Friday, April 15, 2011

From Managua to Jalapa: Nicaragua

On March 27, we took a 7 hour bus to travel from the Costa Rica Center
to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Sadly, on Monday, as we were
about to begin the activities for the week, we found out that Peter´s
mom was in the hospital on life support. Our morning activity was
cancelled, as the whole group was shaken by this news. During the
afternoon, most of the students went to a museum in Managua, while
Peter waited on news about his mom. During the evening, we found out
that she passed away, and Peter left that night to return to the
United States and be with his family. Needless to say, the whole
group was deeply affected by this death and Peter´s departure. Please
keep Peter and his family in your prayers as they go through this
difficult time.

The next day, Tuesday, we began to follow the normal plan for the
week. In the morning, we visited a community made of members affected
by the agricultural chemical Nemagon. This chemical was used by large
U.S. agricultural companies such as Dole during the 70´s and 80´s
throughout the world, and it was known to have many harmful effects on
those who used it. The individuals in this community had all been
affected by physcially by the use of this chemical, yet have never
received compensation or justice. The next day we met with
individuals from PAC, a development organization started by World
Relief that continues to work in Nicaragua. Here, we learned about
PAC´s efforts to help farmers through financial services and training.
Additionally, PAC ensures that all their coffee producers are fair
trade certified, and they help with the exportation of the coffee.
That afternoon (Wednesday), we visited the U.S. embassy in Managua.
There, we discussed many different things with the embassy
representatives, including Nicaraguan politics, immigration, violence,
and free trade. On Thursday we talked with an official from the FSLN,
the political party that currently controls the presidency in
Nicaragua. We also met with an agency that promotes business
investment in Nicaragua, and a representative from an organization
working to stop the spread of AIDS in Nicaragua.

Following our time in Managua, we spent a few days living at a farming
cooperative near the city of Grenada. On our way there, we stopped at
a beach and had a talk with an important author whose son and brother
died under the repression in Argentina. She moved to Nicaragua at the
start of the Sandinista revolution in the 1980´s in hope of the change
that this revolution brought. At the farming cooperative near
Grenada, we learned about many of their efforts to combine sustainable
living practices with ecotourism. They also put on a cultural
presentation for us, and many of us spent hours dancing afterwards
with the people of this rural Nicaraguan village... it was truly a
moment of cultures blending together, and quite entertaining to watch.

We are currently staying in Jalapa, in the northern part of Nicaragua.
Jalapa is located at the foothills of a coffee-growing region, and
here, we are learning more about the work that PAC (mentioned earlier)
does in Nicaragua. Tomorrow we will be leaving for our next
destination... all this traveling is keeping the group busy and tired,
but we are excited to see new things.

Aaron Korthuis

Monte Verde, Costa Rica

The day after parent´s weekend, we left for Monte Verde and the small rural town of San Luis. We stayed at the University of Georgia campus in the beautiful cloud rainforests. Upon arriving, we immediately went on a hike through the forest to learn about the unique plants and animals living in the area. The next day we moved in with our host families in San Luis where we spent the next few nights. The families we lived with were all very welcoming, and it was very interesting to compare the differences in rural farming in Costa Rica with our Honduran homestays. It was amazing to see how attached people were to their host families even after a few short days.
Our time in San Luis was filled with lectures on environmentalism, ecotourism, and fair trade coffee. It was great to hear about a community that is working together to form a cooperative that emphasizes both social and environmental improvements, making the world a better place than it was the day before. A highlight for many people was definitely our trip up the mountain to go ziplining. The view from up in the trees was amazing, and we finished the day off right by ending with a Tarzan Swing. This meant we had to climb a wooden platform 26 feet into the air, be attached to a cable, and simply jump off, swinging through the air like Tarzan. There were definitely people who enjoyed this more than others! We then returned to the Costa Rica Center and only had a few days to enjoy our time there before heading out to Nicaragua bright and early at 4:00 in the morning.

Punta Mona, Costa Rica.....a life changing experience.

We went to southern Costa Rica, pretty much to where the road runs out. After a delicious Carribean lunch, we headed into the jungle with guides to take us to our destination: Punta Mona. While walking through the jungle, we saw snakes, sloths, HUGE spiders that crawled on our faces (dont´worry, they don´t bite). We ate termites, fresh coconut, and stinky fruit. After seeing the beautiful jungle and hiking for a couple hours, we boated in to Punta Mona.

Punta Mona is a permaculture farm eleven miles from the Panama border. We learned about the ins and outs of permaculture which means "permanent culture." In this movement that is beginning to take off, we learned about sustainability and how we need to take care of each other and the earth at the same time.

At Punta Mona, all of their energy comes from solar power. All of their water comes from rain run-off that is collected from a gutter system and then purified. All of their food is grown on their farm or bought from locals. This food was some of the best and healthiest food on the face of the earth. Really.

When we weren´t learning about permaculture and sustainability, we were digging ponds, swimming in the ocean, kayaking, hanging out in hammocks, or chatting with the wonderful chef Sarah. It was the perfect time of restoration after getting out of Honduras. Our group was able to spend time together and have some debriefing time of our Honduran experiences. We started to understand each other a little better and our relationships really started to deepen. This was encouraged by lots of free-style singing and the strumming of the guitar.

We got fake tatoos. We went searching for sea turtles. We slept under mosquito nets. We used composting toilets. We made chocolate. We ate weird fruit. We went on a medicinal plant walk. We laughed. We had a bonfire. We had a great time.

So basically, Punta Mona is awesome and we had a wonderful experience.