Thursday, December 27, 2007

An overdue farewell

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

I've been negligent to my blog...sorry. I've been home for almost two months now, and have been so visiting friends all over Arizona and California that I haven't had a chance to write my last blog entry. So, now that Christmas is over and everyone is comatose fromm too much food, I'll take this opportunity to wrap this thing up...

The last few months were busy finishing up projects with the kids, final youth group meetings and a pump test that the local water utility was very generous to donate for my thesis are the guys who did two and a half days of work for me...

And the exciting part of a pump test...which you can see is about as fun as watching water flow out of a pipe all day:

So, turning to more interesting things - here are some photos from some of my despedidas - or farewell parties:

We arranged a trip to the zoo with the school kids for one final hurrah while I was are the kids and moms piled into the truck to take us there:

Kids from the group I helped lead on a trip through the zoo...and the monkeys hoping for a cheeto from the kids:

After the education tour, there were several dancing numbers by some of the kids, speeches, and a little gift exchange.

A final shot of the kids and moms I worked with:

I made it to the opening season game for the Chicas Lakers - they awarded me the trophy we had one at a recent tournament:

And my good friend, and teammate, Ada planned a farewell party for me after the game:

This is my mixed origin group of friends - Nicaraguan, US, Swedish, and Finnish at one of our last get togethers:

So, that's about it. Guense and I left the country without any hang ups on November 2nd, as was lucky enough to have some good Peace Corps friends see me off at the airport. I have talked to a number of my friends back in Nicaragua...they are as gracious as ever and are really looking forward to my return (Spring break 2008)...

as am I.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

2 months to go...

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

I finally got to put together the video footage I took on the chemical volcano building day at the school last March...

Here are some pictures I took from Environment Week we celebrated at the school - we collected lots of trash, had a clean yard contest with members of the community, and learned about proper waste management and personal hygiene with some support from the government ministries of the environement and health.

Here's the whole school in front of the banner we made. It says, "We're responsible - we throw trash in it's place - do you?"

Peace Corps volunteer wedding fever

To date, 5 of the 14 elegible bacholorette Peace Corps Volunteers in my group have either married or are to be married soon to Nicaraguans. Could be a new record. Here's Lindsay and Luis after taking their dancing followed!

Santa Lucia

A small group of my friends decided to take a weekend trip to a nearby beautiful town to take in the sites. There is some spectacular - and strenuous - hiking around the area. Most of the towns people have their plots of land they use to grow beans and corn, but we could see that they are using plenty of good farming techniques - erosion barriers, polyculture, and alternatives to burning fields.

Here's Fatima, Sarah (PCV), two of our many children guides), and Henry. Sarah came down from up north to my site to visit for a very busy weekend. Fatima and Henry are some of my best friends here in Nicaragua - Fatima is Nicaraguan and has finished her master's in sociology in Managua, and Henry is from Sweden, but has lived here for 6 years or so. He is finshing his degree on-line in permaculture. They have bought some land a few hours from the city and are currently having a house built. As their farm grows - using the farming techniques that Henry is learning about now - they would like to open it as a training center for other small farmers - focusing on more sustainable and lower impact farming. Currently, until Henry finishes up, they are starting a small scale jam business here in town.

Cactus along the way.

Henry told me these, in English, are called Ice Cream Beans. You don't actually eat the beans, but instead suck off the slightly sweet cotton candy like fuzz surrounding each one.

Some of the great views from above.

Noemi in our prison cell-like room for the night.

Hiking Volcan Telica

A tour operator in Leon offers a moonlight hike up one of Nicaragua's volcanoes - called Volcan Telica. It is still active, and it's last eruption was in 2000...I think? A bunch of us decided to go up it - here we are before starting out at about midnight. There were about 35 people in the group. It took us about 4 hours to get to the top, but really it's about 3 hours over almost flat land just to get to the base, and then one hour or so up.

Here's the same group at about 5 am. The big draw of the hike is to see the lava in the crater - it shows up really well in the dark. Unfortunatley, there was too much smoke coming out for us to get a glimpse down the crater. One of the benefits of hiking a volcano in Nicaragua is there are no safety restrictions - you could easily sacrifice yourself, or someone else, if you wanted to.

As the sun came up, we got a better view of the's very peaceful and quiet up there.

Crossing through one of the bean fields.

Finally, looking back towards the volcano.


Alberto Gutierrez is an old timer practicing a forgotten art. He carves figures into rock walls near his home. Many show Nicaragaun historical figures, but there are also lots of wild animals and some religious alter type art as well. He's really a character - and he loves his work - he dedicates 4 hours every day to carving and has done so since the earlly 70s. He explained nearly every piece he's done, and after each explanation, would finish with a little self-depreciatory giggle.

When we were leaving Gutierrez's home, I sighted this strange "phenomena" in the one I've shown it to knows what it is...if you do, please write me!

Ramona's 19th birthday

My neighbor Ramona celebrated her 19th birthday and invited me to eat with them. She's on the far left, her husband is next to her. To my right and left are my landlady, Chilo, and Ramona's 15-year old sister, Elda. The husband usually only comes on the weekends, and Ramona and Elda and I share a backyard, so we've gotten close. That happens when you accidently walk in on someone in the latrine. It is good to have them near me because they always seem to be happy. I always hear peals of high-pitched Elda laughs coming through my walls.

Close of Service Conference

At the end of every group's service, Peace Corps holds a conference at the swankiest beach resort in Nicaragua for the soon to be RPCVs (return peace corps volunteers). All you can eat food and drink, and very very cold conference rooms. Logistics on how to get out of the peace corps is carefully explained ad nauseam. Everyone just wanted to get out to the gigantic pool with their Nica libres in hand.

Time is winding down for us here. Among our group, talk has turned from Peace Corps projects and living overseas challenges to what's coming next...

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.