Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reflecting

It has been two months since I returned to my home in California, leaving Nicaragua behind. With some time and lots of miles between me and my experiences in Central America, here is my reflection on those eight months. 

I boarded the plane for Managua looking for adventure and direction in my life. I found both in varying degrees.  Adventure I found in spades. Part of what is so alluring about travel is that in many ways it is like living in fast forward. So many intense experiences and friendships are packed into each day, week or month that; personal growth and a certain level of adrenalin are unavoidable parts of travel. Living on the Project Bona Fide Farm I worked alongside of new friends from all over the globe. I swung a machete with Sarah from Colorado, carried bricks on my head with Jass from Canada and learned to harvest coconuts with Hector from Nicaragua. I climbed an active volcano with Americans, Brits and Nicaraguans. I soaked in the beauty of undisturbed beaches all by myself.
                                                                  
                                  
As a plane carried me from foggy San Francisco to sunny Managua I wrote in my journal about what I hopped to achieve during my time in Central America. That journal is now long gone, the bag it was in was stolen from over my head while I naively slept on a bus from Granada to Rivas.   But the thoughts which occupied my mind during that flight are still vivid in my mind.  To my thinking, my trip would be worthwhile if I could positively impact the lives of at least three women. I thought I would feel successful if I could help at least three women make real changes in their lives, reclaim agency over their lives. Leaving Ukiah I thought I might do this through a sort of mutual support circle for young women in the town of Balgue, Island of Ometepe.  That support circle did not end up being the project which the community of Balgue wanted or needed.  Instead I got to support a group of six women who were working with a peace corps volunteer to form a sewing coop.  Working with the coop combined my desire to work with women and my love of textiles.  For five months I met with them and Noelle, the Peace Corps volunteer, to discuss and problem solve everything from product distribution, through using Facebook to promote said products.  Later in my trip I was fortunate to get to continue working with women in a weaving coop in the north of the country. My experiences with the two coops cemented my drive to work with women to help them develop tools to gain agency in their lives.  While I do not yet know what form exactly my work will take I do now have a direction to move in. 




A thousand thanks to all of you who make up my global village, knowing that you believe in, support and love me has given me the strength to venture into the unknown and reach for the stars. 

 hasta la proxima aventura, Allison 



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 250 Smoke-rings

The second, and last stop on our impromptu road trip was Esteli, cigar capital of Nicaragua. How could we not go on a cigar factory tour? For me it was the second time around but just as fun. 

The word cigar comes from the Spanish "cigarro". Cigarro possibly comes from the Mayan word  "sicar" to smoke rolled leaves. Also possibly, because of their shape, coming from the Spanish for cicada, "cigarra." 

A cigar is defined as "a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented Tobacco that is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth." 

On our visit to the factory we not only got to observe the process but roll a few of our own cigarros. At the end of the tour we enjoyed trying a few. To smoke a cigar one draws the smoke into the mouth to savor it but does not inhale it into the lungs. Here are a few photos of us perfecting out technique. 









 

Day 249 Jinotega and the Cross

In the mists of a Sunday afternoon we loaded up a rented truck and headed to Jinotega. We got there with just enough afternoon light to eat lunch and scale the hundreds of steps up to the cross which overlooks the valley. My calfs hated me the next morning but the view of the valley was worth it. 











Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 233 Silhouettes


Matagalpa is a city with an abundance of women's collectives, cooperatives, groups, and centers. One of the hot spots is the Centro Cultural Guanuca. Just a few blocks from my house, they offer films every Friday and some assortment of music, theater or conversations on Saturdays.


This past Saturday Guanuca hosted a group Guatemalan Lesbian Feminists, the Silhouettes Collective. In the hour and a half that they dominated the stage these four women explored everything from, what it means to be lesbian in Guatemala, to what it means to be feminist in a macho society to the difference between being lonely and alone. It was breathtaking, exhausting, enthralling and entertaining. Going into it I didn't know what to expect but I managed my expectations, I was blown away. At times hart wrenching at times funny these women really got at the heart of the issue.


Day 243 Continent of Life Cafe




The continent of life, Abya Yala, these beautiful continents we now refer to as the America's. Abya Yala is the word used by the Kuna people of Panama and Colombia for the land they inhabit. Because in the words of Takir Mamani "placing foreign names on our cities, towns and continents is equal to subjecting our identity to the will of our invaders."  Use of Abya Yala now goes far beyond the naming of continents, it has come to represent and be used by indigenous groups across the americas, seeking to preserve their culture in the face of the ever present invasion of western culture.

 Here in Matagalpa, Abya Yala is a cultural cafe serving up, tasty eats, radical politics and local art. 

I saw this cafe my first day in Matagalpa the first thing you see when you enter is a mural declaring "read to fly." How could I resist? 











Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 231 Shamans and Monkeys

On Thursday we visited the petroglyphs in Chaguitillo. While I am not usually a tour sort of girl this one was phenomenal and necessary. Here in Nicaragua there is only beginning to be an awareness of preservation and signage of sights and attractions is nonexistent. While this can be frustrating for those of us with a DYI streak, it does generate right livelihood for innumerable guides across the country. In this case the petroglyphs especially this first one would have been next to impossible to find without someone to show the way. 

Our guide Jose Percisio from Matagalpa Tours, went far above and beyond simply showing us the way. He also treated us to a history lesson and a brief introduction to the indigenous language Nahuatl. These carvings date back five hundred years (although it is not known for certain because there isnt funds for carbon dating) and are thought to be created by a small short lived group of nomads which inhabited the area. This group is thought to be descendants of the Mayans. 

This first image is of a astronomically accurate calendar. This calendar is what makes archeologists believe this group were descendants of the Maya. It is thought that without prior knowledge, such as the Mayans had, this sort of calendar would be impossible. 


Lunar calendar. 


Shaman and monkey.


Deer little something.

                                              

Shaman or monkey, not sure which.


Calendar and our guide Jose.


Calendar.







Day 222 A Leap of Faith

Las Cascadas Blancas or the white falls are part of the Santa Emelia river located just below the pueblo of Santa Emelia. The fall itself is maybe twenty meters.  Several of us came here to take a dip and see the sights. We had not been at the falls more than a half an hour when certain daredevils in the group decided to make the jump. Later we found out that several people had died doing the jump. Fortunately no one was hurt that day, unfortunately I don't have the photos yet of the jump.