1. Compost Piles

Nicaraguans burn their trash – plastic, organic, or otherwise.  Some of it gets picked up and taken to the dump, where it’s burned or buried.  But most of it is burned.  The heavy hot air in Leon is at any given point tinged with the smell of burn, something that I rejoicingly noticed the lack of the minute I stepped out of the car in New York.  Compost is an unknown concept – there is no real spanish word for it, the university calls it composta.  I don’t know anyone – not even the agro-ecology professor with a nursery where I lived for three months – who has a backyard compost.  Except for the hostel where I lived and Nick’s house, where I started them.   They are both working really well, and the heat in Leon helps them decompose so much more quickly than I am used to!

The scraps from the kitchen get mixed with dirt and dry leaves from the patio. It composts rapidly in the Leon heat!

Two days after planting the young banana tree with pounds of my compost, the core started emerging rapidly. It's now about five feet tall with four large green glossy leaves.

2. A group of inspiring hard-working Micro Credit professionals.

I am so grateful to CEPRODEL for making the internship with them work.  They went above and beyond what I expected all the time, up to the last minute when they made me a little booklet with a report of my project with them and took me out to a festive dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.  Many of these guys travel three hours one way to work, and spend over 12 hours a day away from their families in order to do their work.

The group of CEPRODEL officers that took me out to dinner. The dinner helped me realize that many parts of my project were a challenge for different reasons, for example, not only speaking a new language and coming from a different background but also being the only female in a very male work environment.

3. Puestos para Plantas

An excellent project run by a British NGO mimicking Paul Farmer’s Village Health Network model and using it to create a Plant Health Network.  The project uses already existing avenues of resources to small farmers, such as cooperatives and university extensions, to create a national system of data collection and standardized advice for farmers.  The system uses an approach called MIC, or Integrated Cultivation Management.  MIC emphasizes  improved cultural practices like good weed management and soil fertility that play a large role in preventing the onslaught of diseases and the need to use chemical applications.  In Nicaragua, the project is part of a national campaign to reduce pesticide dependency.

Tecnicos from the Cooperative Juan Francisco Paz Silva with representatives from the British NGO CABI and UNAN Leon Agroecology.

4. The worlds most handsome and intelligent kitten, Theo

He can climb in and out of the house windows, he gets out of the house using the storm drain, and happily plays with and eats the cockroaches out of the bathroom.  No cat doors, minimal effort on our part, and a huge return for having a happy purring sometimes snuggly mouse eater in the house.

Theo also provides endless entertainment for all our guests, as my little friends Ale and Fabricio demonstrate.