There are less than four weeks left in my internship, and I've gone from feeling like I had all the time in the world to finish my projects, to feeling a wee bit stressed about getting everything wrapped up before it is time to head back to reality. I have to keep reminding myself that a) it will get done and b) they're not paying me. Still, sometime between now and the first week of August I need to see the rest of Nicaragua, write a social impact report, analyze a year's worth of deals and design and implement a monitoring and evaluation system (all things I clearly learned to do in my first year of business school). Apologies ahead of time if the blog gets neglected - saving the world apparently takes a lot of time.
I also need to make sure that the Asociacion Puesta del Sol on the Isla de Ometepe has a completed business plan before we go. Last week four of us set out for a consulting project in the community of La Paloma on the Island of Ometepe - which is formed by two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Cocibolca (which, incidentally, is the only lake in the world with sharks – thanks to an industrious few who swam up a river to the lake and decided to stay. At one point there were quite a few in the lake, but they have been mostly wiped out by fisherman – or so the people of La Paloma told us when we joined them for a swim in the lake.)
The association is made up of sixteen families who each offer up a room in their home for adventurous travelers who are looking for a rural community cultural immersion. They mainly work with groups from Canada who come to stay for several weeks or months and spend their time participating in the daily lives of the families (i.e. working in the fields) and doing various community projects. They offer a simple life and three meals a day (lots of beans and rice) – and the opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Ometepe by the way is on the list of contenders for the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World list. They don't really have a fair chance considering the voting is done online and there are only 38,000 residents, the majority of whom don’t have internet. But you can vote here: http://www.isladeometepe.com/.
But first we had to get there, which is no small task in itself as it involves a cab to the bus station, a bus to Rivas, a cab to the ferry, the ferry to Moyogalpa, and a van ride to La Paloma. Then it was two days of outlining and guiding the association through a business plan, all the while trying to avoid using too much (or really any) MBA speak and ignore the lake that was beckoning to us all day (our “office” for the two days had quite the view). In the end we felt like we had made a great deal of progress, and now its mainly up to one of the leaders of the group, Danelia, who will be in charge of getting everyone’s ideas down on paper and flushing out our outline. But, in theory, by the time we leave in four weeks they will have a business plan that they can use both to expand their work, as well as to show to potential NGOs and other organizations that might want to fund their projects (“rural tourism” is actually kind of big in these parts).
We did also make it into the lake, which was divine, and as far as we can tell, shark free. And Camila had yet another wonderful setting for her photographs. The great thing about living and traveling with a fantastic photographer like her is that you get to use some of her pictures in your blog (though for this post I only borrowed the shot below). The not so wonderful thing is that eventually you get your arm twisted into being her “model”. Not surprisingly, I’m not a very good or patient model.
I thought those of you who are part of the Stern Social Enterprise Association would appreciate how far our "Think Social" t-shirts have travelled (and yes mom, I'm sorry, I am riding in the back of a pick up truck - it was the only option) - as well as the fact that one of our first stipend recipients is taking to heart the "Drink Local" part as well.
Now we’re back in Managua, which I’ll have to say we’re learning to enjoy more and more during the week. The past few weeks we’ve gotten to hang out with Valeria, a friend from NYU who is Nicaraguan and has been in town visiting her parents. Thanks to her and her friends we’ve been able to branch out from the two areas of town that we know, and experience a bit more of Managuan lifestyle and culture.