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Nicaragua 2009
(page 2 of 4)

Carrie and Reed walk with a work crew at Finca Esperanza Verde, an eco-lodge in the mountains of Matagalpa Dept. Like so many business enterprises in the country, the lodge is a community project, contributing funds to local schools and other needs. After the Revolution, the Sandinistas carved up the large landholdings (and Somoza owned a reported 25% of the country) and redistributed them to the campesinos and formed collectives, modeled after a similar movement in England in the 1800s. Many failed, but many continue today in various forms.

The village where we worked, Palo de Agua, is quite poor. There is no electricity and only one source of water-- a well not centrally located. Only half the homes have an outhouse, while the others have no toilet. 20% of all Nicaraguans leave the country (and often their families) to find work, usually in Costa Rica, the US, or Spain.

This family was offering most of their small home to store the construction materials (lumber, wheelbarrows, bags of concrete, tools, etc.). Conversations with the mother revealed they eat only beans and tortillas, with cheese as a rare treat.

Patrick, on the left, was our guide and host. He co-founded Seeds of Learning and has lived in Nicaragua for 20 years. He knows construction, Spanish and English, American and Nicaraguan culture, and how to work with everyone from campesinos to us! On the right, Urania, Patrick's sister-in-law, holds Ryan. Urania was another gracious host who made us very welcome and cared for us.

Each day we drove 25 minutes up a rocky road from the Learning Center in Ciudad Dario to the Palo de Agua village to work on the school. Ben looked more like a Sandinista each day. The teacher for the school does this two-hour walk there and back each day-- and there are other teachers that walk further.

The Learning Center was where we stayed. It also offers free tutoring, help with homework, and music, art, and dance lessons for the children in the community. Nicaraguans value education greatly. Under Somoza, the campesinos were told "you can't eat letters" and put to work. Literacy was 50%. When the Sandinistas took over in 1979, they created a national literacy campaign, using teen-agers from the city to teach adults in the rural areas. Literacy climbed to 90% in two years. Then, with Reagan's Contra War and ensuing poverty, the campaign faltered. Now, many kids leave school early to work.

This is the school at El Tempisque, sister school to Cesar Chavez Elementary in Davis. The building we worked on is exactly this model. When Seeds of Learning was building this school, the local PTA struggled to provide volunteer labor. In response, the elementary school kids committed to staying one hour after school each day and coming during vacation to help build their school. At right, they pour over letters recently received from Davis.

Nicaragua's west slope is dry tropical forest, which means it's deciduous, which means it's brown and leafless part of the year-- but this was the rainy season.

We had a little lightning each day, and sometimes the rain gutters struggled to hold the water it came down so fast.

on to page three (of four) of Nicaragua 2009 photos