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  • Mike Kirkpatrick

Under the Tamarind Tree

Submitted by Mike Kirkpatrick, Mission Trip Participant, February 2020

Welcome to Chico Game, Nicaragua. Not so much a village, as it is a collection of homes scattered through the woods. A large shady tamarind tree serves as the center. When our well drilling team arrived, an old empty water tower sat on a hill overlooking the area. It had fed a network of flexible pipes, snaking along the ground to various homes. However the local springs, and shallow hand dug wells had dried up.

Our team was ceremonially welcomed by the surrounding community at a local church, then much needed four wheel drive vehicles took us over dusty, rutted dirt roads to Chico Game. The people of Chico Game warmly greeted us, and were proud to give us tours of their homes. Lacking indoor toilets, pit latrines suffice, and bathing is a matter of buckets and perhaps a makeshift shower. Some homes have electrical power from cords strung through the neighborhood. Cooking is with wood on improvised grills, often under a lean-to set against a house. In one home, laying hens occupied corners of the living room, partitioned with plywood leaning against the walls.

Leo, who spoke excellent English, was the drilling leader and had two experienced men working on the old drilling rig. Periodically we splashed water on the radiator to keep it from overheating. The men could have finished the job faster without us, but Leo showed us how the equipment worked, and made sure that we all took turns at the various tasks. As the drilling rig would grind away, we had some free time to play ball with the children. Everyone was friendly and willing to communicate despite the language difference. At the end of the week the 150 foot deep well was finished, and a commemorative plaque installed. All that was left was for the water tower to be cleaned, and fresh water would again be running to households. A celebration took place under the tamarind tree with prayers, speeches, a costumed dance team, music, and a piñata loaded with candy.

The workday of drilling was rewarding, although hot and dirty. However, our lodging at the oceanside Sacred Sands surf hostel, an hour away in El Transito, was great compensation. Plain, but clean and comfortable, with great meals, and just steps away from a refreshing swim, or surfing in the ocean. No need to congratulate us on a self-sacrificing mission trip. It did not feel like that at all. Interesting worthwhile work among welcoming people, and the enjoyment of our beachfront hostel, made it most enjoyable. In fact, it was difficult to return home. My wife and I are looking forward to the next opportunity.

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