Saturday, January 14, 2006

Marathon meetings and arachnids

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

Things are picking up workwise, as I attended the first environmental commission meeting of the year (which lasted 7 hours!) on Tuesday. There were representatives from the mayor's office, ministries of health, agriculture, natural resource management, various local NGOs, the army, different neighborhods, and your friendly Peace Corps volunteer.

At times the frustration was palpable - at one point one of the engineers launched into a 20 minute diatribe against the community and their lack of participation in the government-led environmental awareness campaigns. The most evident, and one that gets on everyone's nerves is TRASH. No one seems to be aware of what trash is and why it should be placed in a trash can. Everywhere people throw their plastic bags, broken bottles, candy wrappers, and whatever else that can't possibly be re-used in the street. Certain parts of the city are worse than others - still struggling a bit on my approach to the subject with my friends - I guess example is the best.

The longest presentation was given by a lawer drawing up new legislation for the local sanitary landfill (which was constructed a few years ago, but needs to be re-hauled). In it, there are provisions for separation of trash, organics, and recyclable materials. It was exciting to see that being considered here in Nicaragua...but I can't help wondering if people still don't seem to recognize trash long enough to put it into ONE receptacle, are they ready to discern different types of refuse to be thrown into one of four receptacles? For now, the plan is to have a pilot project in the city center - with the young environmentalists club leading the education campaign, and then going out from there. They are still considering the idea of separation at the landfill as well... (Thanks to Alex and Jim at MTU for assigning theTesopaco landfill design project last spring so I could participate in the conversation.)

In the law discussed, we also talked at length about fines for dumping trash illegally. Some thought the lowest fine of100 Córdobas (or about $6) was way too steep. (To put it into perspective, one of my friends worked for a while at a local bakery - he worked a 12-hour shift for just over $2 a day.) So that was lowered to 50 Córdobas (almost two days labor with the example given). The real question is, does the city have the personnel to enforce these laws and ensure the fines are actually paid? It seems to me that the government is progressive, but enforcement and manpower are severely lacking.

There was also a presentation on the no-burn campaign led by the ministry of natural resources. It's common here for farmers to burn their fields in the summertime to prep them for planting (I still haven't really figured out why - to rid them of weeds and pests, I guess - and doesn't ash add potassium or something to the soil??). The burning leads to quicker soil erosion rates, and puts forested land in danger if the fires get out of control. Not to mention it's bad for air quality.

These were the two topics covered in depth, besides that there was an evaluation of the commission's activities for 2005, as well as the call for new ideas for the coming year. That meeting seemed to be the jumping off point for me, as now I am signed up on the watershed and environmental education subcommittes, and I am now a member of the young environmentalists group, (though now that I'm pushing 30, do I still qualify?).

I also attended a meeting with the Mediateca - the natural science library. We are coordinating environmental educational activities with a rural school about 8 km away. I hope to be involved with them in planning activities for earth day, arbor day, and other tree-hugging related holidays.

That was a lot of talk and no photos - sorry, but I'm happy to finally being doing something work related besides just introducing myself. My participation is minimal at this point - have lots to learn about how things work...

I moved into my house - Julito, 11 years old and son of Patricia, is my right-hand man. He is still helping me organize stuff and do minor repairs. He is also teaching me to play cards and helping me learn to make Nicaraguan food- in this photo he's preparing tostones, a type of fried starchy banana.

Julito, Jeffery, Keren, Juliver - all Patricia's kids, on my front porch cracking open almonds (that the bats drop - they only eat the fruit on the outside), and coconuts. They are all lamenting the fact that summer vacation is over and school starts in 17 days...

I also have finally located a drum teacher! I met Mario (far left) when I came for my site visit (his family and I went to the hot springs). He is in an Evangelical contemporary band that includes a conga drum. So Gamaliel has agreed to help me. I had two lessons this past week and have been playing an hour at least every day (no doubt much to my neighbors' chagrin).

This is my most recent houst guest...I hesitated in posting this photo in case it dissuades any potential visitors...but it's pretty spectaular.

TP for scale -

Muchas gracias everyone for the Christmas packages - they finally arrived! A note...thanks to Grandpa Crill, I have enough chocolate to last me until next Christmas ... so if you're going to send me something, better send books instead.


Post a Comment

<< Home