I woke up at 7:30am to the sound of a rooster crowing and the crash of a steady stream of water hitting an already full bucket. Only half an hour until our busy day was going to start but to my delight, there was a bag full of fresh pastries waiting in the kitchen for breakfast. I grabbed a croissant, threw on the cleanest clothes I could find 11 days into our trip, and crammed myself into Yader’s van for our trip out of the city. Today we had an extra person traveling with us who was going to be making an additional stop with Rachael and me to show us a town he had been working closely with over the past several years in conjunction with the Children’s World Relief Fund. Our first stop was in the Santa Rosa community where everyone else was going to check in on the community garden we had planted over the summer and have lunch with some of our old friends, while Rachael and I continued forward. We arrived in Calle Real about half an hour after we had dropped off the rest of the group in Santa Rosa and began our meeting with the primary and secondary school principals. With Michael translating for us we discovered that this was a town of potters that unfortunately lacked the business skills to profit from their work. About 40% the town would make large, gorgeous pots and vases by hand and then sell them for only C$10 when it took C$10 to buy the materials. The people who bought the pottery would then turn around and sell it at the market for close to C$400 per pot while the workers struggled to make enough money to eat. Michael went on to tell us that the community wanted to start a polytechnic school where they could learn skills in woodworking, agriculture, cuisine, and beauty. We also found out that the community has been trying to get a pottery wheel so that they can be more efficient and improve their skills in ceramics. Rachael and I spent close to 2 hours learning about the possibilities this town possessed and the ones that were just were out of reach for them. We were able to see one of the communities’ most experienced potters complete a pot using the skills she had been defining for 65 years. We left Calle Real with a plethora of new ideas that could help bring new opportunities to the artisans of this this community. When we arrived in Santa Rosa again, I found the rest of the group gathered a familiar table finishing up lunch. We were back at Paula’s house (or as she liked to be called “our Nicaraguan Mama”), a place I had stayed for my very first days in Nicaragua over the summer. This was the house where I had spent any extra time I could find lounging in the hammocks, eating fresh mangos, and trying to decipher the fast Spanish words of Paula’s family. As soon as I got out of the van, Paula gave me a huge hug and made jokes about all of the dancing that took place over the summer. Unfortunately, we only had a little extra time before the whole group needed to depart so Rachael and I rushed down the street to visit the children we had played with so often last time. I was so touched that the young girls remembered me and that they were so excited to see us. It felt like we only had a chance to say hello before Yader’s van came bouncing down the dirt road to pick us up and take us back to Leon. We all said our goodbyes to the incredible group of children that repeatedly beat us in outdoor sports games and piled into the van.
After an hour of whizzing in and out of traffic on the bustling highways of Nicaragua we arrived back in Leon to get ready for dinner. It was an exhausting, emotional day filled with the touching kindness of children, the sadness of saying goodbye to old friends, and the excitement of new possibilities.
Today was full of accomplishments. One group finished their house builds and got to present them to the families that will be living in them. Another group finished the work on the garden in La Isla. It is now ready for the group from Antioch University to come and plant what the garden will hold throughout the rest of it’s years. La Isla is a gorgeous area, but the standard of living there is one of the lowest I have ever seen. Everyone bathes, plays and washes clothes and dishes in the water that comes from the city. This water is full to the brim with E. coli and there are no other water sources for these families. They are very secluded from the city of chiticulpa and the city doesn’t try to help them. We worked with three volunteers from La Isla Foundation on the garden as well as a nine year old girl who lived in the house next to the garden. She was excited to help and worked amazingly hard. Hopefully this garden will be a way for families to get the nourishment that they are missing and help the women whose husbands and sons have passed due to the sugar came fields. Today was a wonderful day of finishing projects,but tomorrow we head to roger de shon to finish the garbage recepticals and help the community pick up trash!
This was the second day of construction on the Techo homes, working on the community, and trash pick-up. The construction team went to work on the most accomplishing day of construction as a whole. Two of our team members worked on putting up the rest of the walls, roof, windows, and doors in their home.While the other two spent the day digging the rest of the fifteen holes, putting the posts together, and then finally the foundation. The community garden team spent a part of the day picking up trash in Roger De Shon. The trash that was in the river and along the roads was cleaned, which made a positive impact on the people and the environment. After the team helped with the trash they were sent to work on the community garden. At the site they worked hard to revive the soil in order to grow future fruits and vegetables. Overall one home was built, and the other in the works to being finished. The community garden was revived and the trash clean up was successful.
Today we got to sleep in and enjoy a lovely breakfast of pancakes. Then we set out for a tour of the city. Our tour guide, David, was absolutely amazing. We got to learn so much about the history, first we saw a mural on a long wall that explained all the struggles Nicaragua has faced to become the happy independent country they are today. After this we set out to tour of 21, this was a torture chamber used in 1979 by contras. This was an amazing experience to hear and see the struggle these people faced, the types of torture used in this facility was unbelievable. At the end we got to climb up and walk around the building on the guards stand, this was a bit nerve-wracking at first due to my fear of heights. But the view was breathtaking looking over all the buildings. After the tour we were able to relax and drink a nice refreshing glass of lemonade. Then it was back to the house for dinner and a good night sleep before the hard work begins tomorrow!
Nicaraguan Culture Expressed through Art
As we set off for our day in Masaya, Nicaragua I had my heart set on Christmas gifts for my family. To say the least by the end of the day I had found much more than what I had expected. After a lovely lunch in this new city we hit the renowned Masaya market for a day of fun and shopping. Walking the maze of this market I was welcomed by not only the sights and smells of Nicaragua, but also by its history and culture shown through its art. There were antiques and modern art pieces side by side. Walking from one stall to another we were amazed to see the art, crafted from leaves, that local children made right in front of our eyes. As the day came to an end we loaded back up into our van with our mementos and headed to Leon, which would be our home for the next week.
This Friday the 13th was one that brought the opposite of bad luck. Tonight, the second group of our Enactus team arrived in Managua, ready to join us in Leon tomorrow. Meanwhile, while that half of the group was traveling through the air, our Enactus team was hard at work beginning a couple of our projects. After purchasing and storing all of the supplies needed to build the garbage receptacles in the Roger Deshon community yesterday, a group of us woke up this morning and commenced building the first trash container. The community leader, Guillermo, and his son, Jose, welcomed us back and helped us load and unload needed materials and supplies that they graciously allowed us to store in their living room. After plugging in our power tools and organizing our wood, we began to feel our way through the process of building the first receptacle. We found it to be a different experience than the scaled test receptacle we built back in Corvallis. We were dealing with Nicaraguan lumber, much wetter and less precisely cut then American lumber. Jose and another member of the community, Francisco, joined in our efforts as well as Laseca from Techo, our partner with whom we will participate in the house builds. Nicaraguans typically do not have access to power tools and so we taught them the basics of sawing and drilling. While we began, other members of the community began to level and clear a spot for the new dumpster to be placed. The construction proved to be a slow and strenuous process, and we soon paused for a lunch made by two of our previous micro-loan partners in the community, Lidia and Javier. Lidia made a delicious dish of yucca and rice and beans and also offered us what our group determined, the best lemonade we had ever had. Javier’s young daughters delivered us his fish, freshly caught and cooked. Francisco joined us for lunch and we also got a chance to talk with Lidia’s son, also named Jose. This Jose had taught himself English, and spoke of how he wanted to come to the United States someday. This caused me to ponder the possibility of Enactus sponsoring students from Roger Deshon to visit Oregon State to improve their English and learn about business in America. After stuffing ourselves, some of us returned to work on the trash receptacle while I, the storyteller, took my camera and followed Francisco and TECHO GIRL, for a tour of Roger Deshon. Our focus was on finding and capturing on camera the effects of the trash deposited in and around Roger’s natural setting. This tour was very eye opening as we came upon mound after mound of trash polluting a once beautiful river that cuts through Roger Deshon. Streams of milky water flowed from houses and into the stream. It was at this point that I truly realized the extent of the trash problem. After the tour we returned to help the group put the finishing touches on the trash receptacle. By this point it was mid-afternoon, meaning we had spent upwards of 6 hours on the build. We hope for more efficiency in the future. After lifting the box to its permanent location with the help of the community, some of the group headed home, while a few of us stayed to help facilitate one of our micro-loan workshops. We were a bit early and so as we waited at the school we soon made some new friends as a little girl and her baby brother and sister approached us. Luckily we had crayons on hand and so we had a very fun time coloring with them. After creating a Crayola masterpiece, we began the microloan workshop in front of a crowd of 7-10 community members. Our Techo partner led the program in Spanish and we added our own bits and pieces. The workshop focused on planning revenues, costs, and savings. The three of us Enactus members closed the meeting by talking a little about how the micro loans would be distributed and the requirements and procedures to obtain one. A successful workshop that helps set the stage for next week’s microloan interviews. We then headed home, and after dinner and WIFI sessions, hit the sack to prepare for tomorrow’s events. In the morning we are going to head to Managua to pick up the rest of our group and spend a fun day at the Masaya marketplace.