14 July 2007

Nicaragua: Boaco, Managua

14 julio Boaco, Managua (Solidarity Conference), Boaco

4am came quickly. I had some difficulty getting out the door because it closes and locks from the inner receptionist area. The bus to Managua at 4:30 takes mostly students. I’m amazed at the hours and expense that studying 2 hours away from home must entail. Got to Managua and got a taxi ride from a 72 year old man who told me all about his diabetes on the way, including specific figures of his pharmaceutical bills and inability to pay for injections. While walking into the conference, met with the New York film-making crew that was documenting the conference.
I assumed I wouldn’t know anyone at the conference, but almost immediately I met up with the group from the Baltimore/Esteli Sister City Association who had stayed at the Quaker House with us. We had an interesting discussion about micro credit, as it turns out someone from the group was going to present a lecture on the subject. Then I saw Lizzie Fussell! She’s working in Chinandega to bring health services to women on banana plantations. Apparently there is comparatively more promiscuity in the plantation communities which leads to higher incidence of STDs. Since the medical services are provided by plantation owners who only have a view to increasing productivity, STDs tend to go unchecked and proliferate as does ovarian cancer caused by the highly toxic pesticides. Fascinating and horrifying to learn about chemical treatments that not only contaminate wells and lend to skin burns but also chemicals that dry out harvested areas and, as a minor side effect, the drinking wells.
Lizzie, Narcissa and Frasier let us cop some territory at their booth, and my 50+ annual reports went like wildfire. Talked to a number of folks, including ones who were interested in becoming involved in projects in Boaco, someone interested in University partnerships, and possible event partner.
The keynote speaker for the conference was a former mayor of Bluefields. His basic premise was that we need to raise our own consciousness about the living disparity between Nicaragua and the United States. One of his representative statements went a little something like this: “Think about what your breakfast cost when you were in the States last week, and then, when you leave today, look at a child on the street and ask when the last time was that he had breakfast.” A woman sitting next to me got up quickly and said that she just wanted to thank everyone for being here to foster solidarity. When she came back from the microphone, she expressed that she didn’t agree with his statements, that the people who came to this conference were not the ones whose consciousness needed changing. Everyone seemed to have a different opinion of his speech (my $.02: I think his speech did more to separate the participants into two separate groups than to invite solidarity and collaboration, though the truth of his words was undeniable). Afterwards came a panel of speakers; the one that seemed to get the whole group humming was a fellow from Bend, OR who talked for just a few eloquent minutes about the difference between charity and solidarity. I decided to accost him at lunch.
Met Hannah and Keith who already know about GE and were thinking about moving to Portland (thought my theif-proof methods of securing money on my person was pretty hilarious). They helped make the conference happen and would like to meet with us for volunteering, etc. when they get into town. We mentioned our shared, abiding love for the Distinguished Gentleman from Bend and attacked him together.
Tim has a weekly radio show and is involved with the Bend-Condega Sister City Association with his very funny wife named Daisy. Gave him our Annual Report and we talked about a possible event in Ben focusing on community development.
Caught up with Lizzie and kibitzed about funding thoughts for her project as well as a possible volunteering venture with AsoFenix for website and brochure creation and re-entry into Portland.
Bus back to Boaco. Either the drive train or the acceleration cable snapped out of kilter, rendering us stationary for about ½ hour. Luck was with us, however, and we made it back safe and sound. After trying to find the gang (who ate at a loud mariachi place), I had dinner with a fellow named Daniel who lives in a colonial house in town with his sister and father. A small parade with puppets on stilts went by as part of the ongoing festival. Daniel said that the town was expected to double in the next 10 years due to a highway project. Met up with the others thereafter and learned of their exploits which Anna will assuredly recount.

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