Nicaragua is a war-torn country not much larger than neighboring Costa Rica (20,000 square miles) but markedly different. The civil war that ended approximately 20 years decimated the economy & infrastructure. Currently the second poorest nation in the world (next to Haiti), and with an average annual income of US $4,000, Nicaragua is gradually reconstructing, but painfully slow. We spent our day at an elementary school – approximately 300 students. We were joined by 10 other shipmates and participated in woodworking, metal crafts, sewing, & cooking class. The small band of a dozen or so students prepared and played two songs for us as a welcome to their school – they were actually pretty good! After our fellow passengers left the band room, I took Cheryl’s picture with the instructor, and then gave the children a large bag of candy brought from the ship – they were very appreciative. What we found remarkable about these children is how very proud they were of their work & surroundings – they were all smiling and seemingly happy in an environment we found to be uncomfortably warm & sticky. Their play or ‘recess’ area was riddled with large rocks & stones, but that didn’t seem to dampen their high spirits & enthusiasm. They will need to maintain those attributes as they grow older if Nicaragua ever hopes to put itself back together – it will take several more years and a lot of hard work.
Our tour guide dropped our small group at ‘city center’ in downtown Corinto for 30-minutes of ‘shopping’ before returning to the ship. We were very uneasy and in fact, hesitated before we got out of the van. The area was very busy – a lot of traffic - mostly Ox carts and beggars. Our group was singled-out, and we could hear chants of… “Americanos”…”Americanos”. Our guide insisted the crime rate was low and we were safe, yet the presence of armed guards on every corner, razor wire, & iron bars on every window made us think twice. We walked two blocks & returned to the van 20 minutes ahead of schedule – there was really nothing to see except street vendors and your typical hole-in-the-wall merchants selling everything from cheap costume jewelry to visibly used mattresses. Streets were littered with trash – urine was in the air – we were done.
May God bless & watch over the children we visited, and may He give them the strength to continue the reconstructive efforts so desperately needed here. I truly wish we could stay and help.