Today’s Flaneuring post takes us through Managua, Nicaragua with Kevin and Cassie Zonnefeld. This is the last scheduled post in the Flaneuring series but I will continue posting essays as they come. If you intended to submit but haven’t yet, no problem. Send it along as you are ready. It has been wonderful to travel the world with you.
My wife, Cassie and I have been living in the neighborhood of Tierra Prometida (The Promised Land) for almost three years now. It is a small community within the confines of Managua, the capitol city of Nicaragua. The neighborhood took shape following the Sandinista led revolution in 1979 and the ensuing redistribution of land with the focus of conformity and equality for all. To this end each plot is similar in shape and size, though over the years our neighbors have made various modifications to their plots.
The majority of the streets we walk are still made of dirt, which means that our house is either filled with dust during the dry season or mud during the wet. Thankfully, the main corridor which runs through the center of our community was paved last year. However, the removal of dust in the air and mud on our feet is not the cause for our celebration. The real joy comes in the fact that with the improvement came the blessing of the sewer being put underground! This has led to a more carefree walk to and from the bus stop and has allowed more pleasant smells to enter our senses.
The majority of our neighbors are self-employed and/or underemployed and many work out of their homes as they seek to provide for their family’s needs. This fact means that the majority of the women in our neighborhood make and sell food out of the homes utilizing the help and services of others in our community. Within our planned neighborhood there is one butcher, a whole host of tortilla makers and bean cookers, countless corner type stores which are named pulperias, a guy who grinds everything from cacao to corn and the various in-house restaurants that open up every evening. In addition, vendors make their way through the neighborhood transporting their goods via ox, donkey or by foot.
The men are also busy in the neighborhood. Within three blocks walk I can encounter a welder, a plumber, many mechanics, a self-identified city farmer who has turned the majority of his plot into a vegetable garden, groundskeepers and tree trimmers, electricians, a man who makes window frames and a seamstress.
As the sun rises we are often awoken by the offerings of each day. The calls of fresh milk, bread, lecheagria (a commonly eaten dairy product – think yogurt only much more sour) and various vegetables and fruits fill the air. Already wood is burning and kettles are being filled with animal fats and bones as beans are being prepared for the day. The air is normally thick with the mixture of smoke and toasting animal fat in the early part of the morning.
Each day is a new adventure in Tierra Prometida. Each day we venture from our home, we are happy to find ourselves in this little place. As we make the walk to the bus stop on our way to work, we greet our neighbors as they too have started their tasks for the day. Every morning Diego lets us know that the beans, will be ready and delicious when we arrive home that evening. Each day we need to shield our eyes as Jose has already opened up his welding shop onto the street. Each day we are able to buy hot, scrumptious tortillas and cuajada from Luisa as we eat our breakfasts on the bus.
Living in Tierra Prometida has its challenges and its joys. We are blessed for the experience as we learn a new way of life and engage with a culture that is different than our own. If you ever find yourself traveling through and needing a place to stay we would be more than happy to offer you a bed in our bustling little neighborhood that we have come to love.
We are Kevin and Cassie Zonnefeld, a farm boy from rural Iowa and a city girl from Minneapolis now doing life in Managua, Nicaragua. We have been working with the Mennonite Central Committee for four years in the themes of Peace Education and Conflict Transformation. We continue to enjoy the ups and downs of what it means to live in Nicaragua. Blog: zonnefeld.blogspot.com