Circuit assembly, January 2016

We've just recently made it back from our Circuit assembly in Bluefields. It was very exciting, particularly because its the first one we've had completely in Creole. Our circuit is made up of mostly people from abroad who have come to serve in Nicaragua, as yet there are very few creole people in the truth on Corn Island, so we are all doing our best to speak the dialect with varying success.

Fala Jehoava Egzampl!
A big help is when bible students help us to speak it properly. The situation is improving though, as many creole people are getting baptized. The most exciting part of the assembly for those of us from the Island was to see a bible student who is a native of Corn Island be baptized, the first one from the new Creole group. Some of his family are studying as well and are likely soon to follow.

This is a big accomplishment for the newly baptized brother, because its very difficult for someone on the Island to make such changes and big decisions on their own. Family ties are very tight and many are very interested in the good news, but out of fear of upsetting their relatives or pressure from their former church they cannot make a stand and come to the meetings. Because of this it takes a long time for students to make progress, although many people show interest and will start studying immediately.

Arriving for this assembly was not easy though, as recent events have created complications. A chartered panga capsized on its way to little corn killing several tourists a few weeks ago. Normally no one ever hears about something like that, but because they were from Costa Rica it became an international incident, even being mentioned on CNN

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/24/americas/nicaragua-boat-capsizes/index.html

It was a tragedy, but really should have been avoided by common sense. It was in the middle of one of the worst storms of the year, and the Navy was refusing to let any boats leave due to high winds and waves. Evidently, the passengers pressured the diver into going anyway, since it was a charter and they had places to be.

Because it was an international incident, the government promised to tighten restrictions and safety regulations for all water transport in the country, and because there was another storm brewing no boats were leaving the Island for the week of the assembly, so we got a one way flight to Bluefields.

Our plan after the assembly was to go to Pearl Lagoon to get our bicycles and bring them with us by boat back to Corn Island. During the assembly however, things changed. It was then that the government put its new safety regulations into effect, all transport companies were required to meet these requirements or they would not be allowed to leave. From what I've heard the requirements included life jackets with whistles and signal lights, flare guns, GPS, and some other safety equipment. The problem is, one cannot buy these items on the Atlantic coast, and evidently someone didn't realize that the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua does not have roads and that all transport is by water.

So what this all means, basically, is that there was a military blockade of ALL transportation. Bluefields and the Corn Islands were effectively cut off from all outside access. Tourists and other travelers who had made it as far as Rama were forced to turn back, and some who were still in Pearl Lagoon did not make it to the assembly. This was more than a mere inconvenience as well, because it was not only passenger boats that were affected. Shipping came to a halt as well, and after a few days with no concessions food, gas, drinking water and other necessities started running low. Worse yet people in neighboring communities could not make it to the hospital in Bluefields. By Monday the ban on travel had lasted several days, and we heard that riots had broken out in Rama. We went down to the wharf to see if we might be allowed to travel to pearl lagoon, or back home to Corn Island.

We decided to turn back when we saw the wharf. A riot had started in Bluefields as well, and an angry mob was burning tires and firing off fireworks trying to smo
ke the navy out of the capitania. The riot gained momentum through the day and we heard more and more fireworks, black smoke filling the air. Ambulances kept going by heading to the wharf and we decided it best just to stay inside.

We started  to think about just flying home to Corn Island, but then heard that rioters had taken over the airport on Corn Island, and were burning tires on the runway. This may seem extreme, but one has to remember that without sea travel, Corn Island has no food, no drinking water, and no electricity. Everything is shipped in, even the gas for the power plant. In a few more days people would be starving.

Thankfully, by Tuesday the regulations were lifted and boats were able to travel again. The authorities conceded to allow 6 months time to find the new life jackets and other equipment. We made a call to see when the next boat would leave for Corn Island and it was the same night, so despite our experience the last time, we decided to go back on the Captain D that same evening.

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