Visiting our Peace Corps Family

This is a guest post by Andrew’s mother, Carla, from when she visited us in January 2016.

I’m sitting here on this rainy, Portland evening looking at the screen saver on my computer. It takes me back to an island in the middle of a lake in a country in Central America!   What a wonderful memory! I’d never been to Central America before. Our son, Andrew, and daughter-in-law, Emily, serve in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua.   Erik and I loved getting to share in a slice of their life in Nica.

As you can imagine, it’s been hard to have our children so far away from us. We hadn’t seen them in over a year and a half. Skype, email, blogs and texting have really helped for us to keep in touch, and we’re grateful that they have access to these.   We’ve been so interested to hear of their work teaching English and training English teachers. To meet their fellow Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), host mom, counterparts and Nicaraguan friends was awesome!

As a PCV’s mamma, I’ll admit to being very lonesome for Andrew and Emily, especially the first few months after they left. Then, the over-arching emotion turned into pride, so happy for the chance that they have to learn from another culture and share their gifts.   I hadn’t been too nervous or worried about them, well, except when they have been sick. After having visited their home and having seen where they work, and having ridden the buses they ride, etc. I find myself even less worried. It really helps to know where they are in the world!

Nicaragua is a beautiful country. The island I mentioned earlier is Omatepe Island and is in Lake Nicaragua. It’s formed from 2 volcanoes. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the volcanoes, they are so impressive! How awesome to spend 4 nights enjoying the tropical paradise. We took a kayak tour, saw a Howler monkey, birds and geckos, ate yummy food, played pinochle, swam and laughed often!   One funny thing: when we got to Esteli, Andrew and Emily’s home, we took our huge backpack full of dirty clothes to get cleaned. As Erik pulled the clothes out, a big gecko ran out and hid in the back of the laundry owner’s computer! Oops! Thankfully it came out of the computer a few hours later.

Another fun little memory from Omatepe Island. The waiter at Omaja, our hotel, was so surprised that Emily and I were eating dinner together and enjoying ourselves. Erik and Andrew were down in the village at a little Greek café. He couldn’t believe that she wasn’t my actual daughter. He thought it was so sweet. I guess mother-in-laws have a bad rep in Nica.

Surprisingly, we spoke lots of Norwegian while in Nicaragua. Erik and I speak Norwegian much better than we speak Spanish, and we kept comparing the languages. Erik speaks Spanish with a strong Norwegian accent and kept accidentally saying Norwegian words! Andrew is good at making up words that sound Norsk, but aren’t! It kept us laughing!

Helping the PCVs, Nica Access Teachers and staff lead Access camp was incredible. There were 300 youth at the camp with so much enthusiasm!   The camp was 5 days long and was held in Managua at a nice hotel. We taught a campfire songs elective, assisted the directors, lectured and took and posted lots of photos and videos.   We even met the US Ambassador to Nicaragua. We really loved meeting the other Peace Corps Volunteers that Andrew and Emily work with. Such high quality young adults!

I was happy to hear lots of beautiful music while in Nica. First, on New Year’s Day, we got to march in a parade/procession in Granada. There was a band right behind us and they were great. It sounded to me like they played contemporary Christian music and often all the people around us would join in singing. When we arrived at the Cathedral, we attended the mass. There were many hymns sung, all by memory. The congregation sang with enthusiasm and sounded beautiful! In Esteli’ we ate dinner at the home of one of Emily’s counterpart teachers. After a yummy meal, we began teaching them silly camp songs. The whole family, young and old, joined in. It was such fun! We also got to sing camp songs during Access Camp. I was so impressed with how enthusiastic and eager the youth were whenever they were taught any songs. Even in their second language, they were quick learners! One highlight for me was when several students were presenting a song for their city presentation. They began singing, “We are the World, We are the Children.” Without any prompting the rest of the 300 campers, joined in, waving their hands and singing. It moved me to tears! Such hope!

As you can imagine, it was hard to say goodbye to Andrew and Emily. Being with them for 19 days was, of course, the highlight of our trip! But knowing where they are and experiencing a snippet of their life, helped my heart! I love them so much and thank them for all the planning and effort they put into making our trip spectacular!!!

The Nicaraguan people are very kind and loving. I feel my world is smaller now that I have friends there. I feel that I can sing, as the campers did. “We are the world, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s keep giving.”

Thanks Nicaragua!
Mamma Carla

Andrew’s father, Erik, wrote a companion post about this trip.  Read it (and see more pictures) here.

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