Friday, April 26, 2013

Bees and Bikes, Follow-Up From Sabana Grande

Arlen and Jessie get ready to transfer two hives
into the top-bar bee hive
Well, this Latin American adventure certainly has proven wild and rich! Acquaintances have become close friends, a once new environment has become that familiar mountain-range, this scary new language now comes more naturally. As months pass and I grow more accustomed to this world, sometimes I have to remind myself how incredible it is—that it is not normal to be pressed between seventy Nicaraguans and two piglets on a roaring, multi-coloured, high-speed school bus.
Among so many favourite parts, I will start with my work here. 

A short search for funding led me to a familiar Ottawa business, Third World Bazaar, and their generous sponsorship to start Bici-Futuro, a bicycle rental company with a local youth group Los Jovenes Pedaliando Hacia el Futuro (JPHF). Since January, we have purchased bikes and parts for repairs, formed a bicycle committee led by three Jovenes coordinators, acquired space in an new adobe building on-site for storage and store-front, gained international and local attention from online journals and American entrepreneurs, and, this February, started service with our first customers. This micro-enterprise is a first experience for me and JPHF in the business world, so it has been great training to witness the challenges we encounter—pricepoint is an important art, for example. A most notable struggle for me was combining North American business practice with socialist Nicaraguan culture. This youth group puts all profit towards tuition fees for any member who cannot afford to further their education. While I prepared to start clocking hours and wages, they were already working as a unit. And so far we have enough money to send someone to university for three months!

Maria Magdalena moves fifty-pound adobe bricks.
This building will be the new youth centre with space for a bicycle shop.

The bicycle company has become my favoured focus, but it develops alongside many other fun projects here. My herbal tea garden is flourishing, and the music classes for kids morphed into a jewelry-making club with bracelets and earrings for sale at the restaurant here. With Greg’s visit came the bees. Before they left, Ben and he built a top-bar bee hive in which Arlen, a local girl, and I are keeping African honey bees. Grupo Fenix is excited about this project and is making moves to hire Arlen as an in-house beekeeper. A trip to wonderful Mira and Anna and the Salado project exposed me to the radically different Honduran politic and what it really means to be in the tropics. I took the Salado Solar Team back with me to Sabana Grande and they had a grand time honing their skills and exchanging tortilla tips with the Mujeres. It is very interesting to see how these Hondurans and Nicaraguans learn from each other.                
Marcel, JPHF member, and Temon, a volunteer, assembling the new bikes
in front of the Solar Center.

I cannot believe I have only weeks left here. I do not think I have learned as much in an eight-month period as I have these last months. I am exhausted but so pleased with my experience. I will leave Nicaragua impressed with its people, inspired by the changes happening here, and of course instantly itching to return.   

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