The Final Days

On Thursday afternoon, we headed over to the Park again to help work with the kids on the mural. We’re so impressed with how dedicated and skilled the students are! The mural looks fantastic! We wrote up the five steps to make household composting beside the mural. There was a minor mix-up in which we accidently spelled a word wrong, but our friend simply laughed at us and we fixed it the next day.

Friday morning we presented our project to our friends and partners at BICU University. Although at first we couldn’t figure out how to get the powerpoint to display, one of our friends came to the rescue and fixed it. From there, our presentation went smoothly. After that, we went with the Scouts to deliver Thank you notes to all of the secondary schools. We wanted to tell the Directors and teachers of the schools how well our Santa Rosa campaign went because of the enthusiasm and initiative of the students and teachers. We are so grateful for their support!

Friday afternoon we took a taxi over to FUNCOS again. It had been a week since we built the compost pile, and so now it was time to turn it. We met with our friend there and drew back the tarp protecting the compost from the rain. It looked good! The grasses were already brown and soft. We used shovels to break up the pile and turn it over bit by bit. I was surprised by how warm the soil was. Our friend told us that the warmth is a good sign for a healthy compost pile, so we’re on the right track! By the end we were tired and sweaty, but proud of our compost pile. We now have a new appreciation for all of the hard work our friend puts into his work around the FUNCOS farm.

It’s hard to believe that these three weeks have gone by so quickly! We all are really proud of what we have accomplished and are so thankful for all of the wonderful people we have worked with to help us with our project. Everyone has been so generous with their time in helping us and giving us ideas and suggestions. We could not have done this project without all of our partners!

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Santa Rosa Campaign Day

Early Wednesday morning.  Our alarms go off at 5:30am, and we roll out of bed feeling excited and a little anxious about our door-to-door campaign.  We all put on our matching t-shirts (which look awesome!), eat some coconut bread for breakfast, load up a taxi with all of the shirts, waters, and flyers for the students, and drive to the Cancha de Santa Rosa.  We are there by around 6:30 and start setting up the shirts.  Smalls will go here, then mediums, then larges, and then x-larges at the end.  We are all ready to go.  I’m surprised to see some students starting to trickle in even before 7.  Unfortunately, dark clouds have been gathering in the distance and it begins to drizzle steadily.  I hope that it will finish soon, but at the moment it isn’t pouring so it’s not that bad.  At least it’s not boiling hot! 

More students start arriving in groups and chat away with their friends.  Our scout friends come too, and we joke with them a bit.  After around 40 or 50 students have arrived, we start to hand out the t-shirts.  It’s a little hectic because of the rain.  Students crowded under umbrellas come over to us and tell us their size; then we give them their shirts and help the next group.  I’m so glad we decided to keep all of the shirts folded in their plastic bags because that’s what is keeping them dry.  Although white isn’t the best color to be wearing on a rainy day, I feel really cool matching with all of the students, numbering about 100 to 125 now.  We’re all part of this campaign together!

Despite the rain, the students are all smiling and their energy is contagious.  So far everything is going really well.  We continue to wait out the rain, but after it shows no signs of letting up, we all meet with the teachers from each school to set a rain plan.  Together we decide to go ahead and get started, with each school being a separate group and going to a specific area in Santa Rosa.

I join one school and the head teacher is very efficient about organizing her students.  She splits the students up into pairs and tells them how far they should go door-to-door.  After that the students take charge.  I am so impressed with their initiative and professionalism.  The two girls I walk door-to-door with are very courteous and confident as they talk to the residents.  They said our message better than I could have in English!  What is also really exciting is that the residents are all interested and curious about what the students are saying.  In all, the door-to-door part takes about half an hour since we had so many students involved.  Even though it rained the whole time, we all are thrilled with how many students and teachers helped out and how receptive the residents were.  Santa Rosa Day was a huge success!

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Making compost, ponga ride to El Bluff, BICU farm visit….oh my!

Hello again!

Yes, as you can tell by the title we are still very busy. I am going to try and give a thorough but brief update on all that we have been doing in the last few days.

Friday was amazing! We made compost at the FUNCOS farm! The entire team of 5 went and helped the farm manager make a 1×3 m compost pile. It was a really interesting process in which all of the organic materials get layered and then sit for a week before being turned like a fan (we are planning on going back to turn our pile at the end of the week). The farm manager was so kind and friendly, and we got all of our questions answered. This was a really hot and productive day!

On Saturday we met with our Scout friends and took a ponga (a small fiberglass shelled boat with a motor) to El Bluff. El Bluff is the intersection between the Bluefields Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  We played cards with the scouts and swam in the Atlantic. The water was too salty for words, but we enjoyed ourselves entirely and came home happy but exhausted.

On Sunday the JPC Biogas team arrived! It’s fun to get to share and explore Bluefields with another group of students. We have been telling them a lot about our projects and hoping they will help us out for the house-to-house education campaign on Wednesday.  We spent most of the day at the mural painting with the youths. The mural is really coming along; I will try to add pictures to this post so you can see. The power went out around 8pm so we spent a sleepless night dripping in sweat.

Monday was another busy day. The power didn’t come back on until 3pm, so we had the morning and midday without electricity. Let’s just say, we all appreciate running water and electricity a lot more than we used to.  Our t-shirts for the education campaign came in, and it took awhile to get 300 t-shirts into bags and to our hotel. The t-shirts look great with our message on the front and partner logos on the back. These shirts will be another great way to get the word out about composting and picking up trash.

In the afternoon we went to Radio La Costenisima to produce a minute long announcement about composting and the environment in Bluefields. We have the announcement on our computer, so instead of telling you about how awesome it is and sounds, you can just listen to it from your computers.

Tuesday we took another ponga ride to Tiktik-kaanu in Cerro Silva to visit the BICU farm. We saw all of the different projects going on at the farm including composting, biogas, reforestation, a nursery, animals, and fruit tree farming (we tried fresh pineapple and picked Chinese plums). We spent the afternoon and evening preparing for our big casa-por-casa education campaign in the morning.  We made 400 flyers to give out to people in the Barrio of Santa Rosa.

Well, these are all of our updates for now. We will keep you posted on the house-to-house education campaign.  We’ve all got our new t-shirts laid out, so we’ll be ready to go bright and early tomorrow morning!

Best, Robin and the Composting Team

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250 students attend our presentation on composting!

Wednesday morning was our BIG event at the Moravian Gym. Approximately 250 students came to hear the presentation about the environment and composting. The students that came to the presentation are the same students who are going to be going door-to-door with us in Santa Rosa for our education campaign. Our main message to relate to the students was:

  1. Throw away trash in a trash can,
  2. Separate garbage into organic and inorganic waste, and
  3. Compost organic waste.

We then went over the steps to compost at home.

With so many students at the gym it was nerve-wracking to organize, but we think it went along as smoothly as possible. Our scout friend was the MC for the morning and was fun and interactive. We split the students into groups to do small activities and practice how they will talk to people door-to-door on Wednesday.

As all 250 students left we handed out bags of compost. These bags said ¨La Cancha, Santa Rosa Augusto 11, 2010 7am¨ Hopefully, the compost bags will be a reminder for the students to show up for the education campaign next week.

All-in-all it was very successful and we are extremely pleased! Now we just need to be prepared for  250 students to go door-to-door in Santa Rosa!

On Wednesday afternoon, we headed over to FUNCOS, another organization in Bluefields that focuses on composting.  Getting there was more of an adventure than a typical taxi ride.  The first taxi driver had not heard of FUNCOS before and drove us to where he thought it might be.  We did not see it anywhere, and although I had been to FUNCOS before, I could not remember how far it was off the beaten path.  We went back to the Park and started asking taxi drivers if they knew where FUNCOS was.  Eventually, one of the drivers knew and we headed off to our destination.

It turned out that the first taxi driver drove us in the right direction, but FUNCOS lay just a little farther along a dirt road.  Our perseverance to meet with the FUNCOS director paid off, and we learned all about the different kinds of composting with which they experiment and tweak.  They even gave us a tour of their beautiful and thriving gardens, a testimony of their rich compost.  Even though FUNCOS did not have a typical household organic waste compost pile at the moment, we did get to take a sample of their vermaculture compost in which they use worms to break down manure.  On another positive note, they are planning to start building another compost pile soon, and we discussed helping them with that.  We are meeting with them again today to plan that further!

On Thursday morning we went on another site visit with one of our friends from the Scouts.  The place we went to is a rehab center for youths who used to be addicted to drugs.  This center provides counseling, food, and a variety of activities to keep people busy.  The woman in charge of it showed us the different hand-made sculptures, paintings, and coconut flower pots that these youths had crafted.  This facility also produces a lot of its own food from their gardens and composts their vegetable waste and animal manure.  She showed us the gardens and dug up a sample of their compost as well.  She also asked us for any suggestions we had about the proper methods of composting and asked if we could come back next week and give a presentation to the adolescents there about our project and composting.  We are all for it!  We are looking forward to coming back and helping them in any way we can.  The center had an open and friendly atmosphere, and I really admired all of the hard work and positivity this woman put into it.

One of our ongoing projects is to help design and paint a mural in the Park.  On Wednesday and Thursday we headed over there to lend a hand to our friends working on it.  Together we whitewashed the wall where we plan on painting and outlined more than half of the design.  The process of doing a mural is much more complicated that I thought.  First, we clean and whitewash multiple times the spot where the design will be (check).  Next we draw grid lines both on the sheet of paper with our design and on the wall (check).  We use this grid to amplify different sections of our drawing piece by piece to put it all together with the correct proportions.  Then we outline our design in chalk (check).  Then we paint over the chalk with paint so it is permanent and therefore will not wash away in the rain (check).  The sketches which we want to redo we do not paint over and the rain will take care of it.  All of this we have done so far.  From here, we will continue to chalk and paint the rest of our design.  Then we will start to fill in our outline with paint!

Although my artistic talent is somewhat limited when it comes to chalk, I tried my hand at it and had an awesome time.  I loved working right alongside our Bluefields friends on this project.  It makes what we are doing here much more about us working together with Bluefields rather than us simply teaching Bluefields.  I really can’t wait to continue working on our mural!

We hope to add pictures of our adventures very soon!!

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Busy Days and Preparations

Bluefields is starting to feel more familiar to me now. The streets, houses, and pulperias (stores) are finally starting to form a map in my mind as we continue to walk around the city going to meetings or on errands. I’m even starting to recognize familiar faces; some are friends I know and call by name, but others are simply strangers. Today I recognized the face of an older woman who I’ve seen before. I remember her because of her smile and her beautiful red pleated skirt.
The past few days have been a whirl of planning, meetings, and activities. Each night we change our schedule on the big whiteboard in our room again and add more events coming up in the next two weeks. Our calendar is looking quite full and exciting!
We’ve divided our project into several mini projects, including:

1) Painting a mural promoting a cleaner Bluefields with teenagers as part of Youth Week,
2) Organizing an educational door-to-door campaign in the Santa Rosa neighborhood with the help of the Scouts and local high school students,
3) Designing and ordering t-shirts to be given to be the Scouts and students on the campaign, and, of course,
4) Building an actual compost pile.

This past week, as mentioned before in earlier blog posts, we’ve been meeting and planning a lot, so all of our mini projects are well underway.
On Saturday morning, we met with our friends from the Alcaldias office (in the Environmental Office) to the Santa Rosa neighborhood to inform people of a garbage collection happening the following morning. We split up into groups with our friends from the Alcaldia leading us and went door-to-door reminding people that on Sunday trucks were going to come and pick up all of the trash placed on the side of the main roads. The experience was incredibly beneficial for our ideas about our own education campaign in Santa Rosa, not to mention it was an eye-opening experience just getting to know another side of Bluefields. One of the areas I went to while going door-to-door was actually right on the Bay. Some of the houses were on stilts right on the water. The people we talked to were very courteous and appreciative. Although some of the sites I saw were so different from my home in the suburbs (I saw real bananas growing on trees!), I also saw some scenes that were familiar, such as kids playing with handmade kites, venders selling chips and other snacks, and pet dogs (some were wary of strangers, but my dogs are the same way). All-in-all, I had a ton of fun and learned a lot more about daily life in Bluefields.

On Sunday morning, we helped with the garbage collection. Thankfully, the torrential downpour in the early hours of the morning stopped before we started. I was so impressed and excited to see all of the trash people took out to the streets to be collected. Some of it was organic, like branches, leaves, and plantain peels, and some was inorganic, like wrappers and bottles. I hope that with our project we can help cut down on the amount of organic materials in the garbage. Still, it was really encouraging to see how much people responded and got into it. There was a large group of boys going up and down the streets with the collection trucks loading them up with trash. The atmosphere almost felt festive with all of their energy and the up-beat music playing from some houses.

Sunday afternoon we headed over to a friend’s house, and I helped cook and eat my first Rondon! It was absolutely delicious! Rondon is a traditional staple of the Bluefields diet; it is a coconut-based stew with many different kinds of root vegetables in it. It also can be made with either steamed beef or seafood. I had never heard of some of the vegetables, so it was really fun to cook and eat them. Rondon is a social event too because it takes about an hour to cook over hot coals. We had fun hanging out with our friends watching videos of a Bluefields rapper, telling stories, and painting each others’ nails. The Rondon was well worth the wait, and we all gobbled down the hearty veggies and rich stew. Rondon is the ultimate Bluefields comfort food, and our friend’s version is the best!

Yesterday was one of our busiest days yet, and that’s saying something after this past week. We first put the finishing touches on our t-shirt design. We split up to get everything done. Robin and Emma delivered the design and helped buy materials for the mural. The rest of us met with the Scouts counselors to go to all of the secondary schools telling them about our project and presentation this Wednesday. We hope to have about 30 students from each school come to our presentation. There, we will explain our message about not littering, separating waste, and composting and then lay out our plan for our door-to-door campaign on August 11th in Santa Rosa. Meeting with the directors went really, really well. All of them were interested in our project and very open to our ideas. We all really appreciative their support and friendly attitudes!

After lunch we met with our friend about the mural design. We explained our project and message to his students who will help design and paint the mural with us. Some of the students were Creole and some were Spanish-speakers, so language was a bit of a barrier for me. Our friend translated what we said into Spanish (gracias amigo!), so it all went smoothly. I was surprised about how much of the Creole I could understand when the students spoke it. I could pick out a lot of English- sounding words and could get the general point. I think Creole would be fascinating to learn and study here.
Following this meeting, we met with an engineering professor at BICU (Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University) to talk about the composting site BICU has at their farm. It was so cool to hear about all of the different kinds of composting with which BICU is experimenting. One of them is more liquid-y and can be used to speed up the composting process. I can’t wait to visit the farm and see it for myself this coming Tuesday! We also discussed the possibility of building a compost pile on the BICU campus. This idea is looking really positive, which makes me thrilled!

Finally in the evening we met with the Scouts counselors again to go over the schedule for our presentation on Wednesday. The scouts have generously volunteered to help us with the presentation, and we are all so thankful for all of their help talking with the directors yesterday. Their helpfulness is just one of the examples of how open and friendly the people of Bluefields are.

That’s all for now. Hope everyone’s enjoying their summers!

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Forming Friendships

The end of our first week is approaching and the taxi strike is finally over. We have all gotten accostumed to our new life here in Blufields, eating our daily coconut bread, quenepes, and rice.

We met with CEDEHCA-JEHN and the Scouts and have finally established our education campaign for the Santa Rosa Bario. We have yet to solidify plans for an actual compost but we are hopeful. Just organizing the campaign and meeting with the different community officials has taken a chunk of our time and has largely tested our management skills.

Last night, the whole team finally got to meet KENNY! and his beautiful family. We all had a great time at his house. We can all agree that we are building a strong friendship inside this beautiful city of Bluefields.

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From The Tia Irene, Pointeen Bluefields

Sup guys?! It´s Auesta here, posting my first update.

Bluefields is beautiful. It’s lush and green and raining and raining. The sidewalks are made of tiles and on every street, every corner you turn music is playing. Life is loud and lively. We had dinner at Luna’s Ranch last night with new friends and let me tell you, eating is taken very seriously. So far dinners have been anywhere between a two to three hour affair. Going out to dinner tonight (and maybe the next few nights) is unlikely because the taxis are not running. The price of gas has risen so much that it’s just not profitable to drive tourists or locals around. No one we’ve talked to so far has a clear idea of when the strike will end and when driving will start up again. This might, obviously, pose some problems for our project.

We are still waiting for one more team member to arrive, but we’ve gone ahead and met with the head of the environmental office to find out what local composting projects are already going on in Bluefields and what progress has been made to lay out the groundwork for our own project.  Tomorrow we’re going to Coprash, a drug rehab site which produces its own compost and in the evening we’re going to meet with the Scout Council to discuss our partnership and how we can work together to accomplish composting education in different Bluefields barrios. There is plenty to plan and flesh out. This week we hope to accomplish a lot, such as visit the dump (hopefully it’ll stop raining long enough), the local university farm, a local NGO Funcos, and continue interviewing and having meetings.

We’ll hopefully update the blog every couple of days, for now off to devour a plate of beefsteak encebollado (beef drowned in onion, delicious)!

our view from the restaurant hotel

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