30 June 2007

Nicaragua: El Cua, La Pita, Bocay

30 junio 2007: El Cua, La Pita, Bocay

had breakfast at the same spot in El Cua. tortillas and ¨queso seco¨. funky cheese, as Anna calls it. we met with Inocencio, or Ël Mexicano¨(called this because he spent 12 years in Mexico), who drove us in ATDER´s 4x4. we headed for La Pita, one of the micro-hydro plants. El Mexicano works in the taller, or machine shop, of ATDER-BL. they have a few lathes, a few drill pressesand the obligatory tabgle saw among other tools. their shop is often used to make pieces for the turbines, etc. that are easier and cheaper to make than they would be to hunt down and buy.

when we got to La Pita, El Mexicano showed that a few parts he had created were at work in the La Pita turbine. i wondered what he did while in Mexico and later learned from Anna that he worked as a taxi driver.

a number of folks were kind enough to greet us in La Pita - Dionysio, who was sporting a CARE tshirt, Euclides, whose jacket had Ben Linder´s logo on it, Isidoro and Lionel. they first showed us the plant, which had one turbine and one injector. Dionysio said that he was n charge of helping coordination within the community. there are three types of meetings with reagrd to the plantÑ assemblies, coordinator meetings, and general meetings with prncipal leaders. the oordinator meetings are often with 20 people or so and serve to discuss legal and logistical matters. i believe the principal leaders are principally for logistics and tactics. assembly meetings often involve 100 people and focus on consent and visioning for the community. Anna learned from Euclides of some businesses in town the welding shop (soldadura), carpenteria, and more pulperias than you can shake a stick at. they said the biggest problem that they had was lack of meters, which caused a loss 0f revenue and theft of more energy than houses are supposed to consume. until they have these, they are basically losing money and electricity.

we went next to the co'op, a place where bananas are treated and washed so that they will fetch a higher price on the market. it{s a cooperative with over 30 people. we went around the area a little more and checked out the welding area, complete with rusted trucks and junkyard dogs. on the way back, there was a family of four women. when asked how the light had changed them, they said simply, ¨we have light. our house is beautiful now¨. they seemed happy at being called guapas. the adjective or my bad spanish? you decide.

next was a meeting with everyone involved with the plant back at the telephone office. there was a cinematographer with cameras draped like leaves awaiting us from ASOLPIC hat made us feel better, what with our cameras. i will assume Anna can describe the meeting better than me. El Mexicano and i went back to check out the school which was closed. it is a primary school. the secondary school students go to El Cua. El Mexicano said he came back from Mexico 4 years ago and started wrking for ATDER shortly after that. before, he was working as a taxi driver in Mexico City, which is not nearly so beautiful as La Pita. not hard to imagine.

going back to the meeting, the fellow from ASOLPIC asked everyone to say what they thought of GE. he first just asked Anna and i our impressions of La Pita. the most important questions asked of any of the three women present seemed to be ¨soltera o casada?¨ this pretty well sent us on our way to Bocay.

on the way t Bocay, we stopped by the lechadura, complete with its own generator. the lechadura keeps the milk cold, about 45 degrees when we visited.

Bocay{s generator does not currently have the second injector installed, which will augment both the number of people and the wattage. i believe the main issue is just one of connecting. it was amazing to see the amount of water that could generate s much energy.

in Bocay, there s a new school named after Elisabeth Linder. when we were there, there was a computer course in sesion teaching basics of spreadsheets. Ella, the office manager for the school, said that students who learn will use new skills for further study but will most likely stay in Bocay.

Chepito, manager of APRODELBO, was pretty darn forthcoming on a lot of issues. one of the most interestingaspects of the conversation was corporate social responsibility. let{s just say he wasn{t a fan.

we went to dinner and discussed different types of music. everyone seemed to like ranchero, no one understood the abiding love that Anna and i have for reggaetown. the restaurant was open after dark with at least 2 refregerators. whole trucks were in town for saturday evening religious services. Felix was right: the music and lights seemed to make everything festive. walked back after dark, we noticed most houses were still lit with music and talking coming from within. we walked under at least three lights.

29 June 2007

Nicaragua: Managua, Matagalpa, El Cua

29 Junio 2007: Managua, Matagalpa, El Cua

This morning, Anna and i woke in the Quaker House. we got on board the express bus to Matagalpa, taking 2 hours or so. on the way, we looked over IUCN details that would definitely come up in conversation ith ATDER-BL. upon arrival in Matagalpa, we met with Aleyda at ATDER´s home office. there are 3 people that work there. the deeds and receipts from IUCN land puchases were ready for us, so we took no time in perusing them. Anna and Aleyda talked about the amendment to the title that needs to be filed with the land registration office, which ATDER can amend with IUCN´s language by the July deadline, and possibly before we leave Nicaragua. $15,000 is all that´s left from the IUCN grant, and the rest has gone to purchase land! Aleyda also said it shouldn´t be aproblem to buy the rest of the land by the and of July.

at 1:30, Aleyda, Anna and i got on the bus to El Cua/Bocay. it took 4 1/2 hours. the road started as concrete but quickly became rock and dirt after just a little while. the mountains are positively luscious! banana and cocnut trees abound! there are some terraced crops which i later discovered to be coffee.

as soon as we got to El Cua, Aleyda took us to TechniSol, a solar company that sells PV equipment systems and accessories. apparently there is a market for this in the north. a hotellay behind the store with 4 rooms, three of which our group occupied for the night.

Aleyda took us across the alley to ATDER´s workshop and El Cua office, where we met Doravel (Aleyda´s sister, and her coworker whose name shamefully escapes me. they discussed briefly the 20 year anniversary remembrance of Ben´s life, whose pictures were interspersed along the wall with accounts from the fiesta.

we swung across the hall to meet Felix and Arel. They are working on the hydro plant and just got the bugs out of a computer that describes wattage produced, use by villages, and amount sold back to the grid. all in real time. incredible. a few stories:

1. there was a piece of equipment recently that had a little fragment of metal clinging to it. the metal prompted the voltage to shoot up due to the friction, and they had to take part of the systemcompletely apart to find the offending particle.

2. they were having trouble with the turbine and had t run some maintenance procedures. they begged everyone not to turnon their televisions for a few hours but they are ¨stubborn¨, and the wattage usage shot up during everyone´s favorite soap opera despite Felix´s protestations.

after speaking with Felix and Arel, we went for dinner. rice, beans and onions with fried plantains. yumm! we hadn´t eaten most of the day, and cebollo never tasted so good. Aleyda told us about her family - a brother in Washington DC who cannot come back from the States, Doravel, and other family members that live in Matagalpa. we had met her husband very briefly before leaving Matagalpa. when asked the difference between electricity and none, she said that people stayed up a little later now watching TV and talking and get upa little later. there are computers inthe schools, in some shops, and in private homes as well. there is internet. women´s working time is about the same as before. however, before the use of firewood for cooking and planchas (irons) were rather dangerous and created smoky working environments. a s,all lull in the conversation, and we watched TV for a moment in the restaurant. ina barrio in Managua, Union Fenosa had taken one of the employees hostage during a utilities-use struggle. the utility had turned off electricity which also turned off the water to the barrio, and the people became angry.

Aleyda mentioned one time recently when the electricity was off for rationing (racionamiento), and everything was quite. Felix said when asked the difference between pre- and post-electricity that there was more dancing than before and that religious services were more festive, that everything seemed more vibrant with electricity.

Aleyda said they were already planning a 1 mW plant in a neighboring area in St. Therese and feeding it back to the grid. in the freest reserve, people use for forest and not for crops at all (though Anna and i were not entirely sure on this point. Anna would be better able to say). we walked back to the hotel. there were streetlights (alumbrado publico), souds of music and people talking on the streets. a group of kids were playing soccer in a concrete square under 4 large lights. it was so beautiful to hear music and crickets together, as well as seeing streetlights and stars. small frogs hopped across the concrete in front of our rooms.

other random remembrances:

. Doris´daughter´s name is Ashley

. Four people told us not to get robbed within the first 12 hours of our time here

. Sarah at the Quaker House is in Nicaragua for 4 months studying Nicaraguan Sign Language. before, people tended to hide their deaf children away from the rest of society because they felt heir children´s disability was proof of their iniquities. a school began to create a means of communicating about 30 years ago in Nicaragua, and children began talking with their ¨home sign¨, developing a new language through the social evolution. the language is now in its third generation, and the school teaches parents, who no longer hide their children, the language. NSL has more structure now, even boasting classifiers like Chinese (jia, zhang, ting, etc.).

. the driver´s horn from Matagalpa to Bocay was an electric wire dangling from the windowsill that had to be tugged.

28 June 2007

Nicaragua: Portland, Houston, Managua

28.06.07 Portland, Houston, Managua

on the plane, i learned a number of hopefully helpful words from the “Sandeo Rural Participativo” book that Gordy (unwittingly?) loaned us. here’s the beginning of the ongoing list:

esfuerzo effort
nivel level
mundial worldwide
calidad quality
diseño design
herramientes tools
apoyar to support (financial, physical)
manera way; method
líderes communitarias community leaders
promedio average (numerical)
valores values
manejar to manage
cierto certain
criar to raise (children, animals)
quebrada ravine
cascada, caigo de agua, salto waterfall
cosechar to harvest
capa arable topsoil
manzana area measurement
sembrar to plant
le~na firewood
propias property
mano de obra labor
juicio case (legal)
escolaridad schooling
finca farm
jornaleros unskilled workers
piso de tierra dirt floor
bestias para carga mules; beasts of burden
cerdo pig
paja/zacate types of grass
bosque forest
tierra balestre arid land unsuitable for farming
gallinas hens
chunto bull
oveja lamb
cabra goat
pizotes wild animals
coche de monte donkey cart
mapaches raccoons
zancudo mosquito
culebra snake
ardillas squirrels
pendiete pending
riego irrigation
huerto crop (of land)

one moment of the trip that is noteworthy: we got off the plane late and ran to E2 where our departure to Managua was supposed to take off. the attendant took our tickets and waved us onto the plane, but people were already in our seats. the attendant followed us a minute later and told us this was the wrong plane as it was bound for New Orleans and that our airplane was to be found across the terminal at E20. gotta love flying!

16 June 2007

Pedalpalooza RideReport: Road Witch

NAME of Ride: Road Witch Ride
LEADERS: Michael Jones and "the other" steph
CO-HAULERS: Dan Miller, "the other" Matt P., Donna, Flow, and BenFoote

DATE: 14 June, 2007
START time: 6:40pm
DURATION: 6:40-10:00pm (ish)
DISTANCE: <1km for sure!
NUMBER of riders: 20

SYNOPSIS of ride:
road witches are creative ways of traffic calming. WE WANTED TO CALM TRAFFIC! i mean, we wanted to c . . .a . . .l . . .m traffic.

we met up at Col. Summers Park and had a brief intro. to types of road witches that have been created the world over. a little discussion later, we (accompanied by Dan's portable tunes) waltzed our furniture- and astroturf-laden trailers over to Alder Ct. where we picked up a chair and loveseat lovingly donated/loaned for the occasion by the Jasper/Carl contingent. our caravan had just begun heading up the street when lo! what should we find but a coffee table and easychair set out for the taking! manna from heaven? you decide. a few bungee cords later and off we were in search of a fitting place on Belmont.

we eschewed a few mere 15-minute spaces until we came upon our new erstwhile parking spot in front of Tao of Tea. we rolled our bikes and trailers into the parking lot and unloaded our goods. within a minute we had moved into our new streetside living room and backyard, complete with carpet, floor lamp, table, chairs, and plant pots. the parking sign indicated that we could spend as much as an hour there, so we got comfortable. Donna got tea service from the Tao (their jasmine tea? highly recommended). theatre-goers who were on their way to see "The Wonder of the World" or "Uncommon Women and Others" stopped to ask what we were doing. one woman came up and said that our setup was just fabulous and that there should be more of this. grapes and tea and kudos from passersby made us feel quite at home, and the BC bikeazine reading material provided by Ron, our Canadian Ambassador to Pedalpalooza, allowed us to pass the time in relaxed fashion.

perhaps 45 minutes later, we packed up and headed to Hawthorne to spread yet more traffic-calming cheer. the Parking Fates smiled once again, and we found ourselves with free real estate in front of the Bagdad on 34th. according to the sign, we were allowed to be there until 5am! we moved in to our little humble roadside bungalow, and Guy immediately ordered pizza (for future reference, the Bagdad delivers to curbside residences). we stayed until a little after dusk and then packed up. Dan's sound system and Team parkXbike meandered back up to NoPo.

HIGH points: Dan's portable sound system! no house is complete without music. Flow stepped up to haul the TimoTrailer, and a few unwanted furniture items found a home. the company was great, too! a lot of good discussion and good times. everyone who passed by seemed curious but then appreciative of our parking job. you were all wonderful!! it was such a pleasure to park with you all.

LOW points:
it ended.

WOULD you do it again? If so, What would you change?
heck yes! in fact, some folks were talking about making this an event through the summer in different locations and using different themes. there was talk of starting a discussion/action forum in the future.

Some places included:
*Woodstock area
*West Burnside
*Farmer's Markets

Road Witch ideas:
*Interior design exhibition streetside
*Children's reading hour with fenced carpeted area and pillows, preferably at a sunday brunch location populated by younguns
*More rooms! More locations!
*Knitting circle

Small Background on Road Witches
a road witch was originally a scarecrow-like affair with a traffic cone hat:http://www.wormworks.com/roadwitch/pages/whatis.htm
examples of road witches:http://www.wormworks.com/roadwitch/pages/trialcontents.htm
PARK(ing): http://www.rebargroup.org/projects/parkingday/images.html
Walk to School Week:http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/05/walk_to_school_week_takes_crazy_twist_in_england.php

thanks to Jacque, Jonathan and Michael for online examples!