Huracán Nate

Hoy sábado 8 de octubre leí sobre el huracán Nate por primera vez. Ya entrando en la boca del rio Mississippi. Aquí en Centroamérica hemos estado sufriendo los efectos desde la semana pasada. El gobierno de Nicaragua normalmente se regocija a si mismo (exactamente-yo estaba aquí en 1989 para el huracán Juana y experimenté con mis propios ojos la eficiencia especialmente del ejército en evacuar a la gente) en respuesta a los desastres naturales, pero esta vez no hubo previo aviso y el presidente ha brillado por su ausencia ante los medios. Aunque hubiera perdido algo ya que he estado sin energía hace cinco días.

Ahora, lo que hemos sufrido no tiene la mínima comparación con lo de las islas del caribe y florida – pero algunas partes de Nicaragua han sufrido más daño que nosotros. Empezó con tres días y tres noches de lluvia incesante – la comprensión y tranquilidad de los huéspedes era notable a pesar de que hubo un impacto negativo en sus estadías.

La noche del jueves fue la peor. Estuve la mayor parte de la noche con Chepe, uno de nuestros guardas que llego a ayudar a salvar mi casa de la inundación. Un fallo en el diseño (¡el mío!) significa que la lluvia de la parte del techo se recoge en la terraza y de ahí va directamente a los dormitorios. No es bueno (como diría Donald Trump). Recipientes y cubos tenían que ser vaciados cada media hora…en el jardín que ya tenía algunas pulgadas de agua. A la media noche caí en un profundo sueño dejando a Chepe y a los perros que me protegieran. Me desperté la mañana del viernes ante una escena de devastación total. Comprendía de lo que podía pasar a causa del viento mientras dormía, pero el daño era increíble. Había arboles caídos por todas partes, mi precioso jardín de mariposas se destrozó en pedazos.

Abajo, los restos de mi roble (Oak) que perdió completamente su copa debido al viento.

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Después en La Reserva – un enorme árbol de cedro tumbado al otro lado del jardín de Jan y Alan y cerca de veinte más estaban esparcidos. Afortunadamente los daños estructurales en los edificios fueron leves, un agujero en el techo de la cabaña de Carol y algunos daños menores al centro de estudio. Tengo que decir que los edificios de paja sobrevivieron muy bien a la prueba.

Abajo, este ERA el jardín de Jan y Alan…..

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Pero algunos de los trabajadores de la Mariposa fueron menos afortunados. No hubo ningún herido aquí, sin embargo hubo dos niños ahogados cerca de Diriamba. La mayoría de ellos tuvieron problemas de inundación y también daños en sus techos. Así que el viernes por la mañana hicimos una reunión de emergencia, dividiendo a los trabajadores en grupos para reparar las casas de los demás (La Mariposa pago los materiales necesarios – ¡la cuenta sigue subiendo!).

Jimmy, uno de nuestros maestros, vive con su familia en una casa muy pequeña donde el tanque séptico está justamente afuera de la cocina. Colapso con la lluvia, así que los trabajadores de la Mariposa corrieron para llenar el apestoso hoyo. Uno de los muchos problemas con la instalación de inodoros en situaciones de “Tercer Mundo”.

Abajo, Jimmy inspeccionando su tanque séptico colapsado y un grupo de trabajadores de la Mariposa ayudando a salvarlo.

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Uno de los momentos más tristes fue ver el árbol de Panama caído afuera de la casa de Marlon. Era el último de su especie en esta región y estábamos tratando de cuidarlo…construyendo un muro de retención para proteger sus raíces y también usando abono. No fue suficiente, las raíces simplemente no resistieron la cantidad de humedad en el suelo (esto es lo que hace que los arboles caigan) y luego el viento fue demasiado. Cuatro aracaríes (pequeños tucanes) tenían sus nidos en este árbol… ¡solo un poco más de perdida de hábitat!

Abajo, el gigante caído

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Dado el nivel de deforestación en general en Nicaragua no nos podíamos dar el lujo de perder estos preciosos árboles. Y la respuesta oficial, por lo que puedo decir, ha sido podar y cortar los árboles que están en pie en el área urbana, limpiar el lodo de las caminos (arrastrado por las lluvias de las áreas cercanas sin protección de vegetación) y fumigar, explotando las casas con una mezcla de diésel y supermetrina (supuestamente para matar los mosquitos). Algunos de los campesinos también están cortando los restos de cualquier árbol al menos que sea aguacate o mango.

Igual de deprimente ha sido la respuesta de la gente con la que he hablado hasta ahora. Algunos de los que viven en las áreas urbanas menos afectadas vieron esto como un videojuego. Un evangélico me aseguro que significa que el fin del mundo está cerca – ¡pero eso también había sido predicho para el 21 de septiembre! La reacción más común, después de habernos ayudado unos a otros, fue que no podemos hacer nada excepto seguir como si nada.

Bien, estoy de acuerdo con eso hasta cierto punto. Vamos a replantar los jardines, reparar los techos, y hacer lo mejor para ayudar a la vida salvaje amenazada.

Pero esto es cambio climático. Doce años en Nicaragua y nunca he experimentado lluvia como esta. Esta área normalmente no es directamente golpeada por huracanes. Como dijo el presidente de Antigua y Barbuda, Gaston Browne con respecto a Irma….

“La ciencia es clara. El cambio climático es real en el caribe y estamos viviendo las consecuencias de este. Es lamentable que hay algunos que lo ven diferente”.

Mi propia opinión es que no podemos dejar esto a los políticos. No hay tiempo, aun cuando ellos tengan buenas intenciones. Todos tenemos que actuar y rápido. Plantar arboles donde sea posible – reducir cosas que sabemos que contribuyen al calentamiento global como los viajes, consumo de carne y aceite de palma. Comprar menos, consumir menos de todo – ropa, carros, computadoras, Ipads….si no lo hacemos con voluntad, pienso que seremos forzados a hacerlo – ¡A este paso seguro que pronto no habrá un lugar para viajar!!!

Terminando con una nota de esperanza….Los trabajadores de la Mariposa replantando un árbol de Capulín desarraigado – ¡Este es una importante fuente de comida para aves y vamos a hacer todo lo que podamos para salvarlo!

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Hurricane Nate

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Today, Sunday 8th October, I read about Hurricane Nate for the first time. As it enters the mouth of the Mississippi River. Here in Central America we have been reeling from the effects for the past week. The Nicaraguan Government normally prides itself (rightly – I was here in 1989 for Hurricane Joan and experienced firsthand the efficiency especially of the army in evacuating people) on its response to natural disasters but this time there was no prior warning and the president has been conspicuous in his absence from the media. Though I could have missed something as I have been without power for the past 5 days.

Now what we have suffered is of course nothing compared to the Caribbean islands and Florida – though parts of Nicaragua have had it far worse than us. It started with 3 days and nights of incessant rain – our hotel guests were remarkably understanding and laid back as it had quite a negative impact on their stay with us.

Thursday night was the big one. I was up most of the night together with Chepe, one of our night guards, who came to help save my house from flooding. A design fault (mine!!!) means that rain from part of my roof collects on the patio and from there goes straight into my bedrooms! Not good (as Donald Trump might say). Bowls and buckets had to be emptied every half hour…..into a garden already inches under water. At midnight I fell into an exhausted sleep leaving Chepe and the dogs to protect me. I woke Friday morning to a scene of utter devastation. I had been aware of some wind whilst asleep but the damage was unbelievable. Trees down everywhere, my lovely butterfly garden smashed to bits.

Below, the remnants of my roble (oak) tree which was completely beheaded by the wind

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Then on to La Reserva – a huge cedro tree lying right across Jan and Alan’s garden and about 20 more fallen scattered about. Fortunately structural damage to the buildings was light, a hole in the roof of Carol’s cabin and some minor issues at the group study center. I have to say the straw builds survived the ordeal remarkably well.

Below, this WAS Jan and Alans garden……

But some of La Mariposa workers were less fortunate. Noone here was hurt though two boys drowned in nearby Diriamba. Mostly they had flooding problems but also some roof damage. So Friday morning we called an emergency meeting, divided the workers into groups and off they went to repair each other’s houses (La Mariposa paid for the necessary materials – the bill has yet to come in!).

Jimmy, one of our teachers, lives with his family in a tiny house where the septic tank is just outside the kitchen. It collapsed with the rain so La Mariposa workers rushed to help fill in the stinking hole. One of the many issues with installing flushing toilets in “Third World”  situations.

Below, Jimmy surveying his collapsed septic tank and a group of Mariposa workers helping to make it safe.

One of the saddest moments was seeing the fallen Panama tree right outside Marlon’s house. It was the last of its kind in this region and we were attempting to care for it…building a retaining wall to protect the root system and putting in compost. Not enough, the roots simply could not withstand the quantity of moisture in the soil (this is what brings a lot of trees down) and then the wind was just too much. Four aricaris (small toucans) had their homes in this tree….just one more bit of lost habitat!

Below, the fallen giant

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Given the level of deforestation in general in Nicaragua we could ill afford to lose these precious trees. And the official response, as far as I can tell, has been to prune and cut any trees left standing in the urban area, clear the mud from the roads (swept in by the rains from surrounding fields which have no protecting vegetation) and fumigate, blasting houses with a mixture of diesel and supemetrina (supposedly to kill mosquitoes). Some of the campesinos too are cutting down any remaining trees unless they are avocadoes or mangoes.

Equally depressing has been the response of people I have talked to so far. Some of those who live in the least affected urban area seemed to view it all as a kind of video game. One evangelical assured me that it means the end of the world is nigh – but that had also just been predicted for the 21st Sept! The most common reaction, after helping each other out, was that there is nothing we can do except carry on as normal.

Well I am in agreement with that up to a point. We will replant the gardens, fix the roofs, and do our best to assist threatened wildlife.

But this is climate change. 12 years in Nicaragua and I have never experienced rain like this. This area normally does not get direct hits from hurricanes. As the President of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, said in relation to Irma………

“The science is clear. Climate change is real in the Caribbean we are living with the consequences of climate change. It is unfortunate that there are some who see it differently.”

My own opinion is we cannot leave this to politicians. There isn’t time, even when they have good intentions. We all have to act and fast. Plant trees wherever possible – cut down on things we know contribute to global warming such as travel, eating meat and palm oil. Buy less, consume less of everything – clothes, cars, computers, IPads……. If we don’t do it voluntarily I think we will be forced into it – for sure at this rate pretty soon there won’t be anywhere left to travel to!!!!!

Ending on a hopeful note….Mariposa workers replanting an uprooted capulin tree – this is an important source of bird food and we will do all we can to save it!

 

Let’s Explore: Cooking Class

written by Hannah Chinn, La Mariposa Intern

On Monday afternoon, we have cooking class!

We pile into the Mariposa van and drive to a spot on the outskirts of San Juan, where we take a short walk down a dirt road and arrive at a small house. A man directs us to the back, where we find a circle of chairs, a table, a bowl of dough, and a very large artisan oven. Our driver and guide, Josue, explains that we’re learning to bake three different traditional Nicaraguan bocadillos (snacks): empanadas, rosquillasand viejitas

We start by washing our hands (always an important first step in cooking) and then mixing the masa (dough), which is made with flour, cheese, butter, oil, eggs, and milk. When we arrived, it was already partially mixed… so we pour all the rest of the ingredients into the giant bowl and four of us knead it with our hands until it’s soft and easily formed into shapes (and Josue gives it his stamp of approval and tells us we’re finished).

It’s quite messy!

The baker then shows us how to take spoonfuls of dough, flatten them into circles, and fill them with a sweet-salty mixture of cheese and sugar — fairly common in Nicaraguan baking (and incredibly yummy… would recommend highly). With the help of a round plastic base, we fold the circles in half around the filling. Then we seal the edges shut with our fingers and lay them one by one in a long rectangular pan. Just like that, we’re finished with our first snack: empanadas.

We make viejitas next (literally translated as “little old ones”, which is rather confusing at first, but that’s just the name of the snack). Taking balls of the same dough, we press them with our fingers and form shallow bowls that would later be filled with a sweet brown sugar (it was very dark and tasted vaguely of molasses — several of the students taste it before we put it in). We place them carefully in the pans, and two students spoon sugar into each one of them before baking.

Finally, we roll all the leftover dough into small doughnut-like circles and put them into the pans as well — these, the baker tells us, are rosquillas
It’s harder than it sounds.
Hannah’s note: if you Google “rosquillas” you’ll see something that looks a little like a doughnut rolled in sugar… but Nica rosquillas are different! They’re crunchy and a little bit salty (because of the cheese in the dough, probably) and definitely more like biscuits than like doughnuts. They were still pretty great, though.

Once we put everything into the pans (we go through all the dough and filled up four large ones!) to the baker’s satisfaction, he and Josue slide each pan into the oven.

Speaking of which, the oven itself is huge… about as tall as I am (5 feet) and easily 6 feet wide and long. It’s also very hot, since the fire has been burning brightly since we arrived, so the baker uses a long staff to push the pans into the side of the oven between the wall and the hot coals.

We wait about twenty minutes for the baking to finish, telling stories while we sit. Then we pour coffee and eat lots (and lots, and lots, and lots) of piping hot pastries… the baker even gives us bags so that we can take some back to La Mariposa with us!

they’re delicious.

Volunteer Perspective: A Week At La Mariposa

Written by Nick Heise, La Mariposa Volunteer

A scenic view from a local volcano

The community of San Juan in Nicaragua generally moves pretty slowly, but fortunately as a student at La Mariposa I am never lacking for interesting activities with which to get involved. The school organizes activities every single day of the week, ranging from cooking classes to trips to the nearby Laguna to lessons about the history of Nicaragua. I have only been at La Mariposa for a relatively short time (about a week and a half now), so I have much left to experience here. However, my first full weekend spent here was jam-packed with fun and unique adventures — including an unexpected animal encounter and experience with healthcare and hospitals in Nicaragua.

 

As I mentioned, there are constantly activities offered by the school and students are given the freedom to pick and choose as they want. On Friday evening, after classes ended at 5, we took a trip to the nearby city of Granada. This was offered more as a taste of the city, allowing us to have dinner at a local restaurant and explore a little before heading back to San Juan at about 9pm. Granada is a city with some beautiful architecture and interesting people, with streets filled by stalls for handmade crafts, cigars, and jewelry along with street performers. If you’re interested in short glimpses of touristy places, this would have been perfect for you – and if your curiosity wouldn’t have been completely satisfied, the school also is offering a longer day to Granada this Saturday. With the school’s activities, there really is a little something for everyone.

And that was just Friday night! On Saturday we took a day trip to a nearby volcano called Mombacho, which was equally exciting as it was physically strenuous. For hiking enthusiasts (such as myself), you could choose to take the extremely steep yet short (~3.5 mile, or ~5.5 kilometer) hike up the volcano for a reduced price. If this isn’t your idea of fun, no worries – you can take a bus up instead for about $10. At the top, enjoy an educational talk by a worker at an eco-station about the local environment and take a relaxing walk around the volcano crater. There are some truly fantastic views (so long as it’s a clear day) of both the city of Granada and the nearby landscapes.

Smiling through the tears on our hike – we were about halfway up at this point

 

Sunday morning kicked off with a guided walk around Barrio 19 Julio (a neighborhood named for Nicaragua’s independence day). The guides were very friendly and more than happy to chat as an opportunity for us to practice our spanish, will also giving us cool facts and info about the neighborhood and the surrounding area. In the afternoon, some students at the school organized a trip to a beach on the west coast of Nicaragua. La Mariposa provided transportation, and we enjoyed a wonderful beach day of swimming, relaxing, and refreshment in the warm central American sun.

Enjoying refreshments at the bar right on a Pacific beach

 

I was, however, unfortunate enough to – while wading in the shallow water – step onto a stingray and get stung by it’s barbed tail. Yelling, I rushed out of the water and back towards the beachside bar. The locals working were immediately helpful and knew what to do, a testament to the kindness of Nicaraguans. After cleaning the wound and dousing it in hot water, we shortly returned to the bus to go back to San Juan. The pain of the sting was excruciating (and lasted for hours) but the driver from La Mariposa drove me to the local hospital where I was treated by nurses. The nurses were knowledgeable and helpful, giving me shots for tetanus and for the pain and assigning me on a regiment for some medication to ensure it does not get infected. Notably, this entire experience was entirely at no cost to me – even the shots and medication were given to me free of charge. Further, my host mother was notified and even came to the clinic to check on me, help me understand the treatment needed going forward, and take me back home. La Mariposa sent more people to check on me once at home and make sure everything was alright. Between the nurses, the staff at La Mariposa, and my host family, I felt extremely cared for and secure. I take the experience, despite the pain and discomfort, to be one showing the extent of the care Nicaraguans and this community have for one another and their preparedness in case of odd, unlikely emergencies.

Life here at La Mariposa is usually quite calm and relaxed, but certainly not boring! And if an accident occurs, you can rest assured that you will be well cared for in this close-knit community.

Jader – A Very Special Story

Yader Jn

Quick summary: Jader was born in 2013. He has always needed a tracheostomy but this is not freely available in Nicaragua, costing around $450. Jaders father sells ice cream — he makes around $3 per day. While he was selling ice cream to Mariposa students it occurred to him,  with much trepidation, to ask us for help. WE did a collection amongst the students and raised enough! Since then we have helped to the tune of $3500 for medicines, consultancies, operations etc. Jader Jn is now thriving, has started school and wants to be  a doctor when he grows up.

Below is Jader’s story, in the words of his father…
Now read on and practice your Spanish!

Jader nació el 19 de abril del año 2013 en el hospital de Jinotepe – fue remitido al hospital en Managua el día siguiente. Fue entubado quedando sedado por completo, respirando por ventilador – el cual despertó después de cinco días. Ya no pudo respirar normal por lo que tuvieron que hacerle un TRAQUEOSTOMÍA. Desde ese momento nuestra vida dio giro de 360 grados. Pasemos en al hospital 28 días con tratamiento. Luego me dieron de alta precio más tratamiento.

Lo llevamos a casa. Fue entonces cuando me dijo el doctor que necesitábamos succionar los secreciones del tubo con mucho cuidado porque se podía asfixiar. Había que conseguir un ASPIRADOR. Comencé a preguntar a varios personas sobre este aparato. Descubrí que el aspirador costaba alrededor de $450. Y no teníamos ni un córdoba en mi bolsa.

Yo soy vendedor de Eskimo (helados) y solo gana como 80 cords por dia (mas o menos $3 por dia). Siempre pasaba por La Escuela de Español La Mariposa vendiendo. Un dia se enfermo el niño y nosotros estábamos desesperados. Se me vino a la cabeza – voy a pedir dinero aquí en La Mariposa – yo me dije que por lo menos van a darme 5 dollars. Con mucho temor pregunte si me podia ayudar para comprar el aspirador. Fue ahí donde me comenzaron ayudarme de manera incondicional. Doña Paulette me pidió solo el epicrisis y una foto del niño.

Desde entonces he recibido alrededor de $3500 para comprar medicinas, un nebulizador, consultas con especialistas, operaciones, leches especiales – todo lo  necesario para sobrevivir y crecer nuestro hij. Y ahora tiene casi 4 años y aunque todavía tiene la traqueotomía se puede decir que Jader tiene una vida normal. Ya estamos llevándolo a la escuela. El dice que cuando sea grande va a ser doctor.

No tenemos palabras para agradecerles todo que han hecho los estudiantes de La mariposa por mi familia. Muchas gracias!

INTRODUCING MAS MARIPOSAS……our NGO!

Eco cookers donated by La Mariposa

Eco cookers donated by La Mariposa

MAS MARIPOSAS ….Announcing that La Mariposa has a sister organization.

Our NGO is in the final stages of its formation -approved by the State of Colorado and now just a short wait for US federal approval.

Our reasons for taking this step (some of you I know think it is long overdue!)  (1) we will have  a legitimate base upon which to fundraise and apply for grants and (2) Paulette will have somewhere to leave La Mariposa in her will, thus ensuring that its operations remain for the benefit of the whole community (and of course Guillermina).

Legally, administratively and financially Mas Mariposas will be a completely separate organization from the business. This means that the Spanish school and hotel will function as normal but instead of using our income to directly fund projects, it will be donated to the NGO. Our 15 or so project workers, for example, will be paid by the NGO.

In practice, of course, we will continue to work very closely together.  The NGO will work with the same kind of community and environmentally based principles as La Mariposa and will look to support already existing projects that spring in one way or another from the community. The principle of not imposing our own ideas or solutions will still be paramount. It will also follow our well tested principles of minimum bureaucracy, maximum effectiveness and maximum local employment. Unlike many NGOs, Mas Mariposas will not be a single issue organization. It is our belief that you cannot tackle problems in isolation (whether skinny street dogs or disabled children without wheelchairs) without addressing the fundamental issues of poverty and environmental degradation.   Obviously La Mariposa will continue to play the major role in offering local employment as well as supporting other employment opportunities such as the women’s cooperative bakery. But clearly the most disadvantaged groups, such as disabled children and their families, need extra and very specific help which Mas Mariposas will continue to provide. The work will stay varied and responsive, the hope being that we will be able to access higher levels of funding than the Mariposa business has been able to provide.

Some examples of our current projects

  • donating eco cookers to the poorest families, at the same time donating tree seedlings
  • Selecting trees from La Mariposa tree nursery to plant out in the communities

    Selecting trees from La Mariposa tree nursery to plant out in the communities

  • assisting with the provision of latrines and water pipes in the poorest barrios
  • Mariposa volunteers laying water pipes with the Aguirre community

    Mariposa volunteers laying water pipes with the Aguirre community

  • supporting disabled children and their families through the Los Pipitos project,
  • Guillermina working on the equino therapy project

    Guillermina working on the equino therapy project

  • rescuing horses and dogs and offering them permanent refuge
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  • rescuing wild animals and returning them to the wild
  • Marlon releasing a rare green iguana back into the wild

    Marlon releasing a rare green iguana back into the wild

  • bringing the horse project together with Los Pipitos through offering equino therapy
  • supporting community based out of school projects and reading corners, providing children in some of the poorest barrios with play and learning opportunities
  • Reading corner

    Reading corner

    working with MINED to develop our successful model of in-school support in the most deprived schools

  • working in many different ways to protect and enhance the local environment and involve members of the local community in these efforts – including planting and donating trees and other plants, demonstrating a successful organic gardening model, producing our own compost, using sustainable building methods, recycling trash and grey water, acting to protect wild animals, reptiles, birds, butterflies, bees and other insects….
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  • preserving local cultures, for example, through supporting local dance groups and local knowledge of natural medicine
  • Dancing at the Xmas party

    Dancing at the Xmas party

  • supporting local sports leagues in some of the poorest barrios
  • establishing and maintaining a nature reserve, combined with an education aspect for both visitors and local people
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Happy Xmas and an activist New Year from La Mariposa and Paulette

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Dear all

A brief note to wish all of our students and supporters a Happy Xmas and a Great New year.  And to give an update on where la Mariposa is up to. Plus a little bit of personal stuff!

2014 has, on the whole, been a very good year for La Mariposa. A major development has been our purchase of a piece of land right in the center of the pueblo but ideal for setting up a small  nature reserve which is what we have spent the last 5 months working hard on. The land has some beautiful enormous trees, covered in bromeliads and orchids (flowering now!) as well as plenty of good coffee. With the help of numerous volunteers, we have planted a few thousand more trees, created a butterfly garden by planting whatever flowers we can get our hands on, building a frog pond, bat boxes, a dual purpose latrine (use number one is obvious, the other is collecting urine for compost!!!) and in Jan we start building the first straw build cabin there.  We also use the land as a base for some of our community projects…especially re afforestation and the eco cooker project (we have so far donated, no cost, no strings attached, some 200 eco cookers to the poorest families in the poorest communities with the hope that their use will reduce firewood consumption. And thus reduce the felling of trees around here which in general, as everywhere, goes on at an alarming rate. Meyvi, the worker employed on this project visits all of the families afterwards to ensure they are being used correctly. Success rate so far is about 95%!! A personal project is my “heritage” chicken project!! Yes, I have finally lost my marbles. Actually they are lovely. In contrast to the dreadful explosion of factory farmed chickens in Nicaragua, these are chickens of varied breeds (some have no feathers on their necks and heads, others have feathers on their legs which look like trendy boots and still others have their feathers ruffled up the wrong way!!) – they get on reasonably well with yet another bunch of rescued dogs.  I have become a bit of a bird fanatic in my dotage so we now have bird feeders (mostly bananas) everywhere and they are attracting a wide range of birds both resident and migrant! Seeing a couple of aricaris (like toucans only smaller) feeding from a bunch of bananas quite makes the day!! I am really excited that this year we are going to do a bird count on our land, together with some of the other conservationists nearby.

Eco cookers donated by La Mariposa

Eco cookers donated by La Mariposa

Linked in with the Nature Reserve is our new program of rural tourism. The idea is to offer an alternative set of afternoon/weekend activities in some of the poorest communities close to us. I was truly shocked to discover quire recently that there are still families with no running water, no sanitation and no electricity and remote from any school! But they have the great advantage of being situated close to the Masaya Volcano national park with spectacular views over the volcano, great birds and wildlife – all in all excellent tourist potential!  The new program will be a mix of horse riding and hiking the trails, bird and animals watching (we are building a special observation hide), visiting and talking to local families, learning about their history, some of the local myths and legends. Agriculture around here is interesting too – there are small scale coffee and tobacco farms where students can take part in the harvest as well as pineapple, pitaya, fruit trees of all varieties, corn, beans, squash…….some of it is organic and some not. Students can learn a lot about environmental issues around here, most of which of course are not just relevant here but globally. One of these communities, Venecia, is situated on the shores of a stunning, but hugely polluted, crater lake. We are of course doing a lot of project work in these communities such as building latrines (for the use of the community and visitors), funding a teacher to help the kids read and write in the community of Los Aguirres, helping with laying water pipes, regular clean ups of the lake, reforestation and so on. It is a demanding project but an exciting one and we are hoping to get the first takers for the new program in the New Year.

Trekking the rim of the Masaya volcano and visting indigenous communities along the way

Trekking the rim of the Masaya volcano and visting indigenous communities along the way

Aside from this project, we currently support around 15 projects in La Concha generally. Several of them are children’s projects…reading corners, out of school clubs, community centers and support units within schools. We are even funding a night guard for a school where there are no resources to pay for one. Our work with Los Pipitos, a project for disabled kids, has really taken off this year. We now employ a physical therapist and, thanks to a generous grant from Peaceworks, we have been able to put in electricity and furbish a therapy room. For the past few months Wednesday afternoons have been horse therapy afternoons. We simply brought together two projects…the rescued horses (of which we now have nearly 20) and the disabled kids. They love it and we now have a horse and cart to take the kids who cannot sit on a horse. A huge benefit of this has been it gives Guillermina a job to do which uses her strengths; she enjoys herself enormously and has just expanded her repertoire to organizing a football team for the kids twice a week.

Life however is not all work and I am increasingly taking time out for myself and Guillermina. This is helped greatly by the new team that I now have around me! For those of you who have been here you may well remember Marlin, now the head of the Spanish school and doing an excellent job. I never thought I could find someone as good as Bergman (his leaving was pretty horrible, not suitable material for a Xmas letter!!!) but Marlin is good at the job and also honest and communicative. He really enjoys helping with the projects. Then Richard was promoted to run the activity program…also a runaway success. We have a new admin worker and accountant, Hazel who is also terrific and of course Rosa continues as head accountant though she will leave us for a while in Jan to have a baby. Chester now heads up the administrative team and the interns. So I am surrounded by wonderful, competent young people who really go out of their way to be supportive and involved. The rest of the staff group has been pretty much unchanged for some time…Ismael still runs everything; Emilia heads up the kitchen….we now employ 60 people, possibly the achievement of which I am most proud! Management meetings are great fun!

What this means for me is I can take more time off. A few months ago Guillermina and I moved out of La Mariposa where we have lived for some 8 years and into our little hobbit house on the farm. The house is built mainly out of straw with a tiled roof, lots of patios and a garden that I just love.  Much to my surprise, Guillermina enjoys being there with me…we potter about, she helps feed the rescued dogs and cats (too many!) and put out food for the birds. I listen to music and read a lot, I am trying to read more and more in Spanish. We have planted a flower garden that is attracting butterflies, special trees to help bees and other insects. Apart from the odd scorpion, all life is welcome! It is a great getaway for me.

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It is hard to leave the house now but I still want to travel some more in Nicaragua. Especially because I have become more and more caught up in environmental issues and I want to go see first-hand what is happening in the areas where campesinos (of course not the rich!) are already being forced off their land to make way for the canal, the zona libre, a tourist complex and I dread to think what else. I have this year visited Bosawas, the biggest stretch of rainforest in Central America but rapidly disappearing. I saw part of it burning– huge, magnificent trees being burnt to make way for yet more cattle ranches – and now the canal. But I have written blogs on these, please read them because these are global issues not just local Nicaraguan ones!

https://mariposaschool.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/nicaraguan-canal-connections-and-questions/

https://mariposaschool.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/the-consumption-of-bosawas-and-the-attack-on-indigenous-peoples/

This year I got my Nicaraguan citizenship which means I can happily start to get involved in some form of environmental activism: that is my goal for 2015!! I can be sent to prison but I cannot be deported!!

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Well I think that is about it!!

We wish you a happy holiday and a globally aware New Year!

Paulette, Guillermina and La Mariposa team.