Until the Next Trip!

This journal entry from my travels in Nicaragua was written on July 10, 2014. I had just over a week left in Chacresecra. That week was the best yet. We had a farewell party, finished our projects, and told our host families how much our stay meant to us. Many of us cried, including myself, when leaving the airport in Managua. As I mentioned before, this trip changed me. I now have an intense desire to travel to developing countries and experience and learn from another society’s seemingly upside down lifestyle. I would go back to Chacresecra in a heartbeat. The people there taught me so much. I hope to go back someday and embark on more adventures throughout Latin America after I graduate.

Socoro 114
Over the course of 2 days, I helped double dig 3 whole garden beds! The two beds at Petrona’s are finished! We just have to finish up a small section of the fence. Then we will take transplants from Alberto to plant in the beds. The seeds will most likely not make it through direct planting in the beds (as suggested by Rolando who is an employee of GSE who use to be a famer and went to biointensive training school in Leon) so we will plant some starters for Petrona and then she can go back to Alberto in a couple weeks to get the rest of her starters. This project really came together this week. We had a lot of help from Petrona and Memo and still have to some planting to do. I love working with them – I hope the garden is the start of something really prosperous. Today at Conception we finished double digging a tough bed, did some weeding to clear a path next to our new bed, and filled some bags for starters. At Conception there’s a shared greenhouse and water source from the neighbor who grows watermelon. Lots of school kids helped us fill bags which was fun. Even though I hardly speak Spanish, I love interacting with the kids – showing them or working with them like today. They love working in the gardens which is really neat – something I wish we did in the U.S. Elementary and high school school gardens would be great. Being here in Chac makes me really want to apart of UM’s school gardens and help my Mom and Dad have a garden too. I also want my own farm and garden someday so I can be more self-sufficient like Petrona.

Adventures in Nica Continued…

The following is a journal entry from about halfway through my stay in Chacresecra. Side note: one of the requirements of my volunteer internship with GSE was to implement a needs-based project with my host family. My fellow intern, Gabby (who I lived with), and our host family decided a garden would be the best fit for our project. This journal entry describes some the steps toward creating this garden with our host family (building a fence) and specifically about my host Mom, Petrona.
Petrona is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She helped us make her garden fence today and I think she is just as strong as a man. She cut wood, carried it, and hammered nails better than all of us (me, Gabby, and Memo[my host brother]). She is also very smart and knows exactly what she wants, how to do it, and where to get it. Because I viewed the people of Chac as poor at first, I misjudged them as unintelligent and deprived but I am learning far more from them and their way of life. We, Americans, live an over extravagant life that needs reform. I have nothing to offer Petrona but my gratitude for her hospitality and my help with garden and around the house. I am very comfortable here and try to help out without asking them – doing dishes, sweeping the house. I really admire Petrona’s work ethic and everyday smarts. She does everything around the house and supports herself. She built her own cooking (wood burning) stove that is made of white tiles. Her kitchen is never smoky and her entire house is very open and clean in comparison to most houses in Chac which are dark, tight, and smaller (short roof and not very open). She is well off by Nicaraguan standards – she earned it though. Her children help support her too. Her daughter currently lives with while her most of the time. She is a school teacher at Alberto. For the next 2 weeks, Gabby and I are volunteering at the Conception school garden. I feel like I’m gaining good leadership and teamwork skills. I like to listen to others’ input but also share my own suggestions. I also feel like a role model to the high school interns but also like their friend. I’m buddies with everybody in the group. Fact about compost piles that I learned today – you have to flip them and it takes 3 months for them to fully decompose. We will finish our fence tomorrow – have to reinforce the barbed wire fence sides (other 2 sides are mesh we hammered to wooden posts). A neighbor will help with laying down long wooden boards along barbed wire to keep chickens out tomorrow. Then double digging and planting!


Chac family


Summer in Nicaragua

Chac watertower

This past summer I spent a month in a farming community called Chacresecra in Leon, Nicaragua. I lived with a host family and volunteered at organic school gardens with 12 other interns through a non-profit organization called the Global Student Embassy. Though cliche to say, this experience changed my life. I miss my host family frequently and have caught the travel bug. While abroad in Nicaragua I kept a journal to record what I was experiencing and learning about sustainable agriculture. The following is my first journal entry from June 24, 2014. It was my first day volunteering at the Alberto school garden in Charcresecra.
Today I learned so much! First of all, the type of farming we are promoting is biointensive farming. There are 8 principles/steps. Three that I got to do today are double digging, composting, and planting. The double digging consists of cutting into the soil 30 centimeters then loosening the soil another 30 centimeters while stirring up the soil. Then you add fertilizer and stir up the soil again. Double digging aerates and improves the soil. Today I helped make my very first compost pile! First, you put down dirt, then a layer of dry weeds/vegetation, a layer of greens (long leafy plants), add dirt again, and then water. (Repeat until the square is full). We didn’t plant today but did some weeding. Interesting tips – only plant in hexagons or triangles. Also use live cactus as a living fence. Composting – squares decompose into an entire row and takes about 3 months. We are trying to set an example to the community and school children. The school children (some only I think only in 1st grade or kindergarten) helped us today. I also planted a papaya tree! I’m becoming very aware about conserving water and waste. Especially water – comes from Leon every other day. Did some watering at the Alberto garden today. Each day is getting better and better!