06 July 2007

Nicaragua: Managua

6 de julio Managua

there were a number of folks staying at the Quaker House that hadn’t been before. we had missed the PSU Community Development group by a hair’s breath (this and Union Fenosa seems to be the main subplots of our Nicaraguan adventure this time around). Sarah was still there. Caroline was there but about to leave to WOOF in Belize for a week. Molly was in town amidst doing her grad studies in Scotland. she and Sara were teaming up to investigate NSL classifiers. a group of four were from a Baltimore/Esteli sister city association and were preparing to take the bus up to do some work there. Kristen (i believe?) was working for a health clinic. she had created a questionnaire to see how doctors were performing their duties. it was interesting to learn that women in her experience were quite forthcoming in discussing women’s health issues with her, even when other men and women were obviously within earshot. she had been most surprised that women answered how many partners they had had without pause (the range was 1-4 with most in her experience being 2).
no one knew where the heck the Embassy was, so we took a taxi. walked by Habitat for Humanity and had a discussion about why they were doing only houses when communities needed water and electricity.

Embassy Meeting
interesting questions asked of us:
• GE is in 6 countries?
• whose responsibility is the maintenance of the technology?
• which better: to have volunteers or salaried employees?
• what do you do about stealing utilities? how do you assign tariffs and ensure payment? (gave magnificent hypothetical that could only be conceived by a dastardly mind!)
• how do you get the panels here?
• what are the main uses of electricity?
• how much does n entire solar pumping project cost, including training and feasibility studies?
in answer, Jaime and Anna explained that maintenance could either be volunteers or salaried technicians, depending on the communities’ preference, and the tariff system and fund allocation are likewise decided by a Committee within the community. creating an equitable distribution framework is one of the big challenges. it can be ameliorated with the use of meters, but meters are expensive and their installment costly. panels are often shipped in the form of cells to be assembled into solar units in Nicaragua. this has been the most cost-effective but of course has the downside of lacking certification should anything go awry.

other things explored, of course, but in the interest of space. . .
met with another international NGO after meeting with the Embassy, and then Jaime took us to lunch to a vegetarian cart near the university. gorgeous! afterwards, we went to the Ministry of Energy only to learn that, due to the energy shortage (i’m not lying, folks), the government had declared that offices would only be open 7a-1p. they declared this less than 24 hours before our meeting. with the Ministry of Energy. so let’s just recap – the Ministry of Energy, which is located within the purview of the national grid maintained by Union Fenosa, is closed due to energy rationing. humor, bad luck in timing, and a reinforcement of our mission statement all in one closed door.
other notes of interest this day:
• in the ciber while Jaime was making a call, we saw two boys surfing for women – one was youtubing all evening gown portions of Miss America pageants from the last 5 years, and the other was searching for pictures of celebrity women and saving the ones with 30%+ of screenspace devoted to cleavage
• while waiting in line to extract money from my account, two fabulous nurses who asked where i was from, what i was doing in Nicaragua, and then if there was a job for them with our ONG. they didn’t care what kind of job. they didn’t even care what kind of ONG. we were all laughing for a good while after that.
• a woman in a makeup shop started cracking up when i asked if she had change for C$500 (about US$25) when i said i wanted to buy a few hairtyes for C$10.
• a guy was very adamant about palm reading and i believe spirituality while we were waiting for the receipt at the vegetarian place.

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