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The Congregation Shma Koleinu Blog.

Mayhem, Mystery, Museum, Mucha comida, Market, Murals and Mass

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Tikkun Olam in NicaraguaDay 2! And oh wow, its been busy! You’ll want to read this whole thing as it includes mayhem, mystery, museum, mucha comida, market, murals and mass.

The day started with our beautifully wind-blown and decently cooled Jubilee Guest quarters where we (and by we, I mean all of our CSK-ers as well as volunteers from another group from Rochester, NY) awoke to a delicious homemade breakfast of eggs, beans, rice, coffee, toast etc.

Following breakfast and packing up for the day, we all piled into the van for a jam packed day of sight-seeing and “Land and People of Nicaragua 101.” Our wonderful guides, Ian and Joe, along with expert drivers, Julio and Paolo, began our journey with an overlook from an infamous spot that today celebrates the memory of revolutionary leader, Sandino. This was previously the spot where the Samosa government caused those not in line with their thinking “disappear. “ The torchered ghosts walking the streets of Nicaragua are young indeed. Everywhere you drive in Nicaragua is filled with stories of human angst, passion for life and tragedies worthy of biblical proportions.

Next stop was the former dictatorial government’s headquarters, now turned Palacio National, which houses a museum dedicated to the Nicaraguan people (a most appropriate turn of events indeed). Think cross between the Museums of Natural Science, History and pre-modern art with a scoop (a really strange scoop) of Modern Art for good measure. Our very enthusiastic Nicaraguan curator was sure to not miss any point on her list (and she made sure that all of us followed along in lock step!) And I thought Hebrew school teachers were tough!

Off to lunch at El Rincon Salvadoreno, the most delicious restaurant for papusas! Think the most delicious, warm but thick-ish tortillas baked with your choice of beans, rice, chicken, etc. Those along with some truly Nicaraguan style soft drinks made all of us quite happy and prepared to head out to the market (think Israeli shuk but in Spanish). Our group arrived yesterday very excited that once we delivered all the donations we schlepped down to Jubilee House Community that we’d leave here a bit lighter but between the amazingly scrumptious Nicaraguan cuisine and our group’s newly purchased collection of hammocks, tools of destruction, clothes and soldering irons (thank you Brandon!), we’re gonna be lucky not to exceed our weight limit for the plane. But all of it will have been worth it because of the great memories including the chance meeting with the one Jewish storekeeper in the Managuan market, with his “Shalom and Dove of Peace” sticker!

Now is when the day really got interesting. With a stop at a beautiful lookout point which is the former location of the Somosa family’s residence (when in power) as well as the torcher chamber used to “persuade” political dissidents to their way of thinking (and where the current Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega was himself tortured for 9 years – oh! Danny Savitzky just reminded me that it was 8 but it sure felt like 9!) 😦 as well as a former volcano now lagoon, we then headed to the Batahhola community. Here, we met a mural artist, learned about his work with motivated and creative Nicaraguan youth, and…wait for it, Mass! But here’s where it gets truly surreal. As we approached this beautiful outdoor, informal and colorful church (think CSK but Catholic), the youth band was practicing their Catholic, Spanish, Nicaraguan version of “Go Down Moses!” And no, this is not a regular piece they usually perform. But in honor of the Father’s homily which was built (in honor of the first Sunday of Lent) on the Exodus tale and highlighted by the reading from the end of Deuteronomy that we read on Yom Kippur (paraphrasing – “this teaching (Torah) is not too baffling for you that you must ask for someone to go over the mountain or across the sea to get it for you…no, it is in your mouth and in your heart “), the Father delivered the message that our struggles can be overcome if and when we discover that the answers are not out there but inside yourself if you only know where to look.” (Man, the process of translating liturgy in Spanish into English and its associated Hebrew Torah passages through the lens of Catholic philosophy and ultimately its Jewish roots is quite a spiritual journey.)

Our dinner restaurant, “Asadas,” (as if we were hungry) looked like your basic version of Chipotle but so much better you have no idea! I’m telling you, the food here is excellent. Now, as I finish today’s blog, while I do apologize for the length, I am thrilled and proud that CSK is in the house (Jubilee that is).

Peace out,

Rabbi Scott

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