Monday, May 29, 2006


WHO: Essa (aka Vanessa)
WHAT: Peace Corps, Environmental Education
WHERE: Nicaragua
WHEN: Sept '05 - Nov '07
WHY: To see this tarantula come shooting out of my tennis shoe after I unsuccessfully try to stuff my foot in his newly chosen home.

The "Save the Trees" parade we've been planning over the past few months finally happened. It was BIG! I was worried no one would show...but there were probably about 700 students! We walked all around town with banners, little saplings and plants, some even brought their parakeets. It ended at the steps of the cathedral in downtown, so we got quite a bit of exposure.

This banner says, "Other countries suffer water scarcity. We should care for our rivers."

"Life in your hands - protect the forests"

"We protect forests because they make the rain possible, give homes to animals, and give man food and medicine."

Fry Oscar addressing the students. He's the prinical of the Franciscan school, and the one who originally came up with the parade idea.

There was cultural dancing, music and singing as well. This girl and the others dancing with her are from the local orphanage. They are commonly invited to city events to perform.

The best dressed 6th grade class that showed up:

After the parade, the trees were planted at the cathedral.

Visit to Celine's house___________________________________

Over the weekend, I spent a few days in Celine's town. I needed a little bit of downtime and a break from my community. It rained a little bit:

Some of Celine's neighborhood kids and I got a hankerin' for some tamarind we shook some out of the tree in her yard.

A common sight on the roads into town:

Small bank project____________________

After getting the lowdown on how to do a small community bankat the Peace Corps In-Service training, my counterpart and I were inspired to start one with the 12 teachers under his direction. It's an internal short term savings and loan designed for members to save monthly and take out small loans. Here's Wilder in my house preparing the presentation.

Wilder making the pitch. I could see cordoba (Nica currency) signs flashing the the teachers´eyes as he spoke.


My friend Marisol and her daughter Erlinda came to help me paint a few walls in my house. This was supposed to be "dark salmon", but it turned out more like "sherbert orange." In any case, it's better than the current shade of "alcatraz cement." I also finally bought the obligatory hammock for my house. Right after I hung it up, I laid down to try it out, and it works well because I woke up an hour later.

Too late to save this one. The upper left I took last December - and the lower right is how it looks now.

I managed to capture these little flowers in my yard before the deer came and mowed 'em down.

It's hot and muggy right now. The rains have come, though they are pretty sporadic yet. However, it hasn't taken much for the green to take over the charred land - it practically happened overnight. The mosquito population, unfortunately, also quadrupled overnight...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

In Service Training

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

Summer’s panorama of spindly leafless trees growing from carbon black dirt is the photo negative of a shapshot of the midwest’s snowy winter landscape. With the ground at its driest, farmers have lit up the land in an attempt to rid the fields of weeds and prepare the land for crops and better grazing for the cattle in the months to come. At night, live red scars blaze across the blackness, and during the day, smoke plumes dot the land, as if the natives were engaged in lively dialogue. The charred ground is dotted by whispy shrubs and scrubby trees that refused to burn, and wispy cows and scrubby horses that refuse to die.

As though the earth were spontaneously combusting the ­­Córtez trees, which have taken root in the valleys, burst into flaming yellow flowers. They seem to fly in the face of summer’s best attempt to slowly return every living thing to dust. And although it appears that summer has mother earth beat, the flowers announce that she has won the battle withthe scorching season as they bloom just before the winter rains.

In Service Training _______________________

Most volunteers are located in hot, arid zones , and perhaps PC Nica knows it as they plan our yearly week long training at the end of the summer when it's at its most dastardly. All of the Environment group and counterparts were invited to the Selva Negra, a more or less self sustaining organic coffee farm in the department of Matagalpa - up in the north and in the mountains. The farm was founded by a handful of German settleers in the late 1800s and they've expanded operations into resort accommodations and flower cultivation. As the land is private, it's been protected from the rampant tree cutting wiping out native forests of Central America.

I was thrilled to head up there thinking I could hike around the mountians and explore for monkeys...but when I got there I realized we had solid meetings from practically sun up to sun down. Nonetheless, we did manage to have some fun.

My counterpart, Wilder, and I...we took this one about 10 times, since he had the hardest time actually smiling for a photo (although he smiles all the time in real life). Some of us on a monkey hunt in the wee hours. We didn't see any, but we heard their eerie calls. It was creepy.
One of the more fun talks was on using recycled materials to make arts and crafts. Here we are bending bottle caps...
Oragami samuri hats...
Bottle cap checkers...

After the training bit, Noemí, Allie and I rented a couple of horses to explore the farm.
Here's all the Enviro Ed group with our country director, Todd. He's unfortunatley leaving Nicaragua next week to head up Peace Corps Guatemala.
Fiestas patronales in Villa Sandino__________

I went back to the Villa to help celebrate Mike's birthday (he's the grillmaster). It also happened to be the week of the patron saint party, which was timely.

We had a potluck at Marrisas's place -

And went to the bull riding competition. The action was so slow inside the ring though, that I liked watching the people more...

Kids at the school__________________

Still clearing the ground for the garden - we planted the seeds in the seedbed we made a few weeks ago, and within 2 hours the ants were all over it. We'll see how bad the damage is in a few weeks...

A photo of the after school youth group of girls. They agreed on the name of Rebeldes (the rebels) which is also the name of a popular Mexican soap opera revolving around high school girls.

Random pics_______________________