Wednesday, April 20, 2011

La Mariposa Spanish School

Foxy my favorite dog looking  down from the balcony

After Sabana Grande, we continued our trip to La Mariposa Spanish School ( the website it is 

Chester and I
We took Spanish classes and my teacher's name was Chester. He was fun; he liked to play games, he spoke English, we made houses out of cards, we watered the plants, and we learned Spanish (of course!). My mom had a bunch of different teachers. She had 2 teachers each day with 1 for conversation and 1 for grammar. Their names were Marlin, Kinema, Elisabeth, and Denis. It was like the school in Leon in that we had classes all morning and then activities in the afternoon-- trips to volcanoes, lakes, markets, museums, talks and history lessons, dance & cooking classes too.

Some of the Eco-hotel
one of our local pulperias
in La Concha
La Mariposa was in some sense like a magical place because as soon as you stepped through the yellow gates everything was so green and tropical, different than the local villages and towns.  La Mariposa was right out side of La Concha which was a small town outside of Masaya. Our school in Leon had almost the complete opposite setting then Mariposa because Dariana was in the city and Mariposa was not. Also the "classrooms" were huts in the middle of the gardens at Mariposa and in Leon, we were just in a building in 1 room. We ate lunch in the outdoor eating area near the terrace.They had an Eco-hotel and a cabin on site. You could also stay with a family but we had already done that for our whole trip before that so we stayed in the cabin; they didn't have any room in the Eco-hotel.
The terrace where sometimes we had classes
Where we ate meals, worked on computers, etc...

Our cabin

Our beds with mosquito nets
Me at the sink next to the shower
the dry latrine
We stayed in the bamboo cabin in the upstairs room that had a little balcony outside with hammocks and a table. The ceiling was completely open so sometimes at night bats would fly through! We had to use mosquito nets so the bugs wouldn't come into our beds. There were 2 rooms downstairs and 1 room upstairs. There was a latrine and a shower in a little bamboo house. We did not have hot water but the rooms did so I got to take hot showers twice when Shelby and Claire (other people staying there) let me use their showers. The cabin was right next to the monkeys and the birds so it was SUPER, DUPER LOUD in the morning and we didn't even hear our alarm go off!!!

Foxy and I

one of the two toucans!
the parrots eating lunch
At La Mariposa they had rescued animals. There were 7 dogs, which I liked a lot and there names were Molly, Toto (who was still a puppy and would nip you sometimes but he was huge), Holly(Toto's mom), Condor (who was a street dog but then brought into La Mariposa and is now healthy), Jas, Saltan (who looked like a cow and was the size of a cow), and Foxy (she was my favorite; that's why I saved her for last)!  There were a couple (or maybe just 1?) cats at La Mariposa. They mostly stayed up in Paulette's room though.There were also lots of birds that made sooo much noise! There were 2 toucans, tons of parrots, a hen of the mountains, and even a shore bird (a stilt I think). They also had rescued monkeys. There were 4 of them and 3 of them were males but there was 1 girl. She was very shy and always stayed in the corner of the cage. We fed them bananas and sometimes mangos or various fruits. A women named Beth made games that they could play and other interesting foods that they could eat.

2  out of the 4 Capuchin Monos

Me in the garden

The food that we ate at La Mariposa came from a couple of their organic gardens. There was 1 that was on site and you just had to walk down a path to get to it. During my lessons Chester would take me there and I would water the plants. The other garden was quite a ways down the road and so we never went there.

La Mariposa was even more like a magical place because when you looked out the windows sometimes we could see Guarduabarrancos (the Nicaragua national bird). They are really pretty with long tails and the bottom part of the tails have no feathers on them! We could also see beautiful sunsets at night.

Guarduabarranco (Nica National Bird)

one of our lovely sunsets

Pitaya (dragon fruit) plants 
                                                                                                                        We had lots of activities in the afternoon that were all different
a little pineapple
 kinds of things. Each week there was certain things that happened on certain days and there were other activities too. On Monday, there was usually talks that sometimes had movies to go along with them. On Wednesday, there was talks about the history of Nicaragua and at night some of us went to a pizza restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was a project that had the street kids make the pizza and work on the farms and they gave them a place to live instead of on the street. On Friday there were Las Noticias which were talks about political things that are happening in Nicaragua. Some of the other activities that we did were these. We went on a hike with Julio (he was part of a host family for home stays and he liked taking people on hikes). On the hike we stopped at an orange farm and at a banana plantation so we had lots of fruit for the hike! While we were hiking up the mountains, we saw pineapple plantations (a cool thing about them were that they were bright pink so it made the whole hillside look pink!) and pitaya (dragon fruit) plantations all over the place! We also went to Laguna de Apoyo which was a giant crater lake that you could swim in.
the pink part is a huge
pineapple farm

picking an orange

At Laguna de Apoyo

My mom with a banana plant

We also went to lots of markets and cities but I will write about them in another post!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Salsa Verde

Recipe For Salsa Verde
birds eye view of the blender
All of the ingredients
in the blender

The recipe for the Salsa Verde

The chefs

The finished product

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sabana Grande, part 2

The Solar Centre
A solar oven
The Solar Restaurant
Susan and I in the methane

During the next few days, we visited the places throughout the community. The Solar Centre was where the Solar Women worked solar ovens,worked on solar panels, and worked on other things also. They had meetings at The Solar Centre. The women built the Solar Centre out of bricks they made by hand! Around the Solar Center there was solar ovens, a solar distiller, a methane digester (thats not ready yet) for the restaurant, and a garden. Right next to the Solar Centre, they are building a Solar Restaurant because they got a grant from The United Nations. It is still in construction and will probably open in May. They will collect cow dung (poop!) in the bottom of the methane digester and cover it to collect the gas that is created as it decomposes so they can run the gas stoves in the restaurant on the methane. There is also a Solar Store that, by working, they can earn hours and buy things. For example, a solar oven would be about $200 and the women can't afford that so they work and then they can get one.
Mauro showing solar battery
charger, and PV panel

Yelba and Jorge working
on a solar oven

My mom and I at the Solar Centre
under one of the signs we painted

The solar distiller

The Solar Women working
on solar ovens

The swings

A map of Sabana Grande

To get to the primary school, you could just walk down the dirt road about a mile until you came to the blue and white buildings that made up the school.Many of the public buildings were blue and white, the colors of the Nicaraguan flag. Enyel and Yubelki went to the primary school but Scarleth went to the secondary school so she walked about a mile too, but then she had to get on a bus for 15 minutes. The primary school started at 8 and ended at 1, but they had a siesta at 10 and lunch at 12. Also they had three grades in one classroom with just one teacher.
The primary school 
All off the kids had to wear uniforms with a white shirt, a blue skirt or pants, black shoes, and white socks. At the school they just got a well which means they have water now!
The government provides free education but the families have to pay for the school supplies and the uniforms so it ends up being about three or four hundred dollars a year. Since many kids can't pay for all of their things, they don't go to school and then they don't get a good education. Also, some times the kids want to go to school but they can't (because of money) and so they have to work. One of the volunteers that had been in Sabana Grande a couple years ago (his name is C.J. and he lives in Maryland)and had come back for a couple weeks while we were there started a scholarship for students. Scarleth got the scholarship so she could go to secondary school.

Susan's House
Susan's house was a one room adobe-mud-brick house. There was a hammock in it and one day when I was sitting in it.... it fell down and I was laughing a lot but my butt hurt! She hung it back up outside after that happened. Right behind Susan's house, there was the Solar Mountain where they were working on reforestation and permaculture.

Near Susan's house was near the church and Scarleth was one of the Sunday school teachers. Down the road, towards the school there was a HUGE Ceba tree. In Africa, they call them Baobab trees.

The big Ceba Tree
The church

Our house was one of the 45-adobe-brick houses that the community helped build. They called these houses El Proyecto which means The Project. Everyday we would walk from the Solar Centre to lunch at someone's house. The first week we were there, we ate lunch at Dona Carmen's house who is Jorge's mom. Lots of people said that she was the best cooker in the community. There were a few Pulperias (little stores) in Sabana Grande and they were in the front of people's houses and there would be bars separating you from the store. Typically they would sell little snacks like chips or sodas. 

While we were in Sabana Grande, since we were only going to be there for 2 weeks, we didn't start on a big project, but instead, we re-painted the signs for the Solar Centre. My mom made stencils for the logos and we painted the rest by hand. We also were going to build raised garden beds out of bricks made from plastic bottles filled with garbage. During the 2 weeks, there were a couple other volunteers there. Jaclyn had been there for about 4 months before we got there and C.J. was just visiting. In March Cornell and MIT are coming and they are doing a course. 

One of the funny things about staying in Sabana Grande was hearing all of the animals at night. We could hear dogs, cows, donkeys and other animals too. Once all of the dogs were howling at the moon at the same time. Then they would all start barking at the same time and they wouldn't stop. My mom, Scarleth, and I were laughing a lot and it was really funny!! 

Us at the top
Enyel and I climbing up to the top

One Sunday afternoon, Scarleth and Enyel took my mom and I up the little mountain behind our house. On the way to the top, we saw a spring with cold water in it. There were people washing there clothes there. We crossed under some barb wire a couple times along the way and the ground was covered in pine needles. We were in a pine forest with pine trees all around us. Near the top, it was hard to climb because all of the rocks had pine needles on them. Our feet kept slipping on them but eventually we reached the top. There was a great view of the community. 
Us at the top again!

The view of Sabana Grande from the top.

 Sabana Grade was a nice place with nice people and I liked living there a lot. I just wished they had warm showers! The solar women really worked hard and I was impressed at everything they accomplished. They inspired me to do my science project on solar cookers, too.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sabana Grande, Grupo Fenix, and Mujeres Solares de Totogalpa

Sabana Grande, part 1

After we were in Leon for three and a half weeks we went up to Sabana Grande, a small community in the north of Nicaragua (south of Honduras and near Ocotal) to do volunteer work with Grupo Fenix (a group that does work on solar and renewable energy and also works with the Energy University in Managua. If you want to find out more you can go to There is a group of women called Mujeres Solares de Totogalpa (Solar Women of Totogalpa and their web-site is  that work in Sabana Grande on solar and renewable energy also. 

The path up to our house,
its the one on the right!
Susan, the director of Grupo Fenix, was in Leon to visit University Botanical gardens, and then together we took the Express Bus to Esteli. Getting on the next bus to Ocotal was a hassle because there were a million people trying to get on. Susan ended up in the front and my mom and I were in the back. At La Tabla we got off and Yelba (the mom of our house), Scarleth (her 14 -year-old daughter), and Yubelki (a neighbor) met us. We lugged our luggage down a dirt road for about a mile(NOT FUN!!!!!)with Scarleth carrying a bag on her head(!) and my mom and Yelba struggling to carry our biggest bag one but finally we saw our house.

Oso and I in the doorway
The family we were living with was Yelba, Jorge, the dad, Scarleth, Enyel (pronounced like Angel), the 7-year-old son, and Oso, the tiny 2-month-old dog that was sooo cute. They were all very warm and welcoming to us.

Our house had 5 rooms including 3 bedrooms, a common room (that served as the dining room, the living room, and just a general sitting area), and a kitchen. There was a table, chairs and a T.V. in the common room. 
The view from our doorway
Me in our bedroom
The common room

The kitchen

 The kitchen counter

The efficient stove

In the kitchen there was an efficient stove that one of the earlier volunteers had designed. It had a chimney so the smoke would go outside instead of staying in the kitchen and then into the lungs of the people making them sick. It also saved fire wood because the opening was smaller. There was only 3 of these stoves in the community and we were happy to live with one instead of having all of the smoke in our house. 

The shower house and the
The latrine and a raised garden bed
There was no refrigeration and running water where we were living so everyday Yelba and Scarleth went to the well and carried 5 gallon buckets of water on their heads (more than once)!! We helped them a couple times but we couldn't carry the water on our heads..... just with our hands. Then the water went into a 55 gallon drum so we could use it for washing things and ourselves. The "sink" was a slab of rock on concrete blocks. There were bucket showers and they were cold! The shower was a little brick room in the backyard under a papaya tree. There was a dry latrine. 

One of the community wells
Their lives were very different from our lives at home. Yelba and Scarleth got up at 5:00 in the morning to do house work: carry water, grind corn to make tortillas,make the tortillas (my mom made some too but Yelba was much better because my mom's got holes in them!), start the fire, cook, wash clothes, wash dishes, get ready for school, etc... Jorge had to chop fire wood. Enyel got up early too because he had to get ready for school. They all took freezing cold showers when they got up, early in the morning!

the walk to the Solar Center from our house
sometimes we would draw together