Moscow Sister City Association Newsletter

March 27, 2019

This newsletter was sent via the City of Moscow on behalf of the Moscow Sister City Association. This newsletter was written by Moscow Sister City Association authors and may not necessarily reflect the views of the City of Moscow.
In this issue:   
  1. Ana Julia Castillo in Moscow
  2. Current events in Nicaragua: negotiating negotiations
  3. Scholarship students who will graduate soon

1. Ana Julia in Moscow. 



Except for Mary Voxman and Elisabeth Berlinger, the person who has done the most to connect Moscow with Villa El Carmen is Ana Julia Castillo. Following her time in Moscow in 1998, Ana with her husband Mario has been our liaison to the schools and people of Villa El Carmen. Ana’s visit to Moscow was made possible by Connie Larson’s trip, four years earlier, to Ana’s town. Connie stayed with Ana’s family for a month (see earlier newsletter), and she says of that visit: Ana Julia’s family, the schools, and her friends greeted me with such warmth and kindness! Although I as uncomfortable being the center of attention at times, I was also delighted to be instantly included in activities in VEC.  My weeks there were filled with laughter and new experiences. Of Ana, Connie says, She’s just golden, an amazing woman!

            One of the families that Ana stayed with was that of John and Sara Holup. This is Sara’s account of Ana’s time with them:

            In February of 1998, Anna Julia Castillo came to spend 6 months in Moscow. She had married Mario Mendoza only about 2 or 3 months before, so she was lonely and, besides that, unused to our different culture and climate! Ana Julia was here to be acquainted with our sister city group, with our schools and to participate in English language classes. At home I believe that she was the head of the school district in the Villa. Mario, as principal and teacher in one of the schools, worked under Ana. 

            Our Sister City group rotated Ana Julia’s housing among our members. She stayed with John and me for the month of May, and we loved having her. The day she came to our home, Mary Voxman brought her, and Ana was crying at leaving Mary. We understood, of course, and we tried hard to make her feel welcome and at home. John would tease her, just like one of our daughters, who were grown by then, and she would giggle. Ana loved our cat, and the cat helped by sitting on her lap as she studied. 

            Ana Julia was a dedicated student and worked hard. We knew enough Spanish that we had no problem communicating. She also helped work on hand-quilting the lovely quilt which Louise Barber had made, for fundraising. Generally John or I would take Ana to her English classes at the university. Late that summer Mario came to Moscow for the last 2 weeks of Ana’s stay. They stayed together with us for a couple of days, and we all had a lot of fun together.

            During the time Ana was with us, she confided how much she hoped to have a baby. It never happened.  She went on to do very important work in education in the government. I loved having the chance to renew our friendship when I visited Nicaragua in 2008. We still keep in touch. A friendship with a person like Ana Julia can be a wonderful way to enrich one’s life.

Mario, Ana, and friend, at Ana’s mother’s home in the center of Villa El Carmen, 2007
Mario, Ana, and friend, at Ana’s mother’s home in the center of Villa El Carmen, 2007

Mi primer viaje a Moscow

[Ana Julia wrote the following narrative in Spanish, which I have translated with my assistant, Google Translate. Ana’s account of her visit shows the depth of her connection to the Moscow community. Note that her title above, “my first trip to Moscow,” implies a second trip, though it has not happened yet. -- Dave]

            In June of 1994 I met Connie Larson, a teacher from Moscow who was visiting my village Villa El Carmen and whom I received in my humble home with my parents Amanda and Adolfo and my nephews Roberto and Juan. During her visit, Mrs Larson participated in some classes with my students and gave me some ideas that I could use to teach my students.
               At the end of her visit she asked me: "If there was ever the possibility of going to the United States, would you like to go? And I answered: yes, without imagining that 2 years later the invitation would come. However, at that time I could not go because my mother had been ill with cancer and was scheduled for surgery in December of 1996.
               A year later, in December 1997, once again the invitation arrived and this time, I was organizing my wedding with Mario, but we decided that I would make the trip, and that was how on February 8, 1998 I traveled for the first time to the United States. I had never traveled so far and had no idea of some things -- especially those related to the weather. However, there was my dearest Mary Voxman doing everything necessary to make my trip safe and enjoyable. She contacted two of her friends Lois Blackburn of Varsity Lane Houston and Tom Newhof of Mercer Island WA, they were there waiting for me at each of the airports to take me to the next destination.
               Finally at 11:30 p.m. I arrived at the Pullman airport and there was Mary, with Connie and her family, the first family that would host me in her house. The following days I was accompanying Connie to her classes at the Junior High School. During that time I also started to meet other people like Cindy Magnuson, Betsy Goodman, and Mary Karen Miller, and they also took me to know some places like the Methodist Church, Lake Coeur d’Alene and Kellogg.
               While taking the English course in the American Language and Culture Program, I was in a group that met at night at the University of Idaho. I also attended the place where the Sister City members met to prepare the salteñas that during the spring would sell at the Renaissance fair.

Back in Villa El Carmen, Ana and Mario with her mother and his mother, her nephew and his niece, 2007.
Back in Villa El Carmen, Ana and Mario with her mother and his mother, her nephew and his niece, 2007.

At the end of March, I started my first move to a new family. This was the Bob and Mardi Baron Family, for two weeks. They were a very attentive and special family. At that time I was beginning the process of registration and start of classes. Two weeks later I was moving with the family of John and Sarah Holup. John helped me with my classes and checked to see if I was learning the list of verbs and their tenses. With Sarah I attended the Unitarian Church a few times, which was a new experience because in my country I never heard of this type of church. I also went with her sometimes to the school gym.
               During my birthday celebration they took me to Connie's house where they had organized an Easter celebration. I still have a couple of rabbits that I received as a birthday present. Then in the evening Sara invited me to dinner at home to a couple who were her friends and at the same time cut a cake that she had prepared for my birthday. With John and Sarah I also explored the City of Lewiston.
               Then I moved again, to the house of a friend of Mary, Mrs. Carol Sharp, and with her I went out sometimes to walk and ride a horse. Two weeks later, after a trip that Mary made to Peru, I moved to Mary’s house, and every day we talked about our families. We went out to share dinner, a game of monopolies, a puzzle, or a good movie with her cousin Candelaria, a very attentive and kind old lady. We also met to go on Sundays to Mass in the Catholic Church.
Then, I moved to the home of Patricia Hart and Ivar Nelson, parents of Katrina, who at that time was a teenager. [Katrina visited Villa El Carmen a few years later.] With this family I attended Pat's graduation at WSU, which was also a new experience.
               The next home I moved to for a short time was with Carolyn Smith. She was a single person, and we once visited her son in Coeur d'Alene; another day we went camping in the mountains of Moscow. Camping was a very nice experience, not common in my country.
               Finally, the last family where I had to move was with the family of Richard and Lori Keenan. With their daughter Ruth I went to a disco called Latino Night where I could listen to Latin music and play some pool. With the help of Irina Crookston, they got me a permit to do a few hours of work with Richard and his daughter Ruth in the Spanish classes they taught to students who wanted to learn Spanish.
Despite the many changes, it was interesting for me every experience with the different families because I was able to learn more about the culture and customs. I had very interesting experiences like the Paw Wao at WSU, I hiked Kamiak Butte, I lived the Independence Day experience, I participated in the exhibition of stamps, handicrafts  and food of different countries prepared in the student center with students from Latin America. I met many classmates from countries like Mexico, Chile, Taiwan, South Korea, Nepal, Japan, Saudi Arabia.
I thank the teachers who taught me more about English: Warren Hayman, Elena Smith and Elsie Watson; and people of the program who helped me at some point: Susan Shroeder, Linda Houstis Smith, Louise Barber, Karla Kappler, Mary Karen Miller, Cindy Magnuson, Betsy Goodman.                                                                   
                               - Ana Julia Castillo Lopez, February 2019

2. Current events in Nicaragua: the struggle towards national dialogue

[This account comes mainly from Spanish-language (which means I miss a lot) news sources, mostly Nicaraguan, which can be found easily on YouTube, Facebook etc., like Articulo 66, Confidencial, and Canal 10: Acción Diez]
               After a year-long paralysis in which events seemed controlled by the anti-government forces from April to June, and by the Ortega/Murillo government since July, the impasse appeared to break on February 27 when the government asked for negotiations, the long-awaited “diálogo nacional.” The core of the opposition group involved, Alianza Cívica para la Justicia y la Democracia, is business leaders, but students, farmers, and others are also represented. Groups that may be involved as participants, mediators, or “witnesses,” include:
               Nicaraguan Roman Catholic bishops
               An ambassador (nuncio) from the Vatican
               The Organization of American States’
               The International Red Cross
               The European Union
               Nicaraguan evangelical Protestant leaders.
               The central short-term issue is the release of some 760 prisoners, identified by the opposition as “political,” most arrested since July. Many are university students; some are journalists and farmers. Various activities have been criminalized in the past half-year, including demonstrations, journalistic criticism of the government, and activities seen as anti-government such as waving the national flag and singing the national anthem. The government consistently denied that there are any political prisoners, until March 1, when in an effort to get the negotiations moving, it released one-hundred prisoners from jail into house arrest: “casa por carcel” (house in place of cell).  Few were satisfied. From there, events have followed fast:
               March 8: Catholic representatives decline to participate.
               March 10: the Alianza breaks off the touch, asserting the government is not serious.
               March 11: The Alianza says it will resume talks if the government will release the political prisoners.
               March 14: Student members of the Alianza refuse to join the talks because the government is not moving to release prisoners. But the OAS says it will participate in the talks IF the prisoners are released. And another opposition group, the UNAB (Unidad Nacional Azul & Blanco), requests permission to hold a demonstration in Managua on March 16.
               March 15: the National Police refuse permission for the demonstration. The UNAB says it will hold the demonstration anyway. The government releases fifty more prisoners into house arrest. Few are satisfied.
               March 16: the demonstration is held. The police respond brutally, and 107 demonstrators are arrested and taken to prison. But that night they are all released. They celebrate like it’s a victory party. But nobody forgets the 600 or so still in jail.
               March 17-19: Each side accuses the other of bad faith, relating to the demonstration. The talks look like they’re going to be suspended again.
               March 20: The government announces it will release all the political prisoners – within  ninety days.
               Ninety days? Everybody is wondering why so long? Why not a week? Is this a stalling tactic? And exactly who does the government recognize as a political prisoner?  As of today, March 27, these are still issues being negotiated – so that the MAIN negotiations can start. There are conflicting stories in the news this morning. One says that the government and the Alianza are close to an agreement on restoring freedom of the press; the other says that Nicaragua has made the list of those countries worldwide that most actively deny human rights. Vamos a ver.  To conclude, three points:
               1. At least, there are now specific national issues being debated, and anticipated to be debated, by a variety of groups both national and international, pretty much in full public view.
               2. Anti-government Nicaraguans, having been intimidated by the government and the National Police since July, have now found their voice again. This may or may not last.
               3. The long-term issues have not begun to be discussed: reforming the political system so that it approaches democracy; ending the systematic repression; achieving justice for at least some of the estimated 350 killed and at least that many “disappeared”; and of course, getting the economy moving again. Among those with the strongest interest in these issues are some 50,000 exiles, most in Costa Rica.

3. Students who will graduate soon, in April or May.

These are Jerald García Dávila (English), Yanci Espinoza (Business Administration), Yerlan David Sequeira (Business & Finance), Betzi Vega (Business), and José Manuel Sequeira (Psychology). More about these in the next issue.

Newsletter by Dave Barber, President MSCA

MSCA Mailing Address:
PO Box 8367
Moscow, ID 83843

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