Day 282 in Mozonte/Ocotal
February 25, 2013
The lemon blossom is out on the tree in the yard behind the little house I rent in Ocotal. There are still a few, straggling lemons on the tree from last season, but with the appearance of the blossom and the bees drinking their fill of nectar, I am reminded that I arrived just as the lemons were forming on the trees last year, and I am fast approaching a complete cycle of this country's seasons, albeit another 70 days away.
I was also reminded of the passing of time as I watched the Oscars last night, in Spanish. Not that I was even tuned into the fact that they were happening - that fact passed me by in this sleepy, remote town in which I am living at the moment. Normally by the time they come around, i have seen at least half of the main movies. This time, only one, and that probably on an AA flight between Miami and London.
"Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel"
When they brought on Shirley Bassey, I had this visceral reaction as she sang a James Bond classic, not only because she "killed" the song with her amazing voice at the age of 75, but because she took me back to when I was seven and she sang the Goldfinger song for the first time, with my Mother listening in. I felt like nothing had changed and everything had changed, and I felt both torn apart and elated through her voice, as rich and as gutsy as ever.
This is coupled with a sense of being both connected and disconnected here in Nicaragua. Connected to the changing seasons, the impact of Mother Nature on daily cycles and people's lives and the rhythm of plantings and harvests. and disconnected from the world's affairs and crises of other places.
It's the coffee harvesting, drying and processing season. I have a completely different appreciation for coffee, having walked the hills where it is grown, knowing that a person harvesting coffee (adults and children) will earn about $12 per day for back-breaking work (about the price of two lattes at Starbucks), and that the beans are sun-dried on the ground that I walk past every day.
Which gets me thinking about how we are so much more connected and yet disconnected from the roots of almost everything we eat, drink, wear and use. And I wonder what is lost in this super-connected/disconnected world and how (if it is even possible) to disconnect people from over-abundant, superficial experiences and reconnect people with three-dimensional, visceral experiences which come a little less easily.
2013 Tobias Leadership Conference
Being connected is really at the heart of a presentation I am making at this year's Tobias Leadership Conference in Colorado. This week, in fact. I am speaking about learning transfer in my limited expereince here at The Leadership Institute of Las Segovias. I will be basing the content of my presentation on experiences with three of the projects that will be presented at the conclusion of a diploma course in Social Enrepreneurship.
Sadly we lost two of the teams to other pressure of life and work, but retained three powerful and completely different projects.
Group from Mozonte
This is a project in which the group arranged to exchange new, plastic kitchen utensils (washing-up bowls, dishes, beakers and coffee cups) for empty and dangerous agricultural chemical bottles (herbicides, antibiotics and other animal and plant chemicals).
The group leader had inspired 14 families in a remote agricultural community to collect the empty containers from their environs, their patios and fields and bring them to a make-shift meeting space in the open air, under a majestic tree for shade.
With a $100 of plastic utensils and the hire of a pick-up trip for the outward bound journey into the country (about 1.5 hours on foot - we walked back), the group realized phase I of their project. Subsequent phases will include the creation of a recycling program, training in alternative agricultural practices and replication of this project in other farming communities.
See the entry under December 9, 2012 for the beginning of this project. Hover over each picture for captions.
Group from PMA
By far the largest group (13 people) in the diploma course, this group's project is also the biggest in scope and vision. Increasing the presence of women in leadeship positions apparently doesn't come cheap. Compared to a modest budget for the previous group (in the $100s), this group has a bold 2-year plan for over $300,000. I have not been deeply connected with this project, so I have no photos nor can I comment on a first-hand basis about their project. However, it does not escape my notice, that the grouped backed by an enormous NGO (World Food Program) has presented the biggest budget. I have some thoughts on this, but better to comment on that in a blog separate from this group's hard work.
Group from Ocotal, Totogalpo and Diplito
School meals and school snacks are influenced by excellent laws forbidding the sale of processed foods and commercial soft drinks on school grounds. However, this is woefully inadequate against the powerful influence and advertising dollars of local and multi-national soft drink companies. Even harder is influencing the eating habits of the parents.
However, this group has taken on the daunting task of educating one specific classroom of primary school children. Since the group's leader has his child in the class, there is a deeply personal connection to the project.
The group plans to create a community garden within the school grounds and use this not only as a way to grow vegetables, but use it to model organic growing practices and help the students "connect" to the source of their food. They will work with the classroom teacher, parents, a local NGO and even the school snack shop to shift the needle on eating practices in this group of children.
It wasn't lost on me the irony that the school snack shop built with money from a major software vendor is currently forbidden from selling the beverage. All that remains to be done now, is to sponsor a mural to cover their powerful advertising on the side of the shop - a hang-over from the pre-law days. And this is part of their plan as well! What will not be so easy is to deter the non-sanctioned vendors in the street outside the school fence from selling what is forbidden within the school grounds.
I sold house, car and most of my furniture to move to the small town of Ocotal in Las Segovias on the Honduras/ Nicaragua border.