dissolved into laughter and started doing whatever we wanted because we could never figure out the rules. I dominated that game.

However, the week was difficult for reasons that I have nothing to do with the lack of running water or the oppressive heat. Communication was difficult, which was frustrating because I wanted to learn about all that they have experienced, and how they feel about it. However, I did understand some, and what they told me was very interesting, and heartbreaking at times. The family has been very poor, have had children die due to poverty-related issues, and one of my brothers fought for 26 months in the mountains. I am still trying to process all that I experienced, but I know that it was a beneficial experience.

On Wednesday, all the students met back up in Granada, which is definitely on my list of favorite cities. It is incredibly beautiful, and it was great to just relax and chill in the city. We were able wander around the city, chill at the hostel, and talk about the past week. Everyone also went on a boat tour of Lake Nicaragua, the 2nd largest lake in Latin America. There are many islands in the lake, the smallest of which cost only US$100,000. Anybody want to move to Nicaragua?
One fantastic thing about this semester is all of the fantastic people that I have been able to meet and get to know. Honestly, some of my favorite memories are the conversations we have during things like waiting in line to cross the border for an hour and the 12-hour bus rides. I am so blessed to know these kind, crazy, open-hearted people.

The next three weeks are going to be crazy busy. We have two weeks of Spanish and Core Seminar classes left, then one week of finishing up our final papers and presentations for Core Seminar. It is also basically the last month we are living in San José, so I’ll be spending time with the family as much as possible and hopefully doing a little traveling around Costa Rica. There is so much I haven’t seen!

I realize this has been a long entry, and I thank you if you made it all the way through. Though I am having an amazing time and am not ready to leave, I get so excited when I think about giving each and every one of you a hug when I get back. Love you!


  1. ¡Qué cosa! ¡Nunca te olivdarás estas tremendas experiencias! Sé que Dios las usará para moldear tu vida en maneras que todavía no te puedes imaginar.

  2. So so awesome Rhea!!! Thank you for allowing me to journey with you friend :)

    Love you and praying for both you and Destry! Can't wait to hug you!!!!
    Grace & Peace, Katy Bradley :)

  3. Rhea,
    I love reading about your adventures in Costa Rica - and elsewhere. God Bless your time there! I will be waiting for that hug! :-)
    Kathy Gray

  4. Rhea,

    I remember my days in Nicaragua and it truly is a lifechanging experience. I'm glad you're having a great time and look forward to hearing many more stories in the future.

    -Trae Beasler

  5. can't wait to hug you right back. so thankful you're doing well..

  6. i've been (finally) catching up with you girls today. i love hearing your stories! i'm so glad you made it "home" safely and have grown so much. the contrast between your and erin's home stays and sarah's is hysterical!
    i can't wait to hear more about that family. i'm so proud of you for all of the growth you are going through. i can "hear" the seeking and questioning in the part about Ms Tellez.
    hope you are enjoying every single second of it!
    praying for you. love you.

  7. Rhea, this sounds so great!! I loved reading about you being owned by a 65 year-old. Haha. I'm glad you are having a wonderful time. Hope you're being encouraged on a regular basis. Love you girl and miss you!!

    Caylee Joy

  8. ahh rhea rhea! I have enjoyed reading every detail! It has def created some anticipation and excitement for what is to come when I get over there! Praying for you girl- enjoy every moment! :)