Friday, July 19, 2013 | By: Jake

Pizza Night

The other night we had the opportunity to try a pizza recipe from Kayla's grandma with all of the kids!

At the end of it, I was even able to make a video of the night:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | By: Jake


Back in March for my Spring Break, I went on a pilgrimage with Notre Dame's Campus Ministry. Below is the continued reflection of my journey:

After seeing a glimpse of the life of Jerome, we made our way through the streets of Bethlehem, walking past numerous different family-owned shops, seeing some pretty intricate carvings along the way...

My favorite part about walking through Bethlehem was seeing the shop-owners struggle to determine your nationality. "Hola? Hello? Konichi wa?" They would continue attempting to say hi in different languages until they would get a glance from us, but after they tried speaking Chinese to obvious American...I think they realized that they were not going to sell me anything.

We made our way to the Milk Grotto, where it is said that a drop of Mary's breast milk dropped on a rock, turning the whole Grotto a powdery white. If you haven't heard of it, don't worry...I'm pretty sure none of the students on the pilgrimage had any idea what it was until we got there.

Apparently, people come here and take some powder off the walls of the Grotto, mix it with milk or water and drink it, hoping that either they become fertile or that close friends become fertile. In all honesty, even though there is a small room with many different testimonies of the "Grotto powder" leading a woman to have a child, I'm still not too comfortable with this idea...and for the most part, it creeped me out. 

Because of this, I didn't spend too much time within the Grotto...I continued walking through and stumbled upon a chapel where one of our leaders said "Perpetual Adoration" would be going on. For some reason, I just understood this as "Eucharistic Adoration", which happens at Notre Dame every weekday. 

For those who are unaware, Catholics believe that during Mass, the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ. This is one of their core beliefs, and many students at Notre Dame go to Eucharistic Adoration, which is praying and adoring the Eucharist. 

But when I turned the corner, I realized what she meant by "Perpetual". Before me, a Sister of the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament knelt before the Eucharist. These Sisters adore the Eucharist 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With "shift changes", the Sisters spend about two minutes praying together, before the first sister leaves, assuring that the Eucharist is perpetually adored. 

Not attaining to the Catholic belief on the Eucharist, this was obviously quite the interesting experience for me. If the Eucharist does not actually become the Body and Blood of Christ, then this order makes almost makes no sense, other than for the fact of continual prayer occurring in a chapel. 

I sat down quite confused and started to journal, but within 20 seconds, it was time to move to our next site.
Friday, July 12, 2013 | By: Jake

That Weird White Kid: My Son, Max

Down here in Nicaragua, dogs are not really seen as pets...

There are very few, if any, shelters, so you have numerous dogs running through the streets all the time. There are no leashes, as dogs rarely leave their house, recognizing their house as the only place that they will get food. If you were to take the dog for a walk, or take the dog to a vet, or even buy the dog a'd be seen as pretty odd.

Allow me to interest you to Max:

I know, I know...he isn't the cutest dog in the world. Max is one of those dogs that I like to describe as "cute in an ugly kind of way." Max is from the United States and was brought over to help keep the kids occupied, as well as to help newer children adjust to the new lifestyle here at New Hope. However, Max has yet to live up to his expectations. Most of the kids run around like crazy, jumping on top of each other and wrestling each obviously, Max gets a little hyper, which just makes all of the kids absolutely terrified of him.

Still, Max does a pretty good job of barking whenever there is a new visitor, so I guess he's useful for something. When I first got here, Max smelled absolutely awful, and he just kind of seemed to be around. My interactions with Max were limited to taking a few pictures of him every now and then.

However, for the past two and half weeks or so, Max and I have been pretty inseparable...

Two weeks ago, I gave Max a bath...probably his first bath in at least a year....I'm not going to lie and say that he smells like roses and cherries, but at least he doesn't smell bad anymore. And because he didn't smell bad anymore, I started letting Max sit next to me when we were sitting around in the living room.

But, being the first person that has given Max even a little bit of attention in quite a while, he has gotten a little attached. As you can see in the picture above, the high school stands fairly large in the center of our buildings. To the left of the high school is the children's home, and to the right of the high school is the mission center, where I have all of my things and where I sleep when I'm not sleeping at the children's home with Frankie and Leo.

Since the kids are currently on break from school, there's really no organized activities on this week, so clearly, I had a duty to start Boot Camp with the kids. On Monday, we ran back and forth down the street for quite some time, and by the end of it, you could say that I was a little drenched with sweat. 

Anyway, I took the girls back to the children's home and then walked back to the mission center to shower. I walked to my room, shut the door, got my towel and everything, and then started hearing a noise by the door. I opened my door to find Max outside scratching it...this might not seem like a big deal, but Max never goes in the mission center. Furthermore, the mission center has 14 different rooms...and my door was closed.

Either I really had some body odor, or Max really wanted to find me....or most likely, both. Now, Max follows me absolutely everywhere I my room, to the kitchen, to the dining room, to the backyard, to the field...and because I actually pick him up and pet him, the people here have started referring to Max as "my son".

Like father, like son!
In fact, whenever Max does anything bad...chews up a diaper, has a toy in his mouth, jumps on a kid...I'm always blamed. "Jake, your son is causing trouble again!" "Jake, do you know how to teach your dog manners?" The list goes on and on...

I just gave Max a second bath today, and now I'm wondering how he's going to be after I I'm leaving in less than three weeks! The director down here said that she's thinking about trying to find a family for Max that actually takes care of its pets...which, as I said, is quite rare down here. And sadly, el gringo raro can't really help out with this problem. Although I love Max, Notre Dame does not allow dogs in our dorms.

Regardless, Max is still an awesome dog, and as long as I keep taking care of him as much as I am, I'll still be seen as quite odd for treating the dog like a son...but I think I'm okay with that. :)
Thursday, July 11, 2013 | By: Jake

This Heavenly Look

Back in March for my Spring Break, I went on a pilgrimage with Notre Dame's Campus Ministry. Below is the continued reflection of my journey:

First of all, I'm realizing that I could be posting a lot more pictures than I currently am for all of these posts, so I'll see how that goes with this post. Also, my lovely grandmother keeps nagging me about how I need to post more about Jerusalem, or just post more in I'll work on that as well. :)

After we left the Church of the Nativity, we went around to the backside, where we stumbled upon The Church of St. Catherine.

The courtyard outside of the entrance that connected with the Church of the Nativity gave the place somewhat of a Hogwarts-feel to it, which I thought was particularly cool.

Needless to say, I was so excited to finally walk in a church that didn't look all doom-and-gloom. Light from the huge windows along the upper part of the walls gave the church this heavenly look. However, I will say that I was fairly disappointed by the lack of a 24/7 choir singing Alleluia...that would have been a lot cooler. The sight of that huge organ at the back of the church made me almost want to start learning how to play the organ.

But just when I thought the church was as good as it could get, I noticed Brett, one of the chaperones, walk down a stairway on the side of the isle. Beneath the Church of St. Catherine is where Jerome, the famous theologian and a saint within the Catholic Church, translated the Bible into Latin.

Underneath the church, there were many different types of chapels, altars, and Jerome's original "office". Sadly, we could not go into the office as a visiting tour group was celebrating mass in the space. However, we did get to see Jerome's original tomb, shown in the last picture above, where he was originally buried, before his remains were moved to Rome.

I thought of what it would be like to have been Jerome, to have been composing so many different theological works, biblical translations, gospel commentaries....all within feet of where Christ, the One of which all of Jerome's works revolved around, was born.

One of my favorite parts of this "underground" house was a pathway in the back that led directly to the place of Christ's birth. Currently, it is blocked off by a wall for conducting traffic, as well as for security reasons (the pathway connects the Church of the Nativity to the Church of St. Catherine). However, small holes appear in the wall, where you can look through and see all of the pilgrims venerating the birth site.

Lastly, I snapped a photo of this "cross gate" blocking off a portion of a cave, which greatly reminded me of the cross at Notre Dame that I see as the perfect place of peace and silence, other than the Grotto. I originally didn't have a picture of it. However, being honored to take a close friend's engagement photos back in May, I now have a photo of it!

Seeing the connections between Notre Dame and Jerusalem, such as this one, continually remind me that although Christ walked in the flesh in the Holy Land, we are just as close to Christ where we are right now as I was while in Bethlehem. The same "spiritual reawakening" that I experienced in Bethlehem while in Jerome's cave can be experienced at my home in Chicago, my school in Indiana, or even down here in Nicaragua. 
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | By: Jake

That Weird White Kid: Walking Around Barefoot

I've been here for exactly six weeks now, and I'm definitely starting to be "defined" in this culture. There are a few different things that set me apart as "El Gringo Raro", which I like to translate as "that weird white kid".

Gringo basically means "white person" and, in some cultures, is seen as quite the derogatory term, but here, it pretty much is just a matter of fact. You are a white person; therefore, you are a gringo. No different than saying that you are a woman or a man. And while no one actually calls me el gringo raro to my face, most people have difficulty pronouncing my name. The "j" sound is difficult for many people, so my name comes out more like "Yake" or with the sound of the "j" as in I wouldn't be surprised if I was, instead, referred to in conversation like this:

My little bro, Zach, barefoot at the beach
"You know...Yake! El gringo raro!"

Anyways, why I'm that weird white kid:

Now I know that walking around the streets of Chicago barefoot is definitely not encouraged, but would it be all that weird to see a person carrying their flip-flips in one hand, walking around barefoot on a gorgeous and sunny day? 

At Notre Dame, I'm pretty sure that I'm already pegged as "That Barefoot Kid" because although some people walk around barefoot on the quad, there are very few, if any besides me, that are comfortable with getting coffee in Starbuck's with no shoes on. Plus, giving every tour with no shoes on, I've already been called "The Barefoot Tour Guide", and of course, it's definitely a weird thing to do. However, I'm quite fond of the name. People think it's crazy, but there's also people that think it's cool.

But down here? Walking around barefoot is like walking around in your underwear during a blizzard. People, old ladies in particular (who usually love me!), have no problem with stopping to scold me for not wearing shoes. ¡Dónde están tus zapatos! is an often-heard phrase for me.

The other day, we had an evangelization outreach night at a park down the street. If you want to evangelize in the US, you usually would have to get a permit, find a tent company, etc. Down here, you just walk down to an open area, set up a 15-foot stage six feet in the air, bring all your instruments, a dozen stereo speakers, some kids dressed as clowns, and you're good to go. No need to worry about filling out forms or advertising....or more importantly, no need to worry about "disturbing the peace" fines.

Honestly, a few clowns and dozens of kids will show up.
Anyway, we were walking over to this park from the orphanage, which was about three quarters of a mile away, and when the pastor's wife noticed that I was wearing sandals instead of shoes, she laughed. "¿Estás llevando tus chinelas?" she asked. I looked at her confused, and then found out that chinelas was the word for sandals.

After we got to the park, the pastor realized that he forgot a cord so I had to run back to the orphanage and grab it for him. Now, I already get enough weird looks from people in the street solely because I'm white. So you can imagine the weird looks I got when they saw a gringo running down the street with sandals on.

On the way back to the park, finding it too hard to run with sandals, I decided to take them off and just hold them in my hand as I ran down the street barefoot. As I ran past one group of teenagers from my English class, they all started laughing. I shouted to them in Spanish, "What? You've never seen a white kid running while carrying his sandals?"

In return, I got some really weird looks. One of my better students informed me of what was so funny: having just learned the word for sandals, I accidentally mispronounced it as chileans. In other words, I told my students that I was a white kid running down the street, carrying all of my "people from Chile".

They continually ask me where all of my Chileans are now when I see them outside of class. 

Although things may be easier with shoes on, I'd just rather not wear them. :)
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 | By: Jake

Starting to Get the Hang of Things

Nap time has only been going on for five minutes and all four of the kids are already sleeping. All eyes closed. No talking. Peace.

They each have their own stuffed animal. They each have the blanket they want. Each in their respective beds.

The windows are open, but the curtains are shut. The breeze flows in while the sun stays out.

And, of course, they have been bribed with being able to eat mangoes if they all go to sleep well, but hey...they're sleeping.

In the morning, the boys now get to listen to music on my phone if they actually get out of bed and take showers without complaining or being lazy. And now, we look at the "News in Pictures" every morning, but only if they get up fast enough. Surprisingly, we get ready much quicker.

When the kids aren't in school, we usually just let them play around, but recently, we've been trying to do a few more structured activities like relay races, leap frog, and musical chairs, which occupies them a lot better.

Playing Musical Chairs in the Backyard
In our Spanish class, Josh (the other volunteer) bought pizza for the winning team (we've been playing a review game fairly often over the past few weeks). And last week, I promised the class that I'd buy pizza for anyone that got an A on their exam that they have this week.

Most of the students know me now, and always ask me where my coffee is...pretty sad that even if by Nicaraguan standards, I'm still seen as the coffee addict. This morning, I was able to preach to all 300 students about my three milestones, and since I knew most of their names, I was able to make it interactive and more engaging. Thank God for that!

For dinner, I've been helping the cook prepare all of the food (which also means that I get to eat a bunch of stuff as I prepare...the mangos here are amazing). And in addition to learning how to cut mangos, make fruit juices, and fry bananas, I've been able to have some really fruitful conversations in Spanish. The cook knows very little English, which has allowed me to really get better at communicating in Spanish.

Usually, when we go to church on Sunday nights (the Spanish-speaking church), I have absolutely no idea what is being said, but yesterday, I actually was able to recognize most of the songs. And for the first time, I actually understood the entire sermon, which is awesome because now I actually understand what's going on!

I've had a lot of free time during my time here, but recently I've started trying with the marketing for New Hope Children's Foundation. Right now, I'm starting a facebook page for them where I'll be putting up pictures of all of the kids, and hopefully, will be able to start filming some videos! Be sure to like the page! Although, I will warn that over the next week, I'll be putting up a lot of pictures.

And finally, at night, when I put the boys to bed, we have exactly 15 minutes for them to get changed into their pajamas, and any time left over is used for reading them a story. Every night, we seem to have more and more time to read. :) thankfully, we have some longer books here, which allows most nights to end with somewhat of a "cliffhanger" which gives them more motivation for getting changed faster the following night. Like tonight, we will finally find out if Winnie the Pooh actually saw a Heffalump or if it was just a dream. And after reading, we've started praying together, which has proved really fruitful.

And after the whole day is over, I've made time for prayer, journaling, and reading, which has been more than a blessing.

All in all, I'm definitely starting to get the hang of things here. :)