|We spent our second full day in Nicaragua
exploring the villages and volcanoes to the south of Managua, including
the National Park at Masaya. and the villages of the plateau Meseta de
The environmental education materials in the visitor center of the
Masaya National Park include this amazing mural. The border of
indigenous motifs is connected to several elements in the main image,
which depicts an ideal of sustainable development. Notice that this
vision has room for both nature and humans, including a wide variety of
natural elements and human endeavors.
||The visitor's center at
the national park includes detailed educational exhibits about the
volcanoes of Nicaragua. They form a straight line parallel to the
Pacific coast, because they are formed by rising magma at the edge of a
Although volcanic activity has been relatively minor during recorded
history, Nicaragua is tectonically active.
|Within the Masaya National
Park, one steaming caldera (volcanic crater) is fascinating to watch.
Elsewhere in the region, geothermal energy sources are actively
Each of us took some time to stare into the amazing abyss of the
smoking caldera of Masaya. We also could not resist trying our echoes!
One cool and surprising thing about being at the top of a volcano was
that this is where the vultures hang out. We saw dozens of them soaring
at our eye level, and they even let us get fairly close to their roosts.
After visiting Masaya, we ate at a wonderful spot overlooking a
volcanic lagoon. The musicians who came to our tables were magnificent!
The menu was quite diverse -- Pam and I opted for a sizzling fish
platter that was a bit fishier than what we normally would try! It
looked rather horrendous, but it was quite tasty. We opted not to eat
the heads, though. Incidentally, in Nicaragua, Toña is a popular
beer, and for good reason.
|Below, Pam shows our
daughter's photo to two children who told us they were her age. Photos
from home are a great way to connect to people anywhere!
At right is a statue entitled "Farmer Woman," representing the
indigenous woman of Nicaragua. Smaller replicas were for sale in the
adjacent market stalls.
The spot where we enjoyed lunch was a destination not only for tourists
but also for local families holding birthday parties. The view was
amazing, with a volcanic lagoon below us and the colonial city of
Grenada in the distance (middle-left of the photo). If I am able to
return to Nicaragua for another tour (which I hope to do in January
2007), I intend to end the trip at Grenada, because of all the great
things I heard about it.
One of our students -- Adrienne -- was particularly interest in
learning about microfinance, a development strategy in which
communities manage very small loans to community members, in order to
finance small businesses. When we arrived at a pottery shop in one of
the villages, Adrienne noticed that the shop next door is part of a
microfinance project, and in fact is affiliated with Pro Mujer, an
organization that Adrienne and Pam had learned about at a conference in
Massachusetts a few months earlier. The sign reads Pro Mujer -- Supporting the Nicaraguan
Small-business woman -- Together we can. At the right is the
sales shop for this small business, a cooperative of six women and two
men. One of the men happened to be watching the shop when we arrived.
He explained that the intention of the business was to support women,
but that some men needed to be involved for it to be accepted as a
legitimate business. All of the members took turns operating the sales
shop. They were all quite busy in their workshops at the moment, he
said, because someone had purchased 300 pieces of pottery for export
the day before.
While we were busy in the Pro Mujer shop, the rest of our group was
learning pottery at the shop next door, a small, family-owned business
that manages to produce hundreds of exquisite pieces a week for export.
Several of our students learned just how challenging it is to make
pottery, but they did pretty well! The expert, who is a son of the
owner, is shown in the middle.