Sunday, November 26, 2017

If It's Not Virtual, It's Not Real

Because we didn’t post about our trip to Nicaragua on social media prior to departure, I’ll admit that it didn’t feel like we were really going. It is a little bit funny and a whole lot disturbing that the virtual side of life feels like it makes real life ‘real.’

We knew that our 10 day trip, in which two of those days were travel days, would present scheduling issues regarding how to see everyone that we wanted to see and do everything we wanted to do in such a short period of time. Inevitably, there would be people we would not be able to visit and there was great potential for feelings to be hurt. Sadly, it was unavoidable. However, we felt that one of the ways to ‘control’ the itinerary and manage the wants and needs of our family and ex-pats and nationals alike, was to keep the news of our visit off of social media. So, if you felt surprised at the news that we had visited Nicaragua, you were in the majority. In fact, it felt a little surprising to me too as the day approached!

The main impetus for us returning to Nicaragua was because Jeff was invited to be the speaker/facilitator for the annual men’s retreat hosted by the international fellowship that we attended during our years in Nicaragua. Thankfully, we had some funds remaining in our associate account at Christian Veterinary Mission which helped make it possible for our whole family to accompany Jeff to Nicaragua. We felt that it was important that for the first ‘return’ trip to our former home and field of service, the whole family have the opportunity to experience it together. This trip was not only an opportunity to visit friends and places that we hold dear in our hearts but also a way to serve and care for the missionary community in a different capacity. Granted, I served in an ‘old’ way as I offered photo shoots for some of the graduating seniors and a couple of families.

Despite the fact that it didn’t feel ‘real’ prior to our arrival into the country, upon landing, the sights and sounds and feels and smells of Nicaragua reminded us that it was indeed real!

As we continue to distill the thoughts and emotions surrounding this visit, we will be posting here on the continue to stay tuned!

The Sights (And Sounds) of Nicaragua
(It felt different to takes pictures of 'life' as a non-resident.)

Interestingly that is our old car in the background.

I assure you that the WAWA is in 'signage' only!

It is perfectly normal to have 7-10 men each sitting on a series of
telephone poles to run a line. Safety First is so overrated.

Side of the Road Cheese Vendors

The drive up to our old neighborhood. 

Only two guys sitting up top...there is so much room for more!

Food Vender set up next to shipping container turned police office.

Horse Drawn Cart

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Pre-Trip "MOMENT"

Before I post about our actual trip to Nicaragua, let me share what happened ‘pre-trip.’ Seriously, there is always ‘something’ that happens right before we are supposed to leave for a trip. When we moved to Nicaragua, if you remember, we were told at the ticket counter that we couldn’t fly out since our tickets were ‘one-way.’ That was AFTER we had been dropped off 1.5 hours from home with all of our belongings (including a cat) at 5 o’clock in THE MORNING. That was that trip's "moment." Clearly, we got it all straightened out because we did indeed move to Nicaragua that day.

So, our scheduled dates for this past visit to Nicaragua {which was our FIRST TIME BACK}, were November 9-19. Emotions were high. There was lots of excitement to 'return.' To travel to Nicaragua (and most other international destinations), your passport expiration date canNOT be within six months of expiration. {How many of you just went to check your passports?} I had checked all five of our passports when I bought our tickets and would have bet money (um, the price of 5 tickets to Nicaragua) that our ‘dates’ were fine.

On the morning of November 8th, the morning before our flight {as in 24 hours prior to travel}, I got our passports out of safe-keeping and just happened to look at the dates again.

Here it is. HERE is the MOMENT.

Jeff and I’s passports had an expiration date of February 2018. Um, that is like 3 months away!!!! They aren't going to let us into the country (especially since there have been some changes and greater restrictions coming into Nicaragua).


I walk out into the living room where Jeff is conducting our homeschool Bible class and I say,

“We have a problem. Like a BIG problem.”

All eyes on me. Everyone stops breathing.

“Our passports are going to expire in 3 months.”

Lots of questions. Kids on the verge of tears. Scrambling to find information on-line. Frantic phone calls. Brief discussion on 'slipping someone' a hundred dollar bill at immigration. Text messages asking for prayer.

I called the Passport “people” and I get connected to a customer service representative (in record time) named Joseph. Joseph is calm and kind. He asks me what state I live in and upon hearing that I live in Colorado, he then asks how far away I live from the city of Aurora. I tell him we live about 45 minutes away. He says, “Fantastic.” {I am NOT feeling fantastic. In fact, I am still unshowered, in my pajamas, and in a state of panic. Nothing about this is fantastic.} He gives me a short of list things that we need to collect and tells me to drive up to the passport agency in Aurora, CO with all the items on the list...and don't forget to write in black ink. He says 'they will take of me of there.' By the way, these agencies do NOT exist in every state. Had we lived in Kansas...this story would have been different.

Let me pause the story for a moment and say that I believe I talked with an angel from Heaven that morning. Joseph the Angel. Seriously.

So, back to the story...we download a passport photo app onto my phone. We take passport pictures in our dining room. By the way, NEVER have I taken a WORSE passport photo EVER! And now, I’m stuck with it for TEN YEARS!!! I even asked Jeff to re-take it (or let me take a shower and 'do' my hair)--but he looked at me with that look that said, "REALLY?!?" 

Our printer broke the night before {of course} and so we upload everything we need onto a flash drive, exchange pajamas for real clothes, pile everyone in the car and head to Staples to print the needed documents. While at Staples, a new and excellent friend shows up and gives me a hug. We print and fill out all we need and drive to Aurora.

When we arrive, there is one other person in line at the Passport Agency. We sheepishly hand over all of our paperwork and wait to be called. Less than five minutes go by and we are standing at the passport window paying what the United States calls an “expediting fee” {other countries may or may not call it a “bribe”}. We are told to go out to lunch and come back at 2:15pm to pick up our new passports.


So, now we have new passports with freshly stamped pages from Nicaraguan immigration...and the WORST.PHOTO.EVER.

Stay tuned for more post about our first return visit to Nicaragua.