Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Retirement Contest

A former student recently shared a CNBC report about a retirement contest in Nicaragua. The contest winner will spend a month in Granada, "test driving" a retirement in a city many of us have enjoyed.

The report mentions the friendly people of Nicaragua, but emphasizes the low cost of retirement there -- especially the low cost of restaurant meals and drinks.

For those of us who lead trips to Nicaragua, "Is it safe?" is probably the most common question we hear. It appears that the retirement industry has decided it is, for better or worse! Whether Nicaragua remains "safe" from the deleterious effects of tourism remains to be seen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

December Meeting 13th

World Gifts Cafe
Greetings, friends of Nicaragua! After not really getting my act together early enough for a November meeting, We are going to have a meeting of whatever Nexus members we can on the evening of December 13, with intentions to give people more lead time for a spring 2013 meeting.

We will be meeting on Thursday evening, December 13 at the World Gifts Cafe in Clinton. Based on the Doodle poll, we will plan to meet formally at 7, but anyone who wishes to eat at the cafe beforehand could arrive at 6 and find some company.

If anybody is interesting in joining at some point via Skype (or similar software) let James know.

This spot is a bit more central than Bridgewater, and is also a place that I know friends of Nicaragua will find delightful. You might even be able to do some holiday shopping while you are there. The Cafe is located at 50 High Street in Clinton, where on-street parking is easy.

View Larger Map

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Nicaragua Nexus Map

NOTE: As of October 7, 2012, only two partnerships have been entered. Stay tuned!

Nicaragua Nexus is a network of partnerships between organizations based in the United States -- mainly in New England -- and communities in Nicaragua. the Nicaragua Nexus Map on Google Maps shows the locations of each partnership. Each icon identifies the partnership briefly; more detail is available on this blog. For each U.S. participant, its Nicaraguan counterparts are shown with the same map symbol, and vice-versa.

It is a single map, but this blog entry highlights two windows onto the map, one at the national scale in Nicaragua and the other at the regional scale in southern New England. Participants are asked to provide James Hayes-Bohanan with any corrections, additions, or more detail. Locations can be as general as a town hall or as specific as a particular coffee mill or school!

In Nicaragua, communities and projects are in urban and rural areas throughout the western portion of the country. Click icons for details, and look for matching icons on both parts of the map.

View Nicaragua Nexus in a larger map

In New England, partners are based at various colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, and congregations.

View Nicaragua Nexus in a larger map

The main purpose of the map is to help organizations that are involved in the same or nearby communities to be able to find each other, for sharing contacts, resources, or the ability to transport items. As the project develops, the U.S. side of the equation could easily expand beyond New England.

Monday, April 30, 2012

First Nexus Meeting

The first meeting of Nicaragua Nexus was held at Bridgewater State University on April 28, 2012. It was an excellent opportunity for people who have been working in similar but separate endeavors to begin getting to know and learn from each other. Lunch was provided courtesy of the BSU External Affairs Division; coffee was provided by Byron Corrales, the "poet of coffee" whose farm is a regular feature of BSU study tours in Nicaragua. We watched a short video on the care that goes into what has sometimes been ranked the best coffee on the planet!

The event was hosted by the Division of External Affairs at Bridgewater State University. The day began with a viewing of the documentary American/Sandinista, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the death of Benjamin Linder, who was killed along with two Nicaragua colleagues while working on a rural-electric development project in Bocay, Jinotega.

The first gathering of Nicaragua Nexus, April 28, 2012 at Bridgewater State University Science & Math Center.
L-R: Chien Wen Yu, Sarah Wormann, Natalie Regan, Nikki Sauber, James Hayes-Bohanan, Pam Hayes-Bohanan, Margaret Morganroth Gullette, David Gullette, and Jean Christoffersen.

This was followed by discussion of the many interesting projects represented by the assembled group, whose experience in Nicaragua ranges from "coming soon" to a few years to a few decades. Several of the participants are involved in different ways with projects in and around the city of San Juan del Sur, which in turn are affiliated with a sister-cities program in Newton, Massachusetts.

It was a chance meeting in the Miami International Airport a few years ago between Jean Christoffersen and myself that actually led to the creation of the Nicaragua Nexus. Each of us was heading home from a rewarding and exhausting experience with students in Nicaragua, and we began to realize that a lot of people in Massachusetts have ongoing connections and commitments in the region. At this initial Nicaragua Nexus meeting, Jean shared her experience leading groups of nursing students from Simmons College to study and serve in much-needed programs in public health. Among the many things we learned from her presentation is the value of well-made shoes as a public health measure; Jean's students would bring shoes by the dozens, maximizing their luggage allowances to provide protection against the various parasites and infections to which many Nicaraguans are otherwise susceptible. The Simmons study tours are not currently operating, but Jean also shared information about other work that she continues to do in the area with her husband Lou Fiore, a medical doctor who is leading a service trip to Nicaragua this summer. More about that work is available on the site Lowering Poverty and Disease in Nicaragua (LPD).

Sarah Wormann, president of Amped for Education, described her organization's recent success in building a new high school near the city of Granada, as well as opportunities for people to contribute funds and/or their own labor to the efforts. Chien Wen Yu discussed plans for a January 2013 management study tour that will include Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Other BSU participants (Natalie Regan, Nikki Sauber, and the Hayes-Bohanans) spoke about the study tours that have already taken place, focused on coffee but also including community-based projects for victims of the wars and other Nicaraguans with severe disabilities or injuries.

Brandeis scholar Margarett  Morganroth Gullette spoke about an adult-education program that provides a rare opportunity for adults in the area to attend school, something that is otherwise impossible for people above the age of 18 who missed out on education when they were younger. She described the extraordinary commitment of the participants in the program, and asks for help in raising funds to support them. David Gullette spoke about several projects, with a common theme of promoting education and community health while reducing the environmental impact of the projects themselves. These include water filtration that can be installed and maintained locally and school building that has a remarkably small carbon footprint.

This day was just the beginning. The group will be meeting again in the autumn, perhaps closer to central Massachusetts, and hopes to include some of the additional organizations that were hoping to be involved but unable to attend this initial meeting. The prospects for continuing to support and learn from each other are quite positive. This blog will feature more details about the projects mentioned above, as well of those of other organizations that were not present. Potential Nexus members are encouraged to send me information to post on this blog, and/or to become contributing blog authors.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tribute from Seattle

The first meeting of Nicaragua Nexus is being held on the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Ben Linder on a stream high above the then tiny village of Bocay, Jinotega. His story is told in great detail in Joan Kruckewitt's diligently researched book The Death of Ben Linder and in the film American-Sandinista, which we will be viewing as part of the meeting.

At this time last year, Patricia Davis published a brief tribute that mentions efforts -- so far unsuccessful -- to name an engineering library building in Linder's honor at University of Washington. On the blog Radical Seattle Remembers she writes, correctly, that "he was much more of an idealist than an ideologue, and his decision to travel to war-torn Nicaragua was motivated by humanitarian concerns much more than political ones. "

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The First Nexus

Please see the inaugural post for the origins of the Nicaragua Nexus concept.

The first face-to-face Nicaragua Nexus event will be in the new Science & Mathematics Center at Bridgewater State University on Saturday, April 28, 2012. This marks the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Benjamin Linder in Nicaragua.

Our schedule -- subject to some adjustment depending on the interests of the group -- will be:

11:00 -- Introductions and viewing of American/Sandinista
12:30 -- lunch provided, with Nicaraguan coffee, of course
1:30 -- brief presentations by each participating group
3:00 -- networking/discussion
4:00 -- closing

The event is supported by the BSU Division of External Affairs. We will be joined by Vice President Fred Clark is a BSU graduate whose career in public service has included significant work on behalf of the people of Nicaragua and Central America as a whole. He will be joining us during the day.

Please RSVP through the event FaceBook page or by email to jhayesboh@bridgew.edu.

View Larger Map

Why Nicaragua Nexus?

Almost every January since 2006, I have had the privilege of leading a study tour of Bridgewater State University students to Nicaragua. My intention was to take my Geography of Coffee course to Nicaragua once and then to circulate among other countries in the Coffee Belt.

Something curious happened on the way to Matagalpa, though: I fell in love with Nicaragua and Nicaraguans. I now spend the first part of almost every January there, in a way returning to my second home every year. During these journeys, my students and I often meet other people traveling in groups from Massachusetts or elsewhere in New England. Sometimes it has been at MIA, which I have come to regard as the "Capital of Latin America." Sometimes it has been while waiting for aduana in Managua, or in a restaurant or coffee beneficio.

These encounters are invariably brief and energetic, as we excitedly share stories about our partnerships and projects, the people and places we know in Nicaragua, and our traveling companions. Those partnerships can involve commerce, public health, development, coffee, and much more, and they take place throughout the country, though generally in the more densely-populated western portion. The traveling companions can include employees, parishioners, volunteers, or students from many disciplines. Always the chance encounters come at times that we are too busy to linger or too exhausted to make any future plans.

Thus was the idea of Nicaragua Nexus born. The idea is to gather people from our region who frequently travel to Nicaragua, especially those who travel with groups or who have partnerships with groups in Nicaragua. The NEXUS refers both to a general network of groups and to an occasional meeting of those groups. No grand scheme or formal organization is envisioned. Rather, the NEXUS is simply an invitation to connect for a leisurely exchange of ideas, experiences, and stories about a place we have come to care deeply about.

The first of these occasional meetings is to take place on Saturday, April 28, 2012 on the campus of Bridgewater State University, about an hour south of Boston. A separate post will serve as an invitation to the meeting itself.