(if you haven’t read Chapter 1, click here)
All for one and one for all………
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m finding that working and organising things here in Nicaragua is becoming……..ssssssshhhhhhhh almost easier
Now I know that some will say it’s about time as it’s been five and a half years since I first arrived here, and I should know what I’m doing by now. But in my defence each time I have come over I have started such different sorts of projects, buying the right sort of desks, finding the right colour paint, sourcing the water filters, transport issues, building the toilets at the school etc. that it was always more than a bit of a challenge when I arrived.
This time things have been almost smooth. Now, the desk man knows me and what I want to order and is ready with a fair price, the paint shop can find the right colour as they have me on their records and they also know I will ask for a discount even if I just pay for a paintbrush. A team of builders in the community are all ready to go with a quote to start building the new classroom which can start next week. Good to know some of the coffee farmers are still being somewhat difficult, otherwise I’d probably be bored, probably.
And then there are the Three Muskateers, that includes my NBF (Tom) who is like my personal memory stick, “Martina, don’t forget we have to plan the videos” “Martina, don’t forget the money” “Martina, shall we write a list?” I think I shall be lost wIthout him when we go home, or maybe I will try and lose him beforehand. Meanwhile Sarah and Antony have been doing the most incredible paint job on the exterior of the school, I had a meeting with the coffee farmers, (more of that later), and Tom and I set off on horses to the meeting leaving the other two to start the paint job which we promised we would come back and help with later on. By the time we rode back past the school, it was obvious that Sarah could be rented out as a human spirit level, so straight were the lines and the classrooms looked as if they had been built that day, they looked so amazing. The two of them plus help from a few people in the community meant they had finished everything they could with the paint we had, it really was a top job.
The best night without a doubt in anyone’s mind so far was the night we handed out the masses of clothes and shoes we had brought. It was absolutely spectacular. We had been waiting till all the ‘guests’ left, friends, relations, neighbours, people popping in for a plate of rice and beans and a chat with Marlon or a catch up on the local gossip with Mayra.
Once they had all gone we closed the doors and unloaded the first of the four massive bags we had each brought, in addition to our own rucksacks. Each bag was packed with as many decent second hand and new clothes and shoes for everyone in the community. As well as that we had a sackful of jewellery, make up, hair stuff and creams and perfumes, they were in heaven. If you have donated even a single item of clothing then be very very proud, to be a part of that was utterly fantastic, we ended up with enough clothes and shoes for forty two people in the community.
Now that, puts recycling into a different perspective. The highlight of the evening was a bag of shoes for children which had been donated by someone from as far away as Canada. Marlon and Mayra’s little boy desperately needed new shoes, screams of shock at the sight of the number of beautiful little shoes turned into ecstatic squeals of delight as they realised that they were his size. I’m not going to lie to you, we ALL burst into tears. Thank you so much, it really was incredible.
Following the announcement on the radio all of my farmers (apart from two) turned up, it was great to see them all, although, as usual, a little intimidating. Pretending I wasn’t in the least bit nervous of all these men we sat in a room in a circle while I launched into how well the coffee was doing in England and how happy we were were that this year we would be able to buy more coffee thanks to increased orders from the prestigious Harvey Nichols and lots of smaller shops and delis. It was difficult to tell if they were pleased so I ploughed on talking about the importance of the coffee being of the same top quality they had sold me before. Silence.
Thinking that it was all pretty much okay Marlon asked if anyone had any questions.
One farmer started to speak, in a nutshell he wanted to know why I couldn’t pay them more money, why, if they were supplying great coffee could they not receive more money directly instead of me funding school projects…….. more silence, except I was simmering inside trying to keep my Italian Irish temper in check. Then, out of nowhere one of the oldest producers spoke up, his contempt was not so easily kept in check. He talked about the differences that had been made working with the Coffee Fairy, the fact that the children had books that were actually relevant to their curriculum, the water filters that had been supplied when I hadn’t bought coffee and the fact that twice a year, every year without fail I was there to reassure them that this was an ongoing project and I always told them how their coffee was doing in England. He talked about the fact that it was an investment in the future and that it was not just the money that I paid for the coffee but that the benefits of selling me coffee in their own community rather than having to take it to the nearest town meant savings upon savings for them. Best of all this quiet and eloquent spokesman had every single farmer in the room nodding in agreement.
Afterwards I took the rogue farmer to one side and asked if he had children at the school. He had three, I then explained that the majority of the school projects were funded by schools in the UK and not by me personally. I said this smiling all the time, and asked if he understood, he said yes, and looked a little shame faced. I walked away with a big smile and clenched fists hidden in my pockets. The bottom line? One farmer out of 16 felt that way, he was seriously out voted by the others and I believe that to have all those others farmers on my side, believing in this project and where we are headed is more than pretty good.
So, it hasn’t all been smooth, but it has been busy and we have made excellent headway with the school which now looks stunning. Already we are project managing the build of the new classroom which will be be a major part of the secondary school, did I mention that the primary school has been given secondary school status by the Nicaraguan government? Thanks to it’s new makeover and improved facilities, this means that the option of secondary education will be open to over 150 students from March.
In the meantime I’ve been thinking….again…..this transport problem is a real issue, too much rainfall, the river floods and people are seriously stuck. They are now facing another two months of a three hour (minimum) bus journey to go to the nearest town, the road is dreadful and really slow, meaning that if anyone is sick or there is an emergency it really is a nightmare for them to reach the nearest emergency services or a doctor.
So, how about we build a bridge? A causeway across the river allowing all vehicles to pass…..how hard could it be?
Never knowingly under-challenged, me.
Next week I shall write more of the Three Muskateers, the way they have coped with the less than fresh toilets, Sarah’s ability to stay calm while a scorpion lost itself in her clothes, fortunately not while she was wearing them, Tom’s aspirations to become a professional horse rider, (v.g.) and Antony’s patience with the food, (a 6’6 man cannot live on fried alone).
Hasta la proxima! xxxx
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