We took our taxi to our previously booked hotel which had been described in the Nicaraguan Handbook as "spotless with a cheerful restaurant and a lovely front veranda". HA!
But first before I jump ahead, chatting with our cab driver (a Caribbean fellow, born in Bluefields and never left!) it turned out his Mom had been a witness and had died 10 years earlier from lack of blood. Wouldn't have happened today but the means just weren't available to save her. Anyway, he was lovely and when he heard where we were staying, grimaced! Not good. We quickly found out why....it was a dive! What is considered "spotless" in Bluefields is NOT what we consider spotless. The hotel & rooms were dingy, smelly and nasty. What to do. We called him (he'd given us his cell) and he took us to what we now know is the only decent hotel in Bluefields (but also the most expensive, American prices, owned by an American) called the Oasis. And it was. Beautiful with views out over the water and really good security. He even negotiated reduced rates for us (although still twice what we had hoped to be paying). What a nice fellow!
Bluefields is a little wild. And not pretty. It is completely isolated from the rest of the world/Nicaragua and goods have to be brought in by plane or boat as there are no roads going to it. There is little law here, if any. No grocery store (wish we'd brought more food with us) and very few decent places to eat. And you do not want to go out at night! Everywhere we went, even in the day, people asked us outright for money. Debbie waved at a pretty little girl, about 4, who came out of her house and she immediately stuck her hand out for money! The Bay is brown and it is very dirty around you, causing someone to say to us that it should be called Brownfields not Bluefields.
But the Assembly was amazing. People had arrived from all over the isolated East Coast. Travelling by any means possible to get there. Some had taken a 12 hour journey over land and water, through terrible storms and rapids to get there. About 20% were Need Greaters and Special Pioneers who had been assigned to these difficult areas. The peak attendance to this English Special Day was 199. What a joy it was to all meet and be able to chat about experiences and simply connect. The Bethel speaker (who you can see in the picture grinning in the photo over Gary's shoulder & the photo at dinner that night) stayed with a local family. They are a British couple who originally came here as Need Greaters, then Special pioneers and now he is the home Overseer at Bethel. The home he stayed in was in a swampy area. They had to walk a wobbly plank just to get to it. He said they spent the humid night under a hot mosquito net listening to the mosquito's trying to find a way into them. Poor guys looked exhausted.
There was one baptism, a woman from an area called Pearl Lagoon who is now the first baptised publisher in that area...and she over came alot to do so! She was there with her three children! The area she is in is only accessible by water and the only other witnesses in the area are a Special Pioneer couple from the States who look like they are 12 (likely in there early 20's) who were recently assigned there and are holding the "meetings" in their very humble home. The Circuit Overseer and his Wife were lovely, telling Gary & I some stories from their circuit travels, like how to get to one congregation they have to travel by horse for 7 hours and in the wet season the horses are often over their knees in mud!!
It was over too fast....but now we were heading for another tiny plane....for a few days R&R in incredibly beautiful Corn Island.......