Mariposa Spanish School in La Concepcion

We closed to students 6 weeks ago and now our income comes totally from skype classes which is hard on me as I am not a fan of too much technology in life. But we also still get a lot of donations from ex students and friends through our NGOs, for which we are all extremely grateful, and have enough probably to keep us going until July. Without firing anyone, which is quite something as we still have over 50 workers on projects etc. We did however close our childrens projects Рnot for financial reasons but because they were too vulnerable Рfirst time we have ever done this !. Hopefully this is purely temporary. We are though still working on the environmental projects, especially right now sending out water tankers to the poorest communities where water is not only scarce but practically non existent. Hoping for rain right now, should have started last week, and then we can get going on tree planting. I, though, have a nasty feeling we are in for another drought Рhope I am wrong. We are also still supporting families who have medicinal needs for disabled children. Doing the best we can!

Our number of skype classes has about doubled… Problems with the internet and a shortage of reliable computers have given us some problems but decided to take¬†the plunge¬†and invest in various improvements.¬† Some of the teachers at La Mariposa chose to work from home – one was so scared of the virus that he literally ran out of the school as if one was chasing him! Others for different reasons¬†choose to give their skype classes in the school building where we work outside, enforce social distancing and offer private transport home. Other workers, such as those who care for the animals are happy to come to work – partly to get a¬† full salary but partly because being at home is not the solution for everybody. I actually do not want to manage¬†a business that is largely computer driven so this gives me a great excuse to pull back more (which I have wanted to do for a while!).

We are also pushing the little organic compost business Рit is part of the environmental program anyway and gives a couple more jobs to a couple of individuals who were desperate for work, a situation many people here now find them selves in, without needless to say any government support at all.

Being in Nicaragua for this crisis is particularly interesting I think because we have just survived two years of a total wipe out in tourism, including us of course Рso we are kind of used to this type of situation. After the government opened fire on a peaceful student protest march in April 2018, killing several, international tourists understandably simply stopped coming here. And many Nicaraguans, scared of government violence but also physically prevented from travelling by opposition roadblocks, simply stayed at home or in their own localities. So we have had two years of practice of living without our normal lives and without our pre-2018 income Рas I say, fortunately, we at La Mariposa are finding other sources. At least so far.

The CV crisis was nonetheless a blow as the end of Nov 2019 though to Feb 2020 we actually had quite  a lot of people  coming to La Mariposa which was very exciting for me and the staff Рpeople around the place again!!!. They were mostly personal friends and/ or people who have been with us before, know and trust us not to expose them to anything unnecessary! The end was chaotic, people unable to get flights out of Nicaragua and back to Sweden, Canada, the USA, Britain. They all made it eventually.

The other different aspect here is that the same government referred to above has done precisely nothing in relation to CV except to announce (twice in all these weeks) that everything is fine. The truth is none has the slightest idea whether there are cases here or not. Rumors abound. There is of course no testing. If the Sandinistas were not so hated by the USA, Daniel Ortega could be employed as a Trump stand in – they have been so on the same page. Our Vice President (Daniel’s wife), a born again evangelical, has told us several times that NIcaraguans are a “chosen people”¬†and therefore we wont be touched by the virus. I don¬īt¬†know if that includes nationalized Nicas like me! In the first phase, when most other countries were beginning to close down, she suggested a¬† love march in Managua to defeat the virus. That was actually cancelled. But borders are still open. And my local Sandinistas are still playing baseball (I hear the games from my house), having parties, rallies and meetings. Schools and bars are still open. Business as usual.

So the vast majority of individuals and organisations here have taken our own measures. Local streets and markets are largely deserted and it seems around 50% of parents are not sending their kids to school.

Poverty is a serious issue in even allowing those who want to stay at home Рhow do you do that if there are 5 of you living in only one room less than 4 meters square, as is the case with my neighbours. And how do you frequently wash your hands if you have no water as is the case for lots of people these days? 

Apart from feeling a bit nostalgic for my cancelled UK trip, my own very privileged life has weirdly changed very little (though I watch international news on CNN more than I used to). I live in a small straw bale house with  a big garden where we grow organic veggies (lots of kale, okra, cabbage and cherry toms right now Рall delicious.) and more and more insect friendly flowers, Guillermina, 20 dogs (I fell cos I tripped up over one of them, not surprising really!) and 5 cats plus varied wildlife Рbees, bats, frogs and a possum who eats the cat food every night.

My little native bee project is doing well and I have a dozen or so chickens now. I have internet, books and I travel from home to work on the back of the motorbike twice¬† a week. I don¬īt go to the bank anymore and rarely to the supermarket. My close friends are still close though not physically. Really the only issue for me personally is my age and the fact I have emphysema (result of years of smoking). I cannot walk much anymore especially as we are getting afternoon temps of 35C and I get short of breath quickly.¬†

Guillermina is doing very well indeed, she has taken to doing whatever physical work needs to be done especially on the organic compost front Рshe has just come back from shoveling a load of horse shit into sacks to feed to the worms, she will sleep well tonight!. We are planning to build  a new frog pond (life must go on!) and she did sterling work collecting volcanic rocks to make a kind of cascade.

The last 3 days though something is happening. Each day there has been an announcement of a death – it does seem to me that the number of older people¬†dying is suddently on the increase. Needless to say medical authorities are denying anything but….still the evidence¬†does appear to be mounting up. And as I edit this there is another announcement being made. That is 4 in 2 days, just in my barrio! It might of course be the heat.¬†How about the skype????Hope that was vaguely interesting and not too repitive of what you already know!!! Do take care and STAY IN TOUCH!

Lots of love
Take care and stay safe.

Paulette Goudge