Lessons Learned and Things to Note

With only a few days left in my stay in Nicaragua, I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences. Below are some of the many things I’ve learned and things to remember for future travels:

1) How to change a flat tire.
2) In a manual, if the battery is dead there are two ways you can restart the car:
– Push the car and attempt to start the engine when the car has picked up enough speed.
– Remove dead battery and replace with charged battery from another car. Start the engine. While the car is running, remove good battery and replace with dead battery. The dead battery can now charge in the running car.
1) Do not touch large stalks of green bamboo. There are little hairs on the surface that cling to your hand and they’re prickly and irritating.
2) Bamboo is incredibly flexible and can handle adverse conditions.
1) Linaza (or Lino) is an excellent natural laxative. It can be found commonly in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
2) Consuming papaya and chia seeds help prevent parasites.
3) Maduro is delicious.
4) Dragon fruit is fantastic (especially in milkshakes). It has a bright pink/purple color and is similar to beets in that it can discolor your urine (so don’t be alarmed).
1) Don’t expect to be able to charge a computer battery in all locations. Electricity outages are common.
2) CC people appropriately
1) Pack or have a small travel bag for weekend excursions.
2) Sneakers are not the same as hiking boots.
3) Some clothes and shoes are a waste of packing space: reflect upon weather, activities, and situation before leaving. Just because the local people dress a certain way (such as in pants) doesn’t mean that you can handle the heat!
4) Find local gym faster- being able to run/do a particular form of exercise isn’t always a possibility.
More sustainable initiatives needed in Nicaragua:
1) The road is a trashcan. When riding in buses people dump their garbage out the window.
2) Plastic is used for everything: drinks that are sold on the street are filled in little plastic baggies with a straw sticking out and To-Go boxes are To-Go bags (filled with food-literally just dumped straight into the bag).
Things I value and have a greater appreciation for:
1) Cold showers
2) Vegetables
3) Air conditioning

Winding Down… and Volcano Boarding!

With less than a week to go, everything is winding down! The past couple of weeks I have worked with my client to get the design to a good point. As of yesterday, everything seems finalized. Everything left is financial based and getting through the red tape (getting loans, permits, etc.). Hopefully, everything will progress as planned and soon construction will be underway!

On a non-work related note, this past weekend, I had the opportunity to go Volcano Boarding down Cerro Negro! I definitely recommend the adventure to any thrill seekers looking for a fun experience! Admittedly, if you don’t take it fast enough (like me) you feel slightly regretful as you only get to go down once…

The adventure starts with a 45 minute to 1 hour hike (depending on your speed and the speed of the group) up the volcano carrying a wooden board with a rope (your sled) and a bag with a jumpsuit, goggles, and anything else you deemed necessary for the trek. I put sunscreen in the bag, but never used it… At first the bag, awkwardly dangling, and board don’t seem too terrible to carry; however, after about 20 minutes, the 30ish lbs of awkwardly sized and distributed weight starts seeming much more significant.

Recommendation for the women: bring a man so you can easily dump your stuff. It means you’ll have less to carry/your arms will be pain free the next day.

Recommendation for the men: go alone, with other men, or with someone who won’t dump their stuff on you.
Once you reach the top, you sit on your board and you sled down. You determine your speed and direction (steering and braking with your heels). The part you sled down is 600 m in length. The beginning is around a 37-38 degree angle and the steepest part is at 41 degrees. The ride goes by quickly so go fast, hold on tight, and hope you don’t crash and burn!
Sadly, I have no pictures of this excursion because I went alone and was too lazy to charge/bring my camera.

Note: Remember to keep your mouth closed. Rocks fly everywhere and you don’t want to spend a good portion of your ride down coughing up dust/spitting out rocks. Oops!

Exciting News!

The past week has been rather hectic but it has also been incredibly exciting! Having met with a new client, I was tasked with designing a shopping center. The shopping center is to be developed in a series of phases.

This past week, I have worked throughout the day and have paced myself throughout the night so that I’d have a presentable design for our client meeting on Saturday. There were quite a few late nights, revisions, and changes. The intensity of the week definitely made me feel as though I was back in design school with one major difference: that which I was to present would have the potential of being built!

After pulling many late nights, I met with the our client on Saturday and she loved my design! I’m ecstatic and excited for the next phase of the process. I have a lot more work ahead and a lot more to learn in the next few weeks but I’m incredibly excited for what’s ahead!

Updates on my new project to come! 🙂

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RIP Miguelitos

This morning we found two mice trapped in a bucket. They were very small (in comparison to Miguel) so it seems as though we may have a family of mice. Being young and not so bright, they must have fallen in the bucket sometime during the night. After taking them outside, the little Miguelitos were squashed…



Bamboo Hunting!

The major project that I have been assigned to work on for my stay is helping with the building and development of the hotel project which is currently underway. I’ve been doing numerous small assignments to help with this development (including meeting with the client to discuss changes to the design, incorporating these changes into the drawings, and creating the structural panel design for the project). However, for the past 5 days, I had the opportunity to leave the office and go bamboo hunting!

Essentially, we spent the days driving around in a vehicle looking for usable bamboo. When we found some, we used the GPS tracker to chart our location. We also met with some farmers who had been growing bamboo for a couple of years. CO2 had started work with them previously and these meetings were more to check up on how everything was growing. Sometimes, we would just hop out of the car since the bamboo was visible from the road. Twice, we had to hike to the bamboo and I found this to be the most exciting.

From the trip, I’ve learned two valuable lessons:

1) Get hiking shoes: in the rainy season, running shoes are unable to handle the slippery and muddy slopes.
2) Large stalks of green bamboo are not smooth to touch! After picking up the thin stalks and carefully avoiding their thorns, I felt the need to touch the large stalks as well. Turns out the surface is covered in small hairs that cling to your skin. They’re itchy and are like thousands of small needles that embed themselves in your skin.

A “highlight” of my trip was my discovery of a new form of liberation. Given that in the countryside there are no restrooms and in Nicaragua there is no such thing as indecent exposure, the roadside became my new best friend. While most women (I’m told) wouldn’t go far from the vehicle, I would spend large spans of time looking for the perfect spot (which would provide me with enough privacy) as we drove along the ever bumpy gravel roads. I was only watched once (by a cow).

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The House in Managua

Living in Managua is much more limiting as everything in the city is far from our house and we don’t have access to a car. Managua also isn’t the safest so at night, we (the four boys I live with and myself) are confined in the house which also doubles as the office. Of the boys, two work on the design team and the other two are brothers of the head of the design team.

I have developed my Managua routine: wake up, work, go eat lunch, get really hot from the heat, work, shove myself directly in front of the fan, work, chill on computer, dinner, relax, bed, and repeat! While there isn’t that much to do (since we don’t have a car), I am definitely getting my local food fix! For lunch we always go to the same place. For 50 cordoba (about $2.00) you get a plate loaded with rice, a choice of beans or another side, choice of meat, salad, juice, and then either sweet or fried plantains. For dinner, we get pupusas (my new favorite food in Nicaragua although it originates from El Salvador). We eat out for lunch and dinner because we don’t have a refrigerator.

The bug situation is slightly different in the Managua house. While there are no roaches, there are tons of invisible mosquitoes. I never see them flying around but they somehow have managed to make a feast of my legs. I thought the mosquitoes in North Carolina were bad; however, those I could at least see.

Another adjustment has been to the mouse that roams the house. Upon arriving I was set on getting a trap to get rid of him; however, now I’ve developed the same fondness for the ratoncito everyone else has. We’ve named him Miguel and he dashes across the floor occasionally throughout the day. I keep on trying to get a picture of him but he’s much too quick!

We only have electricity running through some of the rooms. The bathroom has no light. When I shower each night I usually do a little dance (in case Miguel is in the bathroom with me so he knows to stay away)…

Overall, I’m very comfortable in the house in Managua just a wee bit bored at the end of the work day.

This weekend I’m off to the beach to meet a client for the project I’ll be working on. I’m incredibly excited and will let you know how it goes!

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The House in Granada

CO2 Bambu has two office locations: the design team is located in Managua and everyone else is in Granada. CO2 has been incredibly flexible and I have a place to stay in both locations. The bus ride in between is about an hour and a half long and it costs me 22 Cordoba to make the trip (a little less than $1.00).

The house in Granada is completely open. While you are inside the house, you are never truly indoors. The walls on either side of the house are shared with our neighbors and there are two major spaces that are completely open to the sky above. Think of those spaces like a courtyard (when it rains, you will get wet). One of the open spaces is a garden, the other is where we hang our laundry. It is absolutely beautiful. I love the way garden spaces coincide with living space- a common feature with buildings in Granada. Given the general openness of the house, the greatest adjustment for me has been learning to live with the bugs. As all the enclosed rooms have openings to the exterior, bugs have full reign. While I’m not bothered by the little insects, the large roaches that scuttle about are particularly frightful. Having had many bad encounters with bugs in my lifetime, my fear of insects is HUGE. (One of these experiences includes a 2 hour battle with a massive roach which, in attempt to kill it, flew into my face). However, I feel I’m beginning to conquer (or perhaps suppress) the fear. Now, when I see a roach romping around the kitchen, I quickly leave and avoid the room for the rest of the day.

There is no hot water. While I typically love scalding showers, the lack of air conditioning and the sweltering heat has given me a new appreciation for a cool and refreshing bath. The lack of hot water does make washing dishes difficult though…

The kitchen is fully equipped. We have a fridge, sink, and stove. I have done a bit of cooking. My eggs always turn out… not the way I intend. Our pots and pans are a bit worn and throughout cooking, the flame has to be adjusted constantly. Even with my dicey eggs and my burnt potatoes, I consider myself a master of the gas stove and oven!

The house in Managua is a totally different experience… more to come on that soon!

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