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The First One

May 29, 2011

So first blog post from in Nicaragua. Not sure how to handle it, since I never have seen myself as the blog type.
The food is as good as I remember it, though I do find myself starting to long for the Mexican food I grew accustomed to
since it typically has more of a kick, though the tortillas here will always be better. I moved down to Catarina for a few days for work
which is south of Managua and across the laguna from Granada. It’s a lot smaller than Leon, and a lot quieter which gives me time to think and to read. So basically that means I’ve gone back and forth between being here with a purpose and being completely out of place.
It seems that our own best intentions come back to bite us in the end, because when I feel like I don’t belong, it is not because I don’t like it here,
or that the people don’t feel welcome, but rather I can imagine the consequences of my presence, and I wonder if it would be better if I’m not here at all. I suppose I need to give an example for that to make more sense, which is far more easily done than I would like it to be.

I work for FUPROSOMUNIC, Fundación Proyecto Solar para Mujeres Nicaragüenses. It is a Nicaraguan women’s organization that holds workshops to teach and build solar ovens with women
in various communities, as well as dryers and such. It’s green, it is female empowerment, and it addresses the health issue of having smoke in your house all day, you also don’t have to watch the fire or go get wood. Cool. It’s hip, it’s getting stuff done, and I get to use power tools in creative ways. Slight catch. I have a Y chromosome and I am not Nicaraguan. Not that it means I’m kicked out of the club,
but when I’m measuring the temperatures of an oven and a random male comes over to examine the ovens the women have all made, inspecting the craftsmanship and trying to figure out what the hell it’s for, I run into a bit of a problem. I have to explain what the project is. Seems simple. Except I care about the organization, and what they are trying to achieve, so I am not trying to explain what the project is, I am in a very basic and overwhelming sense attempting to justify environmental sustainability, women’s rights, and the selective exchange of tradition (the wood) for some new fangled way of doing things to this guy. But I’m also a gringo, and I too, am a guy. So I’m supposed to look at these women and be amused that they are using power tools (with more proficiency than me), or be really proud of myself for helping the poor Nicaraguans who are incredibly grateful for my help (though I get in the way a lot), or explain exactly how much money they can save and where to buy one (I don’t know and they aren’t really for sale). But if I don’t fulfill these expectations, I am just another gringo that doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t speak Spanish all that well anyway. It’s not a comfortable situation to be in, because even though I made global, it is just as stressful to convince only one person, that this project, this little Nicaraguan solar oven project is worthwile, and it seems so obvious and so easy. But when you see the skeptical look, and the quick goodbye, it never really is.

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