Andrew Tod is a volunteer with blueEnergy. He is working directly with Renewable World to manage the implementation of our recently launched Mahogany project, bringing solar lighting and solar powered enterprise to households within the Mahogany Reserve. Andrew previously worked with RES and we are very happy to have his support for the next year. In his first blog from Nicaragua he describes his arrival in Bluefields, his home for the next year.
On the bus and panga (motorboat) on the way here from the capital Managua, which took 6 and 2 hours respectively, I had plenty of time to reflect on the past 2 weeks I spent in Granada, and to think ahead to my time in Bluefields – the small town on the Caribbean coast that is to be my home for the next year as I live and work with blueEnergy, the multi-faceted NGO who are based there.I was in Granada to improve my Spanish, studying at a language school located in an old colonial house in the beautifully vibrant and historical city. My lodgings were with a Nicaraguan family, Juan Carlos, Fatima and their three young kids, so the Spanish lessons did not stop when the class finished. Instead they carried on informally throughout the afternoon and evening as I played with the kids, helped to prepare the food, and over dinner as we shared stories about our different countries and traded jokes. I probably could have stayed for much longer, for the quality of food and conversation alone, but I had a job to get to on the other side of the country which I was very excited about starting.
And so, on the journey to Bluefields my mind was full of questions: what would the town be like, how would it differ to the Pacific coast, who I would be working with, what people did for fun, what the food was like and how isolated the town must be if the main route in is via motorboat.
Most of these questions were answered in the first few days, with inevitably many more questions springing up in their place. It was a busy week of meeting new colleagues – a wonderful mix of 15 international volunteers from France, Holland, Spain, Canada, USA, and now the UK, and around 30 full time local staff from Creole (hailing from the Caribbean and speaking Creole English) and Mestizo (Spanish speaking people of combined European and Native American descent) backgrounds. These are the two main ethnic groups here, but the Caribbean coast also has some of the highest proportions of indigenous groups in the country.
I was thrown straight into the deep end with work, sitting in on meetings about Base Line Surveys and presentations about blueEnergy (all in Spanish) – and fielding several questions related to Renewable World and their development model, and how we will be applying it to the Mahogany project – involving solar energy systems for housing and micro-enterprises in two remote communities of the Caribbean Coast. Although I am working in the Energy team here, I grasped the opportunity to see some of the other work that blueEnergy carry out, joining their well drilling team for an afternoon in a hot, muddy field out in the countryside, and taking part in a workshop on nutrition and efficient cooking for a women’s group in one of the towns barrios.
In my downtime, I have enjoyed the warmth of the evenings on the balcony of my flat, reading, practicing Spanish, playing cards with my new flatmates, and dodging the ever present threat here in Bluefields – rain showers! They can strike at any moment, lasting for anything from a few seconds to a few hours (and this is meant to be the dry season!). Luckily the rain managed to hold off for most of Saturday giving the staff the chance to get out of the city to a laguna in the countryside for some swimming, football and relaxing.
After a great first week here in Bluefileds and a very warm welcome by the whole of blueEnergy, I went to bed on Sunday night looking forward to getting started on the project the following week.