Altas y Bajas | Highs and Lows

Beautiful little girl "Arleth", the daughter of a health promotor

Beautiful little girl “Arleth”, the daughter of a health promotor

This week has been a strange week, filled with ups and downs, altas y bajas is what we say in Spanish. The heat has increased to a level where water on the ground almost vaporises. The walls of my room are thick concrete and as I ran my hands over them last night, it was like touching a warm cup of coffee. The fan in my room sounds like a WW2 fighter jet about to take off, and basically, it just blows hot air around the room. Before leaving the house today, the back of my neck and the bottom of my hair were already wet from sweat.

The closest I’ve come to airconditioning here consists of sitting in “ropa interior” after a shower for a minute or two in front of the fan.

We have five kitties living on our roof

We have five kitties living on our roof

I’m badly sunburned after an hour and a half walk in the barrio yesterday. I should learn my lesson, but I’m a little slow. I wore a hat, but it didn’t protect my neck or arms, so last night, I was feverish, hot and grumpy.

I’ve never had a cucumber facial or anything like it, but that was what the sisters recommended to me…cucumber and crushed tomato to refresh the skin.

Postulant Mass

Postulant Mass

But, my mood was lifted immeasurably by a beautiful two hour mass we had around the table in our house. The mass was celebrated by Basque Jesuit Zubi, who has been 30 years in Nicaragua. We were joined by the Rector of the UCA (University of Central America) Padre Chepe and a Jesuit scholastic. The mass was to celebrate the entering into postulancy of two Nicaraguan girls Wendy and Raquel.

Table ready for Mass

Table ready for Mass

This is their second “etapa” (phase) of the journey to enter the Company of Mary Our Lady, and both girls spoke movingly of the very present work of God in their lives.

Between tears of joy and sadness between Raquel and her mother, and the palpable sense of agape in the room, the atmosphere made me forget the headache and sting of the sunburn and enter into a sacred moment.

Afterwards, we shared a feast of fried tortillas with beans, chicken, cheese, cabbage and lettuce.

Life is different here.

I find myself all at once missing some of the comforts of home, my family, the cat, the Canberra weather; but so deeply happy here that there is no longer any anxiety.

Misa Campesina

Misa Campesina

It’ll sound strange, but since arriving in Nicaragua, I have found that paradoxically I’ve had no trouble sleeping and no moments of panic. It’s ironic that packed amongst my luggage are sleeping tablets and valium and the packets are basically full.

Yet, leading up to my trip in comfortable Canberra, I was profoundly anxious and irritable and short with everyone around me.

Life here is more difficult and intense, and is lived very much out loud. Music plays until late in the night and roosters start crowing at 4:30am.  The noise can be a bit over the top, but I’m filled with a strange sense of calm.



My daily work keeps me more than busy, I’m finishing off four promotional videos for Redes de Solidaridad and teaching workshops in the afternoon at Colegio San Francisco Xavier (Fe y Alegria school).

The bajas are very real though.

I was moved to tears watching the funeral of Bishop Michael Putney, and the beautiful testimonies to his life from Archbishop Coleridge and others. I could only connect for bits and pieces on YouTube and have yet to watch the whole thing.

On Sunday, rather than going to the parish, we went for the first time to Batahola, which is the site of a weekly “Misa Campesina”, which is basically a “Mass of the People.”

In the end, they didn’t sing the famous “Vos Sos el Dios de Los Pobres” (You are the God of the Poor) Mass setting, (which is incidentally banned in Nicaragua, but still sung with gusto by the Italian volunteers I work with) but the wall-to-wall colourful mural was enough to keep me entranced for the duration of the mass.

Rigoberta Menchu

Occasionally, the more bizarre occurrences keep me entertained.

The other day was a one-hour workshop on parasitosis and diarrhoea.

The practise of getting up at 5:30am and eating dinner at 8:30 at night is taking some getting used to; and remind me if I ever decide to go to the “Mercado Oriental” again that it is a bad idea.





  1. Religion has been accused of being ‘the opiate of the masses’, but I know this is not what you mean by the calm you’re finding. Go where it leads you. Xo

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