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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spanish study at The Mountain School

It is no surprise to anyone that plenty of people live in poverty in Nicaragua. Many people in northern Nicaragua, in particular, live in immense poverty, where they are dependent upon the coffee harvest to survive. But not all is negative in the countryside here. At The Mountain School, we work with rural people to improve their living and working conditions. 

We recently hosted students from the Leapnow program at The Mountain School, in La Dalia, Nicaragua. The students in this program alternated Spanish classes with activities with local children, an introduction to coffee production, the natural environment of the area, and other aspects of Nicaragua.

The Mountain School
These students are learning what it means to make a cup of great, Nicaraguan coffee. Photo Gigi Austin.
Lots of people visit Nicaragua from far-away places like the United States these days. In fact, Nicaragua has been gaining in popularity among travelers like never before. But more is interesting about Nicaragua than just a lazy sunset on a sandy beach. The government and the civil society of Nicaragua are facing the challenges of poverty, of inequitable distribution and power, in fascinating, creative ways. Many Nicaraguans are involved in working with poor and marginalized people in Nicaragua. We at FUNDECI work at The Mountain School together with the Santa Emilia Estates and rural communities in La Dalia, in Matagalpa Department, Nicaragua, to promote better lives for the rural poor.

Most poor people in the region of La Dalia pick coffee during the peak of the season, from October through March, each year.  Unlike the poor of so many other countries, the majority of Nicaraguan rural people are small-scale landholders, which means they can alternate paid activities on the farms of other people with activities on their own land. They can farm basic staples such as corn and beans so they don't have to pay cash for them, saving the small amount of money they earn from other activities to cover the few necesities they just can't get except in the cash economy. Many of these farms are now enjoying extra income, thanks to organic certification and fair trade marketing.
coffee picking
Eating raw coffee beans in the hull is not recommended! Photo Gigi Austin.
As the Leapnow students learned, coffee picking is hard work. They jokingly asked how much money they would be making from their harvest, but they knew that their earnings would not be much. Experienced coffee pickers move fast and they still earn very little. Life for the rural poor is very humble, because there just isn't any way they can become wealthy, one coffee bean at a time.
coffee farm Nicaragua
This year's coffee harvest promises many jobs for Nicaraguan poor people, and profits for small-scale farmers. Photo Gigi Austin.
Picking coffee and learning about how coffee goes from the bush to the coffee cup is just one aspect of Spanish study at The Mountain School. The Leapnow students also dedicated several mornings to help the staff at the "ludo-biblioteca". This invented word means something like "fun library". This space is dedicated to the students of the nearby schools, to promote reading and creativity. These children come from homes where the parents can read little or none, and no books are ever seen in the home.
library
Leapnow students designed an astronomy exhibit for the local children in the after-school library project. Photo Gigi Austin.
Opening the world of imagination and information to poor, rural children ranks among the most noble of causes. The Spanish students from Leapnow gave of their time and abundant energy to decorate spaces, including a small exhibition of the wonders of astronomy. The skies are often clear in La Dalia, allowing ample views of starry nights. Hopefully, these children will see the same patterns that someone once named Orion, the Southern Cross, and Gemini. Or what if they even make their own designs among the arrays of lights?
The Mountain School
The Leapnow students helped decorate the after-school library at The Mountain School. Photo Gigi Austin.
Water will surely be the binding topic of the twenty-first century, worldwide. So many people will be without, others will be pressured to share. Floods and rising oceans will harm the lives of millions. In La Dalia, water abounds, year round. Streams teaming with clear, cool water flow faster than sound, tumbling over rocks and crashing in cascades.
waterfall
Water abounds in the mountains of northern Nicaragua. Photo Gigi Austin.
The Leapnow students took a cool swim in a nearby stream. Meditation in the mist of a cascade brings one ever closer to our origin. There is so much on this earth to enjoy just as it is, natural and simple. There is something of renewal about swimming; water brings us rebirth.
waterfall Nicaragua
Spanish students enjoy an afternoon swim near The Mountain School. Photo Gigi Austin.
The Leapnow students moved on and we are now preparing for the coming week, but we are grateful for Gigi, Skyler and all the students for sharing with us these two weeks.

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