Thursday, March 13, 2014

2 years worth of crap pt. 4

Email 7:

Well, this is my first update from Nicaragua and it is my birthday! YAY ME!

Anyways, Nicaragua has been great. I am meeting a lot of great people and organizations. Within my first few days of being here I got to see my first coffee farm. It was pretty awesome. The person we met, Marvin, was very knowledgeable and his farm and open to share his knowledge. The name of the farm was La Hermandad (The Brotherhood) and they do a lot of amazing things. They have no electricity but they have a school to for the local kids which is a positive. It was a kind of low altitude farm (between 900 and 1100 meters) so not all the coffee was specialty grade but they do have some specialty plots. They also have some certifications which they were proud of but weren't sure if it really paid off in the end. They have one direct trade account which they love and want more because they get better prices for their coffee but they usually end up selling their coffee to a middle man because it is easier and more of a guaranteed sale. I will send some pictures when I can. But it was right after picking so there aren't a lot of cherries on the trees and this year was a pretty bad year for leaf rust disease. The next farm I talked to had lost 70 to 80 percent of their crop to leaf rust.

The next “farm” we visited was Finca Esperanza Verde and it is an ecolodge located about a 3 or 4 hour hike away from San Ramon. They have done a lot of work creating a beautiful nature reserve full of hiking trails, coffee fields, and vegetable gardens. It was started by former Peace Corps volunteers in 1999 and was a non-profit for a long time. A year ago it was bought by a lovely couple and they are making it for profit but using it to enrich the lives of the locals by only hiring locals and mostly females to work. They only hire women to pick their coffee because they tend to be more deliberate than the men in their picking. Their words, not mine. They also had won a Cup of Excellence long long ago (2007) and are trying to regrow the coffee side. A lot of the trees were old and needed replacing, they lost a lot to the leaf rust, and they wanted to try different varietals. They came in knowing nothing about coffee and are getting a crash course in the producing side. It was great to sit and talk with them about their experience.

Email 8:

Hello y'all! Well, I guess I should tell you about the last couple of weeks.

First off, thanks for the birthday greetings. My birthday was awesome! We spent the evening in Matagalpa and hung out and drank (quite a bit, I might add) and had pizza. It was a karaoke night so the crowd at the bar was very into the evening. We had an entire section to ourselves as we were the loud, drunk foreigners. We drank a lot of really nice, local rum called Flora de CaƱa which tastes much better than the national beers here. That was really all that happened.

The next day embarked on a long mission to get to Honduras. Yes, I went to Honduras...and I DIDN'T get shot. We spent the next week in Danli hanging out with Kevin's family. They are wonderful and very open I understand much better than I had before. I am very grateful that he was willing to introduce Whitney and I to such an intimate part of his life. We were supposed to go to the Mayan ruins in Copan but we ended up changing our plans because the cost was extremely high. A round trip bus from the capital was $76 USD then it would have been another $15 USD to get into the ruins. Plus, we would have had to get a hotel for 2 nights because it would be 1 day of travel from Danli to Copan. That is $91 USD just for transportation to Copan and the entrance fee not including the cost of a hotel. To put it in perspective, over the course of 8 days I spent less than $150 USD for all my food, buses, taxis, and plus allergy meds. So, going to Copan was a bit outrageous. As such, we went on several day hikes around Danli and just relaxed. It was great. But it feels good to be back in San Ramon (mainly because that is where my computer was).

Now that we are back work has actually started. Right now, because of our (mostly my) lack of language skills we are teaching English to kids and adults. We hold about 3 classes between San Ramon and Matagalpa. On Mondays and Fridays we have 2 classes and Wednesday we have 1 class. Wednesday nights we are going to start helping out a Peace Corps volunteer with her English classes too. Despite not being very busy with teaching we have been helping out their Bookmobile with some activities. Also, a group of high schoolers have been here for the past week and we have been hanging out with them too. So, we are keeping busy, when the high school group leaves I am sure we will help out the Bookmobile more.

Speaking of the high school group, San Ramon is very saturated with volunteer groups and NGOs. No, seriously. It is almost ridiculous with the amount of people who are here volunteering. Besides Planting hope and their 4 volunteers living in San Ramon, there is a group of Spanish students doing some sort of educational project, there is an Irish volunteer working here doing HIV/AIDS outreach with a local NGO, an organization for soon-to-be/new mothers, an NGO called Sister Communities of San Ramon, and finally Peace Corps volunteers—well, there were 2 until last week when one COSed (finished her service) and a couple others that I probably missed/don't know of. All of these organization serve a city of about 2,800 people. But, there is approximately 30,000 people in the municipality, in regards to the municipality that isn't much, it just feels like a lot when the urban population is only 2,800 people.

I think that brings us up to speed. Thanks for reading! When I get pictures of my students I will email them. Until then, enjoy these lovely pictures of Honduras and Nicaragua. Take care!

Holy crap! We are all caught up! The next post will be a real, honest update and not me pasting in old emails. Weird, what am I going to do? What will I say? I might have to take some time to go over some topics to discuss. 

Anyways, thanks for sticking it through the hard times of reading old emails. Hopefully the next post will be a bit more engaging. 

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