Sunday, 17 March 2013

Conclusions and Farewell

Well, it took me several years to get round to going to Nicaragua and I’m very pleased that I finally made it. It was an extraordinary journey. I did very little conventional tourism and although I would have liked to have visited Matagalpa, Estelí, Granada and seen the ruins of León Viejo (the old city destroyed by an earthquake), the point of the trip was not to see sights, but to visit projects, re-establish links between the city councils of Oxford and León, and to make contacts with the university. It was a success on those fronts and also quite a personal adventure. I met some wonderful people.

A post-revolution mural in Martyr's Square, close to the Cathedral
It was also a humbling experience and it makes me appreciate all the more that here in the UK (as in most of Europe) we do not have to worry about earthquakes, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions. There is an infrastructure of support systems and resources, all too easily taken for granted. There are many inspiring people working to improve life over there and they deserve our support.

I wish I had:
·         taken a laptop or ipad. I had imagined that wifi access would be patchy and there would be internet cafes around. Even there, the technology was ahead of me!
·         got round to reading some Nicaraguan literature before I went. On my list now.

I’m glad I took:
·         Myself
·         A camera
·         Avon Skin-so-soft lotion: I will never travel without it to any country with mosquitos.
·         The small gifts that Jane Mercer, fellow volunteer, kindly provided to give out when we visited projects. They were much appreciated.

A view of one volcano while walking down another
Highlights (in no particular order)
·         Finally arriving in León after the very long journey there
·         Lots of brightly coloured houses and seeing volcanoes at the end of streets
·         Seeing volcanoes generally
·         Visiting the “finca”/tropical orchard with Andrés. Lots of my favourite things were just growing on trees…
·        An impromptu performance of a couple of songs from La Misa Campesina in the Nuevas Esperanzas centre: Andrew on trumpet, Leo on guitar and another friend on keyboard
·         The lecture in the Medical School
·         Various meetings with inspirational people: many in café La Rosita, a co-operative business
·         The play park in the city and the happy sound of children playing
·         Meeting the biologists in the Entomological Museum
·         The lovely dance performance by children in the NECAT centre
·         The kindness of Aurora and thee restful weekend at her house with her friends and family and the traditional Nicaraguan meals she cooked
·         Exotic fruit juices
·         Views from the roof of the cathedral
·         Chatting with the “sons of the revolution” in the Sandanista Museum. They were astonished to hear that we sing La Misa Campesina (Nicaraguan Peasant Mass) every year in Oxford.
·         Sitting in rocking chairs, in the patio of the hotel, having a chat, a drink or eating mangos
·         Conversations with Andrew about geology, water supplies, biodiversity, subsistence farming, arsenic poisoning, geothermal springs, sulphur, building pipelines, bee-keeping, volcanoes, liberation theology, eco-tourism and more… I learned so much
·         Drinking Pimms with Jane and Andrew at their kitchen table
·         Watching pelicans dive into the sea as the sun set over the Pacific at Poneloya Beach
·         Laughter over lunch with Edmundo the Anglophile and Aurora
·         Sitting in the shade at Agua Fria watching people collect their water from the unit built with funds raised by Oxford swimmers
Special thanks to:
·         Giaconda Peres of NECAT for organising and accompanying us to many of the children’s projects
·         Dr Roger Barrios for permitting me to attend his lecture and for showing me round the Medical School
·         Omar Elvir in the Mayor’s Office for receiving us, organising the visit to the Botanical Gardens and for inviting us to the opening of the Cathedral Square
·         Dr Andrés Herrero for the visit to the “Finca” and the opportunity to try such fresh produce, for the trip to the beach, being shown his department and introduced to his colleagues and others in the university and all his help generally
·         Dra Aurora Aragón for her hospitality, for the lifts, for the introductions to so many lovely people
·         Enrique, Leo and Arturo of Nuevas Esperanzas for being so attentive on the trips. Enrique also set up and attended the meeting with the biologists
·         Deborah, Kate and David of Project Opportunity for showing me their projects
·         My fellow delegates: John, Mike, Jo and Pete for their company, mutual support, fun and sharing the adventure

Cafe la Rosita
And most of all to Jane Longley: for her wisdom, patient responses to numerous emails in the run-up to the journey, being so hospitable when we arrived, showing us around, attending meetings and advising us on local issues, loan of her computer to write my blog and conversations about everything. Jane: it was FUN.

If you would like to make a donation to the work of the Oxford León Association and Trust, please see our Just Giving page.

¡Viva León!