Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Here at last

León, Nicaragua
Tuesday  26th February,  2.30pm

We finally arrived in León after a Kafkaesque journey.  One competition I never wanted to win was to have a worse journey than my colleague Helen who has some awful tales of woe. But getting to Heathrow for 4am, then after two hours on the plane finding it’s broken and not going anywhere was grim.  BA rerouted us with an overnight stop in Miami but that plane was also delayed,  as was the following morning’s flight to Managua. But we are all here and wow! It is a very different world.
It’s not just the intensity of the heat but everything.  It’ s much more arid than expected - in Java even in the dry season there was a verdancy and lushness everywhere but here it's more like southern Spain in August but with third world levels of poverty.

We have had an intense schedule of visits to projects. The "health" centre/outpost was the first visit on Monday morning.   We (Oxford León Association) want to install running water there but the whole situation with the local authority and the water board is complex.  The  local people will have to dig the trench for the water pipes themselves. Imagine that in Oxford! It seems that if we offer to pay to get everything done, it is likely to fall into disrepair again, but if we involve the community and they have a stake in it (having dug a section of trench) it will probably be taken care of and there will be a pride in it. A foriegn country; they do things differently here.
We later met with some women’s rights activists and heard from a group campaigning against the harassment  of women students.  Then we went to a project that provides an after- school club, a library for children and and a mobile teaching resource centre (which we saw in action today).  The children performed traditional dances for us. We also met up with delegates from Lund, the Swedish city twinned with León.
After that Christian, our token Nicaraguan on OLAT and a friend drove us to watch the sunset over the Pacific. It was magic. The waves were huge and wild and we saw pelicans. Yes, pelicans!  They dived for fish and were incredible to see. The sun was round, red and just lowered itself into the ocean with burst of colour. Yes, I have taken photos of all places but cannot at present download them.

So Monday was quite a day,  with all sorts of sights and contrasts. This morning (Tuesday) we visited more projects: primary schools, nurseries. The state of the buildings is very basic but, with people from the community volunteering (for example by making meals),  all the children seemed well  cared for and there was a good atmosphere. 
Our hotel  is basic and charming, sort of colonial in style.  It's called Posada del Doctor and you can Google it, as I cannot show my photos yet. The streets of León are not like Oxford. They are narrow, the standard of housing is hugely variable and mostly much much smaller and basic. And colourful. We see lots of corrugated iron sheets and boards of asbestos used as walls, even in the schools. It is so shocking to European eyes. Traffic is a mix of cars, bikes, motorbikes, horse drawn carts, oxen carts, bicycle rickshaws and various other contraptions.

That's all for now. This afternoon we visit  a toy project and then have a meeting with the mayor at the town hall.