Monday, 28 February 2011

Alpha 6 in the mix

With all the travelling around Nicaragua your blogger hasn't had a chance to write about her favourite group in ages!

I'm allowed to be biased as I spent six days with Alpha 6 up in the small community of La Colmena in Miraflor, helping them settle into their new homes, and empathising with the collective tummy grumbles at having beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Groan! Since I left I hear the diet has improved dramatically - to the point of being offered cow's intestines as a special treat. Gulp!

It was a wrench bidding them adios so I can't wait to hear all about their exploits when they're back on Wednesday (all our Alpha groups return to fieldbase then so we're starting to get things ready for their return - exciting!).

In the meantime, here are a few pictures from Alpha 6's first week:

Ed and Dunia get stuck in
Not to be outdone - so do Kesiah and Robbie
While Louise gets cracking with clearing the field where La Colmena's community centre is being built:

Believe me, the locals were well impressed!
And Rosie and Chema gave a helping hand too:

Rosie to the rescue!
Chema chops the flowers

Alpha VI - let the digging commence!

Emma, Louise and Rosie making metal wall supports
Tim and a community member mix materials
It's raining but the digging goes on...
It wasn't all work, work, work though. The group found time to learn Spanish every day, courtesy of host country volunteers Dunia and Chema:

Hola! Me llamo....

Even the biggest pig in the village wanted in on the action and came to keep us company:

Un cerdo! = a pig!
And here are PMs Dr Ben and Vicky in their kitchen, dreaming up their next venturer challenge:

Let me tell you a story Victoria...

Alpha 6 have been hard at work on their community centre build. We've heard they've made amazing progress and are about to paint their first mural on one of the walls. Well done guys. I'm so proud! The community centre is much needed as La Colmena can be quite windy and rainy at times because it's at altitude. So the locals will be able to keep warm inside when they hold meetings, adult learning and pre-school classes, and recreational activities.

Tune in soon for an update from Alpha 6 when they return, and find out what happened on a day trip to learn all about Nicaraguan coffee.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Alpha 2 are walking on through

The final stop-off on our Bravo 1 road trip was a very pleasant couple of days spent with trekkers Alpha 2 along the Guanacaste trek in Costa Rica. They've been walking roughly 18-21 km, sometimes more, through jungle, over hills, and up volcanoes occasionally stopping off for mud pack facials on the way.

Pictures: Jimmy Donger 

A wet bridge too far
Jimmy, King of the jungle!
Ellie from London HQ joins in the hot springs fun
PM Jonny goes Geisha for one day only! 
Bravo 1 climbed Volcan Rincon de la Vieja in the Guanacaste world heritage site with Alpha 2. Although we couldn't quite reach the top of the volcano because of clouds, we still enjoyed the climb through amazing forest.
Volcan Rincon shrouded in mist
The boys scrambling down a big green hill
Alpha 2 have seen all sorts of wildlife during their trek including a rare tapir, snakes, spiders, birds and friendly monkeys.
Are you talkin' to me?

Is it a bird?....well, yes!
A spot of monkeying around
The group's first week of wet jungle days followed by hard road in soggy boots had taken its toll on some of Alpha 2's poor tootsies though. I've been given a photo of a foot too grotesque to publish (but then my aversion to feet might have something to do with that!).

But everyone is ploughing on as the beautiful beach of Playa Junquillal on the Pacific coast is within reach. Well, 30 km within reach actually. Yes, it's Alpha 2's final push tomorrow when they'll walk 30 km to flop on the beach for a day and a half - they certainly deserve it! So they're getting up at, gulp, 2.30am to set off at 4am in the morning! Go Alpha 2 - you're nearly there!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Adios Nicaragua from Bravo 1!

It was with a heavy heart that the Bravo 1 landrover crew (left to right: Bob, Laura, and Tom from logistics as well as Gerry, your blogger) left Nicaragua a couple of days ago.
Planning a route outside our co-operative partner's building, Achuapa
Team Bravo 1: Bob, Laura, Gerry and Tom
Bob and Tom to the rescue! One giant log loaded on one small trailer
Big smiles and waves have greeted us from hot, dusty roadsides as we drove by looking for the remote communities where our projects are based.

If the locals think you're lost, they're the first to offer help. We've heard tales from the Delta 2 Momotombo trek of villagers insisting on giving them precious water even though the locals will have to hike miles to replace it.

The straw-brown dusty fields, herds of dozy cows, and often flimsy wooden, corrugated iron and thatched huts (with barbed wire for washing lines!) are frequently embraced by looming volcanoes like sleepy giants watching over the vibrant landscape. 
I've seen a (small!) tornado in a field, a snake catching prey, and stars amongst the brightest I've ever seen. Nicaragua is a very special place. Made even more special because we've been lucky enough to catch up with our fellow volunteer managers on our fleeting visits:

Bravo 1 visiting Delta 5 in Potosi
With Alpha 5 after a sweltering day trip to a river in Achuapa
Of course, Nicaragua is also a place with little money, resources or investment. The difference in living standards as soon as we crossed the Nicaraguan border into Costa Rica is huge.

I hope this is 'luega' ('see you later') from me to Nicaragua rather than 'adios' forever.

Delta 5's high fives

Find out what our Delta 5 team in Potosi (a beachside community in South Nicaragua), have been up to. 

Words and pictures: Mags Chilaev

Delta 5 arrived in Potosi on the 14th after a phantasamorgic bus ride courtesy of the Reggae Express.
This two day journey took us through the dry landscape of Nicaragua and we passed volancoes aplenty to the sound of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

We were quickly assigned our 'new parents', the villagers designated with the responsibility of looking after us in groups of twos and threes.

Though we were eager to start our project - the task of digging and building water facilities - the first week was spent collecting rubbish and plastic bottles.

In the afternoons we have organised English lessons and football matches, which have been especially popular with the local children and very rewarding for us.

Heads, shoulders, knees and toes in the local school

We expect to start our new reforestation project in partnership with the Pueblo Nueva community in the coming days. These 'foreigners' will succeed!
Crater lake of Volcan Cosiguina which D5 climbed
Moonlight at our beach - one minute away!

We will succeed!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Delta 6 fly like a D6!

Delta 6 were working in searing heat when we visited them on our Nicaraguan roadtrip. They are helping rebuild five houses in the new community of El Rodeo, Miraflor which was badly damaged by a hurricane a few months ago. Building the houses is a slow process as they have to dig up clay, earth and rocks.

Here is Delta 6's Iena Dua to explain more about the project:

Space in the houses in which we stay is equally divided up by man, chicken, dog and pig, who reside together in a dysfunctional but surprisingly harmonious way.

Spirits are high nevertheless and we Delta 6 are determined to use every ounce of strength to help construct sustainable buildings using only rocks, mud, water and grass. Work commences at 7am sharp and continues until 3pm each weekday.

The group is separated into pairs and go back each night to their host families, with whom they live, eat and sleep. Although the families' hospitality is endless, so too are the continuous plates of rice, beans, and tortillas which are given to us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our trips through the jungle towards a wooden shack with a hole, also known as a long drop toilet, remains our biggest and smelliest challenges to date.

However Delta 6 digs deep to find humour in such times of stress. We laugh at the prospect of this project being similar to the experience of celebrity blondes Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie who go from their celeb lifestyles to harsh rural conditions in reality TV series 'The Simple Life'.

Delta 6 strive each day to move those muscles and work together as a team to help those less fortunate. In return all we ask is to go home 'toned and tanned'or as the group prefer 'fly like a D6'.

Alpha 5 running up that hill

Here´s an update from Alpha 5 on their gravity water system project to deliver fresh water to people's houses in the remote community of San Marqueña, Achuapa, in Nicaragua.

To give you an idea of how remote it is, the Bravo 1 landy was told to meet a woman and her son by a big tree stump along a dusty dried-up river bed. About 5 km into it we finally found them. Her son then jumped in the car to direct us another few kilometres up steep, winding rocky tracks which we thought were impassable at times. Luckily we made it. Achuapa has no electricity or running water but that doesn't stop the people of this community being friendly, welcoming and very interested in our culture.

Words: Caroline Murray, Alpha 5
Pictures: Mike Buie, Alpha 5

At the crack of dawn you are woken by the cockerels of every house in the village. Bleary eyed you brush your teeth as pigs and dogs run past your feet. Tiny chicks peck at your toes. It´s then that you say to yourself ´where on earth am I?!´
Life in the Nicaraguan mountains is very different. It´s hard to understand how a community with so little can be so happy. The food and water that can make us unwell keeps the families fit and healthy. When you pause for a breath from digging trenches you see a child half your age and size doing twice as much work!
We are Alpha 5 and we are living and working alongside the villagers of San Marqueña to build a water supply. It´s hard work! I never thought I´d use a pick-axe in my life!

After a long day of digging trenches amongst snakes, tarantulas and scorpions we then walk far up steep hills for fresh water to wash in.

To be able to give these families water on their doorstep makes every cut, bite and aching muscle worthwhile!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A4= Jungle chic!

Hola Venturers, jungle gal here! Word in the forest is team Alpha 4 have been working hard and playing hard! Camp has been set up with some finishing touches to the toilets and showers. Tres jungle chic!

Work begins at 7am and finishes at 1pm. The group sweat it out whilst the Costa Rican rangers show them up with the their digging skills. Don Boliver is the head honcho, treating the guys and gals with some cake on Valentine's Day. What a sweetie!

After working on the trail the scallywags can be found in their private leisure area (I hear Cheryl is even on the waiting list!) It's not all swimming and sunbathing though, they recently celebrated Charlie's birthday hiking 3km for an authentic Costa Rican meal, dinner, dancing and amazing views. Rumour has it project manager Phil is also showing his skills in the kitchen! Only the best for Alpha 4!

Adios muchuchas!
Cat Ewins, Alpha 4 xoxo

The girls showing the boys how it's done

Team Alpha 4!

Designer jungle toilet

Bridge to jungle camp

Fancy a refreshing jungle shower?

The boys at work-working on those guns no doubt!

Entrance to the Alpha 4 jungle camp