Walking a mile in Sheree’s Shoes…
This was the day. This was the reason we were here. We had wanted to spend time sharing the gospel and ministering, of course, but the reason we had come to Nicaragua at this particular time was because we had been invited to “government meetings”. This was really all we knew. We had no idea what to expect, and while Allen was calm, cool, and collected, I was Lucy Ricardo in Cuba.
We were up exceedingly early. If you know much about me at all, you likely know I am not a morning person. You probably also know that’s the understatement of the year. But I was up, dressed, and as ready as I was going to get at 5:45 am (which is 4:45 am Arizona time – the time my brain was still on!) I walked out of the hotel room in my newly purchased Nicaraguan Mall shoes, and I immediately realized they were going to be a problem. In the store they had been comfortable, but somehow in the interim between buying and wearing, the shoes had morphed into silent dispensers of torture. I knew by day’s end both heels and one spot on the top of each foot would likely be bleeding if I had to do much walking. I briefly thought about covering the areas with bandaids to prevent this, but the ones I keep in my purse are often the leftovers from years gone by when the kids wanted neon, or Dora, or Veggietales. As I pictured myself walking into meetings with high government officials wearing neon orange and silver bandaids I quickly determined to walk carefully and deal with the pain.
After picking up the mayor of Diriamba, we bumped along down the road to Managua once again. We arrived early and found a seat at the very back of the room, against a wall. This was the perfect place for me! Mario (our liaison in-country), Michael (our translator), Mayor Fernando, Roberto (owner of water filtration company), Allen (best husband ever), and I were all there in the back until one by one everyone but me was called away. I sat with everyone’s “stuff”. I smiled as people walked by and greeted me. I panicked over whether it was “BuenOS Dias” or “BuenAS Dias” so I just mouthed the words and hoped for the best.
Eventually, Allen came back and said he had done a television interview!! Rats! I missed seeing that! Note to self: You miss some good things when you’re sitting in the back row panicking over words!
Just then, a sweet lady and translator came and told us that, since Allen is the President of GraceWorks Global, they would like us to sit elsewhere. Elsewhere – that’s code for RIGHT IN THE CENTER OF THE ROOM! I felt a little silly for panicking over words when I could have just waited a little bit to really have a reason to panic.
The meeting began shortly after we were moved. It was all in Spanish, of course, but they had little translators in a box for us. Literally. They gave us ear buds and receivers and 2 men in little phone booth like things were across from us and they translated as the speaker spoke. It was fascinating. I honestly could have watched them all day. I think it takes serious skill to listen in Spanish and translate to English at the exact same time. The translators kept right up with what was being said and they did it well.
As the speaking began, I looked around the room and was quite humbled. This was the First International Congress of Sister Cities – an historic event. All (but one) of the mayors of Nicaragua were there. (In Nicaragua, the mayors are under the President. They are a little like our state governors.) There were also government officials from around the world! The Italian Consulate was there. Government representatives from France, Spain, Catalonia, Germany, Australia, Canada, and so many more were there. The son of President Daniel Ortega was also there to speak to us. And sitting, quite literally, in the center of all of them, was a chubby, middle-aged pastor’s wife from Payson, AZ. And under the table she wasn’t even wearing her shoes!
No one else seemed concerned by this, so the meetings went on. Allen and I learned much about their history, their current concerns and their plans for the future. We heard about the proposed ocean to ocean canal (like Panama, but North!). They talked about how they plan to help families and increase jobs. They spoke of many things, but we had yet to hear about the one matter that concerned us most – getting buckets out of customs.
We took a break for lunch and, as one might expect, the ladies lined up for the bathroom which only had 2 stalls for the 100 (or so) of us. We waited in line but as I got closer I saw the bathrooms were labeled (with no pictures) in Spanish. I was pretty sure I was a Damas, but then I saw women coming out of the Caballeros and I seriously think I have a bathroom phobia now. It turns out I am a Damas and the women just got sick of waiting so they took over the men’s bathroom too! (I waited for my own bathroom!) I did finally make it to the front of the line, but a woman (I found out later it was the mayor of one of the provinces) said something to me in Spanish and handed me a paper towel. I just stared at her and must have looked pathetic because she took pity on me and tried her hardest to say an English word I would understand but eventually went with hand motions. I finally got that there was no more toilet paper. Just another day in the life of Sheree, playing charades about toilet paper in the bathroom with high government officials. At least I had my shoes on.
The day continued with more information about tourism and the National Police. It was very interesting, but I think the stress and lack of sleep (and possibly bathroom-o-phobia) had combined and I developed quite the migraine. I wanted nothing more than to take off those silly shoes and lie down somewhere dark and quiet, but that wasn’t going to happen any time soon, so I just looked down at the table and hoped no one would think I was sleeping.
About 5 pm, the meetings ended for the day and there was a tour of Granada for anyone interested, but we had to head back to Casa Materna to make sure the filtration system had been installed and to settle the bill. Mayor Fernando stayed to go to Granada but the rest of us piled in the van and I tried to lay down for the long trip back. However, the roads in Nicaragua don’t really lull a person to sleep so much as they launch you off the seat, so I ended up just sitting and rubbing my head until my hair was so big I strongly resembled a Q-tip.
Back at Casa Materna, the guys and scary hair girl inspected the work done. The worker had finished on time and had done an excellent job.
We tested all the water sources in the facility and I very much wish I had my camera rolling when Allen tested the shower because the knob came off in his hand and water sprayed straight out of the wall at him! But I did get this video of testing how the water tasted before that happened… (We have had the water tested in a lab as well, and it comes back bacteria free. The whole house unit even filters arsenic, which is a huge problem in the northern portion of Nicaragua.)
Satisfied that the women who deliver babies in this facility will be able to drink and wash with safe water, we headed to a special dinner. We ask a lot of our Nicaraguan team. There were many days this week when meals were skipped and every day was at least a 12 hour day for them. So, because they work so hard for us, and because they see very little of their families when GraceWorks comes to town, we had invited Michael, Mario, and Miriam’s families to join us for dinner that night. Miriam was sweet enough to translate for me, even though she was supposed to be enjoying dinner with her hubby! But her translation allowed me to get to know the each of the women there, which was a great blessing. We talked, laughed, and I ate pizza! I also got to try the grenadine drink thing which is made simply of the grenadine fruit, sugar and water, but tastes like a lemon/lime drink with cream and cinnamon. It was delicious!
It was late when we arrived back at our hotel, but another American with several ministries around the world (and who just happened to be staying at our same hotel) had asked to meet with us, so we spent another couple hours on the porch getting to know him and his son. By this time I was pretty sure my head was going to explode so I excused myself and headed to bed.
I had made it through day 1 of the meetings. Aside from the charades incident, I hadn’t embarrassed myself too badly. And I hadn’t said any Spanish words wrong! But there was always tomorrow, and tomorrow would turn out to be THE day for language faux pas.