Saturday, 2 March 2013

Farewell drinks

John, Mike and ¨Pete on their final evening in Nicaragua, forcing down some beer,

This was our view. Note that the sand is black and not white or golden. This is because this area is volcanic.

The waves were huge and it is a surfing coast, with very few people as tourism is still underdeveloped.

On the farm

So I´m now staying with doctors Aurora and Andrés. Andrés explained he has a small farm/piece of land. It´s full of indigenous trees and is all organic. He likes to go there on Saturdays and exchange his surgeon´s scalpel for a machete. We saw the following trees; mango, coffee (the beans taste fruity), bamboo, cedar (very weedy looking), banana and plantain and others...

He´s holding a cashew and cut it very neatly. The nut grows at the bottom of the fruit that he´s about to cut. I then sucked the fruit, which is sort of like mango but with a distinctive flavour. The juices stain, so I had to lean forward in a most inelegant way and still got messy. Good thing I had some wet wipes... Andrés gave me the nut to take home and plant.

Had I known when I got dressed this morning that I would be picking cashews, I would have worn a top that didn´t clash. But who could have forseen this?

A chocolate tree. How could I not be happy here?

This is what the cocoa looks like. There are lots of seeds, each about the size of a broad bean. I sucked one and it tasted fruity, quite like lychee. The inner bit is dried and then cracked open to remove the seed. They use it to make some sort of drink. I supect it´s not like Cadbury´s drinking chocolate - which is unthinkable in this heat. The ones we sucked have been planted in a small bed at home and once they start to grow as trees, they´ll be planted in the wood.

This is the cocoa, growing directly on the trunk of the tree and it comes from those tiny wee flowers.

Andres´ son "fishing" for mangoes with a net on the end of that pole.


This is the patio of the hotel. Somewhat ironic that it´s called "Posado del Doctor" (the doctor´s place) given that I´ve moved to a doctor's place. My room was tucked in the right hand corner and the photo taken from the shady veranda where we could relax on rocking chairs. Not bad, eh?

The sun setting into the Pacific. You can´t see the pelicans but they really were there.

And then there was one

The others have flown away now back over the Atlantic to fresher climates, so that's the end of the official delegation from Oxford, but I still have lots to do in terms of people to meet with and projects to visit. It would also be nice to see a few more sights, perhaps usual tourist destinations, such as museums and the ruins of Old Leon. John and Mike visited the Sandanista Museum which has reports and photos of Leon during the civil war.

I have now moved from the hotel and am staying with a friend of Jane Mercer, our long-term volunteer. Aurora is a doctor who teaches at the Medical School here and studied in Lund, Sweden. She spent time in Oxford learning English before doing her doctorate in Sweden, so she is very international. In the back yard of her house are trees: papaya, mango, lime, cocoa and cinammon so it´s all very exotic. A papaya is ripening and should be ripe tomorrow. How exciting is that? On arrival I was given a bowl of fresh fruit salad of exotic fruits which was wonderful.

Yesterday evening Jo went back to the mountains with the beekeepers to harvest the honey, being a brave and adventurous youngster. The rest of us returned to the coast where we sat in a lovely outdoor cafe, watched the huge breakers coming in and the boats and the pelicans and sipped our drinks and ate fish. That seemed a far better option than a bumpy drive up the volcano, putting on a bee suit (even after dark and up the mountain, it´s still very hot) and collecting honey. For some reason this has to be done after dark. Maybe because the bees are less agressive? They are africanised bees. I´m no expert but gather this means that they´re well 'ard and should not be messed with. It suits me fine not to mess with them. But if the exporting gets under way I may well be selling you some "Nica Nectar".

I realise I have mentioned Andrew and Jane without any explanation. They are from Oxford and set up a charity called Nuevas Esperanzas which now has a staff of 15. They work in rural communities and as Andrew is a water engineer, many of their projects focus on clean water supplies. It is appropriate to fund water-related projects with funds raised from our sponsored swim and Andrew has given talks when back in Oxford. The big excursion on Wednesday was seeing at first hand some of their projects, including the bees, where they train local people in bee-keeping (as a way of diversifying)- I have been learning lots from them.
and they have been hugely helpful in looking after us, advising and answering all our questions. 

The Oxford Leon Assn funds other projects in Leon and we have been visiting some of these and I´m meeting people running others and will report back to our committee.
Will try to add some more photos now.