#28daysofwriting Day 16: Progress or backwards steps?

Two volcanoes in the distance across a large body of water.  the larger one to the left is cloud capped, the smaller to the right is free of cloud.
Ometepe Island with its volcanoes Concepcion and Maderas.

This Christmas and New year I spent four weeks in Central America visiting Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  I have to admit, I knew nothing much about either country except for their location and that they are Spanish speaking.  I also had vague memories from my teenage years of names such as the Sandinistas, Somoza, Ortega and Chamorro.  Normally, I like to find out quite a bit about a country before I visit, but a serious lack of time meant that I really hadn’t learned much by the time I set foot on the plane on the way there!

I think it was actually pretty good arriving there with little or no perception of what to expect.  I had a blank slate on which my impressions started to chalk up.  No preconceived ideas of the people or the place meant that I took things at face value, listened more carefully to the people to whom I talked and formed my own opinions.

It is a cliche to say that Nicaragua is a poor country but that the people are happy.  But the people we talked to did seem happy, they make the most of what they have and work hard.  One of the taxi drivers who took us from the ferry in San Jorge to Rivas proudly talked about Nicaragua and its people and he even showed us his house!  He also showed us where the Spanish conquistadores and Nicaraguans signed the Declaration of Independence in 1821.  A cross and a statue mark the point in the road.  He told us about how Christopher Columbus came in 1492 and the Spanish stole the land of the indigenous people and drove them out.  He was proud of how all the countries that were colonised by Spain have now achieved their independence and their freedom.  There is a real sense here of patriotism and pride in who they are; poor but free after the struggles they have had in the latter part of the 20th century. In the Parque Central there are statues of the people from the FSLN who were instrumental in overthrowing the dictator Somoza.  It has taken the country many years to get over the damage caused to the economy by Somoza and, whilst the poverty here is clearly evident, systems are in place and seem to be working.

It isn’t difficult to understand that the Nicaraguans might want to take any opportunity to improve what they have to continue to make life better for themselves.  One such opportunity is a new canal, financed by a Hong Kong company, that will cut right through the country.  It is envisaged that it will take the traffic that the Panama Canal cannot and will bring wealth and jobs to the people of Nicaragua.

It will also cut through swathes of beautiful countryside, lay waste to sensitive ecological sites and destroy habitats of up to 22 different species.  It is easy for those of us in wealthy nations to damn the Nicaraguans for going ahead with such a project on the basis that plants, animals and insects will die when they are really thinking of what is best for the people.

Map showing where the canla will cut through Nicaragua

We spent four days in La Isla de Ometepe which is situated in the Lake Cocibolca (also known as Lake Nicaragua).  The canal will come straight through the lake to the south of the island.  It is a beautiful, clean, impressive lake. It feeds the local communities, it is fast becoming an ecological tourist venue, bringing jobs and opportunities for the locals.  It is unspoilt and certainly a haven for world weary western tourists.  But is that enough for a people who have been downtrodden for generations and who are simply trying to get themselves back on an even economic keel?

It seems though that opinions are split, that the proposal is controversial.  There are those who are keen to push it through and those who fear that it could end up being a huge white elephant.  In October, San Jorge witnessed demonstrations in the streets against the project.  Is it an idea that will bring short term gain and long term loss to a country that has a lot to offer in terms of bio-diversity, especially in a world where eco-tourism is big business and where we are starting to realise what we have already destroyed in the name of progress?

These two articles explore further the impact that such a project will have on the country.  I encourage you to read them.

Land of opportunity and fear: along the route of Nicaragua’s giant new canal

Nicaragua’s new canal could be an environmental disaster

#28daysofwriting Day 15: Symmetry

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symmetry.”

scan image of a pair of feet showing pressure pointsIt has been an expensive day.  Buying hockey shoes and football boots for my son.  As part of that process, one of the shoe shops we went into scanned his feet to help decide which were the best sports shoes for him. His scan shows that his feet are quite well balanced; the pressure on his foot tracks pretty much identically for both feet and the absence of an imprint between the heel and the toes indicates a relatively high arch.

Interestingly, the shoes that the consultant chose for him to fulfil the requirements of his feet are the same as the ones I have for the #oxfamtrailwalk.  I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising since he is my son, but clearly wide feet and high arches and the way we walk is genetic.

landcape image showing a cloud capped volcano in the distance with a dusty road lined with trees and fence posts leading towards it.  There are eome people walking along the road towards the volcano

When I took this photo in La Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua in December it was the sense of symmetry that drew me to photograph it.  The volcano, Concepcion, is a magnet and is itself very symmetrical with its classic volcanic cone.  It is constantly changing as the cloud moves around it so you never see the same view of it.  It dominates the tiny island and I like that this photo draws us to it along the dusty road.

Playing with WeVideo

So, I have been quiet for a while on this blog but have been busy on my personal one. I have spent the last 4 weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a group of girls from school on a World Challenge Expedition. Authentic, real world learning. We kept a blog as we went to keep parents in the loop; internet cafes are all over the place and almost all the hostels and cafes have free wifi (New Zealand could learn a thing or two!) Of course, I took hundreds of photos too and so decided to try out WeVideo which is a Google App.  The free version is fine but you only have a seven and a half minutes per month and my two videos of 5 minutes and 10 minutes exceeded that!  So I decided to go for the cheapest paid version which gives me an hour a month.  It is relatively simple to use, very similar to Microsoft’s PhotoStory but infinitely slicker!  There are lots of editing options that I haven’t used – more experimentation to do!  You can link your Youtube account to it so that you can export videos to your Youtube Channel. Here is one of my efforts;