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Monday, December 19, 2016

Environmental Volunteering in Laguna de Apoyo

Students of the American Nicaraguan School are helping to maintain a reforestation plot in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Gaia works with the local community to keep Laguna de Apoyo hospitable for wildlife. Photo John Jackson
Nicaragua is a country widely recognized for activism. During the 1980's, people came to Nicaragua individually and in groups to help with "the cause" which was, depending on the person, eradicating poverty and illiteracy, confronting the imperialism in its hostile acts against small and poor countries, or promoting socialism or some kind of bottom-up social and political organization. There were even food-based initiatives, promoting soy products and helping farmers produce with fewer chemicals and other costly inputs.

Lots of things have happened in a few decades, but Nicaragua is still poor, and other nations are still wealthy and privileged. It is like a dream that the Sandinistas are again prominent in Nicaraguan politics, as they were in the 1980's. Things are very different between the two periods, some of them being the focus of foreigners today. Whereas back then solidarity and similar issues were the focus of most visitors from developed countries, lots of people come to Nicaragua today to enjoy sun and surf, which simply didn't happen decades ago. The millenial culture in wealthy countries, however, is not entirely hedonistic. No one is willing to risk a bullet to go to war zones, as a few, notable activists did back then. Nonetheless, there is a kindness and concern for the earth that is each day greater among people from the developed countries of the world. And, climate change is real, so the environment is among the themes most attractive to young people today.

Young people heading to reforestation sites to provide assistance in forest restoration plots. Photo John Jackson. 
Another very big change over the thirty-year interval is in the connectivity worldwide that exists today. Back then, a telephone call to the US might take hours to connect, if at all, thanks to the embargo of the US government which blocked adequate development of communications systems. Today, most Nicaraguans are looking at their facebook accounts daily, sending messages to their mothers in distant countries, and reading the latest from all their friends both near and far. Long-distance communication is no longer the domain of the wealthy. With it, people know more about each other than ever before.

laguna de apoyo
Eco-Warrior Environmental Volunteers in Laguna de Apoyo can be drafted to take on even some simple tasks such as painting labels. Photo Pablo Somarriba. 

The closeness of people has also created a mutual affinity for some causes that transcend national boundaries. The environment, nature, and climate change are all issues that inspire people everywhere, today. GAIA is providing opportunities for both Nicaraguans and visitors to the country to give back to the environment, through forest restoration, wildlife rescue, monitoring of forest and wildlife conditions, and other activities that benefit the wild nature in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.

Trash collected along the beach of Laguna de Apoyo, much of which is to be recycled by the staff of Gaia. Thanks to so many who volunteered their energy to keep Laguna de Apoyo free of plastic! Photo John Jackson.

One person's trash is another's treasure. These plastic bottles are recycled or reused as reforestation planters. Photo John Jackson. 

GAIA works with groups of people from inside and outside Nicaragua, to support the environment. The idea that Nicaraguans can care and provide a benefit to the environment is a relatively new one, in which the influence of people visiting have helped to form opinions and demonstrate that even small groups of people can make a difference.

Lots of our visitors at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo help with the care of wild animals. We at GAIA tend to have some or another wild animal around which needs a lot of care. We cooperate with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment to care for any wild animals that need some kind of special treatment, usually because of an inappropriate reaction with a human. Some people stay for longer volunteer assignments and get more involved in the care and policies, even constructing and repairing enclosures.

This baby bird is a Montezuma Oropendola. Its nest was destroyed by a North American landowner who didn't like the idea of having a colony of nesting birds in his yard, and had the branch which held this baby's nest cut down. The local park guard from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment brought the bird to us to raise until the bird can fly and return to the wild. Photo John Jackson. 
We at GAIA would love to involve more Nicaraguans as volunteers in conservation activities. That's where you come in. We need your help to conduct these activities, either as a volunteer or a supporter with food, animal cages and transporters, or other resources. You can also provide assistance to our monitoring programs, where we follow bird, monkey and fish populations.  Please consider joining us or making a donation!

The forest restoration program managed by Gaia in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve means a lot more than what most people think when they consider "reforestation". Planting trees is just part of making a forest. These young people are heading to tend to trees planted in prior years, to assure maximum survival. Photo John Jackson. 

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

More on the Nicaragua Canal from the New York Times

This article recently appeared in the New York Times April 4, 2016. In it, Gaia scientist Jeffrey McCrary discusses some of the environmental implications of the canal.

Lost in Nicaragua, a Chinese Tycoon’s Canal Project

Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

BRITO, Nicaragua — A Spanish explorer conducted the first survey to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans here in the 16th century. Napoleon III of France dreamed about it. The railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt briefly had rights to do it. Nicaragua’s history is littered with dozens of failed canal schemes.
But when a Chinese billionaire, Wang Jing, officially broke ground in a field outside this sleepy Pacific Coast village about a year ago, many Nicaraguans believed that this time, finally, they would get their canal.
And not a small one, either. Three times as long and twice as deep as the Panama Canal, it would slice 170 miles across the southern part of the country — bulldozing through fragile ecosystems, virgin forests and scenes of incredible beauty. It would allow for the passage of the world’s largest ships, vessels the length of skyscrapers that are too big for the Panama Canal.
Yet 16 months later, Mr. Wang’s project — it would be the largest movement of earth in the planet’s history — is shrouded in mystery and producing angry protests here. President Daniel Ortega has not talked about the canal in public for months. And there are no visible signs of progress. Cows graze in the field where Mr. Wang officially began the project.
Experts say they are baffled by Mr. Wang’s canal. It may be backed by the Chinese government, part of its growing interest in Latin America, or may simply be a private investment cast adrift by the convulsions of China’s stock markets and its slowing economy.
At the time of the groundbreaking in December 2014, the Chinese government said it was not involved with the project. This and Mr. Wang’s recent setbacks — he has reportedly lost about 80 percent of his $10 billion fortune — make some experts say the deal is probably dead.
Others, however, say Chinese business practices are so opaque that it is hard to tell. Facilitating the movement of goods from the Pacific to the Atlantic aligns with Chinese interests, and the cost of the project is hardly an obstacle if the Chinese government wants to go forward — if it is involved.

Officials of Mr. Wang’s company say they are simply taking more time to do precon

“It’s a project that has been notoriously nontransparent,” said Margaret Myers, the director of the China and Latin America program at Inter-American Dialogue, a policy institute in Washington. She says she believes the project is probably dead for lack of funds, but like most experts is not sure.
What does seem clear is that the project’s critics — environmentalists, human rights advocates and economists — have grown more outspoken and organized. In this part of the country, many homeowners have stenciled “Go Away Chinese” on the sides of their houses, and virtually all the re-election posters for Mr. Ortega have been hit with black paint balls.
When he announced the deal in 2013, Mr. Ortega, a left-wing guerrilla turned pro-business politician, promised that the canal would transformNicaragua and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, eventually doubling the country’s gross domestic product. Many Nicaraguans, eager for a better future, embraced the idea, and many still do.
But a growing number say the benefits of the deal are not so clear.
Some question whether the canal would even be commercially viable. Few supertankers and massive container ships now afloat will not be able to pass through the expanded Panama Canal set to open soon. And few ports are big enough to welcome those megaships. In the short term, some experts say, the combination of the Panama and Nicaragua canals would lead to overcapacity and price wars.
There are also concerns about the seismic activity in the area, or the many volcanos. Some analysts point to China’s poor record on environmental matters and Mr. Wang’s inexperience in building anything, let alone a $50 billion (some say $80 billion) canal carving through miles of protected areas that are home to many endangered species, including the jaguar, and legally recognized indigenous lands. The little-known Mr. Wang made his fortune in telecommunications, not in construction.
And then there is the 50-mile trench to be dug on the floor of Lake Nicaragua, the largest body of fresh water in Central America — which many fear could end up contaminating, even killing, the lake.
Economists and human rights activists also object to the powers Mr. Wang has to expropriate land at far less than market rates, saying the terms of Mr. Wang’s concession could discourage anyone else from investing in Nicaragua.

Route of
proposed canal
Pacific Ocean

That aspect has prompted protests from farmers, some of which have turned violent. Experts say Mr. Wang will have to pay only the assessed value, or about 5 percent of the market value, for any lands he takes. But many farmers would not be entitled to even that. In a country that is short of adequate roads and government offices, many do not have formal title to the fields they have cultivated for generations.
Juan Sebastián Chamorro, the general director of theFunides research institute, who has come out against the canal, said the agreement with Mr. Wang, rushed through Parliament and enshrined in the Constitution, effectively made no landowner safe anywhere in the country.
“In theory, if Mr. Wang wanted to take this building we are sitting in right now for his project, he could,” Mr. Chamorro said, his hand sweeping across his office in downtown Managua, the capital. “Who would want to buy or build here with that possibility hanging over their heads?”
Mr. Chamorro said that the majority of the construction jobs would not go to Nicaraguans and that Panama did not become prosperous until it won control of its canal. That is unlikely to happen here for 100 years, according to the agreement with Mr. Wang, which he can sell to a third party.
Under the current plan, the canal would begin along a stretch of pristine beach in Brito, then cut through Lake Nicaragua, which, with two volcanoes rising out of it, is one of the country’s major tourist destinations. It would reach the Caribbean coast by cutting through the land of the Rama and Kriol people, in areas that are not accessible by road right now.
But the plan is much broader than just a canal. Mr. Wang’s vision includes new airports, new ports on both ends of the canal, new lakes in the mountains to make sure the canal has enough water, and new islands in Lake Nicaragua to dispose of excavated sediment and rock.
A 1,100-page study of the project, conducted by the British consulting firm ERM and issued five months ago, reinforced the notion of how much is at stake. It recommended further studies in many areas before going forward and noted that a wide range of mitigation efforts would be needed, like reforestation and job training.
Some see hope in those efforts. Jeffrey McCrary, an American fish biologist who lives in Nicaragua and worked on the study, supports the project, saying Mr. Wang’s company will have to provide money to clean up environmental damage already caused by deforestation, poor land management, crop fumigation and general dumping into Lake Nicaragua.

“I’ve seen that lake, and it is in miserable shape,” he said. “Are we going to kill a lot of fish to build the canal? Yeah, we are. But without the canal, I think we are doomed.”
Kamilo Lara, a member of the Nicaragua Canal Commission, a group appointed by the government to oversee the project, said many critics of the project were political opportunists. Mr. Lara said the canal plan had been adjusted to deal with problem issues, like potential earthquakes, tsunamis and environmental concerns. And people who might be displaced by it, he said, could be moved to small cities with new schools and services they never had before.
“I have been to China,” he said. “I saw the incredible capital they have to invest.”
In answers to written questions, Pang Kwok Wai, the executive vice president of Mr. Wang’s company, the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company, said Mr. Wang was in talks with potential investors and would announce progress “in due form.” He said Mr. Wang had already invested about $500 million of his own money.
Mr. Pang also said the company, though not obligated to do so, would pay market rates for the land it wanted. “We are in Nicaragua to bring progress and play a fair game,” he said.
In the meantime, speculating about the canal has become a national pastime, though polls show that Nicaraguans grow less inclined to believe that it will be built.
“We used to talk about it every day,” said Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the editor of Confidencial, an investigative magazine. “Now we only talk about it every two days.”
Some still hope it will lift this country out of poverty.
But in Brito and the nearby city of Rivas, those who expect to be displaced are angry. Teresa de Jesus Henriquez Delgado, 31, is one of the residents who used a stencil to paint “Go Away Chinese!” on the outside of her house.
“I will resist with all of my strength when the bulldozers come to tear down my house,” she said. “I will fight until I die. I have to for my children. They can’t take this land from my family.”

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Nuestras Aguas Contaminadas en Nicaragua

Captura de peces en la Laguna de Masaya realizada por Gaia y el equipo del Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya. Foto Marten Hogencamp.
Nicaragua es un país bendecido por sus recursos acuáticos como casi ningún otro. Sin embargo, el manejo de estos recursos ha sido fenomenalmente malo, desde hace muchas décadas atrás. Xolotlán (también conocido como Lago Managua) ahora se clasifica como hipertrófico, es decir la población bacteriana figura muy fuerte en la ecología del lago. Está con enormes cantidades de sedimentos de todas las cuencas que se dirigen al lago, donde el manejo de tierras no ha prevenido la erosión de suelo ni la retención de agua en los acuíferos subacuáticos para el uso humano. No obstante, un siglo atrás, este lago abastecía a los Managuas y muchas otras comunidades con agua potable. Notables cantidades de residuos sólidos municipales entran sin ningún impedimento durante cad alluvia mediante grandes cauces que atraviesan la capital. Los sedimentos en el fondo del lago se encuentran contaminados con químicos industriales y agroquímicos.

Estarán claras las aguas de la Laguna de Apoyo siempre? 
El Lago Cocibolca (también llamado Lago Nicaragua) sufre el mismo proceso de contaminación que el Xolotlán, aunque sus cambios han sido más lentos, debido al gran tamaño del lago, una salida caudalosa, y la dicha de no estar en la orilla de Managua, donde volúmenes desmedidos de desechos se generan. Los cultivos de arroz ocupan fumigación aérea, las ciudades en la cuenca tienen poca capacidad de gestión de aguas servidas. 

Las lagunas cratéricas, ubicadas en los conos de numerosos volcanes en Nicaragua, también se encuentran en crises, hasta los ríos que sufren por el mal manejo de los bosques en su orilla, y la introducción de suelos en el río desde fincas, minas y ciudades.
Aquí se presenta en dos partes un video elaborado por nuestros amigos  sobre el manejo de las aguas naturales en Nicaragua. Entre las lagunas en riesgo se encuentra la Laguna de Apoyo, ahora un foco de turismo muy fuerte; Laguna de Nejapa, que se encuentra casi seca; Laguna Masaya, afectada por desechos sólidos y aguas residuales de la ciudad de Masaya. 

Algunos aspectos de los problemas de agua se encuentran en el siguiente video, dividido en dos partes, elaborado por Fundación Luciérniga. Les invitamos a considerarlo. 

Un factor que hace tan difícil la contaminación de las aguas naturales, es que no se encuentra un individuo o grupo pequeño como culpable. Los responsables de la contaminación de las aguas son muchos, o más bien somos todos. La falta de existencia de políticas públicas que pueden proteger a las aguas trasciende generaciones y gobiernos desde la extrema izquierda hasta la extrema derecha. Una conversación largo para planificar las acciones necesarias para proteger a nuestras aguas es necesario. Quieres participar en el cuido de nuestras aguas? 
agua en Nicaragua
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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero

Thirty-six years ago today, the Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, was assassinated during mass. It was a stunning act of treachery, ordered and executed from within the people in power. But instead of silencing Oscar Romero, his best intentions were made immortal.

Romero was not a highly politicized person; in fact, he shunned the liberation theology movement around him. His cause was steadfastly with the poor, social justice, and the cessation of the violence that had engulfed his country.

The histories of these tiny republics along the Central American Isthmus are written in the blood or martyrs like Oscar Romero. No country has been immune to the violence that has taken the lives of many people of high profile, such as Romero and Benjamin Linder in Nicaragua, who are emblems for a much wider and deeper problem of violations of the rights and even murders of thousands of nameless people.

Here are some words of Oscar Romero, something on which to reflect while enjoying this marvelous holiday.

Oscar Romero
Portrait of Oscar Romero by Puig Reixach.

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Oscar Romero

Monday, March 7, 2016

Graduation Day 2015 in Nicaragua Christian School

Nicaragua once was considered the "breadbasket" of Central America. Through the end of the 1960's and into the beginning of the next decade, money could be made in cattle, coffee and cotton. A lot of things happened from then to now, among them, the grim realization that cotton was no longer viable in Nicaragua, and the soils where it had been farmed were now laden with heavy loads of pesticides. These brownfields lined the roads in Leon and Chinandega departments in western Nicaragua. Other things happened as well, such as the realization that many people really did not benefit from any of the supposed prosperity previously lived in the country. Large numbers of people have no reasonable place to live, where they can work, and provide consistently for their families.

Some of the former cotton fields, lying fallow for decades, have been converted to residential neighborhoods for poor people. These lands have been divided into lots about 15 per acre, and people moved onto the plots into shacks made of scrap metal, plastic, sticks, cardboard and other materials improvised into houses. Electricity was supplied through pirated connections on the edge of the neighborhood, using uncoated barbed wire instead of real electrical cables. Water mains were inexistent initially, and people were subjected to purchasing water from trucks, filling open barrels they maintained on their properties. Little by little, these people invested in construction materials to build walls and roofs, piece by piece.
A former cotton field has become home for many people living in marginal conditions in the Ruben Dario neighborhood in Leon. Beyond the residences, peanuts are cultivated. 
Nicaragua Christian School
Staff and members of the board of directors of Nicaragua Christian School. 
Children and parents are assembling in the auditorium at Nicaragua Christian School, for the 2015 graduation ceremony. 
Nicaragua Christian School
Murals with inspiring messages have been placed in several classrooms with the help of volunteers from the United States.
Many happy children (and parents) could be found on graduation day.

In this neighborhood, the mayor of Leon and the board of directors of Nicaragua Christian School agreed to place a school. The people living in this neighborhood can find work these days in a variety of sweatshops, where clothing and other light assembling industries are found in free trade zones. The salaries start at around 88 dollars per month, and do not include any benefit such as lunch, coffee, or even transport to the workplace. The more fortunate people in this neighborhood, the ones who can get and keep jobs in factories, have hard lives. Other folks have harder lives.

Anyone who enjoyed a stable childhood with a loving family realizes the importance of the school as a pillar in the process of growing up. The role of a school extends far beyond learning math and reading; it has a role in the spiritual and emotional health of the adult which each child becomes, even more when so many disruptions are part of the family experience. Families who migrate are often responding to disruptions in their family life and moving is, for the children, yet another huge disruption which can make growing up very difficult.

Migrants in humble circumstances are all too often received with indifference or hostility, as one humble family learned over two thousand years ago. The difficult experiences of the parents and children of Nicaragua Christian School parallel those lived by Jesus and his humble family. It is hard to overstate the difficulties facing the parents and children of Nicaragua Christian School. All the families are migrants from what must have been even worse situations, into a problematic, impoverished neighborhood. What were cotton fields during the economic boom of the 1960's and 1970's had long since become useless, contaminated brownfields which no one wanted. A free trade zone with factories making clothing and other articles for the US consumer markets has recently developed along the margins of this abandoned farmland, and the fields have been filled with low-cost housing. Tens of thousands of the poorest Nicaraguans have migrated into this area in search of a better life, some of them poor, others poorer. Several sections of the neighborhood face dismal circumstances, in which people live under nothing more than a plastic sheet suspended by sticks. The factories employ unskilled and semiskilled workers and provide dismal wages, which nonetheless far exceed any other economic opportunity for most people in the area.

It is precisely this impoverished neighborhood which the Nicaragua Christian School serves as an anchor in many ways beyond an ordinary school. The success of Nicaragua Christian School is easily noted by the way the community is involved there. Parents of the students clean, cut grass, and perform all kinds of chores at the school. School events are always well-attended by family members, who take an exceptional interest in their children. The students are particularly orderly and respectful, in contrast to other schools in Nicaragua. Sundays, the auditorium is ringing with songs from a church service, attended by many families in the neighborhood. Local sporting events and community meetings are often held on the campus, bringing the school to the larger community in the neighborhood.

The students and the school have won a few notable awards for scholastic activity, too. But, the best awards are children who grow into adults whose despair is replaced by hope and faith. A strong education under the guidance of principled, well-qualified teachers in a program which emphasizes Christian values is a great attraction to the parents throughout the neighborhood. The school has often been visited by mayors, ministers and even members of the National Assembly, but the school’s teachers and administrators are clear that the most important people at this school are the parents and children of this poor neighborhood.

Every person associated with the Nicaragua Christian School is aware that someone gave from their savings to provide the books, the salaries for the teachers, the electricity and the buildings. The good will demonstrated by so many from afar is sensed by the parents who respond willingly by helping in all kinds of ways, as they can. Not everyone who donates has the opportunity to visit Nicaragua Christian School, but those who do can confirm that gratitude and love abound among the students and families of the school. The school has become an important pillar for their fragile existence in a new neighborhood, as they seek to create a more stable life for their families a day at a time. 
No better title to the school can exist than, "Sharing God and his love", as is emblazoned across the website for the Nicaragua Christian School. The children learn that they are loved at all moments in a very positive atmosphere. If you would like more information about Nicaragua Christian School, write us at Gaia or directly to the folks at the school here. We believe in this project, which is transforming lives and families materially, academically, and spiritually. Below are some videos from the 2015 graduation experience.

Nicaragua Christian School

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Volcano Craziness

Nicaragua has been called the land of lakes and volcanoes. Both dominate the views throughout the Pacific region of the country. Lately, volcanic activity has dominated the national news and the minds of all who live near them. The authorities have evacuated employees from some locations and some residents from a few locations, while intense monitoring of the situation continues. Here is a video of the dramatic volcanic activity in the Santiago Crater of Volcano Masaya.

There are, currently, five volcanoes in Nicaragua that are declared "active", which means something far beyond just heat on the surface or active fumaroles. These are Masaya, Momotombo, Cerro Negro, San Cristobal, and Telica. All are worth a view. The Volcano Masaya National Park is closed until further notice. In this area, the volcanic activity far exceeds anything that has happened there in more than 200 years. Views are best during the evening, particularly during a new moon, either from the Masaya-Managua highway or along the Malecon in the city of Masaya.

Volcano Masaya
The INETER Volcano Cam from 4 March 2016, shows an intense glow on the smoke emitted from the volcano. 

The Masaya Volcano is the main attraction of the Volcano Masaya National Park, located just north of the city of Masaya. The top portion of the crater is devoid of vegetation, hot and arid, and much of its flanks are covered only in annual plants which burn during the occasional dry season forest fires. Trees can not grow in these areas because of the intense heat which reaches to very near the surface of the soil. A volcanic crater lake, one of eleven found in the country, also can be seen in the park.

Make a trip to see them, but remember to be safe and obey the laws and current prohibitions!

Masaya Volcano
The smoke emerging from the mouth of the Santiago crater at Volcano Masaya National Park. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

Volcano Masaya
Even on a good day, Volcano Masaya emits enormous quantities of smoke and noxious, corrosive gases. It is the largest source of mercury emission in the western hemisphere. On the flanks of the crater interior, a parakeets roost and reproduce in holes, some of which can be seen in the photo. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

Momotombo Volcano rises from the north edge of Lake Managua. Its sister volcano, Momotombito, can be seen in the distance, an island in the lake. Photo Brenda McCrary.

Casitas Nicaragua
Casitas Volcano has active fumaroles near the summit.

Nicaragua Volcano
The smoking crater of El Hoyo Volcano, as seen from the summit of Casitas. 
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Workshop for Spanish Language Teachers

Learning Spanish requires a lot of effort over a long period on the part of the learner and accurate guidance from well-planned classes to keep the student out of grammatical pitfalls. Gaia has been training Spanish language teachers for decades, and the best school in Nicaragua use teachers that have been trained by us. We take seriously the goal of Spanish language learning and we invest in the training of our teachers to provide the best pedagogical tools for learning. Our Spanish courses in Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo are famous, having existed for longer than at any other Spanish school in Nicaragua.

Managua Spanish School
Mayela explains Spanish class organization with workshop
participants looking on. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
January is always a busy month in Estación Biológica in Laguna de Apoyo, and this past January was no different. Among our many activities was a workshop for Spanish language teacher training, held in the shade of our marvelous trees 29 January. Mayela Blas, who herself began her career as a Spanish language teacher with us in Apoyo Spanish School, conducted the workshop with thirteen participants. Our teachers were exposed to some of the theoretical aspects of language transmission, as well as some of the practical elements of Spanish language instruction such as lesson planning techniques.

Participants in the workshop combined a power-point
presentation with the informality of our shaded patio for a
relaxing setting to learn. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Participants came from neighboring departments and Managua, and were given an excellent presentation by Mayela. More of these events will be programmed during the year 2016 at Apoyo Spanish School. We consider our job to teach our students and to make all the Spanish language teachers, throughout the country, as capable and responsive to the needs of the students as is possible. We have been the Spanish school that teaches the teachers for a long time, and as this workshop demonstrates, we continue to provide assistance to the entire community of Spanish teachers. In addition, we used the workshop as our moment to launch our newest project at Gaia: Managua Spanish School.

Now, Gaia provides two different options for learning Spanish, both in Laguna de Apoyo, and in the Managua area. Professionals who can't travel far from the capital may find Managua Spanish School just the right fit.

Spanish instruction
Some of the participants in the January workshop. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Would you like to be involved as a Spanish language teacher? Additional workshops will be conducted during the year 2016, including topics from the use of poetry and prose in teaching Spanish, how to evaluate student language progress, and teaching techniques for specific applications.

Or perhaps you would like to learn to speak Spanish. We are prepared to help you learn Spanish, from the most elementary levels to the finer points of fluency. We can provide Spanish instruction for you in Laguna de Apoyo or in Managua. Please contact us for more information.

Managua Spanish School

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Enjoying Laguna de Apoyo

Among the most powerful images that come to mind when one thinks of Nicaragua are those of Laguna de Apoyo. Both foreign travelers and Nicaraguans are stunned by the views. The lake occupies a deep, wide volcanic crater, with relatively steep interior sides, making the lake essentially occupy a hole in the ground. Its clear water is warm, inviting and clean.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Lucy Lia Real.
Although most references to Apoyo characterize it as a lake, it is a true volcano. The lake is often called a crater lake, in which its water has no open flows outward. In fact, its volcanic origins are demonstrated, as there are warm water vents in the lake at several points. Its shape is considerably different from other, more typical volcanoes, such as Masaya and Mombacho, between which Apoyo lies. There is no overground flow of water out of the lake, and its water is slightly salty.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Enrique Palacios Jeyson Hondoy.
Especially on the weekends, Nicaraguans from the neighboring towns love to visit Laguna de Apoyo, where they can picnic and relax in a natural setting, and the few who can swim my get into the water. The entire shoreline is public, making access to the lake wide, although many property owners along the shoreline may not cooperate with access to the water easily.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
There really is nothing better than being on the lake, in the water. But that is not the only way to enjoy the lake. The view from Catarina, for instance, is spectacular, and one is often serenaded by folk musicians. There, one can enjoy an ice cream or even a full dinner while marveling at the constantly changing hues in patchwork style across the water, with Volcano Mombacho to the right, Granada and Lake Nicaragua beyond, and Volcano Masaya to the left.
Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua
Photo Belen Camino.
The lake can produce whitecaps during the dry season, but when still, especially in the mornings of the rainy season (May through November), the lake can reflect the profiles on the opposite side. Mombacho, often capped by lenticular clouds, faces the viewer when observing from behind Estacion Biologica.
Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Anne Sutton.
Tourism to Laguna de Apoyo can be massive during certain periods, especially around Easter week. Other times, such as in October, can be relatively quiet. Not only the traffic varies with the season, but also the water and the surrounding forests. Winds are constant during the dry season, making the lake more choppy, whereas the surface may be smooth and reflective as a mirror during the rainy season.
Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Regina Bernheim Delgadillo.
Some of the beaches, such as in front of Estacion Biologica, are made of black, volcanic sand. Others are rocky and steep. The lake varies from place to place. The water is warm (28 degrees C) year-round.
Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Lucy Lia Real.

Laguna de Apoyo
The sirens of Ulysees may appear along the shore of Lake Apoyo. Photo Jen Moran.
Although the black sand is characterized by eroded, volcanic obsidian, but other rocks are prominent along the water's edge, particularly pumice which floats and accumulates along the water's edge. Beaches may also contain patches of clay in some locations, and large, composite boulders are found alongside obsidian.

Laguna de Apoyo
Clouds tend to set in during the rainy season, from May through November. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The water of Laguna de Apoyo is slightly salty with volcanic minerals. There are no currents and the waves are very small. The lakefront in most places has a steeply inclined shoreline, but in front of Estacion Biologica, the shoreline is gently sloped, providing a large area in which one can stand and relax, while swimming in deeper water is possible just a few meters further inward.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Heyling Aviles.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Lucy Lia Real.
Would you like to visit us for a swim and lunch? Or stay a few days? Please contact us to enjoy our wonderful Lake Apoyo.

Laguna de Apoyo