By Dave Ewing
Perceptions aren't always reality. We went to Los Chiles to help them build. But they taught us about life and happiness. We drove up to Bernardo's house and his wife and 11 children. During 2 visits we viewed his house, 3 rooms, covered porch with cement floor, used board walls, well with bucket, outhouse, and no electricity. They were squatters, building their house on land they didn't own. One son came home from cutting sugar cane black with grime as they burn the field before cutting with a machete. Two sisters cranked the bucket up the well; they poured the water in a funnel connected to a pipe that ran into another bucket in the shower. Their mother was cooking on an open wood fire on the back porch. The second visit we sang for them to encourage one of their daughters to sing. And she sang beautiful music against the background of what we considered poverty, but they considered progress from their beginnings in Nicaragua. They gave us a big bag of oranges, as they were happy we cared to visit them. Next day we took them to the grocery store and let them buy anything they wanted. The next week we learned the local government was going to buy some land, develop it into lots with water and electric, and give or sell at low cost to families such as Bernardo's. The announcement was made at a church service and the people fell on the floor crying with gratitude. Plans have been made for simple houses that the material cost would be $5000. Many U.S. churches and organizations would help with the money, and we would work with the families to build the houses.
My work this year was starting the footers and block walls for a parsonage with a local crew from the church, Freddie, Ronaldo, Alfredio, and Philippe, aka Rambo una, who named me Rambo dos! We fooled around and kidded each other just like at home as if we could understand each other's language! Philippe (Rambo una) was proud of his casa, and showed me through it across the street from the church. It was a wood shack with packing boxes on the dirt floor to walk on, but he owned it, it was his. We bonded as we were the same age and were able to do hard physical work!
At one church service an adorable 4-year-old, Flor "Fleur" came over and sat on my lap with a hug, my heart melted, then a boy who loved to hug me, came over with some skittles, which my group had brought for the kids. He shared with "Fleur" and they both shared with me. Those who had so little were happy to share what little they had with no questions asked.
When it was time to leave I gave Alfredo my utility knife, diamond tile saw blade, and Speed Square. He gave me a hand carved wood cross necklace. Other gifts were exchanged and our new friends were sad to see us go. We were too, as we will remember their friendship, their happiness, their generosity, and their enjoyment of life, which had nothing to do with their lack of money. Our goal will to be as happy as them despite our money.