Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

@FoodAdo’s favourite fairy travels and adventures in Nicaragua – Chapter 2 – @CoffeeFairyUK

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

(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.

FoodAdo Coffee Fairy in NicaraguaThe 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.


FoodAdo Coffee Fairy in NicaraguaAfterwards 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… 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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I love coffee - UK artisan producers market place

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The Coffee Fairy’s adventures in Nicaragua – Chapter 1

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The Coffee Fairy goes traveling and guides a group of people through magic Nicaragua.

Follow her adventures…

Chapter ONE

Are you being served…….properly?

I have spent the last 3 months dividing my time between worrying myself sick and being stupidly excited about taking three paying customers into the wilds of a remote cloud forest in northern Nicaragua. I was sure they would have a great time, I was pretty sure I could do everything I promised, but seriously, shouldn’t I know better than to actually take their money until they had come back with smiles on their faces?

Nope, I´m afraid not, there were tickets, hotels and taxis that needed to be paid for and booked in advance and I had to know they were serious about this trip, but deep down I strongly suspected that they would eventually come to their senses and back out.

In the months leading up to our departure I did a great impersonation of someone who was totally in control. Of course I was capable of of organising an amazing volunteering experience in a third world country with an itinerary that included surfing down volcanoes and a midnight expedition to watch turtles laying and hatching their eggs on a beach as well as a trip to a stunning volcanic crater lake.

Inside I was terrified, what if they didn’t like it? Wanted their money back? Wanted to come home? What if we didn’t get on?All questions that were causing me sleepless nights and worry. Not to mention the rainy season…. Nicaragua, it seemed, was experiencing it’s heaviest rainy season for five years.


Arriving in Nicaragua is an experience in itself, when you are so tired that you could sleep on your feet the painstakingly slow process through passport control is enough to send you over the edge. However Tom, Sarah and Antony were all surprisingly good natured and seemed to be taking it all in their stride. Not even ‘losing’ the taxi drivers when we arrived seem to phase them, it took me about 20 minutes to find our drivers in an airport area the size of a small playground…….well, it was quite dark. Then, I felt that the journey to the hotel really should have broken them, one taxi hit a massive pothole and blew a large wheezy puncture which needed to be changed in virtual darkness by the roadside. While the other taxi, driven by a distracted driver, constantly on his mobile pone, nearly upended on a curve. But these near misses were simply greeted with a great sense of humour and requests for beer once we arrived at the hotel.

Brilliant, my kind of people.

Two and a half days later and having enjoyed blue skies and temperatures of 30 degrees, an introduction to the positives and negatives of Central American cooking and the delights of Nicaraguan rum, we set off for the north. The real work on the school needed to start soon and I had to see my coffee farmers to discuss the new harvest of coffee, this wasn’t Club Med, we had work to do.

Quite what work we had to do remained to be seen, but I kept that bit quiet, I’d figure something out once we arrived in Miraflor, but first we had to get to Esteli.

Nothing has ever been particularly straightforward in Nicaragua, it’s what I love and detest about the place in almost equal measure, which is fine when I’m dealing with it on my own. The pressure increases somewhat when you have three expectant faces looking to you for the answers, you know when rum is not the answer and the Nicaraguans are being less than reliable then, it can be a little bit disconcerting. Not being met by the truck you had booked to meet you is all part of the adventure, at least that is what I kept telling them, and for their part they could all have given the Nicaraguans a lesson in the art of being ‘tranquillo’ thank heavens………

We had transport arranged to take us up to Miraflor on the Sunday, due to heavy rainfall the river has now completely overflowed which has rendered it impassable, this means that all transport must go the long way up to the community. That’s a round trip of 6 hours, more if it’s been raining and the roads are a churned up mess of mud. Fortunately, for this part I had booked a truck, and as we sat or stood in the back of the vehicle, all five of us trying to find space amongst 8 bags and rucksacks full of clothes, numerous sacks of fruit and vegetables and a sense of excited anticipation in the boiling sunshine, (I know I know, what rainy season?) I hoped that it would be as good as I believed it could be.

The views certainly didn’t let me down, following months of rainfall the scenery took on an almost Jurassic Park style magnificence, green lush and utterly beautiful. As the three of them took in the breathtaking surroundings on the ride up they were almost speechless, their reactions were perfect, they raved about everything. I was really delighted but I was afraid to get ahead of myself, they had yet to see where they would be staying and the conditions of the toilet, all of which could have them shouting the trade description riot act to me. I couldn’t breathe easily just yet.

One moment in particular sticks out when my breathing became regular again, they were all being shown around the house and their rooms Sarah looked at me and just beamed and said “It looks like the sort of house you would build if you were a child” and I knew exactly what she meant, like some sort of magical Hansel and Gretel cottage in the middle of a secret garden. Laster as we sat around the kitchen table in Mayra´s kitchen tucking into as variety of gorgeous food they all looked happy and relaxed and said they felt as if they had been there for days….in a good way! This was going to be more than alright.

The next day it was down to business, we visited the school to see what work needed to be done. Which walls needed doing, what paint and how many desks needed to be ordered.

It was then that we realised that Tom, who is my New Best Friend (NBF) and I would need to catch the bus down to Esteli the very next day for a shopping list to include paintbrushes, white spirits and desks. We caught the bus at 6.30am and were asked if we wanted to travel on the roof, I stupidly said yes.

Riding on the roof of a bus for fifty minutes on the nornçmal route is a very different experience to hanging on for dear life for three hours while the bus negotiates treacherous, mud filled, pot holed scree laden roads. Nice. Not to mention, (although I will) the 24 sacks of potatoes, half a dozen bags of rice, several large car batteries and 10 piles of wood which were also put on top, to keep us company.

You still there? Well we nearly weren’t as we hadn’t factored in the low hanging branches which threatened to swipe us off the bus if we didn’t duck, lie or curl up in the three or four seconds warning we had. The bus when it could went at breakneck speed, frankly, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock had it easy.

By the time we shakily climbed off in Esteli, my NBF looked as if he had been caught in a catfight, scratches all across his face, chin and neck. I felt bad, but I got over it quite quickly, not sure he did….

Then it was like something out of the Keystone Cops, running all over Esteli with our shopping list of desks, paint, paintbrushes and popping into Radio ABC to make an announcement about the coffee meeting. We went back to Miraflor on the bus with no lunch and barely time to grab water although we did have two seats this time, inside the bus. We were starving and knackered, and to add to our misery the bus then suffered a puncture and the journey took 4 hours.

We had ordered 20 desks, bought 11 gallons of paint, nine paintbrushes, white spirits and travelled 7 hours on the bus from hell, somehow we still had a laugh because we were NBF’s but really…. we were expecting a heroes welcome….instead we arrived back exhausted, to the sight of Sarah having her toe nails painted and Antony, all 6’6 of him, eyes sparkling, like a little kid telling us how much they had done and where they had been throughout the day.


………..To be continued with news of the coffee meeting, an amazing changing room style school makeover and a potentially massive project for the future….

The Coffee Fairy

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