Thursday, October 29, 2009

La Mariposa Classrooms

These are the classrooms in which I will soon be an eager student at La Mariposa Spanish School. I look forward to four hours of formal instruction every morning and additional informal instruction in the afternoons. My teachers will be native Nicaraguans, and there will be no more than three people in my class. In addition to the standard lessons, I have requested special training in biological and ecological vocabulary, in part because I would like to be able to interact with Spanish-speaking visitors in the Everglades. If I don't come back speaking reasonably well, somebody needs to shake me!
I have taken Spanish classes in school, and I actually understand rather a lot of what I hear and overhear of spoken Spanish. I can read reasonably well if I have a dictionary handy. But I can't just open my mouth and speak. I have thought for a long time that if I could have an immersion experience for even a few weeks, it would get me over that barrier. This is it. And I hope it works.
Classroom images are from the La Mariposa website:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Microlending in Nicaragua

It's unlikely that I will happen upon Alejandra Barrio's general store in Leon, but you can be sure I'll keep an eye out for it. A few months ago, through Kiva microlending, I made a small loan which, combined with other small loans, has made it possible for Alejandra to purchase " pan, galletas, gaseosas y refrescos" to stock her store. Her long term plan for the store is to offer her customers "everything for everybody" and to improve the quality of life for her family. At present, she has repaid 25 percent of her loan.

When I know that I am going to travel in a developing nation, I like to make these microloans (they can be as small as 25 dollars) to people in the country where I will travel. I've made half a dozen loans in Nicaragua with money paid back from loans to persons in Africa. It's a wonderful cycle in which money keeps circulating. And it doesn't take much to make a big difference.

Will I see Alberto Ruiz's taxi zipping around Managua? Will I see Martha Rivera selling clothes from her rented stall? Or Lidia Carballo in her fruit and vegetable stand (she has fully repaid her loan)? Or Gregorio Davila offering meats and dairy products from his new refrigeration unit? Will I see Silvia Gonzalez sitting on the newly constructed porch of her convenience store? Probably not. But I'll know that they are there, and it will please me to know that I have some small relationship with them. If I do happen upon any of these fine entrepreneurs, I'll see how they are doing, and I'll let you know.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Poet: Pablo Antonio Cuadra

Nicaragua is said to be a country where poetry reigns supreme in the culture. I look forward to learning about the poets and poetries of such a nation. This morning I am reading from the work of Pablo Antonio Cuadra, who seems to me a kindred spirit. Consider this (in English translation) from his long poem "The Panama Tree" ("El Panama"):

Study this tree: Sterculia apetala
Sterculia carthaginensis.
Study the green hand of its palmate leaves with their three pronounced lobes.
Study its tiny campanulate flowers, which are yellow with purple spots,
and which smell like manure and a corral.
Study the five pale-green folicles of its fruit, open like an elegant little box,
and learn how to extract its five brilliant black seeds
wrapped in a yellow velvet whose bristling hairs will sting
your fingers like nettles.

Already, Cuadra has taught me how to pay attention to this tree. And I will. Soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Map of Nicaragua

Destination: La Mariposa Ecohotel & Spanish School, village of La Concepcion (aka La Concha), region of Masaya, less than an hour south of Managua. Anticipated arrival date: November 1, 2009