S: Nicaragua 2011
BC: “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” - St. Augustine | Copyright 2011 Jessica Clark
FC: Finca Esperanza Verde y San Ramón, Nicaragua Ruthy Jones and Jessica Clark January 29-February 5, 2011
1: "A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably. " -William Penn
2: Arrival We left RDU at 6AM but arrived before lunch, with just a 2 hour flight from Miami. We met our group after boarding the green bus outside the airport, and being provided with water and fresh fruit, began our 3 hour ascent to the Finca via the pan-American highway then "secondary" routes!
3: Typical scenery of pedestrians along the pan-American highway; volcanic mountains in the background. | Roadside pet store- canaries and iguanas! | A funeral procession scene from the back of the bus window | One of the main lakes
4: Life at the beautiful Finca amidst the lush rainforest, an expansive mountain vista, and homey facilities using solely hydro and solar power- our days were filled with farm-grown coffee, tasty meals (including vegetarian!), an exotic juice each day and hours of wonder-watching the leaf cutter ants across our paths.
5: The dining area and "porch" overlooking the mountains was a great space for relaxing and making friends | Jessica and Paola (one of the new directors)
6: Activities at the Finca Tortilla making lessons with Reyna, the head cook. Topped with lime juice and honey! | Daily hikes with our trusty and forbearing guide, Unberto.
7: Transportation- Nicaraguan style Off to visit another farm! | The view from behind the cab, exiting the Finca | Ruthy riding with Kristina and Phil
8: The Coffee Industry | Visiting Javier (and his mother)'s farm- one of the local organic co-op members | We learned about the coffee production process including growing, harvesting, drying at the beneficios, and distributing. Recently, farmers have learned "cupping"- to taste and understand the qualities of their own coffee crop. As they've increased their understanding, so also their profits rise.
9: A hike to the river and picnic lunch | It doesn't get much more peaceful or remote than this.
10: Liz, a retired science teacher, brought crafts and lessons for our group to share with the local children. Everyone had a great time, with the afternoon culminating with rocket launches at the Finca.
11: The local "Chispas" school- constructed with funds from John's Durham Cubscout troop. Though school was not yet in session (due to it being the end of the coffee harvest season), students came out to receive notebooks and pencils.
12: Sights of the Finca coffee lessons, tree planting, endless supplies of yummy "bananos", mariposas, and friendly (/curious) neighbors.
13: Richard & Lonna Harkrader, founders of Sister Communities of San Ramón. The work of Richard and Lonna began in the 1990's, and they have consistently brought resources to San Ramón to cultivate economic opportunities and meet quality of life needs. | Their work has included the development of Finca Esperanza Verde ("the Finca") which brings tourism to Nicaragua, provides full-time work to 14 locals, and creates profits from coffee production. With this project, they have helped neighboring coffee producers grow their businesses, as well as sparked development in other areas- constructing reliable wells for the city, encouraging local guest houses (like Neyda's), and supporting the women's paper co-op. They have also provided additional funding for local schools, Los Pepitos (a support for families with children with disabilities), the women's maternity house, and the elderly meal club. Many of the locals express their sincere gratitude for the influence of Richard and Lonna's work- both personally and to their community.
14: “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” -Maya Angelou
16: Neyda's Place, our San Ramón home, and tropical paradise | Every morning we were greeted by Neyda's young worker, David. Out back are her two rental cabins (one boarding two Irish students, the other with an engineer for the local highway project) and a beautiful courtyard filled with fruit-laden mango and starfruit trees and brilliantly colored plants (such as we have for houseplants- however here they exist natively).
17: Our bedroom (with the guest house-required mosquito nets), the outside wash area, and a view of the front bread store. We loved waking up to the sounds of the rooster and buses and bustling neighbors (the business day starts promptly at 7AM!)- there is even a church service each morning up the street!
18: Our San Ramón Tour Guides and Jr. Tour Guides. Ruthy and I were grouped with Maricela. Below, Bill is catching a glimpse of an Oropendula with the Jr. Tour Guides
19: The Women's Paper Co-op | Three women procured equipment and educated themselves on the paper-making trade to earn income for their families. They use recycled paper with natural fibers and purely mechanical processes to create greeting cards, journals, and beautiful writing paper.
20: Enjoying a Coke in the Central Park less than a block from Neyda's
21: Jewelry making with local artist, Freddie, using seeds from the rainforest
22: Doña Marina is a descendant from one of the original families in San Ramón. She welcomed us to her home and sat us in her back garden to tell us about her memories of the revolution and discuss the changes in Nicaragua while we enjoyed traditional popsicles. She later showed us the bullets holes in her living room wall from during that time. That evening, we went to the home of an 84-year old baker and learned how to make Nacatomales- with masa, meat (for some), tomatoes, peppers, and other special toppings. It's a meal inside a tomale!
24: Later that night, we enjoyed our nacatomales at sunset, accompanied by live music.
25: We spent time at the local library (founded by the Swedish adoptive parents of a Brazilian boy!)- we played puzzles and chess with some of the local children.
26: The city of San Ramón was beautifully simple, clean, and friendly. The people we encountered were warm and trustworthy- for the most part honest people making their way through an honest life.
27: Staying at Neyda's was such a privilege. She is a brilliant businesswoman and a kind person. Her meals were always tasty and varied, and though she was somewhat reserved, she showed a kindred spirit. Her daughter, Gabriella, is bright and sensible, and David (shown with his little brother Victor) is both earnest and hardworking. It was delight to get to know their family and home- their hospitality well defined our experience of Nicaragua!