Wednesday, March 28, 2007

...but it's a dry heat??

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

The water crisis in my city is brutal now. We have used all the water in the 900 gallon water tank we have and are now buying 55 gallon barrels at a time. I have to admit I wasn't too stressed about it before since everyone told me water was always available for sale during the summertime. But it appears that there are less and less private vendors these days - turns out that THEY are having a hard time finding water outside the city limits. The price has gone up 25% since last month when water stopped coming from our taps once a week like it usually did (severe water rationing by the water company). We still have a month more of this...that is if it rains May 1. The good news is that pretty much every day, although it is as hot as blazes, there are clouds - and not just high wispy ones. I think the rains may come early.

Water scarcity forced my neighbors Ramon and Elda and I to go to a public well in town to wash clothes. The well is hand dug – there were about 15 kids, practially naked, bearing buckets and pulling up water. All the washing stations were full (there were about 12 or so). The women there washed like the wind! I was so impressed. They were constantly yelling to their kid to stop picking on the little girl, go hang up the washed clothes, get more water, don’t drink the water, stop crying, go get more soap etc. All this while working as fast as the spin cycle on a washing machine. I was glad that they were working fast since we did have to wait about 45 minutes to get two free stations. Ramona and I washed while Elda, the younger sister, kept our water reservoir full. It cost us 3 Cordobas (about 17 cents) each. I think we will probably be doing that for the next month… Saturday afternoons.

4 hours later...

Ecological footprint

There is a neat website on line,, which you can go to to find out how many planet Earths it would take to support everyone in the world if they lived as you live. There is a 15 or so question quiz, and it gives you an idea of how much you really do consume - it takes into consideration size of house, electricity consumption, ground and air transportation, eating habits, etc.

When I lived in Houghton, MI, I did the quiz and came up with 2.9 Earths. Here in Nicaragua, if everyone were to live like me, we would need 1.8. My friend, Gisselle - a native Nica who works with an NGO I work with, however, did the quiz too and came up with 1. Seems like the developing world need to start sending volunteers to the industrialized world to start teaching us how walk softer.

Chicas Lakers

We are halfway through our season and our team (in the bottom photo those sitting and in the very back), are is 3-1 (don't even get me started on the loss).

Here we are with the Chicas Oro (gold girls - there is a lot of gold mining where they live)...
I'm not sure why they are smiling - we just kicked their traseros.

Ground water monitoring

My friend Antoinette, who works for a Dutch NGO (SNV), put together a workshop for regional rural water technicians to begin a groundwater monitoring program in the rural sector. I helped by explaining the logistics of the program, and showing them a cheap, easy way to check the water level in a well.

Here they are learning how to choose wells to monitor.

Retrofitting the well for monitoring access.

Taking water level measurments.

Many of the wells are also contaminated with fecal coliform. Well owners should clean their wells periodically by putting a bleach solution in the wells...but many times maintenence goes by the wayside. This technician bought his own pool kit to make sure the water was clean enough.

Learning about Volcanoes

In the school, when I did a quick survey to see which natural science subject most interested the 3rd-6th science came in last. Having spent countless hours looking at rocks and soil in my life - and knowing how exciting it really is !! - I decided to (hopefully) change their attitude about rocks and do a unit on volcanoes. We learned about the interior of the earth, and parts of a volcano. Then, we broke up into teams of 4 and made chemical volcanoes. I think they might like rocks (or at least science experiments) a little more now...

Each team build up a volcano around a plastic pop bottle which served as the magma chamber.

I suggested they could put little sticks for trees and rocks on their volcano. They took it a step further and each decorated their volcano with bouganvilla flowers. We could barely see the volcanos for all the flowers.

One of the teams and their be-flowered volcano.

Mixing the "magma" - vinegar, water, dish soap and bicarbonate.

The kids had a great time making and watching them erupt. Stay tuned for a video showing all the action!