As some of you already know, we're back from Kahkabila safe and sound and generally exhausted. We finished teaching our classes, helped make cement and carry bricks and organize trainings for the FADCANIC tourism project, fixed the finicky turbines more than once, etc. Our despedida (farewell) included soda cakes, large speakers, and a brightly lit dance party. In Kahkabila, we have some sweet moves!
We'll try to post pictures and tidbits over the next few weeks. Our general timeframe is as follows:
Still Bluefields until the end of May.
About 2 days in Managua (mostly spent drinking Guinness).
About 2-3 days in Costa Rica (mostly spent beaching and galavanting).
Most of June in Costa Rica working with Ali's sister Vanessa (mostly leafing).
First half of July in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, etc. with Ryan and Amanda (mostly loafing).
We'd say it's good to be back in Bluefields, but Bluefields smells funny.
We´re back to Kahkabila for our final four weeks. Hopefully, we´ll be catching the early commercial panga up to Pearl Lagoon tomorrow morning, and hopefully Oscar will be back from fishing at sea by then to pick us up. Drama! In any event, we´ll be available by cell. ...
On March 26th, 2009, after numerous years of unfulfilled election promises regarding the extension of the electricity grid to Kahkabila, after several weeks of brush-clearing, equipment delivery (poles, bulbous transformers, by boat), intermittent visits from national electricity provider ENEL, and disagreements regarding connection fees, the streets were finally made navigable at night for the two neighborhood gringos. “The lights,” as the electrical grid is affectionately known here, have arrived in Kahkabila.
We were lucky enough to be present for the installation and early transition period, and we’ll be headed back for our final stay next weekend. There are now fifteen yellow streetlights lining the dirt paths of Kahkabila, and, while only a small handful of residents (less than 10 households out of about a hundred) have been able to front the connection fee of ~$30, in general everyone is very excited about the possibilities this opens up. We were the only ones who really needed the streetlights at night, and while predictable shifts in television watching and later bedtimes are already in motion, it's hard to find fault with the recent proliferation of homemade ice cream.
Below are pictures from the technical installation process:
Perhaps, you imagined a truck of some sort?
...or a bulldozer?
...maybe a crane?
If you did, you should know better by now.
Even Sheidy thinks you should know better by now.
Even this gentleman in a not-so-subtly juxtaposed photographic composition thinks you should know better by now.
...but he's probably thinking about something else.
He's probably thinking about baseball, or his long-buried fear of heights, or the deep satisfaction of easing the nighttime footsteps of gringos.
We returned from our second extended trip to Kahkabila Sunday afternoon. Despite the fact that this is Semana Santa week (such that there were no scheduled pangas heading in the direction of Bluefields; everyone's leaving for vacation), we managed to catch a quick ride back from Pearl Lagoon by a fine gentleman shouting "Bluefields, Bluefields!" He was hurrying back to pick up more passengers heading out of Bluefields. The slow boat normally takes 5+ hours. We made it in 40 minutes.
Good, quick second trip, with two major highlights: (1) two-day trip to Orinoco, Marshall Point, and Awas with a group of U.S. students studying in Granada, and (2) the arrival of lights in Kahkabila! Early reports of Daniel Ortega helicoptering in to celebrate the interconnection didn't happen yet, but possibly next time... Fingers crossed. Fancy shirt set aside.
New focus (or, partial focus for our third and final trip): we've met a couple people from FADCANIC, which is a rural development and conservation non-profit on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, and a very good one at that. They're donating materials for a fullish-service tourist center in Kahkabila, and they've asked us to do the community training for it. Very excited about this, as it provides closer ties between bE and FADCANIC, it's awesome for Kahkabila, and it brings together a lot of our work.
We're back online for about two weeks (four days of which will be spent in Wawachang Reserve, a nature reserve north of Orinoco, run by FADCANIC), then back to KKB for our last trip. We'll try to post some pictures and some vaguely literate tidbits. ...
Waking up at 4:30 with the roosters (Kahkabilans have magical earlobes and awake well-rested around six) and falling asleep with the sun got you down?
No worries! These suggested activities, painstakingly paired with painstakingly selected pictures to optimize the overall, artificial feel of randomness, will have you well on your way to optimizing those 12 hours of productivity each and every day!
Feed the pigs!
Despite what you’ve read in the papers, pigs need food, too. And the coconut shells, plastic wrappers, and indeterminate muck aren’t the best mix for our growing, stinky, mud- and poop-covered friends. So, give a hoot! Feed a pig some watermelon rind.
Fancy dress party!
Ok, so it’s more fancy pants and fancy boots and fancy hat than anything else, but no one can hear you scream about fashion sense in the bush. Tuck your pants tight, grab a stick to navigate the marshes like a trooper, and try to sneak out of town under cover of dark.
So, yeah, it was already like that… but what a compelling caption, huh? The small Kahkabilan graveyard is over a little cement bridge at the southernmost edge of town, and serves as the final resting place for about twenty souls. You might feel like a prick walking around with a camera, but it’s nothing compared to the shame of jokes about grave vandalization on your blog weeks later. So, adjust.
Highlight: the bright blue grave of the prophet Florentino.
Hunt endangered species!
There’s nothing really funny about this picture, but it does firmly solidify the earlier point regarding randomness. Kahkabila highlights a variety of conflicts between value systems that, in other situations, tend to generally work pretty well together: human rights, renewable energy, conservation, indigenous rights, sanitation, cultural support, etc. As no one says in KKB: welcome to the jungle. Here, you’re dealing with indigenous tribes whose cultural heritage is occasionally hunting sea turtles, whose numbers have mysteriously dwindled in recent years, such that the community is obliged to apply for limited permits from the finicky government of Pearl Lagoon. “Conservation is a luxury,” was how someone put it to us recently.
Turtles are typically 80+ pounds, and sell for about $0.75/pound in Pearl Lagoon and Bluefields. They taste kind of like aquatic pork.
There are at least four or five generators in Kahkabila, some of which provide power for numerous interconnected houses, forming their own little microgrids. Gasoline supplies in Pearl Lagoon are patchy, and diesel supplies aspire to one day rise to the level of patchy. Cross your fingers! When you do manage to track down some fuel (Kahkabilans are resourceful), gather forty or fifty of your closest friends and settle down to a fine US action flick, Jamaica’s “Capone,” or a completely confusing flick regarding voodoo, or something like voodoo. The popcorn and refreshment stand is underwhelming. Near the rightmost side of the pic, you can see Anelia and Oscar (seated) with one of their four daughters, Shelenie. This is the house we stay in, and they haven’t kicked us out!
After a hike in the bush, swatting mosquitoes, tracking sloths, and (since you’re traveling with four Kahkabilan friends who know this place like the back of their hand) treating the jungle like a fruit and nut buffet, after you’ve completely stuffed yourself with a fruit that looks like a banana-shaped shallot and tastes like a pineapple and sounds like the word “penguin”, it’s coconut time! The older coconuts, whose interior is what you will most often find in the states, will be picked later for rondon and other dishes, but the younger ones have sweeter milk and a thin, fleshy layer of coconut inside. You feel stuffed, you feel exhausted after 4+ hours, you feel like sleeping, but you won’t be able to say no.
No one but the students know what time it is, and even they don’t care. Welcome to the last couple months before electricity comes. Savor it. Put your feet up. Find two sweet-looking trees and tie your hammock. Go out to the muelle at night and see the best view of the stars you’re likely to see again in a very long time. Let it all sink in, knowing that the blog commentary will be far more flippant than the way it actually feels when you’re there, and that this strange, unsettling place in some forgotten corner of the world is the first place that, for the last few months, at least, has actually felt home-like. … Homely?
Red and white are what you get upon combining gringos and insects. blueEnergy is a non-profit group centered in Bluefields, Nicaragua providing clean, renewable, and long-term energy solutions for isolated communities. Most of the current volunteers are French or American.