Monday, February 26, 2007

Some more pics

This is a woman selling fish in the market. They all have these fly-swatter type devices that they fan back and forth all day long. She also had mussels, crabs and shrimp.

Here are 5 of the 6 guys from our group (one was in Panama having surgery for a broken nose...long story) enjoying some sweet waves at the beach.

Mason and Brenna at the Super Bowl party.

Mason unwrapping his birthday present from Brenna. We use plastic bags for everything! And yes, I do have a beard and wear "wife-beaters" now.

26 Feb Update

Hello Everyone…

The days are slow but the weeks fly by. I can’t believe we’ve been out of the USA for 6 months already! We’re pretty busy now that we’re both in the schools. Also, we’re working with a couple of different NGOs. One of them wants our help building a vivero (tree nursery) and with the other we have plans to start an after-school program for “at-risk” (they even have that term down here) kids. Brenna is working with that second one much more than I am. They are at the very beginning stages of being an NGO and are spending most of their time looking for money and trying to get organized. Those things seem to take a greater understanding of the Spanish language than I have now. Also, the two of us are really trying to work on different projects to be a bit more individual. I am planning on starting a conversational English class for the High School English teachers in town. Some speak well and others don’t. I think that if I can teach the teachers better English they will then be better teachers and the idea of learning English in the High Schools will be more successful.

Also, we have our work in the schools. I will try to build a vivero at two of my schools. I’d love to build one at the other but there is no water. Maybe I’ll try to get the bomba (pump) on the pozo (well) fixed instead. That poor school… They have no shade, power or water and it’s so hot and dusty. There are only about 20 kids (1-6 grades) in the whole school and there is one teacher. My teachers still don’t understand why we don’t have schools like that in the US.

Now we are going to each school at least once a week and giving classes about the environment. We are both starting with trees because we want to build viveros and with the rainy season a few months away, this is the time to get started planting seeds. It is amazing how fast everything grows down here. I planted the seeds from a papaya that we were eating about 5 weeks ago and I now have 22 baby papaya trees from 4-6 inches tall. I also have an avocado tree that sprouted about a week ago and is now 5 or so inches tall. It’s really cool to see an avocado tree grow. I took the seed from one that we ate and buried it with the pointy part up and the top 2-3 cm sticking out of the soil. I did my best to keep the soil moist. Oh yeah, I also scratched the seed a little bit with a knife before I planted it. Slowly over 4 weeks or so the seed split in two and now a sprout is coming out of the opening in the seed. It’s too bad that it won’t give fruit for another 8 or 9 years (in the Peace Corps, we call that a sustainable project). Oh well, at least the papayas will be giving fruit in a year or less. I plan on planting a few papayas in the yard and I will regalar (give as a gift) the rest to friends and neighbors. I was never a big papaya eater before, but they are all over the place down here. The fruits are huge too! We’re talking a couple of feet long. It’s pretty cool to be eating all of these fruits and vegetables that we don’t regularly, or ever, have in the States, but I really miss berries. Aside from that, we have most of the same fruits as home plus a whole lot more. I’m hoping to plant a couple of banana trees in the yard, but they are different because they don’t come from a seed and I will have to break off a piece of a currently growing banana tree. We’ll see…

I’m running out of thoughts here, so I’ll give you some pics. Hasta luego.

Here are my papayas and avocado. They are planted in the bottom half of soda bottles, which are easy to find in the streets here.

A close-up of the avocado.

We climbed a volcano the other week called Cerro Negro. This is the view looking North from the summit. On the left border of the pic, about 3/4 of the way up is a darker spot. That is Malpaisillo. Notice the black lava flows from the most recent eruption in 1999. Pretty cool.

This is another volcano close to us called Momotombo. A volunteer lives here, on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. We hope to climb this soon.

Another view of Momotombo with an old fishing boat.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

11 February 2007

Mas and I are entering into our third week of classes, and after about two and a half months here in Malpaisillo we are finally beginning to get a routine down. We each have three schools which we travel to by bike. Most of them are really small, poor and rural, which makes for an interesting experience. For one of my schools that is about 4k away, I ride through a dry ditch and go along a path that passes through two peanut farms. The school is just in a small patch of trees surrounded by farmland. I love it! That school is so poor that many kids don’t even come with shoes on, and a few even have fleas bouncing around in their hair. I plan on beginning the process of starting tree nurseries in two of my schools this week. The third school (mentioned above) has no water, so no nursery. The kids bring water bottles, but by about 11:00 their water is gone and they get really tired and thirsty.

There is a pozo, (well) at my other country school. It’s actually the community well, but it is right next to the school, so when we need water, we give them a big bucket and they fetch us water. The process is really cool. There is a horse that a small kid is usually riding. The horse is attached to the rope that holds the bucket at the bottom of the well. The kid gets the horse to walk about 50 to 60 yards, and up comes the bucket full of water. They have to do this for EVERY bucket full! Everyone in the community!!! Needless to say, just getting enough daily water is a lot of work in itself.

Speaking of water, now that we are fully in the dry season, it is becoming quite scarce even in our community of 8,000 people. The town’s water pump is about 2 miles out of town, so the water travels pretty far through underground tubes to get here. The problem now is that there is not enough water pressure for all the water to get to all parts of the town. About half of the town is slightly uphill from the pump, so they hardly ever have water. I’ve been told that the upper third of town only gets water from about 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. This is just likely to get worse for them as the dry season continues. Meanwhile, down on our side, water is very reliable. We’re just lucky we chose to live where we do! Our Peace Corps site mate, Jon, on the other hand is one of the unlucky ones. He’s presently looking for a new house!

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working with a group of six community members who are trying to start up a non profit here in town to help kids at risk. We have a number of children who have been identified as high risk, meaning they are involved in prostitution, drugs, violence at home, etc… Most of them don’t go to school, but sell little trinkets in the streets instead. In the worst cases, their parents force them into selling and if they don’t make a certain amount of money every day, they are beaten. Some of these kids fall into prostitution in order to bring enough money home at night. There are about 25 of these kids we have identified, so the plan is to have a “cultural center” three days a week with various educational and recreation activities available for them. We are in the planning stages of the project now, and currently looking for funding, which is looking like it will take a long time! I’m learning a lot with this, and I find it quite exciting trying to build this idea up into a functioning and beneficial activity.

We’ve also been spending quality time cooking, reading, doing yoga and walking the dog. We’ve made homemade yogurt, mayonnaise and peanut butter, and we just bought some soya beans to make our own tofu! We’ve got a heck of a compost pile going, and Mas has about 15 baby papaya trees and two avocado trees. We also planted 4 coconut trees recently. As soon as the compost is ready we’ll plant our tomato, cucumber, pepper and lettuce seeds. We love having a dog, he makes us laugh and we fight over who he loves most. (Me). We have been showered with awesome care packages lately, wow! Thanks everyone! It feels great to know you are all thinking of us.

For all of you cold people in Colorado just know that while we can’t ski, we’ll be spending next weekend at the beach for Mas’s birthday. He’s so used to having winter birthdays he says it feels weird to be planning a beach trip in February. Pretty nice though. Adios, pues!