Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Field Report: Not Giving A Powerpoint in Somoto

Wednesday, August 31st - "They call him Elgato"
   "El Gato??"
   "Yes El Gato"
   "The cat??"
   "Yes the cat" says Marcus, chuckling.
   "El Gato" is a young man, who I suppose did have watchful intense sort of eyes. Also he seemed to have a passion for beekeeping, and needless to say, we got along great. I've often remarked before on these projects, there'll be those people whom you don't share a language in common with, but you just look at eachother and you know you get eachother.
   The beehives were had visited the day before were jointly owned by several people, badly made, and clearly hadn't been inspected in far too long. El Gato runs more hives by himself (I think like fifteen) and they are all perfectly maintained, I think he says he inspects them all every eight days, which if anything might be excessive, but I admire his enthusiasm, which he clearly has. After we looked at his honeybee hives he showed us two hives he has of local stingless bees of the Melipona genus (see pictures on my instagram) which I find very interesting. Its interesting how their honey, which presumably comes from the same nectars as honeybee honey, tastes so different, definitely an indication of how bees are not merely dehydrating nectar but doing SOMETHING to it.

Thursday, September 1st - I first mistook them for swallows flitting low above the milky azure water, wingtip to wingtip like stunt pilots at an airshow, but then after they attached themself to the canyon wall I realized they were bats. I was floating down the famous Somoto Canyon in a place where I couldn't touch the bottom and the grey stone walls rose above me maybe 200 feet. The warm sun was able to filter all the way down through the narrow canyon and the water was a bit chilly but not uncomfortably so.
   The day before while trying to decide whether it was best to schedule a canyon visit before or after our days beekeeping visits Marcus had called the community we were going to visit and was surprised to learn they had no beehives at all, so he declared we'd just see them at the training workshop we'd put on on Friday, leaving me completely free Thursday to go on the longest version of the famous canyon tour.
   We (guide and I, I forget his name but he was a nice young fellow) began mostly walking along the river but soon were up to our waists and deeper. Wearing lifejackets, it was fun to just let the current push oneself along. In addition to the bats I saw two feral beehives hanging in nooks well up the cliff-face, a large solid sided wasp nest in an overhanging tree ("we call that a 'pig's head' because it looks like one," and it does), and two more German girls jumping from a 60 feet ledge on the cliff. At one point where another river came in my guide pointed to a yellow marker just a few hundred meters away and said "see that, that's Honduras" I was sorely tempted to go visit Honduras (I've been as close to Poland too) but it was just far enough away to be inconvenient.
   A fair bit of the middle was mostly walking again and more open, and then the last bit, after another place where you had to jump from a ledge to continue, was a long deep channel that people on "the short tour" reach from the downstream end, and I'm told the lazy sometimes just have their guide pull them along on an innertube. The very last 600 meters one travels in a rowboat rowed by a boatman waiting for said purpose, then we walked along a delightful path for two kilometers along the riverbank, at one point a local man riding a horse at a quick trot passed us on some business. Had lunch at a little restaurant (just a motherly figure and her beautiful daughter and one table in the shade beside their pretty house) near the trailhead, which was absolutely delicious, and took the local bus back to town.

Friday, September 2nd - "We.. don't have any students actually" says Marcus, chuckling perhaps a bit anxiously, at the appointed time of 1:30 when we were supposed to have that training. I am actually zero percent surprised.
   That morning he had told me there was a bit of a fair ("I think that's the word for it?") at the headquarters of the local host organization, and that I didn't need to come until we'd do the workshop at 1:00. Going sounded more interesting than sitting around at the hotel all day so I went, and I'm glad I did!
   There was first a bit of a talent show thing with students performing some traditional dances, which I thought was interesting to compare them to the traditional dances performed by the similarly aged Dungan dancers in Kyrgyzstan last week. But then even more exciting, they had a sort of food contest where the competing teams apparently made local dishes completely from scratch, I'm talking they milled the corn themselves. By strategically following close behind the judges I was able to be offered a sample of many different interesting local dishes. Many were similar yet different to familiar Mexican dishes, for example they had two tamale-like things, with names that sounded almost but not quite like tamales, that tastes almost but not quite like tamales. Also tacos here are always rolled into a tube and cooked such that the tortilla is crunchy.

   When it finally came time for the beekeeping workshop, Marcus explained that the students had supposed to stay after the fair but in fact had all gone home ... BUT I could train the organization's teachers, of whom there were I wildly guestimate around 20 in attendance, so that was an alright turnout after all.
   And then Murphy's Law of Electronics struck. Really this should be it's own law. And I'm surprised by how often this happens, my electronic devices will behave for months at a time in normal life without a hiccup and then when I'm out in the field and need them to work almost immediately things start going sideways. Last year my phone suddenly lost its ability to save pictures (similar to what it did actually when I was on vacation earlier this month), and the year before that my laptop actually locked myself out of my own username on the computer, where all my stuff of course was.

   In this case, all my presentation materials are on an external hard-drive. There has never ever been a problem accessing the external hard drive, and I was using it just that morning before leaving the hotel to make sure I had what I wanted at hand. But then a few hours later I get my laptop out again this time in front of twenty people expecting a presentation from me and... it doesn't work. It will NOT read the external hard drive. It makes a connection noise and the connection light comes on on the drive but it will NOT find the drive in file explorer. I tried different USB ports. I tried resetting the computer. Nothing would work. W T F. Seriously it's eerily like the very act of having a whole room full of people counting on me being able to make it work made it not work!!!

   So I made a presentation without the benefit of any visual aids, which seemed to go over just fine but I feel like it must be pretty boring just listening to me ramble with no visuals.

Tags: agdev, field reports, nicaragua, travel, travelogues

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