Kylie's Nicaragua Blog
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Give her God's love

This picture still haunts me. She’s just waiting on top of that hill of trash and hopelessness, waiting for something better. And it reminds me what I want for her, how badly I want to take her away from all the pain and show her God’s love.

Smiles all around

I love the spontaneity of this picture. At first only the child in the back of the picture wanted a photo taken of him, but then only seconds before I took the picture his cousins pushed into the frame, giggling mischievously. The whole picture just reminds me of the happy energy these children had with each other.

Joy Songs

This picture makes my heart warm with love for the local children. The party in itself was such a blessing, but seeing these children sing the fun Christian children’s songs with joy similar to children I knew in the U.S. was absolutely a joy. Their happy faces reminded me that Christianity is not such a serious burden; it’s a joy to be a part of.

Frankie's Heritage

I was so honored when Frankie and his family began to pull photos off their wall and show each one to us individually, telling us each one’s story. I loved being included in his family for a few hours and was greatly blessed by their sharing, open spirit.

I love my job

This woman just made me so happy. In a tiring, low-paying job, one could expect this woman to be indifferent to the children she took care of. Children came into the shelter and would leave just as quickly sometimes. But it was such a joy to see her REALLY smiling as she took care of the children. She played and laughed with them, actually talking with them with such care. It made me so happy that she could overcome what could have become just a job with the love she had for the children.


I want you to know love.


I can’t forget her eyes. They were not the cheerful eyes of a child. She is only 11 and already she has the tired eyes of a woman who has seen so much trouble. She is so unlike Franky, whose happy eyes and careless grin charm each of us into forgetting his poverty. Each attempt to make her laugh brings a painful smile to her dirty lips. I talk with her and take her picture, but she stares blankly back.

Her eyes have haunted me since I saw her in her worn, oversized sweater waiting atop a hill covered in refuse. She looked back with a silent pain, calloused indifference, eyes much too old. My heart longs to take her from the burning hell of trash upon that mountain and show her what love is. Before she solemnly walked away, I spoke with her in the tragically broken Spanish I knew. I know I confused her. I saw her wondering if I was just another tourist.

But I hope- I really hope and pray that she was able to see my love for her. And more than that, I hope she saw God’s love for her. I want her to remember love. When she wants to give up on the world that seems so cruel, when she forgets what hopes and dreams feel like, when she doesn’t even bother to cry anymore, I hope she remembers what love is. I only want to be God’s heart in the world, the arms through which He holds His broken children.

I just want her to know His love.


Jinotega public school drum line

Humility seemed like a strange thing to find in a group of competitive high schoolers. But straight from the mouths of students came wisdom.

Dim sunlight came through the dusty windows near the tall ceiling of the high school gym. Our group sat in folding chairs with members of the band and gym team (the school’s dance team), circled around a TV near the gym’s stage. The glossy wooden platform made me nostalgic, remindinding me of my junior high school, and I sunk back into the feeling of being a teenager.

Watching the girls chat and laugh with each other transcended any cultural barrier I might have thought previously existed. The only thing that kept us separated was language.

The gym team’s director, who was everything I expected in a  male dance team director with his matching scarf, fashionably tight clothes and broad smile, played the DVD of the team’s performance in their Independence Day parade with his hand on his hip. We all settled back into the creaky metal chairs and watched the band and gym team put on a spectacular show.

After the parade on the screen ended, we turned to the students to talk with them through our translator Franklin. They spoke with us openly about their experience in the band and how they felt about their performances, but they caught my attention when Blake asked them if they thought they were better than their rival school in town. We all listened intently, expecting cheerful claims of being the best of course! But we didn’t see the actual answer coming.

They responded immediately, looking us in the eyes; through our translator they said something to the effect of, “No, we don’t think we’re better or they’re better. We just respect the work they do. They work hard just like we do.”

We were taken aback. This was not the response we would have expected from teenagers that didn’t seem too different from their American counterparts. We were humbled by the respect these students held for their rivals.

I imagined the bitter rivalries of American high school football teams and the fights that erupt from them. But I don’t think the violence or verbal fights would even occur if each team respected the other for the hard work each put into their shared passion.


Franky with a picture of himself two years old on a horse


Riding in the heavy heat of the bus with the valley’s wind on my face, I watch little Ulisse bounce in the front seat along the bumpy, rural road. We chat with him through our translator. He’s smiling broadly, clutching a worn water bottle as he leads us to his older brother Franky. Suddenly he points ahead to a boy wearing a red knit hat, skillfully riding a horse. It’s Franky, leading his family’s cattle home. He smiles and waves as he passes by. We follow him home and are invited onto the front porch with his family.

His father admits with a laugh that when these white people came to his house looking for Franky, he was afraid the boy had gotten himself into big trouble. We all laugh along with him, trying to ease his unsureness. We all shake his hand and eagerly greet everyone who has come to watch curiously from the doorway. The 11-year-old boy who was confident on his horse a few moments ago now shyly retreated behind his mother.

Smiling confidently with a mixture of silver and altogether missing teeth, Franky’s father engages our group in hospitable conversation and attempts to grasp why we towed cameras and voice recorders up to his porch. We explain to him we are a group of students and journalists-in-training hoping to record the stories of Nicaraguans we meet. At first he misunderstands, as often happens with a language barrier and translator, but soon he is smiling again.

As the men begin to chat about the family’s past, my attention wanders to the wife and children leaning on the doorframe. My Spanish is limited, so ages and silly questions about dogs or photos are all I can manage. The translator, Franklin, has his hands full, so I am left to tiny words and body language. I smile and make much eye contact. After a small conversation with Franky, Ulisse and their mother, I ask if I may take photos of them. They all laugh and turn their faces shyly, so I ask Franky specifically. He smiles and ducks his head, but his mother prods him from the doorway.

He reacted the same way any young boy would act in front of a lens, laughing and trying to dart from the camera’s frame. I laughed aloud as I thought of my brother having to be heaviliy persuaded by me and my mother any time I attempt to take his picture.

I watch the mother put her arm across Ulisse’s chest unconsciously as she watches her husband tell stories. She turns to Franky and pulls off his red hat with a grin. He yanks it back laughing, and it’s easy for me to see a mother’s love transcends culture. Ulisse whines after Franky snatches his mother’s phone from his hands, and their mother pushes Ulisse’s hair back with a small smile to soothe him. I see my own mother in her and am reminded that the one thing people will always understand in any country is love.

As the conversation winds down, Franky comes out of the house with a framed photo of his mother on a horse when she was younger. He is sure to show everyone and returns to the house to pull another photograph off the wall. Ulisse joins him, and I am genuinely touched as this display of intimacy and acceptance. The boys are sure to specifically show me each picture and allow me to take a picture of each one.

They run out of photos to show us, and Phil expresses his gratitude and friendship by asking to eat a meal with them another night. In Nicaraguan culture, it is a great honor to host people at one’s house for dinner, and Franky’s family was happy to have guests.

We all shake hands and exchange “mucho gusto”s as dinner time approaches. Their smiles and waves told me I had made friends that afternoon.


Franky, the caballero


More to come…




We worshiped Sunday evening with the Ecclesia de Christo the Mision Para Christo supports in a street-level room with a wide door to the marketplace of Jinotega. It was night and the doors were left open, their Spanish hymns pouring out into the streets. In a room full of people I could only say, “Mucho gusto” – nice to meet you- to, ironically, these were the people I came to talk to.

Earlier, the most contact with Nicaraguans I had was with the moderately bilingual zip-lining guides who passed groups of American tourists from tree to tree every day; and the marketplace guides who translated between English-speaking ignorance and Spanish-speaking vendors for a living. If I had struggled with the language barrier before, I was drowning in the confusion now. Questions I longed to answer were left hanging in the air all day in the more genuine Jinotega marketplace. Children asked if they could have the “fotos” they so eagerly posed for, and I could only answer, “No hablo Espanol. Lo siento!” – I don’t speak Spanish. I’m sorry!” Most children were not satisfied with this answer and continued to grin widely as they asked again with their tiny hands outstretched.

In the marketplace today (Monday), Philip Holsinger took us along the stands introducing his American “amigos” to his Nicaraguan ones in Jinotega. They were as excited as he was to meet friends of their good friend. We separated from the main group to travel with our translators and continued to wander the marketplace, talking to people as we went. Thomas and Blake conducted interviews as I took pictures of the interviewees and surrounding area. But not long into an interview, curious children would wander by, so tiny they were almost swallowed by the busy crowd. They would stare from a distance until I smiled and gave them a friendly “Hola” and pointed to my camera to ask kindly “foto?”

No child refused to pose for a picture. Some stood stoically while staring directly into the lens. Others would smile broadly and pull other children into the picture with them. I showed them all their photos as I wondered if this was the first time they had ever seen themselves that they could remember. Most that came to me were from the ages of 5 to 12. I would ask about school different times of the day: some would say it started at noon, others would say they didn’t have school on Mondays. Beyond their name and age, I had a hard time striking up a conversation.

I listened to the interviews the guys conducted off and on, but I was most interested in a conversation with an especially poor cabbage and tomato vendor. He was a simple man, with only two wooden walls to his spot and a torn, blue tarp to cover it. He sold his cabbages from the dirt, the poor presentation of his product a sign of his poverty, our translator said. We began to ask him about his contentedness with his job and his family, to which he replied that he would work day to day to provide for them but he was waiting for something to happen. He didn’t know what; he just hoped he would one day rise out of his current situation.

Blake brought up the issue of reliance upon different sources, such as self, community and government. The man, Antonio, was quick to reply that he relied only on Jesus. We had found a brother. We learned that he was a volunteer preacher at a local barrios church called “Rios del Agua de Viva.” He was an encouragement to us, watching as he worked from day to day trusting in Jesus to bless him and his wife.


Jinotega Barrios


As we drove through the country side on our first road trip yesterday, we passed by the “barrios” (neighborhoods) that sprung up in the middle of the dusty fields. The Best Western across from the airport we arrived at in Managua was an American resort, surrounded by walls to keep us surrounded with familiarity. For now we could enjoy the tropical flowers and breakfast bar I understood was only a facade.

But I wasn’t prepared for the de-walled, unmasked Nicaragua. I was unready for the 10 by 10 huts made from battered scrap wood and a thin piece of tin for a roof. I knew they would be there, but I was in disbelief that people raised families in the dirt. Adults sat in plastic chairs near the doorways, and children played nearby in small trees. Fathers carried multiple children on the front of their bikes. Women carried large packages on their heads with a child in both hands. Food and water were suddenly forbidden with the promise of sickness if I innocently bought a snack from a street vendor.

I now look down from the mission window at the crowded bus station where old school buses pick up and drop off, and people sell and buy. I remember the heat of the sun bearing down on me in the marketplace nearby. They stand in the shade, and I understand why. But I look through the glass with air conditioning blowing on my face. I feel justified in resting my feet after a day of walking in the marketplace. But then I see an elderly woman carrying home-baked goods in a basket on her head and realize she is still working at 4:30 on this Monday afternoon. I see the men placing the baggage and goods on top of the buses and the people who are crammed inside the hot vehicle. My feet don’t hurt anymore.

I watch the vendors balance on their wagons and carts to offer their products to the people at the bus windows. Children and stray dogs wander in and out of traffic; a warning honk for children, nothing for the mutts. People stand in the shade. Little boys roam from crowd to crowd asking for cordobas, the local currency, as professional beggars and, too often, pick-pockets. A man tries to sell cold drinks to the working men at the bus station; his son is climbing the side of the bus for fun. Unfamiliar music blares from speakers at someone’s stand nearby. The marketplace is never quiet. Even at night, the wind howls through the valley and whips the stands’ tarps, and people yell to one another in the dark.

Yes, this is what you call culture shock.