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This page is the complete record of our first trip to Nicaragua in August 2008 - our travel log at the top and the plans we made for the trip before leaving at the bottom.
- 1 Photos
- 2 Travel Log
- 2.1 Random musing:
- 2.2 Date: August 20, 2008
- 2.3 Date: Aug 18, 4:48PM
- 2.4 Date: Aug 16, 11AM
- 2.5 Date: Aug 16, 7AM
- 2.6 Date: Aug 14, 12:33PM
- 2.7 Date: Aug 12, 2:33AM
- 2.8 Date: Aug 10, 11:04AM
- 2.9 Date: Aug 9, 7:17AM
- 2.10 Date: Aug 8, 8:43AM
- 2.11 Date: Aug 7 10:46AM
- 2.12 Date: Aug 6 7:14AM
- 2.13 Date: Aug 5 2008 12:43am
- 3 Pre-Trip Plans (kept as reference
You can see photos from our trip here
Below is the travel log from our first trip penned collaboratively by David and Kristine - mostly for our own future reference and also for the curiosity of future Nicaragua travelers. I have a lot of photos to add, but time is short and if you want to see them, yell at me and I'll probably get them up faster. Mark also wrote about our journey over at his blog
The one thing that I haven't spent any time considering is the active mechanisms that work to continue poverty. These are not necessarily malicious or greedy in nature. People might stay poor because of natural events and disease outbreaks. It just occurs to me that if there is money and energy going into fighting poverty, then there must be mechanisms counteracting that effort or things would be better by now. Perhaps I should spend more time considering the causes of poverty instead of trying to find ways to alleviate it.
Some days after random musing: Since my random musing, I have come to realize some of the active mechanisms in poverty. Nicaragua is a perfect example of them. In 1970, Nicaragua was the second wealthiest nation in Latin America, behind oil rich Venezuela. In 1972, an earthquake wiped out half of Nicaragua's capital. Between 1981 and. An interesting trivia fact is that the Unites States illegally supported this war by funding the Nicaraguan counter revolutionaries (the contras). The world court ruled against the United States in favor of Nicaragua in 1986. Then in 1998, a once in 200 year storm (hurricane Mitch) absolutely wiped out Nicaragua.
Today, as a result of this string of bad luck, there are kids picking through a dump in Chinandega and people living under tarps in Morrito.
So if we are to learn from Nicaragua to be proactive in combating poverty, it might be good to strengthen civil government to avoid civil wars and enhance building codes to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.
Date: August 20, 2008
Location: Somewhere between Managua and Houston 5,000 ft in the air
Yesterday was our last full day in Nicaragua. We stayed at the Casa San Juan hotel which was in a little suburb far from any restaurants or shops so we ordered delivery Papa John's pizza for dinner. It was the most expensive meal we had on the trip, just under 600 Cordobas, (30 U$). Some would say it was a bit ridiculous to have such a meal in Nicaragua but I have to admit it was a nice way to spend the night, having pizza, soda and watching the Olympics in our hotel room.
The next day we headed to UNI (Managua's Engieering University) to meet the the engineers that we have been talking with for the past couple of days. We came together on a more concrete design and talked more about construction methods and materials. The students that we are working with have a great deal of real world experience as well as excellent design skills.
After we went out to dinner at a swanky restaurant (still cheaper than than the pizza) and got authentic Nicaraguan food to send us off. For our last couple of hours we went to the Mercado Humbles to buy Nicaraguan swag, I read on WikiTravel that they have a lot of it, and man they did. None of it very good quality but tons and tons of stuff I got a gallo pinto t-shirt and some coffee for my ma. The others followed suit.
Our plans were to stay in the airport overnight because we were too cheap to rent a hotel, but we found out that the airport closes at 9pm and opens at 5am so we had to stay at the Best Western (awful hotel and a scam) across the street. We couldn't even get a taxi because we ran out of Cordobas so we had little choice. Got to the airport at 5:30 am, and breakfast consisting of a warm chicken Empanada and got on the plane.
Date: Aug 18, 4:48PM
Location: another hotel in Managua
We had such a good time on this trip that we're going to come back. In January, we will have 1 to 4 groups of 2 to 4 people coming from America. Each group will have at least one bilingual person and one person familiar with Nicaragua.
The first of us will arrive just after school gets out and the last of us will depart just before school starts. Individuals will arrive and depart whenever they want so long as they will be met at the airport by a bilingual person and someone familiar with Nica.
The main point of this trip will be to construct a 5 by 6 meter library building in Morrito, Nicaragua. Secondary goals will be to strengthen ties between SFSU and UNI, help out at the Chinendega Foundation, meet up with old friends, make new ones, learn lots and have a blast.
So we went to Chinendega and got answers. The kids there have homes. They also have schools available to them. Their parents send them to the dump to collect trinkets to resell. Apparently, their parents are more interested in seeing the few Cordobas the kids can make rather than give their kids an education. The problem is being worked on by the Chinendega 2001 Foundation.
We managed to meet up with some of the staff of the foundation whom were gracious enough to meet with us on a Saturday. They took us on a tour of their facilities which included 4 or 5 large, multi story school buildings which included metal shops, ceramics, cooking, along with basic literacy. They showed us through their gleaming western grade medical facility which is staffed by Doctors Without Borders types. They even had time to show us their very well constructed and architecturally impressive museum and theater.
All that is to say that A) this is a difficult problem - certainly more difficult than building and staffing and orphanage and B) there isn't a great deal that a hand full of engineering students can do for an organization as well funded and run as the Chinendega 2001 Foundation. This is why we are going to build a library for Morrito. The dump issue is still depressing as hell, but now we have seen the complexity of the issue, and it is way beyond us. I will work on it (and hopefully you will help me) when I can bring my full attention to bear.
We also had a chance to have dinner with Ralf H while we were in Chinandega. His life work has improved thousands of lives, and in the process he has led an amazing life himself. That man is a true hero and I can only hope to follow in his footsteps.
One of the luckiest parts of this trip has been making friends with the local engineering university, UNI. We even had a meeting yesterday in which we started sketching out the designs for the library. We are learning a whole lot in the process. We will be meeting again today to continue the process and come up with a more complete design.
hmmm... there is clear weather out and the power just went out.
Another thing we have to get done before purchasing materials is hold a community meeting with Morrito. There will be a lot of logistical issues that we will have to clear up and delegate. We are hoping to hire Albarelys to represent us in this.
Date: Aug 16, 11AM
Location: on a minibus departing from Managua for Chinandega
This is hard for me. I find myself doubting myself and what we saw. Doubting the video I took. Why were those kids there? What were they doing? Maybe it was just a field trip? Perhaps the kids were just playing there and not hunting for scraps or things to sell?
I have yet to spaek about it, but there was a 6 year old kid there laying in the dirt with his hands and legs bound in wire. Were his friends just playing a childish joke on him?
Just what exactly was going on there? Just what exactly did I see? I have the rest of today to answer all of these questions. I just hope I can get some answers because what I learned on my first visit was just disturbing enough to still have a chance of being relatively benign.
Date: Aug 16, 7AM
After our stop in Morrito which Kristine wrote about, we returned to the capital, Managua. Managua reminds one of LA without the freeways. There is no single downtown or business area, rather the development has occurred hap haphazardly with stores and residences and other companies all mixed around one another it takes about an hour by taxi to get from one end to the other, and there is frequently snarled traffic, heat and humidity to boot.
However, Managua seems to have everything we need. We have managed to make some great friends at UNI, one of the universities here. We have had 3 meetings with the staff who have told us about and shown us pictures of their humanitarian projects. They are willing to review our proposals and construction plans and some of the students might be interested in assisting with construction in Jan. We are planning to have dinner with some of the students Monday before departing.
We also picked up a topo map of Chinendega in case we do something with the water situation there.
On the way to Managua from Morrito, Kristine accidentally left her swamp soaked shoes on the buss. So we stopped at a mall to pick up some shoes for her. While there, we stopped in the very American style food court where I found a McDonnalds. Now I am the first person to denounce McDonnalds, but something about eating crap American food in Nicaragua was too good to pass up. I have photo evidence which will be added here soon.
Ever since I arrived in Morrito, I have had "gringo stomach". I see it as a good thing. There is nothing that will make you appreciate a clean water supply quite like having the runs for half a week. I am also happy to announce that I am feeling fine now.
Also, on the way to one of the meetings with the UNI faculty, bruson fell into a hole. I think he can tell the story better than I, so be sure to check his web log wheresbrunson.blogspot.com
Today we are going to Chinendega to see what we might be able to do about the dump kids.
Date: Aug 14, 12:33PM
Location: La Casona Hotel in Managua
Original Author: Kristine L.
These past couple of days have been a real whirlwind. We traveled to Morrito on the 11th by ferry leaving from Granada. We got to the ferry terminal at 1pm and stayed on the upper level which had air conditioning and a television but and cost 6 dollars a person. They served fritangas on the boat which was lovely because we weren't expecting and consumed most of our cliff bars and pop tarts before knowing that fact. It started raining a couple hours into the ride and as the sun set, most of us piled outside and tested out sea legs against Lake Nicaragua.
The ferry stopped for about 45 minutes in Isla de Ometepe where I hear they have wild monkeys and is a big tourist attraction. Lots of our fellow gringos left and got on the boat and by 11PM we arrived in Morrito (10 hours on the boat!). Eda M. and Juan S. met us at the dock as promised and they looked exactly like the picture I received from Elena. We took a stroll to through the dark town and learned a lot about the way of life there. Juan S. started unraveling the problems that plagued the city, first were the street lights that didn't work. Also the roads were made mostly of stones or bare dirt. We arrived shortly at where we staying, the unoccupied living quarters next to the courtroom. There was a well in the front that pumped water into a large water holding tank into the back of the house. Although the house was plumbed, Juan S. told us that when the water tank was installed lots of dirt accumulated and plugged the pipes somewhere which stopped the water from getting into the house.
As we were choosing bed we noticed that the house was littered with the biggest ants I have ever seen. They were three different kinds, huge red ones, medium black ones and ran around like crazy when the lights were on and little ones like the ones found in N. America. David opened the door to the bathroom in our room and what seemed like 500 big ants fled out. Luckily, since the running water was broken, when David went to flush the toilet (by pouring water into the back of the toilet) he found the main nest. He seemed to take great joy in flushing them.
After a night with very little sleep (see the obviously sleep deprived writings below) we were greeted in the morning, around 8:45 am (8 AM Nicaragua time) with a real homemade Nica breakfast. Eggs, rice, beans, tortillas and coffee. The coffee was so much better than N. American coffee. Juan S. met with us around 9:30 am and we set off taking a tour of the town.
The first thing we saw was one of the local wells. The water that came from it made people sick, but since they don't really have any other options, they use it anyways. The is chlorinated every three months and residents that use it pay for it monthly. Then second well we saw was at the school just in back. Children came to use it in partners because it was made with bicycle parts and one kid needed to turn the wheel while the other one cupped his hands around the end of the pipe to take a long drink. This well was the cleanest of the bunch and only needed to be chlorinated once every 6 months. Juan S. also mentioned that a library/computer room would be a great addition which we added to the possible projects we would do.
After seeing the well, Juan S. walked us through the back roads of Morrito and we ended up at the city hall where we met with the mayor, the mayors wife and Hector, an old friend of Albereles. As we walked though rooms being severely more and more air conditioned, we were seated at a conference table in front of Morrito's government. We explained why we were there and what we hoped to do with the water problems but then they told us they were planning to fix this issues in December. There plan is to add a large filter system to filter out sediments and alkali before being distributed into the city. This system was being designed by a women engineer that we have the contact to. This only problem is that the elections are being done in November and if this family is not reelected I don't know if the project will still happen. Also, I don't know how time we should invest in Morrito's water system if it is already being solved. Right now (I would this over a span of two days) we only have 4 more whole days and the rest of today.
After learning a lot about the community in that day we decided to travel back to Managua because we were running out of time and we needed to talk to the universities, INITER (place to get maps) and other private companies and organizations to try to build our network to better know what project we can actually accomplish.
Date: Aug 12, 2:33AM
I can't sleep - my mind is running in so many directions.
It is great to finally be able to say "Location: Morrito". This trip has been in the works for so long.
I do feel like I am beginning to get some of the context of the place even if the language barrier has kept me from getting to know as many Nicaraguans as I would have liked. These people are poor. I had never before realized just how freeking poor these people are. They need a functioning economy above all else.
That has led me in my sleepless thoughts to wonder what are the fundamental constituents of an economy.
I see a productive economy as being on in which everyone can get a job with a living wage and become productive members of society. If everyone is working, producing, trading and specializing then people can live better lives. By better lives I don't mean large houses and fast cars. Somehow in the USA, the idea of "the good life" has been bastardized by playboys and MTV. The good life is about having enough food, a warm place to sleep, a good job and people whom you love. The good life is not about being so desperate that you go to the dump for food or scraps to sell. That is an abuse of human rights and I won't allow it.
In the end, I have come to see a good economy as a symptom not a cause. By that I mean that if you put people in the right conditions, a good economy is the natural result. In my amateur estimation of things, the required elements are, education and infrastructure. These are tangible elements that we can work on. I was tempted to add good governance and health to the list, but they are largely a symptom of education and infrastructure. Besides that, I have no time for medical training and a foreigner is frequently not welcome in a government.
So that leaves the very classic items of education and infrastructure and we humanitarians have been at these two for a century. We dig wells, build schools, clinics, libraries. We have spent ages tweaking the combinations of tactics with more holistic approaches or supposed silver bullets. We have tried these things on huge scales in the IMF and the WTO. We have tried these things on small scales in the appropriate technology movement. In each attempt, there were pros and cons to the methods, but the important thing to remember is that they all failed.
That's right, in a hundred years of humanitarian ingenuity, we have not kept small children from picking through trash in a dump in Chinandega, Nicaragua.
So where does that leave me and my band of merry travelers gallivanting through Nicaragua? Do we take up the old crosses, add some interesting twist and try again? Do we sit long and hard and come up with new and untested weapons to drag cumbersomely into this bloody human mess?
Perhaps I should look to things that are currently being tried and see if there is something to be had there:
Well first of all, you are probably reading this on appropedia. Which is to say that this is the wikipedia for appropriate technologies. There have been some interesting appropriate technologies that have caught my attention. These include improved cook stoves which reduce fuel consumption and indoor smoke. Also there have been small scale irrigation technologies which seem to provide a return on investment within one year. These kind of things seem to be a good idea, but the fact is that they haven't caught on like they need to if they were to make a real difference.
Then there are social businesses. These are new and thus not yet proven ineffective. The Grameen Bank receives my unabashed praise. The only other I know of is the One Laptop Per Child project which had some of the best minds in academia behind it and still failed to compete with Intel. Dannon yogurt is in the process of spinning off a social business for yogurt. We'll see where that goes.
Then there is the internet. Oh yes, the blessed internet and it's web 2.0ness. I honestly think that the connective power of the internet is one of the best things we have. Take for instance Appropedia which is basically a giant organized forum for exchanging ideas and technologies to make the world a better place. How awesome is this site? Then there are spaces like Facebook which allow us fellow humanitarians to network and collaborate to be far more effective than before. Then there are sites like youtube which make content distribution a non-issue and provide the untapped potential for us to get our message to millions. The uncultured project follows a guy named Matt as he travels through Bangladesh. His videos aren't even that stunningly well produced, but he has still received almost a million views on youtube! How amazing is that?
So my opinion is that we shouldn't bother trying again things that didn't work. It seems to me a better shot to sit and think long and hard about what we can do with our new tools to fix this old problem.
New tools: Web 2.0 and Social Businesses Targets: education and infrastructure Objective: create functioning economies
I was hoping that this thought process would lead me to new ideas, but I have had no such luck. However thanks to this being a wiki, you may have come up with some additions and I would love it if you added them here.
As for our traveling, we got to talk to Jeanette for an hour this morning before we spent 10 hours today on a very slow boat to Morrito.
Jeanette is in charge of Own a Well's operations in Pantanal which is a neighborhood in Chinandega. They have 23 kids in a school there, 8 wells and a couple of dozen scholarships. This is all funded between the gocare foundation and the Masaya and Tulsa Oaklahoma rotary clubs. Nefer is a person at the health ministry who tests the Pantanal wells every month. Each well has a manager who is incharge of maintaining the wells which charge 4 Cordoba for every 5 Litres of water to cover operating costs
Tomorrow is a big day and the sun will be rising in a few hours. Wish us luck.
Date: Aug 10, 11:04AM
Location: Tom C's House in Granada
Things seem to be slowing down quite a bit. We wake up later and later every day and this is the first time that I don't really have something bursting to write about in the morning.
Yesterday, Jorge from Living Water never arrived so we started making calls to other contacts regarding what to do. Kristine called Janet S and she said that she could get us a place to sleep in Granada, Tom C's house.
So yesterday was spent mostly traveling. We tried to get some things done when we passed through Managua - getting in contact with local engineering colleges and the water ministry, but it was Saturday and everything was closed.
It is now Sunday and Janet S is off work so we probably won't get a chance to see her. We will be leaving for Morrito tomorrow.
Since our first experience with Rolando, we have made a couple of ATM stops. Typically, there is a $5 transfer fee and you are given the option of withdrawing in Cordobas or Dollars. The exchange rate at the ATM's is typically competitive with the people in the markets and it seems to me to be a whole lot safer, so we withdraw in Cordobas.
We have already started planning our January trip. It will be 3 weeks long starting on the 28th. Kristine, Mark and myself will each guide a small group of students an each group will spend one week traveling and 2 weeks working on whatever project we take on.
Date: Aug 9, 7:17AM
Location: some hotel in Leon
I don't even know how to deal with yesterday. Even in my head, I find myself pushing away the thoughts. Yesterday, the four of us took a taxi out to the dump in Chinendega. We were there because I had heard news reports of hundreds of kids who lived in this dump. The news report didn't have any pictures and I wasn't very inclined to believe them. However, I was curious enough to go there and see with my own eyes. What I saw were 20-30 small kids and the odd adult picking around through the rubbish in bare feet.
I need more information. Why are these kids here? What are they doing? Who runs the dump and why do they allow this? Where do these kids live and what do they eat? Most importantly, why hasn't anyone done anything and what can I do? If I am to chose my battles, that is the most worthy battle I have come accross.
But when? where? how? What is the best path to help them? Should I run back to america and waste another 9 months? Should I open an orphanage? Should I have a youtube show to raise awareness?
Date: Aug 8, 8:43AM
Location: Hotel Chinendegano in Chinendega
Yesterday, we were met at about 11AM by Ralph H of Whirlwhind Wheelchair who showed us around Chinendega. With him he brought Thelma and her daughter.
The hardware stores here are awesome. You can buy a generator for $250 and a pump for around $150. I took photos and videos of the hardware store for future reference. A bag of Cement here is 160 Cordobas (8 Dollars). Coke is 10 cordobas (50 cents). The official minimum wage here is $4/day which men can get more often than women and they are more likely to get it at the more official businesses.
I have been really interested in how much things cost because having these costs as points of reference, I can start to understand the economy. For someone making minimum wage, a can of coke takes an hours wages. Another way to look at it is to say that California minimum wage is 8$/hr and in a day a Californian can made 64 Dollars (before taxes) and could have hired Nicaraguans for 16 days on their day's wages.
We asked Ralph what kinds of things were difficult to find in Nicaragua. These include SAE washers, metal protractors, small crowbars, tweezers, vial adhesive, small ball peen hammers and metric taps.
While Ralph was leading us around, he took us to Thelma's parents house. It is composed of 3 cinder block structures surrounded by a cinder block wall. The structures are topped with tin roofs and plastic sheeting where the tin roofs leak. The inside of the house was sparsely decorated. There were professional photos of most of the family mebers on the wall of the common room. We sat on plastic lawn chairs. There was electric wiring running along the outside of the walls which suppplied a small battery backed up fluorescent lamp and television. The battery backup in the lamp is necessary because they had power rationing a year back in which the power was shut off for 5 hours per day.
They do many things for income. In a covered outdoor area they cook tortillas which their children sell around the neighborhood for 1 Cordoba (5 Cents) each. The stove they used for cooking was very unimproved, just pieces of sticks stuck into a burning area with a pot held above. This produced copious amounts of smoke which made one of Thelma's family members completely blind and will probably cut several years off of everyone else who breaths it.
In the back yard, there was a man constructing tables assisted by his wife and children. He said that he could make 5 tables per day. Materials cost him 400 Cordoba (20 Dollars) per table and he sold them for 500 Cordoba (25 Dollars) each. That means that on a good day he could make 25 Dollars profit or 6 times minimum wage.
One of the young men in the family has an alcohol problem. He rides one of the tricycle taxis on which he charges 10 Cordoba (50 cents) per ride. When he gets 20 extra Cordobas, he buys a bottle of Gwedo which is cheep, strong, locally produced Tequilla.
We finally got rained on here in Nicaragua. It was a hot, humid and short experience. It has been raining this morning but I haven't been outside.
I bought a bag of sliced Mangos from a street vendor thinking that purchasing fruit would be safe. Ralph told me that eating them was "not without risk" and when I decided to eat them anyway, he said "audios buddy" which was pretty funny. That was 20 hours ago now and I am fine. Ralph's recommendation for eating in Nicaragua is to eat anything still in its peel. Use a clean knife and washed hands.
We plan to go to the Chinendega dump and Leon today and visit living water tomorrow. The day after, we go to Granada and then to Morrito on Monday.
Date: Aug 7 10:46AM
Location: the same hotel room in Bhinendaga.
Yesterday was awesome. we went with Rolando to Amaya (a teeny tiny community North of Chinendega) to work on the medical clinic. It has been really nice being surrounded by friends on the entrance to this trip. When we changed money right after the airport, Rolando knew of money changers who sat on the side of the street holding 4 inch thick wads of bills. we pulled up and gave them several hundred US Dollars and they gave us the equivalent several thousand Cordobas. There is no way I would have trusted that situation had we not been with friends.(EDIT: after being in Nicaragua for several days now, you can find these money changers in any open air market).
Then they took us to a US style convienance store which was staffed by nicaraguans. it was really nice that they eased us into Nicaragua. I played a soccer game with the local Nicaraguan kids and they simply kicked my butt. I think that they play soccer quite a bit. I don't.
Besides that, I learned a lot about how they do construction. For mixing the concrete, we added two wheel barrels of sand to one wheel barrel of gravel and added a 42kg of cement. Then we added water until it was very soupy. Much wetter than in America but in America we vibrate the concrete after pouring to get it into all of the cracks and crevices. Since they have no vibrators, they need a wet concrete to flow into the tight areas. Also, we did tie rebar and place it into the formed trenches before pouring. Much as in America, although engineers didn't calculate and specify the rebar quantities and arrangements.
I took a walk up and down the street. It was very hot and humid. And loud. There were birds and bugs and wind noises coming from every direction and in great quantity. And the people there were porer than anyone I have ever seen. They lived in small huts, barely considered to be indoors as they had no glass and their walls and roofs were never solid, they were frequently constructed of tarps or plastic sheeting stretched between sticks, much of it falling to tatters. Almost every hut had a hammock in the front yard and they were very frequently people in these hammocks just chilling out. The children were walking up and down the road in large groups. Some of them had bikes. Sometimes I was passed by adults on the bike taxis - they weren't offering or giving rides, these bike taxis were used in a manner akin to pickup trucks - they hauled large lodes of wood or other items. Our construction site was visited by a man on a bike with a cooler in the front. He was selling frozen coconut juice with berries in it. Several of the children that were playing in the yard went to a neighbors yard and stole water melons. We sat eating these lovely watermelons when their owner showed up and started yelling at everyone. Rolando talked to him and resolved the issue.
I have heard that workers in the field get paid $2.50/day and that a water mellon costs 1$. I got my haircut and it cost 1$. We ate at a local resteraunt and 4 people ate good dinners for $7.50.
After 24 hours in the country, the thought that I find myself leaning towards is that these people don't want libraries or schools. If i were here working for $2.50/day I would want a higher paying job. Of course I acknowledge that I don't have any right to pass these kind of judgments. I need to talk to and live with these people.
I would like to visit the Chinendega dump as I have heard more reports this time oral that there are children living there.
I also want to visit Living Water - Mark's contact - as they dig wells and we could learn much from them.
We met Roberto P - the son of the owner of this hotel. He seems like he would be interested in business ideas such as the translator idea.
We also met Tom G at the construction site - he was an engineer at HP.
I would also like to visit the Water Ministry in Managua. I want to know how much water costs, where they get it from, how they drill and construct their wells, how they treat their water, and how they distribut their water.
Tom G gave us contact information for Jane M who constructs libaries here.
Date: Aug 6 7:14AM
Location: on a couch outside of our hotel room in Chinendaga
Well, oddly enough, plan A worked. Both Rolando and Albaraleyes where there as planned and we arrived at our hotel in Chinendega approximately 5 hours later.
Things that stand out in my mind on the ride over were all of the people working in the streets. They sit and stand in the medians hawking all sorts of things. then there are these really cool bike taxis all over the place. Pickup truck beds being pulled by animals is a personal favorite. After checking in, we took a walk through the local market and it was amazing. There were hundreds of tiny little stalls selling all sorts of things.
The other thing that surprised me is that everything costs the same, or at least in the places we have been to so far. A red bull is $2.50. A cup of ramen is $1.00. Our hotel (which has TV, hot water, air conditioning, and everything else) cost $50/night.
Date: Aug 5 2008 12:43am
Location: 10000 ft elevation, 40 min before landing in Morrito
The problem with traveling a lot on little sleep is that everything becomes a blur. You end up left with only snippets of memories. The slot machines that greeted us in the Las Vegas terminal. Eating greesy eggs, bacon and grits at 4 am in Texas. Trying to figure out which time zone I am in while eating my grits (it was actually 6AM Texas Time). I have managed no sleep tonight and my companions have fared little better.
This trip is so ommonious for us. None of us have experience in a Third World Country. None of us speak Spanish. We have planned this excruciatingly, exchanged hundreds of emails, come up with plans A, B, C, etc. However, in the end you have to expect that unexpected things will happen and that you have a great deal of learning to do in a very short a period of time.
Hopefully, right now Alabaralys (our translator) and Rolando (a pastor from California who is constructing a medical clinic in the north) are at the airport learning that our flight was delayed by an hour due to hurricane Edward. We just barely escaped it. As we landed in Texas, we could see it in the distance and by the time we left, there was a constant rain. The center of the hurricane was due to hit the airport dead on about 2 hours after we departed.
Plans: These are uncertain. One plan has us going directly to Chinendega to begin working on Rolando's clinic. The other is to rest up and deal with some business in Managua today and head towards Chinendega tomorrow. In my ideal world, we are in Chinendega in 5 hours with a stack of local currency and a translator.
The plane is startin to bank which means we will probably be starting our descent soon and they will make me turn this off. I will upload this to the wiki when I can but for now things are going great.
This page is maintained mostly for future reference - it has all of our plans on it from before we left for our first Nicaragua trip.
Pre-Trip Plans (kept as reference
Planned Itinerary (subject to massive changes)
Arriving on flight 1074 in Managua at 11:33 AM on Aug 5th
Staying in Managua hotel Aug 5
Traveling to Amaya on aug 6
Travel to Leone on Aug 9
Travel to Morrito on aug 11 (catch the ferry from Granada at 2pm)
Return to Managua on aug 19
Depart Managua 6:50 AM on Aug 20
We are conducting this trip in order to get to know the people of Nicaragua and assess what projects we might be able to conduct and how we might be able to help.
- Conduct Sanitary Survey - There was a well drilled several years ago by an NGO but the water in it is acidic and yellow so we will be taking samples and surveying the facilities to see if we can fix the problem.
- how do Nicaraguans use water? Do they boil it? do they use water cachment? how far must they go to get it? Bathing? Washing cloths?
- The EPA has a manual for conducting sanitary surveys we should think about following. Also, as content produced by federal employees, this manual has no copyright and you can help by porting it to appropedia if you have the free time.
- Learn about construction techniques - there are 10 schools in the region which are constructed of dirt floors and thatch roofs. If we are to construct a school, we must design it with local construction techniques and materials. We will need to determine what these techniques and materials are.
- Talk to the local government. It is important that the choice of projects be collaborative. By asking what we can do for them, it is more likely that our project will be valued and maintained after we leave and we will receive more support in conducting the project.
- The community has voiced the desire for a library. This sounds like a really good idea and if we could get that library on the internet, it would be the first internet connection in the community.
- Arrange contacts. Whatever project we eventually take on, it will be very important to have strong contacts that we can contact for whatever questions we have.
- Whirlwind wheelchair has also invited us to tour their facilities which are a 4 hour ($0.50US) bus ride from Granada.
- What are the fabrication capacities in Managua?
- what size trucks can get from Managua to Morrito?
- Where can I purchase PVC, water pumps, and other misc construction materials?
- Are there boring logs/topographic/Ariel maps for Managua?
- is the water/soil acidic? where is the water table?
- are drill rigs available?
Things to bring
- post cards from your home town
- shorts (it's hot)
- paper (for writing)
- flash lights (power in Morrito is intermittent)
- shirts and hats with western logos
- backpacker water filter/purification tablets
- Food - we will need to obtain all of the food we will need in Morrito ourselves. We will probably take as much as we can carry on the boat and then hire a truck to go to the closest market a few days in.
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Plane tickets to Nicaragua are around $586 (as of May 17) and in country costs shouldn't get beyond $40/day. You are responsible directly for
- Plane tickets
- Travel Insurance
The following costs will be reported to the trip treasurer and divided evenly at the end of the trip
- Long distance transportation
Ralf H of whirlwind wheelchair (whom we will probably be visiting in Nicaragua) has recommended American Hotel in Leone.
Leave a comment on the talk page with your contact info and we will get back to you shortly.
As your research leads you to interesting Nicaragua sites, post them here.
- http://epsnica.blogspot.com/ peace corps Nicaragua volunteer blog
- http://www.peacecorps.gov/multimediapages/photos/index.cfm?gallery=Nicaragua photos from nicaragua
- http://www.peacecorpswiki.org/Nicaragua more good stuff
- Moon Nicaragua - sounds like a good book!
- Living Abroad in Nicaragua - by the same author as Moon Nicaragua
- mail takes 8-10 days
- The mini bus terminal is called "Parada de buses privados". Just tell Taxi driver "Parada de busses privados a... (e.g. Leon or Granada)". You may want to write down this sentence on a card and show it to taxi driver. At the bus terminal (just a place outside along a main street with lots of people and vehicles), there are large and small Vans going all over the country. Just to listen for guys yelling out "Leon, Leon, Leon" or "Granada, Granada, Granada". Lots of guys will run up to the taxi as you unload to try to help. If you don't know what you are doing, usually its best to accept help and offer a tip to one or 2 guys. Tips (20 cordobas, 1 dollar) are useful until you get to know where you are going and what you are doing. People will just start helping you, at airport, anywhere without asking.... but you have to tip them or use a firm NO. Nothing is free. However, never let someone else carry your most precious items (which should be hidden on you in a small bag anyway)
- don't bring a sweatshirt
- the boat leaves Granada on Monday and Thursday at 2pm, and returns to Granada on Wednesday and Saturday at 5-6 am.
- There is a bus from Morrito-Juigalpa-Managua that leaves Morrito at 5am and arrives sometime in afternoon and Managua-Juigalpa-Morrito
- There is a bus that leave from Juigalpa to Morrito at 3pm everyday.
- in Granada, a good place to stay is Bearded Monkey, or Barba del Mono. It is a lower budget place with dorm room style lodging. Also Casa Clarita or Casa Capricho are medium priced but very nice places.
- It will be very hot and humid with frequent showers while we are down there.
- when the peace corps sends people, they get the following shots, and I suggest we follow suit.
- Flu shot
- Typhoid shot
- rabies shots
- malaria pills
- NOBEL has been recommended as a good calling card to use when contacting Nicaragua
- You can find Nicaragua's health information page from the CDC here