01 julio, 2011

We started our morning leaving Managua and heading to a very informative meeting with an American ex-pat, Judy Butler. Judy works as a journalist and translator here in NIcaragua, and had a wealth of information to offer us about the context of working in NIcaragua. It was wonderful to hear her perspectives on living and working in a nation where the people are essentially living with generational PTSD, and simultaneously are baffling strong and generous.

We then headed down to Masaya, a charming artisan city with a wonderful public market. Our time in Masaya was limited, but we all really loved the experience,  thanks Jason and Dr White for the free explore time:)  We had the opportunity to share a meal with an economic advisory from the US Embassy in Mangua, who also happens to be from Beaverton! She gave us some great insight on human side of the Embassy, and what its like to live and work abroad. Our day ended at a picturesque crater lake called Laguna de Appoyo, where we stayed in awesome bungalow villas nestled in the forest above the lake; and fell asleep to the laser-like sounds of frogs, crazy loud birds, and the calls of howler monkeys.  Today sure felt a bit like a vacation…


30 Junio 2011

Today was our last full day in Managua as a whole group.  We started the day with a visit to the offices of Esperanza en Accion, an NGO that works with artisan cooperatives and groups to sell various artisan crafts and help local artists.  However, due to one of Managua´s rolling power outages, we re-arranged the schedule and first headed to the community of El Timal where women artistts make jewelry out of recovered materials from a local landfill.  We got a first hand show of the innovative jewelry making process in the community and got to visit with some local residents, complete with impromtu soccer playing in the dirt streets.  The visit to El Timal wqas interesting, informative, and one of the most authentic experiences of the trip.

We returned to Managua for the afternoon, and met with Yamileth Perez, an amazing community organizer who works for Esperanza and manages numerous community projects as well.  After spending several years living in the Managua city loandfill, La Chureca, Yamileth turned her attention full time to relieving conditions of violence and suffering among residents of the landfill and surrounding areas.  The group got an overview of a current project–a youth radio station being developed to give a public voice to those living in such conditions.  The visits of the day concluded with a drive through La Chureca, still home to over 200 families who make their livelihoods by collecting refuse scraps in the landfill.  The day provided much insight and first hand experience of numerous successful community development projects, and exposed us to an aspect of life in Managua which we had not yet seen.

Today we met with two branches of the U.S. Government in Nicaragua. First we went to the Peace Corps headquarters and talked with JoAynne, the country director. This year is their 50th anniversary and their role in Nicaragua seems more important than ever. They focus on the education/training of kids and adults in business, English, health, environment and a variety of other fields. They seem to be successfully facilitating the sharing of ideas between both of our cultures and nations. They also have an awesome Masters International program where grad students can get their Masters from a partner University while serving the Peace Corps, similar to Americorps and Teach for America.
During lunch at Ola Verde, which supports sustainable, healthy and socially conscious food practices, we talked to Carla, who owns it, about bringing Portland´s food cart culture to Nicaragua.
Next we met with Embassy Officers of the U.S. and talked about USAID as well as other issues and questions. It was a very different face of the U.S. Government. The tone was that of a press conference and the Officers seemed very defensive and gave very few straight answers. The USAID representative seemed very different from the other officers of Economics, Consulur Affairs and Foreign Policy. We got a little off topic but the experience was still very useful for us all and we did learn a lot about USAID and how the U.S. Embassy operates. It was very intimidating though.
Tonight we´re eating dinner at the Casa de Mejia Godoy, two brothers who are Nicaraguan folk music heroes.

28th Junio 2011

Another beautiful day in Nicaragua and all is well.  Today we visited Habitar, a non-profit, locally based organisation that focuses on sustainable housing, solid waste containment, micro-financing, social promotion and political relations.  They have been helping individuals legalize the ownership of their land and making it a clean and safe place to live.  They’ve been working for 20 years in Managua bringing citizens together to empower themselves, to hold community meetings and financing programs with the help of the United States, European Union  and Peru.


We were invited to see Blanca’s underground bio-filter that has been installed to filter dish washing water into grey water that was then used for their toilets.  Two households, containing 10 people total all share the responsibility of filtering grey water in their backyard.  By removing the old latrine/pit system, Citizens were installing western style toilets that had underground piping that fed into septic tanks to collect the solids and above ground flower beds for the liquids, providing a green alternative to sewage management.  Since there is no official plumbing system, the grey water from the dishes can now be used to ‘flush’ the toilets.
We finished our day with a tour of the Masaya Volcano National Park.  Still active and very beautiful, we enjoyed the space and the views of Nicaragua’s forests and lakes.


Monday June 27

Wow, it is hard to believe that an entire week has gone by since we began our learning experience in Nicaragua. This week begins our more quickly paced, more intensive learning. On Monday we met with two organizations working in Managua: Jubilee House and La Zona Franca. Jubilee House is a non-profit supporting one of the many fringe-communities of Managua that develop during times of intense, unplanned immigration. This is a community of internally displaced people that come here both because of natural disasters and lack of economic opportunity. La Zona Franca is a cooperative of woman who obtained a low interest loan from Jubilee House to start a garmant factory. Many of us will be bringing home shirts from them! It is definitely hotter, busier and generally less comfortable in Managua than Esteli or Tisey, but the group is handling it well. This country and its culture continue to amaze us every day.

Saturday, 6/25

Today we are just taking it easy. We woke up and gathered together to have a breakfast. Every meal we had so far was simple, but delicious. After breakfast we split into two groups: one went to explore the forest and another sought out the local goat cheese farm. Our road to town was opening up with beautiful scenery at every turn. Some of the farm land was terraced; others fallowed the natural curves of the land. I was able to video tape a farmer plowing with bulls. We run across the local version of water well and the outdoor stove. Although it is a weekend for most of the city dwellers, work on the farm never stops.

We reached Comunitario La Garnacha in about 15 minutes. There was a large billboard with hand drawn map at the town’s entry and there were a couple of boys playing in the school yard. We saw a young man taking a horse with newly born fowl across the street. Professor White and I stopped at a local shop and had a conversation with the saleswomen. She seems to be very knowledgeable about the community. Surprisingly enough she also knew some English. Among the merchandise sold, which caught our attention, were baskets, vases and hats made of pine needles. What an intricate and labor intensive work.

On the way back we have heard the story about three monks who have established the cheese factory here and it became quite successful. I recall seeing some of their product sold on the farmers market in Estelí. The rest of the day we had a chance to catch up on studies since it was raining heavily again. The last event of the day was to see a machete in action. One of the men working in a hostel decided to harvest some of the bananas. I was able to video tape only the very end of it.

Sunday June 26

Today marked a full week in Nicaragua.  We awoke for our last day at the Tisey Eco Pasada, ate breakfast and boarded a crowded Tica-bus to Estili. In Estili we immediately boarded another express bus to Managua. The bus was a little bit nicer and a lot less crowded, we arrived in the crowded, large, and loud city and arriving at the pristine Las Maracas hotel. After getting settled into our rooms, we headed down the street to the insanity of the mall down the street for lunch, which, aside from not being able to understand a lot of conversation, was very similar to malls in the states. After that experience, we decided we couldn’t go back there for dinner. We convinced Doctor White to go out to dinner somewhere else, so we went to a restaurant called Hadee. Upon entering, a young American missionary woman approached Owen asking “is your name Aaron?”  She was convinced he was.

Needless to say, Dr.  White and a few of us were since convinced that she was enamored with him. After a nice, relaxing dinner, we returned to the Hotel to meet up with Jason and get a good night’s rest for our first day of visiting organizations in Managua.