Thursday, June 19, 2008

the global food crisis--in nicaragua

It's no secret that prices for everything are going up all over the world. While gas is perhaps the one that is most affecting the pocketbooks of the developed world, the cost of essential food items here in Nicaragua has risen exponentially in the last several months. And it's making it even more difficult for people here to feed their families.

Just this morning, the local paper came out with a new article about the situation, which describes how the cost of the "canasta basica" (or what it takes to feed a family of 4 for one month) has risen to 8,330 cordoba (or about $400), a 4% increase over last month..

What is included in the canasta basica? Rice, beans, oil, milk, sugar, and bread make up 2/3 of the total. The other portion is for basic cleaning products like detergent and soap, transportation, cooking gas, electricity and water. In addition, a small amount of cheese, meat (which most people here eat perhaps 1-2 a week), eggs, and fruits/vegetables is included.

You might think that $400 a month isn't too bad for a family of 4, but then you have to consider how much money people are actually making. The average monthly salary here is about 2,000 cordoba (or $100). So this means that even if 2-3 people in a househould are working earning this minimum salary, they aren't making enough to be able to eat.

Wages are not keeping pace with inflation and rising prices. I read an article the other day that described families in the dry northwestern mountains that eat tortillas for breakfast. Just tortillas.

I am trying to imagine what that would be like, and I just can't. Even living in the midst of so many who are malnourished, I still eat mostly whatever I want. Changing my eating habits isn't going to solve the problem, but I sure feel a lot less enthusiastic today about that pollo asado than I did before.

Friday, June 06, 2008


In the dry and dusty northwestern mountains of Nicaragua, in a small community called El Ojoche, Concepcion ("Concha") and her family survive off the land and the sale of the beautiful handmade pottery that she makes using a small stone oven. It is a skill passed down generation to generation among the women of the community. Even though for years the people of El Ojoche were ridiculed as "dirty" due to the stains the bright red earth left on their hands, Concepcion and others have continued to make piggy banks, chickens, and planting pots to provide for their families.

Over the last two years, I have seen firsthand Concepcion's determination to "seguir adelante" (move forward) and her joyful creativity as she molds and shapes the clay on the dirt floor of her humble home. She reminds me that the criticism of others should never stop us from doing what we love, and that even--and maybe especially--in the most difficult circumstances, creating beauty matters.
[Note: I wrote this short reflection as a submission to an exhibit by Open Hands Studios, whose leadership includes my good friend, video production genius, and cultural anthropologist Jeff.]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

my first visitors are coming!

Perhaps this doesn't exactly merit its own post, but I am excited to share that some of my dearest friends on earth, Cara (on the right in the photo) and her husband Judson, are coming to visit, along with their son and Cara's parents at the end of this month. I cannot wait to share the ssights and sounds and wonders of Nicaragua with very first visitors in over 2 years!

And just a public service announcement...if anyone reading this blog would like to send something down with them for me, leave a comment or shoot me an email and I will give you their contact info should you not have it. :-)

(I am also very excited that Claire--pictured at left in the photo will also be in Nicaragua with her husband and daughter for a Food for the Hungry training this fall! Yippee!)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

river crossing

Every time it rains, this is the river that forms between me and my way out of Nejapa, the neighborhood where the office is. Nejapa is an interesting place...where on one side of the road large and beautiful houses overlook a sweet view of the Nejapa crater, and on the other side, families live in more humble conditions, sharing their patio space with all manner of chickens, dogs, pigs, and horses. Only in the last year was the road from the highway in to our office paved (although with the rain, pothols have quickly formed in many places). It's just as likely that giant cement trucks or horses and carts will pass my roommates and I as we walk in to work.

Monday, June 02, 2008

among other kindred spirits...

I said goodbye (for now) to my friend Jeff (above) who returned to the States on Friday. Besides being the professor for the semester program that just ended a few weeks ago, he has been my constant political conversation partner over the last 5 months as well as an all around fun person to hang out with. (He'll be back in January with another group of students.)

Jeff is one of a few people here in Nicaragua that I can honestly call kindred spirits. People with whom conversations are never awkward. People with whom I feel understood, but also challenged and encouraged. People with whom I can honestly discuss my struggles as I seek to live faithfully in a second culture not my own.

As much as I love many parts of my life here, there have also been a lot of hard times. And I do not think I would have made it this long without these individuals as a part of my life here. And as I enter my third year, I just want to thank these special friends. You know who you are.

Mil gracias, de verdad. Por todo lo que son y todo lo que han hecho. Les amo mucho.