Tuesday, December 14, 2010


After a glorious night's sleep, I felt all charged and ready to go.

We went to the city's technical school, INATEC, a stunning group of almost electric-blue buildings that sits near the heart of the area. There were people abuzz all around working on various repairs for the classrooms. This activity even made its way into our classroom. Wandering minds would jolt straight back to attention whenever a hammer thundered above us.

We spent the first part of the day in this dynamic room learning about the history of blueEnergy, the group that collaborated with Solar Energy International to make such a workshop happen, the energy systems used to provide local citizens with power, and specifically wind turbines.

I observed how the main problem centered around the batteries for the system- they either would short out if powered for too long, if not enough power was being received, or if the energy demand was too high and depleted to power quickly. Learning about such things made me so charged, I wanted to find a way to solve that problem right then and there!

The rest of the day was spent actually working on the construction of the wind turbines. The atmosphere was electric with everyone taking part in their various tasks.

I feel as if this workshop has rebooted my passion for bringing power to rural areas. Although there are many challenges, the overwhelming response from the recipients is that they have truly improved their lives thanks to these changes. Hearing about this from people who have made it their life purpose to continue the works until everyone has been helps has shocked me right down to my core. I, too, would love to do my part in this cause.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ever-True Cliche #1: Expect the Unexpected

After at least a month's worth of procrastination and a week's worth of frantically running around to make up for said procrastination, I finally found myself at the airport scared out of my mind. 

The reason? Although I had been talking about this trip for quite some time, I had finally come to the realization that I was about to embark on my first adventure outside of the country to go to Nicaragua by myself. 
...Did I also mention that I don't know a lick of Spanish?

On top of all of this, I received and email from the group I was to be with alerting me that they couldn't find the reservation for my flight from Managua to Bluefields, where the actual workshop was to be held. When I finally got a calling card yesterday to inquire about this, I was notified that the airlines had closed at noon and would not be opening again until 6 the next morning, which was a whole whopping 30 minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave. Yikes.

In the end, I made it to Managua just fine and found the hotel shuttle. I was looking forward to a good night's sleep at the hotel, although it seems the people at the casino attached to the hotel and the wedding reception going on right outside my room window may have had different intentions (Who knew 'Dancing Queen' would be a song of choice down here?).

I went to the airlines this morning and was able to receive my ticket without any problem. I bought a wholesome and delicious breakfast of orange-sugar-drink with sugar-fruit-pastry and waited until they called boarding. (Side note: I attempted to board at least 2 different planes because I was so anxious- every time a new flight was announced I was the first one there just to make sure I didn't miss it.)

When the correct flight was finally announced, I lined up with everyone else and proceeded to head to board. I saw a smaller passenger jet that had propellers on the wing and thought that I could probably handle flying in something like that... But we were led past that plane and I finally saw what we were going to ride in.

It looked a little like this:

Now, suffice to say I was a little uneasy and prepared myself for a bumpy ride. The truth is, it was actually one of the smoothest flights I have ever taken. I even met a fellow group member upon exiting the plane!

One of the members of blueEnergy came and picked us up and showed us around the house where we would be staying. If not knowing any Spanish isn't  hard enough, I came to the discovery that the majority of the volunteers there are from France! But they were very accommodating and gave us breakfast and walked us through the market so we could get a better understanding of the city.

It appears Bluefields used to be a major city port in the 1800's, but has since been long forgotten by the rest of the country. It is virtually isolated as there are no roads to it- the only means of accessing it is through bus and boat or by flying, both of which are very expensive options. There is a unique blend of people ranging from the basic 'mestizo' (mixed Amerindian and white) to those of African descent. (Perk: this meant I didn't look like too much of an outsider! :D)

Due to its isolation, it is difficult for people to really move out. I was told the guys grow up to be fishermen like their dads, and the women tend to the house. That is the way it has been and will be for quite some time. Crime rates are high in the area (every door here has a lock and a key to it, including bedroom doors), and death rates are too (I have already seen a funeral procession and I've not been here for a full day yet!). I was even warned not to take my camera to for pictures in certain areas, for it can attract unwanted attention.

All that aside, it is truly a beautiful area and I am excited to see what all I will learn on this trip. I know in my short time I am already beginning to look at things differently.