Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day -5: Despedidas

We are now in that final stretch where every time we see someone we part with hugs and promises to return to Nicaragua some day. In between packing and liquidating our belongings, we've been visiting the local churches for one last culto, a round of hugs and prayers for our journey. It's very much the reverse of our first week in Nicaragua when we were driven around from church to church for a round of introductions.

We've had our share of goodbye parties, or despedidas, too over the past few weeks with friends and co-workers. The picture above was taken with Revda. Pilar at a goodbye service at the 2nd Church in Managua. Doña Pilar was the church president when we first arrived and it was her who welcomed us at the airport and made sure we were comfortable and well-taken care of during those first few weeks while we were finding our feet. The hard part is saying goodbye, but it's great to know we've got friends here thinking about us head back north.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day -19: Español

Without a doubt one of the things I will miss the most about Nicaragua is the opportunity to speak Spanish every day. I've found learning a new language as an adult to be a perpetual motion process. You have to keep learning and practicing and moving forward or you start to slide backwards. I'm pretty proud about how far I've come learning Spanish. No one would ever mistake me for anything other than a gringo, but I do OK.

But even after short trips to the states I start to feel rusty, so I'm worried that I'll go back to the U.S. and it will all melt away. Now of course we're moving to California and there are tons of Spanish-speakers who live there, so I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity to practice. But the great advantage of being immersed is that you have to use your Spanish every day all the time. I'm not sure that'll be the same in California, but we'll see.

With the girls it is a different story. Maya is two and a half years old now, and she's just now starting to talk more confidently in both English and Spanish. Like almost all kids raised in a bilingual environment, her language development has been slower. (Bilingual kids universally start slower but catch up to their age-mates over time.) Some of her first words were an adorable mix of both languages like gat (halfway between gato and cat) or lun (luna and moon). Even now there are certain things that she'll only say in one language or the other, and she's definitely starting to separate the two more consistently. It has been fascinating to see how different her process has been from her sister. Since she's Nicaraguan by birth we feel a responsibility to help her maintain both languages, but she's so young that it might be pretty difficult.

After four years of Nicaraguan school, Quinn is perfectly bilingual, and she's old enough that it seems more likely she'll be able to keep up her Spanish even in the states. We are hoping to enroll her in a bilingual public school in California when we get there. I never cease to be amazed by her ability to switch effortlessly between the two languages. She still has some "spanish-isms" that creep into her English, by which I mean she says something in English that has the structure or vocab of a common Spanish phrase. One time when the power went out she informed us that "The lights went" (spanish: Se fue la luz). Or she will refer to "touching the guitar" instead of playing it, since Spanish uses that verb instead.

At times when I overhear her talking with her friends her Spanish accelerates to such a velocity that I can barely understand her. I used to worry that I should be able to always understand what my kid is saying, but now I think it might be a metaphor for parenting. Maybe at some level kids always speak a slightly different tongue than their parents.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Brief Musings on Bread (and Fasting)

photo by Steven Depolo, Creative Commons Attribution license

Three sayings about bread wove themselves together in my mind recently, and they seem appropriate for a time when many are beginning a season of fasting.

I recently came across this quote for the first time by Nikolai Berdyaev, who was a Russian religious and political philosopher:

"Bread for myself is a material question.  Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one."

As many people enter into Lenten fasts, I wonder about the connection between denying "bread" (or chocolate, or donuts, or...) to ourselves, and being mindful of our neighbors, near and far, who are without bread.  Is there a connection?  Should there be?  World Vision Youth is organizing a solidarity fast, and although the word "Lent" doesn't seem to appear anywhere, the timing is just right.

I don't remember when I first heard the most famous words of the Brazilian archbishop and liberation theologian Dom Helder Camara, but they have stayed with me:

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."

We might think that political and spiritual questions can (and should) be kept separate, but as simple a topic as food (and hunger) reveals that, if we believe that "bread for my neighbor" is a spiritual question, one that we are willing to seek answers to, any effort providing that bread soon leads us to more questions, which are often unpopular, even dangerous, politically.

The sung blessing for a meal that ties together these two quotes for me is one I learned here in Nicaragua, that has been shared through the Latin American Council of Churches' (CLAI) Liturgy Network:

Bendice Señor nuestro pan

y da pan a los que tienen hambre

y hambre de justicia

a los que tienen pan.

Bendice Señor nuestro pan.

English translation:
Lord, bless our bread.
and give bread to those who are hungry
and give hunger for justice
to those who have bread.
Lord, bless our bread.

May our bellies, whether filled, fasting, or hungry, hunger for justice.