07 July 2007

Nicaragua: Managua, San Jose, Malacatoya, San Jose

7 de julio Managua, San Jose, Malacatoya, San Jose

Jaime picked us up in his white truck about 8am, and we headed out for San Jose and points beyond. San Jose is about a 1 ½ hour trek from Managua with roads that faded from traffic to rubble and dust and culminated with San Jose’s “Samoza” blocks that run about 4-5 blocks in any direction from the center of town. stopped at a house with a swanky, small wooden spiral staircase that turned out to belong to a fellow named Jorge, the one who directs the Mayor’s agenda. the discussion went a little something like this:

there is a Committee in the north and one in the south. the one in the north seems to have less motivation or vision for development than the other.
regarding Malacatoya, the installation will take place either on tuesday afternoon or wednesday morning.
the demand is the same in most of the communities, but the applications and uses are different: some communities need energy and water, others primarily water; some can benefit from micro-hydro, others will require solar. regarding hydro-electric, they discussed how water delivery and electricity can be offered in tandem. the water confluence is pretty large, but its source is not one large waterfall but many sources that flow into the same flow. the majority of communities do not have adequate water delivery service. most have wells of some sort, but they are by and large manually-pumped and not suitable for the quantity of people they serve. the manual wells have the additional issue of claves breaking, rendering the wells unusable. Communities already identified as needing water projects were identified by name. 25 of the communities in the area have already been identified as not having sufficient water. Union Fenosa apparently has a scheduled increase of 2% annually for its utility services, which makes the system even less tenable to rural communities. Currently, water is for consumption in most communities but not for anything else like irrigation. if there was more water available to those areas, it could completely change the economic capabilities and lifestyles of the zone. just a little irrigation will allow a lot of crop cultivation. corn is a difficult crop to grow because it is expensive to buy the seeds for the first plant. it’s also difficult to ensure the quality of the seeds, and farmers have to buy the seeds every year. the priority is to provide energy where there is none, but Jorge also mentioned that some communities that have energy could benefit from a backup system because the national grid is less than reliable. there will be more rationing in future (Managua alone requires 500 mW). on Malacatoya: it is near the grid, but there is no electricity available to speak of. the only alternative is an independent system. the assembly of the turbine and generator should take place on tuesday afternoon.
we got to Malacatoya by way of San Jose (a “settled” town). along the way, we encountered a number of folks that knew Jaime by sight. he is obviously well known and liked by the community (we started calling him "Antonion Banderas"). the jeep took us as far as it could which was to the base of an incline where mud (“lodo”) prevented further driving. up and down and some slips later, we got to the site of the micro-hydro plant. the building has been constructed, the penstock about to be fitted, and the turbine and generator are sitting on the plant floor. four guys are currently working on seating the penstock, which needed an additional four metres. George is coming on tuesday to install the turbine and generator. Jaime explained that the injector controls the flow into the turbine the canal around the plant keeps water from washing against the wall and potentially weakening (?).
Anna said that she and Suzanne Adatto had been out a few years earlier when there was no building. everyone seems VERY excited at this stage. one fellow named Orlando accompanied us back to his house where we talked about the project at greater length. there was a good deal of discussion about tariffs: whether it would be by household or by appliance (a suggestion Anna made). Jaime explained that tariffs would help keep consumption down to what and when people need it. who will enforce and set up payment? the Committee. will there be a paid operator and technician, or will everyone be volunteers? Orlando explained that a technician would not be paid and that tariffs would go to maintenance. the Committee will check the plant from time to time. Anna asked about pulpadoras; Orlando has one in his backyard which we went out to see after the discussion. throughout the conversation, the women kept on the outskirts of the room. Orlando’s wife came out at one point, and the younger women came in and snuggled behind her, peeping out at the others. another worker at the plant (Tony?) came in the doorway, and his wife stood behind him and rested her head on his back. after we had gone back to the truck, we mused how amazing it was that so much change in a project could happen in such a short time.
got back to San Jose and looked for a room of which Jaime knew. needed prep, so we went down the street to a comedor. Anna turned and asked, “isn’t it funny how, in Nicaragua, the first thing you ask when you go into a restaurant is, ‘is there any food’?” it’s pretty hilarious. at Snack Brisas near the Quaker House two days before, they didn’t have rice and beans, though later they confessed to having gallopinto (which is rice and beans mixed together). we got some Really Delicious eggs and rice and beans. then to the room, then Anna and Jaime worked on a proposal while i went to a cyber and typed up notes. good reggaeton, so i stayed for an extra hour. fireworks outside sounded like gunfire. the paved streets (with “Samoza” blocks, according to Anna) and clip-clop of the horse hooves which made for good transportation made it sounds for all the world like a traditional western show. San Jose’s streets are paved well, but in some ways it feels like a town on stilts because all the roads leading to/from it seem to lead down and quickly become rubble and dirt/mud roads. the pulperias sell horseshoes right next to the refrigerators holding juice and coca-cola (“gaseosa”).
when i got back from the cyber, Anna and Jaime were just finishing up their session on the proposal, beer was requisite at this point. lot of young children out at night we found. over Tona, we mused as to whether women have any organizations or Committees or gathering places in Malacatoya. also brainstormed other ways to get statistics regarding health in communities. plan to stop by clinics or hospitals in the area of San Jose to get information including diseases, ailments, reasons for doctor trips or any issues that could relate to water or nutrition as it might relate to distance of water carrying.

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