We are meant for skies not ceilings. *Old Gypsy Grandfather
“I hope I don’t sound too insane when I say that there is darkness all around us. I don’t feel weak but I need sometimes for her to protect me and reconnect me to the beauty that I’m missing… I understand her because my heart and hers are the same.” Avett Brothers
The past week Brian and I spent Monday-Saturday out in the rural communities: interviewing community members about local education, talking with teachers and students, and becoming painfully aware of how many things work against education in poor, rural settings.
We stayed with a few different families throughout the week, one of which had a small pig. This little pig made my heart so happy. It had a puppy companion who was equal in size and they would play (and sometimes fight) and sleep next to each other in corners. Animals were a sort of motif for the week. Apart from the pig-puppy duo, there were numerous fluffy chicks running around in nervous packs. Pastor Gesary had a baby pet deer. There were howling monkeys everywhere (they are sooo loud). In the jungle you can stare at the ground at any given moment and it will inevitably be moving with caterpillars, spiders, ants, flies and other critters. Randomly a disturbed flock of butterflies may flurry up and create a little show of yellow, white, and red.
Our main mode of transportation were horses and mules. Now, let me preface this little story by saying that Brian is a big guy. He’s about 6’2” and probably weighs 200+ lbs. At one point during the week we were met by Don Castro who brought us a good looking horse and a pathetic mule to get to the next community. I assumed Brian would be on the big horse, but no, apparently the horse was for me. Don Castro directed Brian over to his mule. The first leg of the trip Brian lagged behind, too kind-hearted to whip the poor animal. I kept looking back, expecting the mule’s knees to buckle under Brian. Don Castro, less patient than Brian and working on a schedule, took things into his own hands. He waited for Brian to prod alongside his horse and then proceeded to whip its ass for the rest of the trip to keep it moving. I think Brian and I were both surprised by how light the mule’s steps became under the whip. I laughed and laughed and laughed seeing Brian bounce uncomfortably as his little mule trotted along. For me, riding horseback was a highlight. Moving through the jungle, crossing rivers (not flowing rivers, mom), and trekking under big skies was made even more magical by the prodding, rhythmic steps of a horse under me.
On the same note and yet of a completely different tone was our transportation out to the edge of the forest: huge dirt-bike motorcycles. I rode a moto a few times in the Dominican Republic and I remember liking it but I’d forgotten how much. Let me just say this: When I’m on the back of a moto, flying past the greener than green scenery, with the wind hugging my body, I am happy. For me, its a deep-down, wanting-to-cry-with-happiness, so-alive-you-might-just-die type of joy. I hope everyone can find something in their life that makes them feel this way.
The rhythm of life here is different and it feels healthy. Even though people have electricity, most people still go to bed shortly after it gets dark and wake up when it gets light. Every morning roosters begin crowing about 4am, a band somewhere in the city starts playing by 4:30, and the streets start to bustle. Out in the jungle people wake up as early as 3:30am to start the day. By 5am its impossible to stay in bed with all the noise and activity that accompanies farm life. But generally I don’t feel tired when I get up, even if I didn’t sleep much during the night…
Saturday morning we went to visit a secondary school before meeting our motorcycle pickup at noon. By 9am we were done and had three hours to kill in the middle of nowhere. So, because we had nothing else to do, we decided to start walking back towards town. It was the same road (trail?) that the teachers walk along to get out to the schools each week, so we figured it be a good experience for us to have. By the end of a week out in the jungle, needless to say Brian and I were pretty gross and our clean clothes had long since run out. Walking in the Nicaraguan heat (finally a day without rain) left us just as soaked as the rainy days had, but with sweat instead of rain water. There is a hill that is forever long (about 45mins) and unshaded. I’m pretty sure I was partially delirious halfway up but in my delirium I articulated something to Brian that I had never really thought about before:
Brian asked me if I believed in the immaculate conception of Jesus. I said yes. And then we talked about other times when stories in the Christian tradition break with nature’s patterns. For example, Jonah swallowed by a giant fish, or a donkey talking. I’ve entertained several ideas about how one should interpret the Bible: literally, figuratively, etc…and I’m fully aware that in many circles it is not en vogue to believe that bible stories actually happened (after all, even Jesus taught with stories and parables, why wouldn’t other parts of God’s word do the same?). However, I have absolutely no reason to NOT believe that Jonah was swallowed by a fish, or that a donkey talked, or that three men walked out of a burning furnace unscathed. I know that God is the creator of the universe and that he raised Jesus from the dead, and when I remember his creativity (which continuously blows my mind), then there is no problem believing that he can (and does) do crazy things. God put in place the patterns of nature and I don’t see why he can’t easily deviate from them for his own ends. Anything is possible.
On Sunday Brian and I were invited to a small church meeting in someone’s home. The message was about Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. At one point the sermon mentioned plants with shallow roots and the ease with which they can be swept away in rain. At that point I stopped listening and started thinking about roots: A plant without roots is easily swept away by waters or blown over by the wind, it’s more susceptible to the weather, it’s easily upturned. A plant with deep roots however is very different. Even when everything above the surface is destroyed, a plant with deep roots can revive itself and keep living. Deep roots hold a tree steady in the winds. Storms of rain do not wash it away but rather the roots absorb the water and the plant is strengthened (not defeated) by the storm. I want roots: deep, strong, weathered roots. In the parable of the sower, the seed being sown (which puts down roots and grows) is the word of God.
He who forms the mountains,
creates the wind,
and reveals his thoughts to man,
He who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads the high places of the Earth-
The Lord God Almighty is his name.
More highlights from this past week:
-Fresh Honey from Don Castro’s bees
-Students in Escalante asking me for help with their math
-Fresh milk with cinnamon
-Talking with Pastor Gesary and Brian late into the night about faith
-Learning that Nicaragua has a song about Sept. 11th
-Seeing a giant pig go up a hill on the back of a moto
-Getting a beer and a big plate of plantains upon arriving back in the city
Also, Popie the dog is still the bane of my existence here in Nicaragua.