La Mariposa News – more upbeat – come on down!

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Welcome to La Mariposa

La Mariposa has students and reservations – We have been busy with students at the Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel. First a family of 5, including Cheyanne, 3 years old, stayed with us for 6 weeks over Xmas – they helped us release 30 iguana back into the wild. It was very hard to see them go as they had become part of the Mariposa but the same day a group from the USA arrived to stay in the hotel, take classes and do trips. This group included another family with a child of 8, she enjoyed her one on one teachers, the cooking class and of course our animal life.

It seems from talking to members of the group that people feel safer coming here with an organised group than travelling alone.  This one was co-led by Brian Peterson, an old friend of La Mariposa and of course our wonderful staff were on hand to arrange anything from a special outing to a room change. The success we had with this group made me think we should do it again! Also worth remembering that La Mariposa has many years of experience working with groups of university and high school students at the Study Center which is available and much cheaper than the hotel…….SO if any of you are in a position to recruit a group, of any age group, let us know. Or indeed if you know anybody who might be interested. The work on your side really involves mostly the publicity – we can do the rest and as we employ excellent tour guides you are welcome to be a group member rather than leader once here. I attach the flier we used for this trip…..If you can bring 6 or more, we will offer a special price and YOU get a free place!

2019 Nicaraguan Adventure Brochure (1)2019 Nicaraguan Adventure Brochure pg. 2 (1)

We are now offering our FULL program of afternoon/weekend activities from live volcano, beach & colonial city to horseriding & salsa classes! As well as one on one Spanish with trained and experienced teachers, accomodation in delightful natural settings and great, mostly vegetarian, food. You can volunteer…below Mark leads a horse on our equino therapy project for disabled children. We very much welcome families with children of any age – they also have one on one classes or activity sessions with specially trained teachers. 

We do currently have a scattering of reservations throughout the year and it does seem as if international tourism is beginning to make a slight but noticeable recovery. It is important to stress that Nicaragua is SAFE for tourists and, in spite of the deteriorating economic situation here for many people, ordinary crime has NOT risen. And please note that the UK, USA and Canadian governments are still advising caution but not against travel here.

Read and pass on our reviews from December 2018 and this year.

https://www.tripadvisor.com.mx/Hotel_Review-g551472-d677852-Reviews-La_Mariposa_Spanish_School_and_Eco_Hotel-Masaya_Masaya_Department.html

La Mariposas SKYPE class initiative has also been going well and kept several of our excellent teachers employed. At $12 per hour they are great value. Contact us on lamariposaspanishschool06@gmail.com for details.

News from Asocacion Tierra and the projects – ALL of our projects are up and running,and we still have 60 employees, though clearly we have cut back on outgoings in general and most are on half time. Chispa de Vida, the equino therapy, the hydro therapy, the community based children’s reading and play centers, the English class project in Panama are all still going strong. We are maintaining the nature reserves and are planning a lot more reforestation in the coming year. The crisis has also had the positive result in pushing us to grow more of our own food – so we now produce more of our own organic coffee, beans, fruit, eggs as well as veggies. We had a huge harvest of mandarins this year.

You will probably all think us crazy – opening a new community based childrens project when we have no money. Two reasons – the need is obvious, around 100 kids and their parents turned up for the opening.
Second, this is in a barrio commonly referred to as El Chirigete which is highly offensive and means ‘dirty’ – it is the barrio everyone else blames for thefts or when anything goes wrong! Ignored in general by the authorites (except the police), the people of San Pedro were very involved in the opposition to the government and the building of roadblocks. Most of the young men fled from this barrio during ‘Operation Clean Up’ and are now in Costa Rica.
So the idea of this project was to contribute to the process of reconciliation – I have been invited 3 times to join the local Council of Reconciliation and have always accepted the invitation with great enthusiasm. But as far as I know, it has never actually met so we decided to go ahead and do our bit anyway.
It seems to have worked – you can see how many kids showed up! A message of hope and a future for the kids of this community.
If you would like to contribute, please donate via www.masmariposas.org

 

Although we have cut back on sterilization clinics, we are still helping animals. A  magnificent two toed sloth arrived at the gate. We normally resist the purchase of wild animals for obvious reasons but sometimes the need of the individual animal takes over. They are in danger of extinction and now rarely seen around here. Our vet Sergio happened to be around and he pronounced her very healthy so she was taken to join our male (as luck would have it) at the Canada Honda nature reserve.
We have also taken in a few abandoned puppies and kittens- below they are being bathed and deflead by Sergio.



We have also undertaken a number of environmental projects including regular street cleaning with the Ministry of Health and building ‘pozos’ in backyards to clean soapy water….we are trying to persuade local people to join us!


Lots of people – students, staff, interns – have helped us enormously to stay alive and keep some employment and hope alive in our community. Too many to thank everyone individually – below is Michelle doing a fundraiser for us.

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Wish us all luck and if you would like to help us help the environment and people of our community, especially the children, and our animals then please contribute on www.masmariposas.org THANK YOU!

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You can now book your sustainable rural adventure with La Mariposa

By horse or by foot – views of the live crater of the Masaya Volcano and, in the distance, the crater lake , Laguna de Masaya. L to R - Ariel, who leads the horses; Linda, group member; Franklin, local guide; Marlin, program coordinator; Nick, group member and photographer; Ismael, program coordinator and Bismark, local guide.

By horse or by foot – views of the live crater of the Masaya Volcano and, in the distance, the crater lake , Laguna de Masaya. L to R – Ariel, who leads the horses; Linda, group member; Franklin, local guide; Marlin, program coordinator; Nick, group member and photographer; Ismael, program coordinator and Bismark, local guide.

SUSTAINABLE ADVENTURE WITH THE COMMUNITIES OF THE MASAYA VOLCANO

La Mariposa has worked for several years with our neighboring indigenous communities – primarily the barrios of Panamá, Aguirre and Venecia – now we can offer a two week sustainable tourism program of exceptional diversity, based in these communities and the surrounding landscapes. Our program has such variety and depth thanks to our longstanding relationships with the communities, our focus on assisting their self-development and our commitment to protecting the environment.

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

Our guides and homestays are from the local communities. We are not experts in any one specialty but can tell you a great deal about the area – from its history, geography, myths and legends to the flora and fauna. We introduce you to different farming practices, organic and non-organic and products as varied as pineapple and coffee. We can show you traditional medicinal plants and healing practices. We focus on the efforts of the communities to combat the impact of climate change, especially since the serious drought in 2014.

One of the indigenous communities we visit, the Aguirre family. They will teach us about their history, their organic integrated farm, local flora and fauna and their medicinal plants.

One of the indigenous communities we visit, the Aguirre family. They will teach us about their history, their organic integrated farm, local flora and fauna and their medicinal plants.

The program includes:

Riding and hiking through stunning scenery, exploring a variety of natural eco systems including Pacific dry tropical forest, a live volcanic crater, lava flows, open grassland, a crater lake.

  • Laguna de Masaya (from the Masaya side)

    Laguna de Masaya (from the Masaya side)

Visiting a variety of local farms, looking at the impact humans have had on the various landscapes – especially through farming but also, more recently, tourist developments.

  • View of the Masaya Volcano from a tobacco farm. You will see the mixture of types of small scale agriculture, of which this is one example. We can see, in season, how different crops like tobacco and coffee are processed.

    View of the Masaya Volcano from a tobacco farm. You will see the mixture of types of small scale agriculture, of which this is one example. We can see, in season, how different crops like tobacco and coffee are processed.Interacting with the communities around the rim of the Masaya Volcano, focusing especially on the indigenous, who have received the least input from national/local authorities and so have retained many indigenous customs.

    Interacting with the communities around the rim of the Masaya Volcano, focusing especially on the indigenous, who have received the least input from national/local authorities and so have retained many indigenous customs.

  • Meet Don Pablo who has lived here for 60 years, loves to tell his story and introduce us to his cows.

    Meet Don Pablo who has lived here for 60 years, loves to tell his story and introduce us to his cows.

    Learning about traditional food and cooking, music and dance, natural medicine, myths and legends, the history of the area…….

    Helping to provide funds and volunteer help for developments requested by the communities themselves. The lack of official interest has also meant of course that the level of poverty and access to basic facilities such as drinking water and schooling has been severely restricted.

  • Mariposa volunteers laying water pipes with the Aguirre community

    Mariposa volunteers laying water pipes with the Aguirre community

    Staying with local families, with overnights in hammocks, offers a real way to understand the problems and joys of community life as well as ensuring that resources go directly to local families.

    Trying to keep our tourist footprint as light as possible. Transport is mostly by foot or horseback. We use motor vehicles only when absolutely necessary!

  • Trekking around the rim of the crater of the Masaya Volcano on horseback

    Trekking around the rim of the crater of the Masaya Volcano on horseback

    Bird watching opportunities and the chance to observe night animals at our specially built observation hide.

  • Black headed trogon...just one of the many species of birds living around the Masaya volcano

    Black headed trogon…just one of the many species of birds living around the Masaya volcano

    The program has been worked out with the communities who will benefit directly from the income. The communities also receive help in the form of construction, education, drinking water projects and more. A major Mariposa project involves donating eco cookers to reduce the reliance on firewood and reduce smoke emission, thus mitigating health risks associated with cooking on open fires. This project has been linked in with reforestation so when families accept a cooker from us they also take trees from our tree nursery to plant on their land.

  • Eco cookers donated by La Mariposa

    Eco cookers donated by La Mariposa

    Reaforesting the shores of the Laguna de Masaya

    Reaforesting the shores of the Laguna de Masaya

    This program is:

    • a 14-day program but you can opt to do one week, you can also combine with the Mariposa Spanish class/activity program the preceding week or the succeeding week.

    • The group needs a minimum of 3 people to function. Maximum 6.

    • Cost for one week per person is $450

  • Thanks to Nick Saraceni, Marlon Reyes, Tim salt and Ann Tagawa for the photos

Spanish school….choosing the best

WANT TO CHOOSE A GOOD SPANISH SCHOOL???

It can be hard but applying the following criteria might just help….

  1. Quality of the teaching ….the most intensive learning comes from one on one classes. The teacher can follow your agenda and go at your pace. At La Mariposa, if you would like to spend your conversation class watching monkeys or walking through the village, just tell your teacher. We offer 2 hours per day of grammar and 2 of Spanish, but again you can change that because the agenda is YOURS! Tripadvisor is a good place to check what previous students have thought of the level of teaching. Check that the school invests in teacher training in both grammar and conversation. A good clue as to the overall quality of the school is length of time the teachers stay …..Schools with  a quick turn over are unlikely to deliver good Spanish classes. Another important factor is flexibility. Can the school respond to your particular needs? Does it provide specially designed classes for kids?1381576_699962506699412_225681156_n
  2. What else do you want to do? ….some schools are near the beach, others in a city. La Mariposa is in very pretty countryside, good for activities such as hiking, horse riding (we have several rescued horses) and bird watching. We offer a full afternoon and weekend activity program which has a unique combination of trips out (you can visit the highlights of Nicaragua with us including Leon, Granada, Laguna de Apoyo, Masaya Volcano, Pacific beaches) and activities designed to help you know more about Nicaragua, its history, culture and politics.1010159_695410627154600_360760650_n
  3. What else helps to learn Spanish?….does the school have good resources available, such as exercise books and dictionaries? At La Mariposa we have developed our own grammar book reflecting the uniqueness of Nicaraguan Spanish. What are the classrooms like? It is much easier to learn in pleasant surroundings, with natural daylight than in a tiny, windowless room. As some students have found the wildlife around the Mariposa distracting, we can also offer purpose built indoor classrooms! Climate is important; it can be hard studying in high muggy temperatures. La Mariposa is 500 meters above sea level, nearly always benefiting from a cooling breeze. Even in April (the hottest month) the temperature is pleasant.1619075_761108263918169_1666743701_n
  4. Where will you stay?…. most schools offer a homestay option  and you can always make your own arrangements in a local hotel or boarding house. A few schools have their own accommodation on site….but no one offers the eco hotel facilities of La Mariposa. Situated in green, lush gardens, surrounded by native trees and flowers, it provides an ideal spot to chill out after class or study in hammocks and outdoor ranchos. Solar power, solar heated showers, recycled grey water, our own organic vegetable garden…..1596090_607896185913825_634265896_o
  5. Is it value for money?….when looking at the price be sure to see what is included. The school fees may look cheap but if you end up paying a hotel, food and extracurricular activities on top it can work out much more expensive. This is why we offer a package price of $400 per week ($450 in the high season) which includes 20 hours of Spanish, accommodation in the hotel, 3 meals per day and all programmed activities. We are such good value that we won a Tripadvisor award in 2014….
  6. How safe is the school?….safety is obviously an important issue for everyone. Nicaragua still has something of a negative reputation in this respect, largely due to the bad publicity in the 1980s. In complete contrast, however, Nicaragua is now the safest country in Central America. There is certainly a level of crime and we advise all our guests on certain basic rules to follow especially in relation to taking care of possessions and money. All rooms, including homestays, have a place to lock away valuables.
  7. Does the school help the local economy and/or community? ….is it providing LOCAL employment and shopping in the community to help the local economy? You can get a pretty good idea of this from the website. But be aware that some websites are very vague about this aspect of their work. The more detail there is about what a Spanish School is actually doing to help, the more likely it is to be happening on the ground. And you can always ask to see the projects once you have arrived. And later be sure to write up your views on Tripadvisor so future students have the benefit of your experience.
  8. And if you wish to volunteer/intern? ….the combination of studying Spanish in a classroom and then practicing it in a volunteer setting and with a homestay family ensures the most rapid progress!! Check the range of volunteer placements available (you may want to change once you are there) and be sure that volunteers/interns are not being used to put local people out of their jobs. Because La Mariposa funds over a dozen different projects in the community, we can offer a range of placements. The money volunteers pay us goes directly into keeping these projects going. Most students opt to combine volunteering with homestays……check that the homestay families are well known to the school and there is a training scheme in place for them.1463600_737739699588359_1408528771_n

The Mariposa Eco Built Study Centre

Our new study centre is a pretty amazing place. It is built on a piece of land about 10 minutes from the original Mariposa, up on the ridge behind and with exceptional views over the pueblo of San Juan de la Concha. The smoky live crater of the Masaya volcano is visible to one side and the outline of Lake Managua, with the hills of Esteli in the background, on the other. The above photo shows a pile of volcanic rock in the foreground which we used in building the walls of both the dormitory and the classrooms, and in the background is the volcano which would have originally thrown out these rocks during an eruption. The rocks are now lying around in people’s backyards and fields, making life difficult for crops and grazing animals. So it helps out that we buy this rock, transport it here and then use it.

The first part of the study centre (there are 3 – the comedor or eating/meeting area, the dormitory and the classrooms) is located where there had previously been a house, which the sellers took with them but leaving the cement floor behind. So we used what was already in place and built the comedor over the existing floor. This photo shows the frame going up for the thatch roof. Sadly the skill for thatching has died out around San Juan so a team from near Leon came in. They are super fast and very professional.

This photo shows the recycled tyres which formed the foundation and retaining wall for the classroom building. The tyres are filled with earth which is then compacted down hard. Interestingly, this was the only sustainable building material which proved hard for the building team to get their heads around! The team consisted entirely of local guys from San Juan, as per the objective of the Mariposa of always providing as much employment for local people as possible. It occurred to me that all of the other materials we used – the rock, bamboo, straw, palms for thatching – all these have a history from indigenous times and are therefore part of local knowledge.

You can also see in this photo some of the volunteers who came to work with us on the project. We were particularly lucky to have two architecture students from the University of Maine who helped with the design of the comedor (the wavy lines were their design) and with the tricky bit of the classrooms being on a fairly steep slope.

Sadly, we had to render the straw walls of the comedor with a thin layer of cement in order to keep undesirables such as dampness and mice out! This is a great picture of Noel rendering one of the arched windows which he designed and built. Once he got into the notion of wavy lines there was no stopping him! Noel had built several straw bale houses before ours, including his own, but he commented that they were all just boring square jobs!! Our entire team worked exceptionally well and had the project finished within four months and on budget!!! A team of 14 guys, plus occasional volunteers, and everything done by hand including digging out 15 metre deep latrines.

The straw walls before rendering. Beautiful.

This is the dormitory, two rooms which will have four bunk beds in each. The beds themselves are made from strips of recycled tyre rubber and are very comfortable.

The almost finished classrooms. A great design incorporating the tyres, volcanic rock, cana and straw. The view from the classrooms is also pretty wonderful.

La Mariposa Group Study Centre

Our new group study centre is really coming along fast. The eating and meeting area which is built out of straw bales is absolutely amazing. There will several arch shaped windows overlooking great views to the north and a huge Panama tree to the south. The windows will have ledges for sitting and gazing! Work is also well under way on the dormitory but we have now started, with the help of two architects from the University of Maine the building where Spanish classes and other classes on Nicaraguan history, culture, politics will take place. The centre will of course also host groups who want to do volunteer work on our community projects.

Below is a photo of one of the south facing windows and another view of the inside of the eating area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Mariposa study centre for groups

This will be a great place to take Spanish classes, study the history of Nicaragua or undertake voluntary work in one of the nearby Mariposa supported projects.

Great photo of the new dormitory building going up on the new land. It will provide accommodation for up to 16 and there  ill also be local homestays available. It is built out of volcanic rock and cane (both super sustainable materials and available locally). You can just see the eating and dining area in the background, built from straw bale with a thatched roof. I shall be sorry when we have to plaster over the walls and lose the wonderful smell of hay we have right now!!

Mariposa Study Centre

This weekend saw the beginings of the construction on the new land. The idea is to create a centre for groups to come and study, both Nicaraguans and students from abroad. We can offer courses (for foreign university students, high school kids, church groups) not only in Spanish but also history, developement issues, environmental issues and others. Some we can teach ourselves (my doctorate for example is in development studies) but we also have many Nicaraguan contacts who can offer exciting courses. This all started with the University of Maine who sent  a group of students down last year and are doing so again this year. We designed a custon made curriculum together with their professors – a mixture of Spanish, volunteer work on one of our projects, with classes on, amongst other things, history and eco-tourism. Each student is, furthermore, undertaking their own individual project – everything from eco-architecture (which of course fits well with helping us with this new build) to how Nicaragua is viewed by North Americans. A lot of really stimulating stuff!

The building then will have a dormitory area for groups of up to 16 and we will also be able to offer homestays with families in the local barrio. The classrooms will be built alongside the part of the land with spectacular views over Lake Managua, the Volcan Masaya and as far as Lake Cocibolca. So if anyone gets bored in class there is something to gaze at! There will also be a number of chilling out areas and places to do the Spanish homework!

The photo below is of me and Ismael, his brother Marcos (who is heading up the whole building team) drawing the plan of the dormitory building which will be of volcanic rock and a locally grown cane.

The first part of the construction to go up is the eating and meeting area. This will have  a lovely palm thatched roof and a specialised team from just outside Leon started work on Saturday and will finish the work on Tuesday!!! The wooden posts are eucalyptus which is good to use because as a tree it grows super fast and is also bad for surrounding vegetation as it sucks up a lot of water. The walls will be straw bale, work starts on that today.