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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