01 July 2007

Nicaragua: Bocay, El Bote, Matagalpa

1 de julio 2007: Bocay, El Bote, Matagalpa

woke up and had breakfast the same spot as the night before. tortillas and queso seco. Aleyda explained divorce in Nicaragua, which happens more frequently now than before (i don{t think this has anything to do with renewable energy, by the way). people who marry the 2nd time can have a civil marriage, but church weddings are not really ¨done¨. she mentioned marriage encounters (encuento conjugales), which seems a predominant way for catholics to work out communication difficulties in their relationships. my parents went on a marriage encounter once that saved their marriage, so we swapped stories.

we said godbye to Bocay with its Benjamin Linder banner and headed to El Bote!!

our first stop before the hydroplant was ATDER{s telephone station. we met with ATDER{s agronomist, Buonoera, who talked about the harvesting and planting methods for coffee, plantains, bananas, beans, and rice. th major question was ne of incentivesÑ farmers need reason to change farming habits that are more immediate than promises of llong'term sustainability and social quality. farmers are paid to plant the initial harvest and maintain sustainable techniques.

he had pictures of all the farms to be bought with corresponding maps of their plots. very impressive!

in the midst of this, i met Eric and his friend Lester as well as Lester{s sister (who was too shy to introduce herself). Eric started working for ATDER'BL a week ago since school is out. he helps Rebecca as a manager, though i was unclear in precisely what capacity. i walked across the street after being beckoned by the owner of the pulperia. he asked where we were from and how we were involved in the project. Anna came over, and he sat us down in his house and asked rather pointed questions about the funding. apparently he was worried about a new government being bought by foreign interests. as auxiliary mayor, Alcade came with us as we looked at the fence marking the watershed and coffee plants growing under the shade of banana trees. they plant posts which end up sprouting leaves and roots. it{s called a ¨cerca vivo¨. satisfied with the reasons for our visit, he was dropped off back at the pulperia before we headed up to the hydroplant. it´s HUGE!
1 mW, 2 turbines with 2 injectors eachand 2 generators, with one control panel to rule them all. the transformers can be easily found just above the plant and fed into the grid. behind the plant was a small house with the falls beyond. El Mexicano said that the falls have 3 tiers, 2 of which were high enough that we couldn{t even see them. we thought that roaring falls would prevent sleep, but the noise was much diminished inside the thickly'walled house. hopefully, the walls will also filter some of the noise from the generator which will be rather intense when it{s operational. Doris and daughter Maria have lived there for the past 4 months. Maria will start school in the next session, a 20'30 minute walk upsteps of the falls. we walked back into the plant where Buonoera, _________, and the El Bote plant operator were looking over designs. a lightning bolt had hit the plant the night before and knocked out one of the parts of the control panel. Rebecca had apparently alreadycome by and taken the part to be replaced.

we left the plant and headed back to ATDER{s telephone headquarters (Eric was there to greet us) and said goodbye to everyone there as well as Alcade across the street. we followed the lines back to El Cua (beuatiful pillars and endless lines). we saw the lechedora on the way back. i had hoped that we would pass by the Iglesia Luz Eternal which we passed in El Bote just before the telephone station, but no such luck. a quick goodbye to El Mexicano, and then the bus back to Matagalpa. there were plenty of stops and starts along the way: sacks of beans loaded, a boisterous group of guys kicked off the bus for being ¨too drunk¨and kicking up a fuss in the street, a woman with a LOT of lipstick shuffling her children to the back of the bus, beans unloaded, etc etc. being the last bus, it was nightfall before we were halfway to Matagalpa. the fireflies lit up parts of the field. pulperias were open into the night. music could be heard from the road all along the countryside under El Bote{s electrical lines. a few houses could be seen across the hillside. it was magical. i{ve never noticed how much a little electricity ca change an entire region. Alcade, when asked how electrcity had changed his pulperia, said that there was ¨more protection and safety, more goods to be sold, more customers¨. he has had the pulperia for 18 years, since well before the electricity cam. he remembered Ben Linder.

Aleyda{s husband and nephew, Ditmar, came to pick us up when we hit Matagalpa at 8:30m or so. they were kindenough t take us to a hotel. Anna and i went foraging for dinner and passed up a pizza joint for platinos and friojles molidas (and cerveza!). at the end of the meal, the proprietress asked where we were from and divulged that 3 children of hers lived in LA. everyone seems to have some connection to the States. Anna and i walked back to the hotel by way of the church which had a banner hanging next to it advertising, ¨Cowboy Festival, Toro Mecanico¨. for the previous night. bummer.

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