By Stephanie Fisk
Karle grabs my hand and leads me to the edge of her yard. It’s getting dark, and we need to get back to the church while there is still daylight. With no reservations, we start our trek down to the depths of the dump. Carlos, her younger cousin, follows closely on my heels, leading my friend Tim. Carlos walks barefoot over rusted tin cans, needles, ashes, and rotten food. He’s used to it. Carlos, along with the rest of his immediate family and many relatives eighteen in all walk this path every day of their lives. After ten years, there is now a worn path through the trash to the other side of the dump to their income.
As we approach the stream of dirty Diriamba water that lies at the bottom of the dump, our “escort service” eagerly scrambles to make a foot bridge out of the trash lying in the water broken cement blocks, tires, and boxes so the gringos can cross over without getting wet. Julio, one of the teenage boys, takes a standing leap and easily clears the water by a foot or two. He turns around, reaches his hand out for me to grab it and guides me across the makeshift bridge. Other than the toe of my tennis shoe dipping into the water, I make it free and clear.
The rest of the kids skillfully skip on top of the trash and begin to head up the other side of the dump. This side is a bit more difficult, because years of ash have piled up from burning the trash. The smoke burns my throat and lungs. The dust stings my eyes. My foot sinks into the ash. Once again, Karle grabs my hand and begins to lead me up amongst the burning piles of smoldering trash.
We were warned to be careful of the unapparent “hot pockets” that lie hidden under a fine layer of ash. As Tim and I get near the top of the trash pile, the kids gradually wave adios and retreat back to their house. We glance back to their side and see a handful of individuals standing on the edge of their property, frantically waving goodbye and yelling, “Hasta luego!” I smile and wave back. It’s definitely not every day that they see gringos traipsing through the Diriamba landfill.
I laugh to myself and think back to the first day we scaled the trash heap. Never in my life did I think that I would find adventure in climbing up and down a mountain of trash. “Be present,” I hear the Lord whisper in my ear. “To truly enter into their lives (families who work in the dumps), are you willing to experience a little of what they go through day in and day out? Are you willing to get down and dirty literally?” Am I willing to sacrifice my newly-washed clothes my pride to walk the path less taken? The path worn by the “nobodies of the nobodies.” Am I willing to walk alongside the “nobodies, share my life with them, learn from them, build stories together in order to see that I am just as much of a nobody in the eyes of God as they are. Nobody is a nobody in Gods eyes.
We are all his precious creation. I was born into a white, middle-class family in small-town Iowa, and Karle and Carlos were born into a large, poor family in a barrio in Nicaragua.
Over the past month, the Mohica family has become my family here in Nicaragua. They have eagerly accepted me into their lives and loved me with all they have their time, affection, laughter, songs, prayers, and struggles. And I am excited to share their lives with you.
Continued in Getting My Hands Dirty, Part 2
Stephanie Fisk is a traveler of the world, embarking on a personal pilgrimage called the World Race, an affiliate of Wrecked.