Tuesday, February 12, 2013

…and then I went to Nicaragua!

I (Chase) just spent the last several days in tropical Managua, Nicaragua. Very few people knew about this beforehand since I wasn't sure if I would be able to go until just a few days before the trip. We didn't know if Julie would need to have the dialysis port put in (she did) and if so, if I would need to be there for it (technically no, but it would have been better if I had).

For several weeks I had been thinking about going and had been talking with our director Jeremy about when would be the best time, and then I found a great deal on Spirit airlines a small number of days before I actually got on the plane.

This was primarily a work trip—I've been working on creating a science lab-based curriculum for use in our kids' program (and in other churches with similar programs), and I wanted to help with designing stage props and other things to help give a sciencey atmosphere (background videos, sound effects, etc.). A lot of my ideas didn't end up working out, but I did paint a couple of large backdrops that I was pretty proud of, one of which broke a few days later.IMAG0046

I also met with Yeril, our  Nicaraguan kids' director to explain some ideas I had, like the use of a large periodic table of elements to talk about attributes of God (that's the thing that broke, but not beyond repair) as well as how to make strong bubbles and fog, and how to burn money without damaging it and stuff. Due to my atrophied Spanish skills and Nicaragua's slower internet connection, Skype calls with him don't always produce clear mutual understanding. There's a lot to be said for pointing at stuff, gesturing, and making sound effects. He's had a lot of ideas as well that have been invaluable to me. We work great together and have a lot of strengths that complement each other.He's pretty awesome, and I couldn't wish for a better kids' director.

Unconnected anecdotes from the week (in no particular order):

Passport blunder. As I was checking in to my flight from Dallas at 9pm the night before, I had a terrible realization that I had left my passport in Norman (a three-hour drive one way). Fortunately Amy (who we live with) offered to meet me halfway in the morning. Major lifesaver.

Hug-a-stranger day. One day, there were a couple of Segundo Paso families in the church. As I walked by, a mother said to her son: "Look who it is!" The son turned, saw me, and immediately hugged me without a word. The bad part is that I had no idea who he was. I partially wonder if he confused me for someone else. It was a sweet moment, but a little awkward.

Art problems 1. Apparently oil-based paint eats styrofoam after it dries if you put it on thickly. This is something you should know if you're making backdrops out of giant sheets of painted styrofoam or you will destroy hours of work.

Art problems 2. I am becoming halfway decent at creating drawings on the computer. I am not getting good at making them in real life. After trying many times unsuccessfully to draw an atom by hand, I had to resort to mathematics. The atom on the backdrop above is a rough combination of six parabolas with equation y=1/3x2. This was accomplished by means of an 11.5" ruler, a lot of time, and eventually a lot of eyeballing.

Traffic cops. I got pulled over on a trumped-up traffic offense, which was a first for me. Other times that I've been pulled over was for something I actually did wrong, whether on purpose or by ignorance. I got off with a warning because he asked me if I was a missionary.

Horse encounter. I went for a run in my brother's apartment complex one morning (a lap up and down the main road is a quarter mile). On one lap, I saw that the landlord's white horse was out. I don't know if this was by design or not, but I gave it a wide berth as I passed. Ever since I knew a guy who was kicked by a horse when I was a child, I've viewed horses as vicious kicking machines. I reached the bottom and started back up, and after a few seconds heard a clop clop clop a few feet behind me. I guess the horse got bored and thought he'd follow me for a few hundred feet. I was simultaneously thrilled, highly amused, and terrified of being trampled to death. I kept hoping that the horse couldn't exceed my top speed of 6mph.

IMAG0051Family. My two-year-old niece Hatley came into my room every morning to hang out and show off. I don't have any good pictures of her this trip because all I had was my phone, which takes pictures very slowly. Hatley likes me way more than I've earned, but I don't mind that at all. That fact drives my sister Joanna crazy, but I don't mind that either.

The tropics. I am no longer accustomed to Nicaraguan weather, which is unfortunate because I'm not yet accustomed to Oklahoma weather. For the better part of this last week, I was in a constant state of dehydration with sluggish or sore muscles and sticky skin. I had lunch with my boss at a lake and got a sunburn on my right arm and right side of my face because that was the side facing the water. It looks stupid and I hope it heals quickly.

Collecting belongings. I visited with our good friends the Crabtrees who are also storing most of our stuff. I dug through all of it trying to find some of our movies and had to laugh at some of the stuff that we kept. I had to remind myself that we had very little time to move, very little extra space in our bags, and very little we were able to do with stuff that others didn't want. All the same, it was funny to find a cooler full of used toiletry items, or a half-empty box of kleenex in the fridge (which is unplugged).

Homeless in the office. The 8'x8' room that used to be mine and Julie's office is now a storage shelf and printer room. I still tried to work in there on occasion if I had computer work to do, but it got crowded quickly when people needed to print or when there would be volunteer meetings in there.

IMAG0057Ralph and Remington. While we've been away, our cats have been in the care of another missionary family that we're friends with. Sadly, one of them ran away a few months ago, unaware that life on the streets would be difficult or impossible. My theory is that he smelled food; Ralph was always the fatter of the two and obsessed with food beyond all reason, but he was my preferred cat out of the two. I stopped by and visited Remington, who has mellowed considerably into the chillest and most social cat I've ever seen. He's also finally down to his target weight.

Break-Your-Spirit Airlines. There are no frills, giveaways, accessories, or luxuries when you fly Spirit. This is how their tickets can be so incredibly cheap. The best way to get through 2:00am flights, having smaller-than-usual seats that don't lean back, and impossibly short layovers is to pretend that you paid full price for your tickets, and someone is paying you $10-$15 an hour to have an unpleasant time.

Megabus. My trip from Dallas back to Norman cost $5. I also had more legroom than on Spirit.

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