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Monday, February 4, 2013

Friends, Ovens, and Fiestas

This past week, I got a chance to see my NICA60 Environment friends as we received a training on how to make improved ovens.  The oven project is a part of the ECPA (Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas) Initiative.  In Nicaragua, volunteers work on 3 different types of projects: improved ovens, improved stoves, and biodigestors.  The improved ovens and stoves are "improved" because they use less firewood and produce less smoke than traditional ovens and stoves. Therefore they're better for people's health, as well as the environment.  Biodigestors use animal manure to produce gas that can be used to cook with. 

We arrived in Managua on Thursday, and got a chance to meet together as a group.  We went around and shared 1 success story and 1 funny story each.  It was nice to reconnect with everyone.  Despite the fact that we are all on a phone plan that allows us to call and text each other for free, I haven't been very good at keeping in touch with everyone.  I spent Thursday night in the hotel with some of the other girls, just hanging out and catching up. 

Friday we had breakfast at the hotel and headed out early to a restaurant in Catarina, where we had a charla from our program specialist, Lisette, the PS of the agriculture sector, and 2 volunteers who have worked extensively on ECPA projects.  We learned more details about ECPA, how the funding works, and talked through the process of constructing the ovens step-by-step.  After eating lunch, we headed to Pio XII, one of the towns where some of the other environment volunteers in my group lived during training.  The group was split in two to build ovens in two different houses.  Each group had a PC staff and experienced volunteer to guide us through the process.  Building the ovens was a lot of measuring, leveling, and getting dirty.  The mixture used to hold the bricks together is made of dirt and horse manure mixed together with water and sap from the dragonfruit plant.  We had to mix it all together (kind of like the way we mix cement in Mexico when I work with Simply Smiles) and use it to put the bricks together, all while carefully measuring and leveling to make sure we're building a sturdy oven.  We built a few levels of bricks, installed the barrel (where the stuff you're baking goes), leveled that (so that the cakes won't come out crooked), build up around the sides of the barrell, and then put on the roof.  The whole project took us over 4 hours, but we were able to walk through every step very carefully so that we will be able to replicate it in our sites.  I'm hoping I'll have interest in my site so that I can do an oven project here.  The family has to put in 25% of the money for the oven, and the ECPA grant funds the other 75%.  I'm going to start to see who's interested, and hopefully I'll be building some ovens in La Concordia!
after a long day of work, we finally finished (mas o menos)

After building the ovens, the other mud-covered, tired volunteers and I headed back to the PC office for pizza and then to the hotel, where I spent another night hanging out with my friends in our hotel room and watching TV (in English!!!).  The next morning I headed back to my site, where the Fiestas Patronales are beginning.  It's basically a week-long celebration with parties, rodeos, drinking, and lots of people.  Unfortunately, the party Saturday night was empty, so I didn't end up going, but the 10th is the hipico (drunk cowboy and horse parade) and another party, with a band that's coming to perform.  Yesterday I checked out the rooster fights and the rodeo.  I will never go to a rooster fight again.  That's all I'll say about that.

I'll post again once the fiestas are done to tell you more about it!  I also started working today.  There's still no kids in the school, but the teachers will be going around this week and registering kids, as well as doing some professional development.  Classes start the 12th!

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