Managua, Nicaragua – The End – But Never The End

Staff and volunteers at El Porvenir office

We spent our last days back in Managua getting a tour of the main office of El Porvenir, meeting the dedicated staff, getting a taxi tour of the central market, and the highly guarded, decorated and chain-linked waterfront. We climbed the semi-active Volcan Masaya, and ended the experience being taken to dinner by Rob Bell, the director of the El Porvenir office.

Central Market Managua
On the Waterfront

Taking our last evening walk, we were urged to be in before dark, not to wear jewelry, cameras or purses, and to watch our backs. Graffiti covered every space, but only Sandanista graffiti. The major area of employment could be security guards from the numbers of men we saw in uniforms with big guns, behind chain-link fences. In front of the baseball stadium stood a huge statue of the Sandanista hero Gen. Augusto Sandino. Across the street was a retrospective of the Sandanista Party behind the ubiquitous chain-link fence. Since we were protected by the gun-carrying guard, I took out my camera to record this history and Bob. While he was flashing a few of me with poet Ruben Dario and Gen Augusto Sandino, a guard came up to him from behind, sticking two fingers into his neck. Bob, startled, turned, ready to fight. “What’re you doing?”

“You wanna keep your camera? And your life? Then put that away before you leave this exhibit.” (In Spanish)

“Por Supuesto!” Bob agreed quickly. “Muchisimas gracias!” we thanked him for the warning and safely returned to the hotel, watching our backs.

The Sandanista retrospective was an impressive mix of history, poetry, sculpture and graffiti recording a fight for freedom through the years. But what has happened? Crime is rampant. So many people in the country live without water and toilets. The socialist ideal of a “system in which the means of production and distribution are controlled by the people and operated according to equity and fairness” has deteriorated to the point of the second-time president  Daniel Ortega, owning one of the largest hotels (The Seminole Hotel) and casinos in town. A socialist turned capitalist? That money certainly isn’t going to the people that need it most.

Graffiti in Managua

Well, life is never fair, but let’s keep fighting to make it so. To end on a positive note, thanks to Water for People; and the non-profit, El Porvenir, on it’s 20th anniversary, should be tremendously honored for having completed 600 projects and helped over 70,000 people in Nicaragua. Both non-profits have pages on Facebook. Become a fan and get involved.

Dario, Jill, Sandino

Malawian Villages – Making Changes

Zachi and Ng’ombe Villages – Chikwawa District

Nelson is a wonderful storyteller. We take turns sitting next to him in the front seat of the bus to listen to his lively Malawian tales. One of my favorites, though not based in fact, gives a real understanding of why the people of Malawi are just emerging from the darkness of poverty and disease.


Nelson’s body language is as much a part of his story as his words. I paraphrase. “Malawi declared independence from Britain in 1964. Hastings Banda, who had already been educated as a medical doctor, was sent to Britain for leadership training. A conspirator from Ghana searched out Banda, murdered him, took his identity and returned to Malawi as president. The original Banda’s parents saw photos of their alleged son and cried foul. They were brought before the new president to make amends. Instead the mother said, ‘Take off your left shoe,’ which he did. ‘You are not my son,’ she cried. ‘He lost his toe in a childhood accident.’ The president, in a rage for being made a fool of, beat and imprisoned the real parents. He became ‘President for Life’ over a complete police state for the next thirty years until his demise in 1994.”

p9140653-300x225-6283499We arrive in Zachi to rousing greetings then walk with the women and children in the burning sun for what seems like forever (but is only a kilometer) to see their water hole. And hole is the right word – it is at least eight feet deep and so steep-sided the children are afraid to climb down. The water seeps in so slowly that a small bowl must be dipped in over and over to fill one bucket. It takes many trips to get enough water for cooking and drinking with maybe the dregs leftover for washing clothes.


When we return we are again given chairs of honor under the one shade tree. The woman chief, Ednafred, greets us with, “Zikomo gwambiri!” thanking us and presenting two young masked boys dressed as chickens for a traditional dance. They scratch, jump, squawk and peck in perfect rhythm with the crazed-eyed drummer until other dancers encroach on the costumed boys. A fight breaks out as the drummer throws down his sticks, and bodily tries to clear the stage. We breathe a sigh of relief when the women restore order then take to the dance floor themselves. Though Malawi has strong gender inequality most of the men are dead or gone from the primitive villages, and the women take over.


Chicken Dancers

We arrive in Ng’ombe to view a village with both a well (bore hole with hand-pump) in the village center and new sanitary latrines. The people look cleaner, healthier, happier. “Water For People now focuses on how to make sanitation a productive or income-generating activity that people are really interested in. Families with an “ecological sanitation” (eco-san) latrine—a specific type of toilet that creates compost out of feces and fertilizer out of urine—can either sell their fertilizer or use it to produce higher-quality produce themselves.” Joseph shows us the thatched arbor loos and the clay brick latrines. “The people are educated in construction and use first, and become more accepting of the eco-sans if they are separated from their huts.”


Everyone is gathered in the square as one of the school girls shows us how the pump works. Here the women and children gather to chat and play while they fill their containers with clean water. One of the few men, trained by WFP, demonstrates making a sealed concrete top for the eco-san. Joseph announces, “The incidence of cholera has dropped by 50% in Ng’ombe since the additions of the pump and latrines!” Everyone cheers, gives thanks and the dancing begins.

Hello world!

Gotta start somewhere. I’m sending this out to my meager email list. If you access my blog please reply and tell all your friends. I am also on Facebook. My son Ray is helping me get started. My blog name is or do you already know that? I’m interested in learning how this whole internet writing world works. I understand that works on paper are almost obsolete. I’ll be posting my thoughts and writings – political, personal, whatever is entertaining or interesting at the moment. Hope you join in. Got any questions, hints, suggestions? Let me know. Hello world. Jill