Thursday, April 28, 2011

Piñata: A Party Must Have

Today was the much awaited day of Noah's birthday fiesta at school. Piñatas are a must have. And the bigger the better. We jumped into the culture with both feet on this one. Jeff and I went to one of the local markets (the kind that span a city block) and walked out with a dog the size of a pony. The act of beating the piñata is really quite dangerous. Giving a small child obsessed with candy a strong wooden stick surrounded by other children obsessed with candy is really just an 'trip to get stiches' waiting to happen. Thankfully, while there were a few near misses, no one got hurt...they only got candy. Enjoy the photos from the FIESTA!

Noah awoke this morning to find SuperDog waiting downstairs for him.

The Piñata: SuperDog

The traditional beating of the piñata.

It seems to be the custom to take a photo of all the kids with the piñata.

The Fuzzy Stick: The term Noah came up with for the piñata beating stick.

The rush for candy.

Cake time! "Store bought cakes are the norm." Noah is currently calling Superman his favorite character...and we did find a Superman cake already made! The kids sang Happy Birthday in English and then the Nicaraguan version of the birthday song...and then the cake feast began!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Delay for a Day

Yeah, we know it is Wednesday...Window Wednesday...and no pix. We are going to delay WW until tomorrow (Window Thursday doesn't sound as fun...but it is only temporary). Noah is having his FIESTA for his birthday tomorrow at school and we want to share the piñata beating photos with you all! So check back with us tomorrow night!

Monday, April 25, 2011

¡Feliz Cumpleaños a Noah!

Today is Noah's birthday. This was the first "kid birthday" that we have celebrated in Nicaragua. On Thursday of this week, Noah will have a little "fiesta" at school with the culturally expected giant piñata and a Superman birthday cake (expected by Noah).

Noah had a great FIFTH birthday today (yeah, I am still trying to grasp the fact that my baby is now 5!!!) He had a birthday donut with candles. He opened his presents before 8am! He enjoyed putting together his "model airplane" that he had been asking for for the last 6 months. (Good thing Mommy thought ahead and had someone bring one from the States last month). We enjoyed a dip in the pool and had birthday cake right before bed!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Slap me if this ever gets old

Recently we had the opportunity to visit a place that has howler monkeys swinging from tree to tree and communicating with one another with their signature – guttural – whooping. We were enthralled. We torqued our necks to look at them in the trees above and to take pictures for what seemed like hours. One time as I (Jeff) looked down to rub the back of my neck, I noticed that a local Nicaraguan was watching us. I tried to think about it from his would be like our family going out for a picnic lunch at a park in the United States and then being amused if a family of tourists ran around for hours taking pictures of tree squirrels running up and down trees--all the while with a look of amazement on their faces. I would laugh to my self and probably mutter “Come on, they are just squirrels” me they are just squirrels and to the Nicaraguans living here, these are just howler monkeys. Anyway, realizing that this was happening, Bethany said to me: “Slap me if seeing howler monkeys ever ceases to amaze me.”

This is our human nature...we cease to be amazed by the familiar. I thought about this as I was listening to a sermon by my friend and pastor Curtis Hill (shout out to OBC in Newark DE sounded like the howler monkeys when I did it). The sermon series is on the topic of the last 8 days of Jesus' life on earth. For those of us who have grown up hearing the Easter story for many years, it can become familiar...un-amazing. However, we can use this familiarity to our advantage if we will allow our familiarity with the big picture to give us the chance to go deeper and look at the details. God always wants to reveal more of himself, more of the details, if we seek him. May someone slap me if I ever get familiar with the Gospel. By God's grace, may it always be new and amazing to me every day.

A recent cure for my familiarity with the Gospel has been to study the book of John with 3 guys who are skeptical of the Gospel (by the way, that is OK, I have been “skeptical” my whole life), and we are doing it in Spanish. So my recommendation to you is to start a Bible study with some another will cure your familiarity!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Window Wednesday: Hiking and Howlers

The kids have a week long vacation from school because this week is Semana Santa (Holy Week). We took the opportunity to do some hiking in the mountains. Here are some snapshots.

Bethany and Noah playing near a stream

This is me (Jeff) off the beaten path, trying to get some good pictures of the howler monkeys. This is probably where I picked up some irritating chiggers, but Bethany won't let me post pictures of my skin lesions...she says that it is gross, I think it is interesting...she won.

Ella truly meandering along the trail.

The boys.

While this tree had as many as 13 howler monkeys at once, there are 7 pictured here...2 fighting - playing in the middle, and one hiding in the leaves. It makes you want to sing "seven little monkeys swinging in a tree..." When these monkeys howled, it sounded pre-historic, like you might expect dinosaurs to sound. Their howl can be heard up to 3 miles away, and they are said to be the loudest land animals. We have our own little Noah who could give them a run for their money, and he literally tried :)

Notice this mama with a baby on her back.

Our little monkey on the ground.

Andrew standing in one of the many interesting trees.

We enjoyed the amazing biodiversity and the constant marveling at God's creative creation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Window Wednesdays

We had such a fantastic response from our picture post last week...we decided to try to post photos of "life in general" on Wednesdays. I like to "name" we are naming this weekly 'event' Window Wednesdays because it is kinda like looking through a window (of photos) into our life here in Nicaragua.

This week's photos are some of the things that have seemed stereotypically "missionary" to us over the years as we've heard stories from others around the world...and now they are part of our life.

Mosquito Nets: unless you want to be a mid-night snack to a host of mosquitos...a mosquito net is a great thing to have!

A Toyota Land Cruiser: it is the vehicle of choice among "missionaries"...or so it seems...and we decided to join the club. Jeff really enjoys getting off road and shifting into Low-Range 4WD, and 1 out of 2 adults along with 2 out of 3 kids agree that the bumpy ride is fun...I think it has something to do with testosterone.

The Water Filter: a necessity. Note the use of duct tape again.

The GPS: a nice handy tool in the U.S.; here in Nica--it is the tool that prevents us from driving aimlessly for hours upon hours. Creating and downloading routes on Google Earth has been invaluable for when we takes trips out into "the bush" (called "el campo" here). In the city, it is fairly accurate; however, we do receive directions like: "turn right on road from road". There is only a select handful of roads that have official "names".

The Pressure Cooker: we have used it only to cook beans. I still fear that it will explode beans all over the kitchen...which I have heard is possible.

Bobbing for apples, or Soaking the Fruit?: we soak all our produce in a natural grapefruit seed extract (GSE) which helps kill any bacteria that may be hitching a ride.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Like Hannah

I've been reading through the first book of Samuel. I was struck again by the part where Hannah promised to dedicate her son Samuel (her first child after years of infertility) to the Lord. She vowed to handm over her little boy to be raised by the priest, Eli, so he could be trained to serve the Lord. I was struck by the faith, obedience, and stength of Hannah. This child whom she had longed for and begged God for...she then hands him back into the hands of the Lord so he can serve God.

What challenged me (and encouraged me) was that Hannah did a really hard thing...for the purpose of putting her son in the position to glorify God. She knew that he was God's first...and that an expression of her love for him (and HIM) was to dedicate her son to the Lord. Samuel was a great prophet for the Lord to the nation of Israel. He was able to be used by God in part because of the obedient actions of his parents. My hope is that the "hard parts" of living here will actually be putting our children in a position to glorify God in their individual lives in special ways because of their experience of being raised here in Nica. Like Samuel, they belong to HIM and HE has plans for them!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Borders & Stamps

Perhaps you heard that we recently returned from a long weekend in Costa, why did the Bracht family travel 8 long hours by bus to Costa Rica?

Well...we are still working on gathering all of the necessary documents for our resident visas here in Nicaragua and so...we needed to "renew" our tourist visas. To do this, we needed to leave the country for 72 hours and then "re-enter" as tourists. So, after delaying our trip 24 hours because Ella got an ill-timed 'stomach virus' (which Andrew then got while in Costa Rica), we packed up a few backpacks and boarded a bus headed to Costa Rica!

It was quite the adventure! Especially the part where the bus dropped us off in what felt like the middle of nowhere on the Pan-American highway in Costa Rica to wait for a driver from the hotel. Faith was necessary. Courage was also required when we needed to ask a stranger at the bus stop if we could use his cell phone (for a few Colones--Costa Rican currency) to call the hotel to inform them of our non-descript drop-off point. Our driver did find us. He drove us up to our hotel in the cloud forest region of Northern Costa Rica called Monteverde. The ride was bumpy (and a bit nauseating) as we climbed to an elevation of 4200 feet. But the climate, the scenery and the incredible bio-diversity at the top of the mountain was breathtaking--especially as we watched the clouds descend on the earth around us! Monteverde is known as having an 'eternal season of Spring' is true. It was glorious to sleep under a blanket and feel cold floor under our feet in the morning! It was a needed retreat from the heat in Managua. We had lots of opportunities to hike, relax, and enjoy nature. Yet, somehow it felt peaceful deep in our hearts to get back to life here in Nicaragua. Even Andrew expressed how he had missed his friends at school.

ENJOY some snapshots of our Costa Rican Adventure!
(in no particular order)

The Cloud Forest region in Northern Costa Rica

The Border Crossing at Costa Rica. It was interesting. We'd stop at one migracion (i think i've spelled this the "spanish way") post in one country. Wait for our passports to get stamped. Get back on the bus. Drive 100 yards across the "border" to the migracion post in the next country. Wait. Get our passports stamped. Get back on the bus and continue traveling.

The non-descript drop-off point in Costa Rica.

Calla Lilies growing in "el patio del hotel"

Andrew: our Central American trekker.

A Monteverde pasture.

The Morpho Butterfly. We found this one laying on the side of the road. It traveled back with us in a plastic baggie in our cooler.

There is really no caption adequate at describing Noah's love of adventure and fun!

The non-screened, easy to open, window of our hotel room. No warning sign that says you shouldn't let your children lean out the window. It was about a 6-7 foot drop out to the ground below. We did notice the second floor windows opened just as easily! It did, however, make for an amazing view from our hotel room.

The coveted "stamps" on our passports.

Ella and Noah enjoyed a hike with Jeff. While Andrew recovered in the hotel room...poor kid!

There were so many beautiful aspects of God's Creation to photograph!

Our three travelers.