Bienvenido a Managua, Nicaragua
I am finally on the ground and life is buzzing with change, challenge, and adventure. This is definitely not my first time landing in a new country with a completely foreign environment in front of me, and quite frankly, this time is actually easier than some in the past, as when I stepped out of the arrivals area to confront the herds of taxi drivers and seemingly best of new friends, I had the advantage of some familiarity with the language, which was not always the case many times before. I was meeting Kathy, my fellow co-worker and intern with MEDA in a hostel/guesthouse that was supposedly located somewhere near the office of MiCredito. The first taxi driver did not take my proposed price and insisted on double, but I soon found the chosen cabby to help me complete the journey into the city for the reasonable fare of 10 USD.
When we finally pulled up to the hostel it was clear that I was expected by the owner, as the moment I stepped up to the gate (as most every place is gated in Managua, either communities or single dwellings) she immediately exclaimed: "Adrian?" with a very inquisitive tone. Once inside she pointed to where Kathy was and I snuck up to surprise her for a grand reunion and hugs :)
The next day was my first set of waking hours in Managua, as things look quite different when you can see them in plain daylight. The city is completely disorganized (like many developing nations' cities), but the addresses here are fairly difficult as well, as there really aren't any. Almost all directions and addresses point to a general reference of where you are going. e.g. two blocks south of the "virgin roundabout", 1.5 blocks east of here, and then 2 houses more to the south with the house on your right hand side. This is the address of said house you may be trying to find. Needless to say, when things are already extremely confusing, this doesn't facilitate the matters much.
The streets themselves are always a good way to get a sense of the noises, the smells, and the scenery, that constructs a well-rounded feel of the city. Some characteristics are notably similar to other places I've been, but certain aspects that I experienced here are not as prevalent around other capital cities in Latin America. The mule-drawn carts were one scene I haven't seen a whole lot of before, and the level of handy craftsmanship in constructing wheelchairs using plastic patio-chairs.
Generally though, I haven't felt under much danger yet, but I also haven't been here all that long, or out around the more dangerous neighborhoods at night (which was not in my immediate plans by the way). I have noted almost all places being gated up, several walls and fences with barbed wire or broken glass coating the top of the walls for added security, and some neighborhoods have street guards that are supposed to keep a lookout for suspicious activity. I believe these same guards will be in the new neighborhood where Kathy and I will be living within a week or so. My first trip to the office also involved a checking in at the reception, as I was asked to my purpose there, after explaining I was another intern with MEDA, they still needed to take down my name and have me officially logged as entering/visiting the building of MiCredito.
The organization I am serving with, MEDA, has a project called Techno-Links which has established a grant matching programs with agricultural technology suppliers in both Peru and Nicaragua. The goal of the project is to strengthen these technological linkages between the farmers and their suppliers, to attain a more sustainable livelihood and better quality of life for both. Through the careful selection of the most promising business plans proposed to Techno-Links, the winning businesses received a matching grant with the requirement that they place an equal or greater input of capital funds into their business development plans. There will be consecutive follow-up interviews, questionnaires, and data collection to monitor and evaluate these businesses' progress, as well as the impact they are having on their end producers (the farmers).
My position as the impact assessment intern will include partaking in these activities and effectively monitoring and evaluating their progress and impact, through the means of field excursions and face to face encounters with the farmers and businesses, as well as case studies.
It is then aside from the shocks and adventures of a new country, that I am soon departing on my first field excursion to the countryside. I will be going with the project manager from Canada who is visiting for some time in both Peru and Nicaragua to do some surveys with the grant recipients of Techno-Links and MEDA, as well as my co-worker (a business consultant to the grant recipients) who lives in Leon, a city a bit to the north of Managua. We begin tomorrow and I am excited to get into the field and see the rural side of this beautiful country.
I look forward to updating you all with my next post and appreciate all those reading and supporting me in this pivotal moment in my life, full of adventure, opportunity, and blessing.