I spent three and half weeks catching up with friends and family in the states, finding out what has changed during the last ten months.

Now I am back in Leon, finding out what has changed in Nicaragua in the last month.

The streets are filled with fake Christmas trees, plastic toys and imported apples and grapes for sale.  Every night there are dance presentations and concerts in the parks.  Bands of boys wander the streets after 4 oclock in the afternoon with gigantona puppets, pepe costumes, and drums, and stop and perform in front of houses for a few cordoba.  There is cheesy Christmas music in all the supermarkets, just like at home.  So far, Christmas is marked by familiar tinsel and consumerism.

The shift into Christmas season in a Christian dominated country was anticipated.  I didn’t anticipate the news I received from Luis, the coordinator of the Reforestation Project.  Maximino Munguia, one of the farmers from Las Limas, where I stayed and worked for two weeks in June, passed away suddenly at the end of November.  He was 49, and I was told he died of a heart attack while sleeping.  He lived by himself on the very small farm his grandfather bought, 8 manzanas along a river.  I worked with him for two days, building a compost pile and planting trees along the edges of the fields and riverbank.  He was game for anything, and happily included the neighbors kids in the projects as well.

Maximino was one of the most amicable and outgoing participants in the project.  He always broke the ice at our workshops by asking lots of questions – usually preceded by a completely un-selfconscious apology that he received a strong blow to the head several years back and has trouble remembering facts so could you please repeat that information?  He always mentioned this cheerily, with a smile so wide that it made you wonder if he didn’t really enjoy that blow to the head!

It’s definitely a tragedy for his family to lose such a young positive man, and sad for our project to lose an enthusiastic participant.  I’ll always smile when I think of him.

Maximino on the far left, with some of his family members, who came to help him the day we distributed the plantain corms.

Maximino always stepped forward. He was one of the first to volunteer to graft a tree at our last workshop.