Thursday, June 21, 2007


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

WHEN: Sept '05 - Nov '07
WHY: La vida es un carnaval

El Castillo and the Rio San Juan

My friend Jose Luis came to visit from Arizona and we decided to brave the 15 hour boat ride across Lake Nicaragua to get a glimpse of the Rio San Juan. The river is a disputed border between Nicaragua and Costa the past Costa Rica has treid to capture the area, no doubt for development. Nica is not having any of that and maintians control. The area is quite remote now, but was hopping at the turn of the centuary when it was a major thouroghfare for north americans traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific. There is about a 20km track of land that kept Nicaragua from stealing Panama's fate. There were big plans for developing the waterway, but investors finally opted to put the canal further south. Since then, they say the Rio San Juan is better conserved now than 100 years ago.

Here's Jose Luis and I with two chavalos in the town of El Castillo. We played a little two-on-two until Jose Luis called it off claiming I had broken his toe. (it wasn't, but it was badly bruised).

El Castillo, a Spanish fort, was built to protect Nicaragua (which was under Spanish rule at the time), from, literally, the pirates of the Carribean. This river drains Lake Nicaragua, and the important colonial city of Granada sits on its shores.

Here's the Rio San Juan. I was a little disapointed in the lack of fauna...we only saw one monkey and one toucan. But I imagine those motor boats, which are equivalent to the fleets of old yellow school buses that transport people, chickens, and bags of beans from one town to the another have frightened them all away.
The flora was another thing altogether, as very dense rainforest flanks the banks of the river. Now these are impressive leaves (gringa for scale).

The only little sidewalk road in El Castillo, a town of about 3,000, I think. There are no cars, and we didn't even see any horses or cows, people just pulled their own little carts.

A Rio San Juan version of the family minivan.

University field trip

My counterpart and I arranged a trip to a local university, Universidad Autonomo de Nicaragua (UNAN), for the students of the rural school I work at. 19 kids from the community and one mother attended the trip.It was a great success, mostly because the university president loved the idea. He accompanied the children to and from the school in the private university bus, as well as on the tour of the university. Here they are in a question answer session.

They were all given a class on computers and the internet. I was impressed - they're all flat screen computers...we dont' even have those at my university!

Yassel, Fabiola, and Leisi, two are recent 6th grade graduates who are attending high school on Sundays. During the week Yassel works at her family's store, and Fabiola is caring for her sick mother. Leisi is still in 6th grade.

The president gave the kids a tour of his office, in which he has lots of Latin American articfacts and art that he has collected in his travels.

We got to watch a girls team practice Judo, and a couple of guys practice Tae Kwon Do. He talked about the university athletic teams they could join at length.

All in all it was a great counterpart and I are just hoping it serves to show the kids (and parents) that the university is not a far away, unatainable goal. It's only 7 km from their rural community.