Tropical vacations behind us, we got back to work at the office preparing for our latest trip back to El Jocote. The main reason for our latest visit was to continue with our environmental training sessions with the community. Richard, our fellow intern, and I came in a day early, while Kate stayed back because she still has to depend on the truck to bring her in. Jaime, our boss, only came with the truck for the friday afternoon workshop.
Richard and I checked out a couple of our older projects to see how they are doing. We came across the field of tomatoes in Juan Jose's and Juan Valerio's farm, watered by the solar irrigation system installed by the Presidio group in mid-January. The tomato plants were knee-high and filled with small green tomatoes already.
Next, we checked out one of the patio gardens installed by the Havurah Shalom group around the new year. Dona Inez's garden was also filled with green shrubs of tomatoes, chiltomas (sweet peppers), plantains, corn, and avacado and mango trees.
On the way through town, we asked a lady about these logs that she had hanging from her eaves. "Honeybees," she said. We stepped back a little when we saw the little bees flying in and out of a hole in the log. "oh, don't worry, they're really tame. They don't sting!" She put her finger up to their exit hole and caressed a couple bees as they flew out.
Kate and the group came the next day greeted by a flock of kids and the standard excitement around town that always accompanies a truck. Carlos was passing by and he and Kate admired each others walking canes. Carlos was nearly killed when a car ran him over in Costa Rica a few years ago. With metal plates in his head and screws in bones throughout his body, he's lucky to be walking at all, let alone with a cane. He also may be lucky it happend in Costa Rica and not Niraragua, due to the more advanced medical care south of our border.
So we put on our second training session, really just a summary of the first one plus some activities. I talked a little about healthy rivers and problems of contamination around the world.
Kate talked about erosion and trash, and had the community take part in a activity to learn about biodegradability times for different trash articles.
When Kate went to turn off the computer after the presentation, a hoard of kids circled around her and asked her to show them stuff. The kids here are so inquisitive.
After Kate and the crew left back for Managua, Richard and I stayed back for another couple nights to install his first improved cookstove project here. We started by removing the old stove, which is nothing more than a horseshoe-shaped pile of bricks in the middle of the kitchen. Stick a pot on the top, burning wood in the open end, and you have a functioning kitchen stove, albeit smokey and inefficient.
The new stove has a frame of blocks with the "rocket elbow" in the center of it that functions as a combustion chamber. When properly insulated, the rocket elbow burns small amounts of wood very efficiently, with little smoke.
The elbow is insulated with ashes, which are kind of a mess to work with, but are very effective. Richard and the host brother Freddy are dumping in ashes.
Little Angelito wanted to help, and showed us that he can lift big blocks, too.
Angela put the finishing touches on her stove as we finished for the day. You can see the soot on the wall behind the new chimney. That's what the old stove left in the house after one year of operation. Imagine what that smoke does to the lungs of the countless women of Nicaragua who spend a large part of their lives in the kitchen.
When we finished, Angela asked us if we noticed the chicks hatching under the kitchen counter. She pulled out a pot full of chicken from the kitchen, and then lifted up the chicken to show a handful of fluffy chicks and some half-broken eggs below.
Richard held one of the fuzzy peeps and introduced it to its new, smokeless home.