The last couple of months or so have been a little up and down for the Mariposa but, in general, I would have to say that after nearly three years of being open things are really settling down and functioning well. The Spanish school part, under Bergman’s expert direction, goes from strength to strength and we are busy right now developing our own “Mariposa” materials, complete with butterfly logo!! The idea is to try and incorporate not only more and more vocabulary etc reflecting life in Nicaragua (most textbooks are oriented to either Spain or the whole of Latin America) but also to link in the language part of the school with the afternoon/day activities. So, to give an obvious example, if the afternoon activity is cooking tortillas with Melba, then the morning class and the materials will provide vocab etc to link with that. We are also building a couple more outdoor classrooms (one will have a roof made of a wonderful traditional wood tile which I just happened to come across whilst out and about and was about to be used as firewood. Bought it on the spot).
We are also starting to get a lot of interest in the volunteer scheme which I put on the previous blog. It is going to be quite a lot of work maintaining all of the individual placements and hopefully I can eventually find someone to help me with that. I am hoping to start another scheme as soon as possible – our “Buy and Sell to Help” scheme (not the catchiest of titles, I admit – if anyone has a better idea!!). The idea is to suggest to people who visit us that they buy a selection of the smaller, lightweight, easy to carry handicrafts which are in such plentiful supply around here – including maracas, pottery, wooden jewellery, baskets made from recycled newspaper, natural organic skin care products, leather goods – there is just a ton of possibilities. Dona Aura, (in the photo above), for example, makes great papaya and avocade soap, shampoo and skin cream. The students would then take their purchases back to the US or wherever and sell them at higher prices (a kind of Tupperware party amongst friends/acquaintances would do it!). The difference would be returned to me to be ploughed into projects here. Good idea, heh? Though actually I have to admit it is not my idea originally – it is thanks to a British accountant called Nick. Just need someone to help me do it…….
The buildings and gardens look lovely as ever – I am constantly amazed at how beautiful it is here. The photo above is a great example of how we try and plant stuff with food-producers mixed in with flowering plants. The tall, thin trees are papayas (we get the biggest ones I ever saw), the broad leaves in the foreground are an edible root plant called quesquique (like a potato), there is also in the pic a guyaba tree which is just starting to fruit. Birdlife is flourishing – just yesterday in the late afternoon, glass of white wine in hand, I saw a family of guardabarrancos who have bred here in a bank of earth just outside room 1! Plus a group of woodpeckers, little yellow seedeaters and my beloved blue tanagers. Oh, and our freed parakeets flying around as usual. We are building up to setting free more of our larger parrots, now that their wings have grown back and they are flying well. We have four bright lime green baby lizards living in the lettuce patch. And suddenly, out of the blue, three gavilans (small, brown and white hawks) paid us a visit – they didn’t stay long, just long enough to freak out the parrots who all flew screaming to one end of their cage. I am convinced that one of the three was the hawk we released a while ago, he was certainly around here until recently as I would meet him on my walks in my neighbour’s land with the dogs. I am sure he came back to introduce his family to us! Our group of four white faced – capuchin – monkeys continue to delight everyone, they are really intelligent and we have to give them something new to do (or destroy) every day to keep them happy. Latest discovery is they like to have raw chillies – they break them open and rub them all over their bodies, especially under the armpits and around the butt region, it seems it is a way of getting rid of ticks and fleas!!
We are also working hard to build up the organic produce side of things – our tomato patch is a little slow because it doesn’t get quite enough sun – we simply have too many trees here at the Mariposa! But there are plenty of tomatoes, just still a little on the green side. We have bought 7 chickens whose speciality is laying eggs, beautiful brown ones – kind of your classic hen figure! – and they are certainly laying. It’s really great that we don’t buy anymore factory farmed eggs now. We have also acquired laying turkeys now, they are quite a noisy addition but it is fun watching the male puff up and fan out his tale feathers when he is protecting his two females. I use my motorcycle helmet to defend myself!! And then there are the duck eggs…..oh, life is never boring.
The difficult side of things continues to be problems with low numbers of students and we seem to have had a real run of bad luck with cancellations. That is something new and I am wondering if it also connected with the general economic downturn i.e. people panic at the last minute. Whatever the reason, it is very hard on us. However, it seems as if every teacher in the US is coming here for Thanksgiving dinner (no jokes about the turkeys, please – I am afraid it will just be one of those butterball jobs like last year). So I am hoping that will be the upward turning point for us. At least for a while. The staff here are, as usual, wonderful in their support and understanding of the situation.
A last piece of good news – an update of Daniel’s progress (readOne last piece of go the earlier blog on his story) – Daniel is now studying electrical mechanics at the University of Nicaragua in Jinotepe full time. He loves it and just came second in the termly exam. He comes in here to help us out at weekends (the Mariposa pays him afull time salary still to support his family while he studies) and, indeed, to have aquiet place to study. He has made terrific progress from his gangland days……who says folk can’t change?