Sunday, March 26, 2006

Volunteer visiting

WHO: Essa (aka Vanessa)
WHAT: Peace Corps, Environmental Education

WHERE: Nicaragua

WHEN: Sept '05 - Nov '07

WHY: La vida es un carnaval

A summary of my weekend visit up north to see Allie and Jade - two volunteers living in a little town by the name of a tree Allie has yet to see. It's a lot hotter and dryer up there and kinda reminds me of Arizona. They have all but given up on the battle against dirt, as a chicken walking by creates clouds of powder-fine dust that envelop their home. But, they have learned to accept it without complaint - that and waking up at midnight to fill water containers for the next day. Here's Allie preparing dinner at her sink.

Cashew fruit - eating the fruit has an incredible drying effect (Lacey - but there's NO alcohol!) in the mouth. It's okay, but I wouldn't eat a lot of them.

We stayed inside most of the weekend, as it was too hot to be out and about. It was good to have some new folks to act as sounding boards - and really interesting to see how our views on development work are evolving after 4 months of doing it. We did go for late afternoon bike rides around town, and I caught this pic of the old and the young...

Allie and Jade and their neighbor's cat that has adopted them.

Kids waiting for the bus - caught this as I was headed back home from their site.

Stopped off in Managua to help plan the next In-Service-Training meeting that will be in April. 5 or 6 volunteers and the Environmental Education specialist help organize the event.

This past weekend, my friend Noemi came from her site to visit. We decided to walk from my site to Lake Nicaragua. It's about 12 miles and took us about 6 hours. It did get pretty hot, but we were fortunate to meet a woman half way selling watemelon. She shook her head when we told her we were walking and sighed, saying, " I don't know why these foreigners like to walk so much...". Others we told, were incredulous and exclaimed the popular refrain, "¡Ni quiere a Dios!" or "Not even God wants that!"

Noemi helping herd some straggling cows along the way.

We were rewarded with this, the Mirador Vista Bonita - restaurant and swimming pool overlooking Lake Nicaragua. Made it all worth it.

Grubbin' on the guapote:

I introduced Noemi to my friends that own the farm nearby. Nica sandwich flanked by white bread...

Had a pick up basketball game with the four of my neighbors. It was more like jump balls, no traveling, no double dribbles - stongest wins. I did find I could dominate on the inside (for the first time in my life), and Julito and I won two of three games.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

3 months in site

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

Work stuff _________________________________

Work is going well – we strarted working on planning a community educational campaign for rational water use. As of now, water is delivered to the city and is rationed by the water company. Different neighborhoods get water at different times – the other day some friends of mine said they were up from midnight until 3 am filling barrels for use in the following week. At my house, there is a well that is used to supplement the city water. But, for most people, water is a problem in the summertime. People suffer more from diarrhea and dengue in the summertime – due to drinking suspect water, not enough water for washing hands and bathing, and stored water where mosquitoes can breed.

However, within a few years (si Dios quiere, as they say here in Nicaragua (if God so desires)), a 22 km long aqueduct will bring water from Lake Nicaragua to the city – sponsored in large part by the Korean government. This should solve the water scarcity issue. So, to prepare for that, the city officials want to begin a campaign to educate people to use water wisely. (Though I think the projected 40% increase in price will help convince people too…).

I worked with the head of the municipal environmental education committee to sketch out a rough plan – beginning with a survey to determine which campaign methods have been most effective in the city in the recent past. We held our first committee meeting of the year to polish up the survey and determined how to distribute it. I was pleased with the turnout at the environmental education committee meeting – and it was good to finally do something rather than just watch! I didn’t take any pictures, because I’m still a little worried of looking like a tourist at commission meetings, but to give you an idea – I did a powerpoint presentation in an air conditioned room at the local agriculture college where we all drank Cokes out of a bottle and ate Ritz crackers. Sounds a little like seminar at Michigan Tech, not Peace Corps in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.

We were supposed to present our plan at the Environmental Commission today, but the meeting was cancelled. (I did get invited out for a pelibuey lunch, though – in part to make up for the cancelled meeting and in part to celebrate “Women’s day” Do we have that in the US? Pelibuey is a a delicious cross between a goat and sheep.)

I also met with a representative from the EPA equvalent institution to find out what they are doing to complete a watershed management plan for a river north of the city. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management equivalent institution is planning another WMP for the river that passes right by the city…I still don’t understand how they decide who does what, and why two different institutions are doing the same thing in different areas…but I guess that’s all part of the fun. Perhaps it’s because the river to the north is affected by multinational’s large scale gold mining operations and that’s why EPA-like people are involved, whereas the river going by the city is more affected by agricultural and ranching activities, thus calling the attention of the BLM-like people.

Farm visit__________________________________

I met a great family, (Cesar-pop, Xiomara-ma, Yvette-daughter and Alex-Yvette’s baby) that took me out to their farm this weekend. It’s located about 10 km outside the city – in the foothills of the Amerrisque mountains.

There is no electricity at the farm which makes it peaceful, at least when the roosters aren’t crowing. Though Cesar’s family doesn’t live there, there’s another family that lives there and work the land – small scale farming and ranching. They don’t pay them anything, but the family is allowed to eat whatever they grow or extract from the cows. Cesar had environmentally aware role models (grandpa and dad), who taught him not to burn his fields or chop down trees, and the importance of having a latrine (there are still many rural familes that don’t have latrines). Thus the farm is like a little ecological preserve – on a walk we saw three guardabarrancos (national bird) and two little owls (pygmies??).

Unlike most of the rivers in the foothills, theirs does not dry up in the summer – no doubt due in part by his good land management. They saddled a horse for me and I got to tool around the countryside.

On my ride, I found an old Sandanista military base – now deserted. Cesar said that the Sandanista soliders used to steal their cattle – needless to say, he’s a middle of the roader leaning to the right. He’s of the mindset that, “for this world to work, we need rich people and poor people. If everyone were rich, there would be no one to work, and if everyone were poor, there would be no one to work for.” He also had a nice metaphor using cogs – “if we were all the same size, the machine wouldn’t go – there’s got to be all different sizes.” He also sees the economic demise of Nicaragua coinciding with the fall of the Samoza dictatorship – which was taken down by the Sandanista revolution in 1979.

Some of the farm animals...

When they started cooking, I thought they were preparing for the Sandanista army to come back...

Monkey hike _________________________________________

On Sunday I went with Celine and some of her friends that live on a rural farm near her town on a beautiful hike to see monkeys. She had been before and saw about 20 – but we weren’t so lucky and only saw one lazy one sleeping high in the tree. But, it was worth it for the hike.

If he had been awake, maybe he would've looked like this...

On the home front___________________________________

At my house, things are shaping up slowly – I have a composting barrel, and after I explained what it was for my closest neighbor and friend (and landlady), without any suggestion from me, asked if she could throw her organics there too. She also said she wanted to plant a garden. (Am I in the Peace Corps? This is too easy…) I also have my kitchen “sink” (if you can call it that – it’s a behemoth cement structure with a washboard) hooked up to a hose so that all my greywater is used to water the trees and plants around my house. Every so often Patricia (landlady-friend) and/or Chayo (her mom) come up to the house for dinner. I made a salad with Thai peanut sauce a few weeks ago and they dug it, so the other day I had them over to show them how to make it.

I also set up my guest accommodations...