The centre, however, was fantastic. It was started by a Catholic priest and nun from Spain during the Guerra as a place for physical, spiritual and mental health. It offers classes, has a library, an orchestra, youth centre and I think a clinic as well. It was beautiful place, covered in murals describing life in Nicaragua, from various perspectives. It outlined the history of conflict in the country, with the idea that unless the past is understood and acknowledged, there can be no peace. There were also beautiful paintings of life in Nicaragua, portraying the beauty of the country and the beauty of a life lived in peace, in harmony with each other and with nature. It was a clear example of envisioning the world in a certain way, and then working towards this vision.
Listening to the hardship still endured by many people, it was very powerful to see the vision for a better future being actively acted out as well. I was also very moved by all of the stories of powerful women portrayed on the walls. Women are often those who suffer the most in armed conflict, but they are not stuck in a state of passive suffering, but have been active participants in moving people forward and advocating for human rights. A group of women won the Noble Peace Prize in 1992 for their peace advocacy.
However, the Spanish was a little much, and when we returned to the centre where we are staying for more meetings with MCC partners, I had trouble concentrating on anything at all. A cup of coffee and a cookie improved things greatly, and by the time the lectures were over, I was ready to listen. So I played table games instead. These people love their table games! I played Phase 10 and a Rook game was also in full swing in another corner. I haven’t played games in years, so this will also require adaptation. It’s not that I hate games, I just don’t really play them. Ever. But I’m enjoying using them as a way to interact with others that gets rid of the need for constant conversation and small talk. Instead we can both laugh and be silent and slowly become more comfortable with each other.
In the morning, we discussed personality types and the ways that we best interact with others. The idea is that we must know, and have compassion for, ourselves before we can be effective as part of this team and work well with others in whatever situations we find ourselves in. We also discussed cross-cultural situations and developing relationships across differences. I know I have talked a lot about privilege and power, so it was really helpful to actually get to discuss those things as part of building relationships and being authentic and intentional. I tend to give myself a lot of guilt, so it was good to read on one handout outlining the important qualities of authentic relationships across differences the following:
“I am clear that authenticity in relationships cannot happen if I do not confront my privileges, own them and work at using them differently- from a place of empowerment rather than guilt or shame.” This is my prayer, for myself and all of us, that we can move to that place of empowerment.
Today was a whole other day, but I’ll save that for later. Suffice to say, it is a whole different feeling to discuss models of development when we are about to engage in these activities, instead of sitting in class and reading textbooks about development. Exciting and terrifying at the same time! However, I am continually impressed by what I am learning about MCC and their work, although I am finding things to process and questions to ask. We visited the Nicaraguan head office and it was amazing to hear the variety of projects they are working on, mainly through local Anabaptist churches. Tomorrow, we are heading to the country to view some of them ourselves. Hopefully I can share some of those experiences with you!
Here’s the link to some more pictures. I wanted to upload more on here, but the internet is VERY slow!