Thursday, October 27, 2005

Week 8 - Tropical Storm Beta

WHO: Essa (aka Vanessa)
WHAT: Peace Corps, Environmental Education
WHERE: Nicaragua
WHEN: Sept '05 - Nov '07

WHY: La vida es un carnaval

So we just recived word that our plans for site visits (scheduled to start tomorrow) were just cancelled and instead all Peace Corps volunteers and trainees are being called in to Managua. Evidently a tropical storm is on the way - and is predicted to be a hurricane when it arrives in Nicaragua within 24 hours. It seems hard to believe considering we've had nothing but warm sunny weather for the past two days...but the Nicaraguan gov't will begin evacuating flood prone areas this afternoon.

Keep us all in your thoughts - hopefully this will be the last big blowout before the end of the rainy season!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Week 7 - Town profile

WHO: Essa (aka Vanessa)
WHAT: Peace Corps, Environmental Education
WHERE: Nicaragua
WHEN: Sept '05 - Nov '07
WHY: La vida es un carnaval

Just in case you are already forgeting what I look like!!

So, I thought I'd give you all a better idea of where I've been living for the past 7 weeks. The town has a population of about 5000 (I think), and though I haven't traveled all it's streets, these pics will at least give an idea what the town looks like. It's on the fringes of the department capital, and I think a lot of people travel the couple of kilometers to work in that city. But there are several little mom and pop shops, an internet, and...I guess that's about it. I really only have about two weeks left here, as in the next month, we'll be doing site visits, and training wrap-up in Managua.

This is the central park in the town - serves a common meeting place and playground. This is where I saw a strange animal up in a tree which I still don't belive I've positively identified. It had the body and tail of a cat, but with shorter legs, and a head like a porcupine, but it's head was green (!!) with huge black spines coming out of it. Any ideas??

This is the Catholic church. I've noticed that there are a number of US and Canadian Evangelical missionaries coming into the town and setting up shop. There are quite a few families jumping on the bandwagon - all four of our host families are evangelical.

This is one of the paved streets in the center of town. I would hazard to say maybe a third of the towns streets are paved like this...the other are still dirt.

This is one of the roads out of town - and Noemi and my preferred running route. The paved part is only about a half mile long, then it turns to dirt, but with all the rain, it's been too muddy to run on. So we go back and forth between the end of this road and the cemetary.

Here's that same road during a rain shower.

Noemi and I see these cows being herded every morning.

The owners of this home lived in the US and either saved money and came back, or have some kind of business set up there. That afforded them to build this mansion - it even has AC. Though it doesn't show in the photo, there are high steel bars all around the home.

One of the dirt/mud roads.

This is an example of what the rains do to roads - it would be better to travel this one in a canoe.

One of the houses on the outskirts. It's built on the slope of a river bank. Seems tenuous to me, but the view is spectacular!

A couple of homes on the outskirts.

Just to show that the sun DOES come out occasionally in October!

In other news...Nazareth is practicing to become a teacher...

And I've made a second round of peanut butter! You can buy it in the department capital, but it's uber-expensive. I buy the nuts in the market, toast them, and take them to be ground at the local mill. I add a bit of salt and honey. My PB making experiments have turned out way better than my baking ones. Maura now loves peanut butter, but Nazareth has her doubts.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Weeks 5,6-half way!

WHO: Essa (aka Vanessa)

WHAT: Peace Corps, Environmental Education

WHERE: Nicaragua

WHEN: Sept '05 - Nov '07

WHY: La vida es un carnaval

Water water everywhere! We're half way through the rainiest month of the year - I've been living with wrinkly fingers for the past two weeks... Things are finally starting to dry out a bit. The constant rain has passed, and now it only rains a few hours a day. We are fortunate, though that we haven't suffered any natural disasters as El Salvador and Guatemala did. I saw on the news that Nicaragua is sending emergency relief funds to El Salvador. Seems like everywhere Mother Nature is reminding us who's boss...

We're about half way through training - and the second half should fly by with placement interivews, the site fair (where we learn about the communities we'll be serving in), our site assignments, and site visits! Everyone'sexcited to learn where we'll be living for the next two years. We're all kind of like kids counting down the days until Christmas...only 10 more to go!

In week 5, all trainees got a three day visit with a volunteer currently serving. I visited Marissa, who has lived in the department of Chontales for about a year. It's about 4 hours east of Managua. She was a great host and showed me all around her town and the surrounding area.

Marissa taught me to make tortillas - funny thing to learn from a fellow gringa. Though we did eat Nica food most of the time I was there, we also made french toast one night for dinner - with Aunt Jemima syrup. Who says the Peace Corps is tough?

Cultural misunderstanding no 349: Marissa graded the pictures her students had drawn that day about " A World Without Trees." She drew a star on the top of each one, like many primary school teachers do. When she finished, Cilas,one of the neighborhood boys who was hanging out at the house came over to take a look, sighed, and said "Todos faltaban estrellas" (They all forgot to draw a star).

The landscape is breathtaking in Chontales - the rainy season lasts around 9 months - which accounts for the million and one shades of green. We were lucky though, while I was there - it hardly rained at all. I guess, though, I should mention that my definition of rain has changed since I came to Nicaragua. Sprinkles doesn't count. Neither does any precipitation that lasts less than one hour, regardless of how hard it is.

Marissa's friends own a ranch nearby and they took us horesback riding for a few hours! Yee-haw! This is Efrain and I. My horse doesn't have a name - they just call it "la yegua" - the mare.

Some of the amazing flowers that we came accross on our ride:

One of our training days entailed of a visit to a local organic farm near Managua, run by a woman named Rosario. Here she is explaining how to turn organic matter, ash, soil, and cow poop into compost.

Her farm is very succesful particularly because she has a deal with a local Korean restaurant. They provide her with seeds, and she supplies them with vegetables. Besides learning composting techniques, we also learned how to make natural pesticides.

Check out the adventicious roots on that bad boy:

Rosario's farm not only had exotic vegetables, but lots of local plants and trees. I've seen cacti here and have yet to understand how they survive in such a water rich environment. Hmmmmmm...

Natural, renewable, AND sustainable:

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Thanks everyone for cards and letters - keep them coming!