Recently, Istation's Vice President of Interactive Learning Technology traveled to Nicaragua to document how a rural school had implemented and was using Istation in the classroom. We previously debuted Part One of Jeremy's travel log. Now, we're picking up Jeremy's story with Part Two: From Managua to El Tránsito
The two of us rushed out into the heat and across the parking lot to her SUV. I could smell the sun-heated tar in the air from the black asphalt. I swung open the door of the worn-out SUV and stepped inside. We were off. We drove as quickly as we could through a sea of traffic and roadside vendors selling bags of water and fruit, along urban streets, then through old neighborhoods and into the outskirts of Managua. The city landscape transitioned into a vast and barren, sun-blistered terrain littered with thorny trees, sloping hills, and jagged cliffs. Volcanoes stood watch over the land like giants in the distance. I took it all in and snapped quick photos on my iPhone between reviewing my notes for the interview. I looked up from time to time and noticed wooden shacks along the road—people’s houses pieced together from found materials. Roofs were tin or palm leaves, and the walls were a conglomerate of wooden planks, plywood, and concrete.
We navigated across the countryside and came to an unpaved road divided by barbed wire. “This is the road to El Tránsito,” Maria said as she made a hard left. The road was a rocky, compressed, earthy-gray soil. I could taste the dust in my mouth coming through the air-conditioning vents. I took more photos and went back to my notes as we twisted around narrow roads and over hills towards the western coast.
We soon rounded a tight curve, and Maria suddenly jammed on the brakes. The SUV skidded to a stop in the dirt road. “Traffic,” she said. Looking up from my notes, frustrated and worried we would be late for the interview, I peered down the road. Expecting the worst, we both started laughing. I reached for my iPhone and fumbled my way to the camera app as quick as I could. Walking towards us was a group of oxen. One by one, each ox crested the small hill about 30 yards in front of us. “They must have jumped the fence. This is our version of traffic here,” Maria said. The group of oxen didn’t deviate from their path as Maria slowly weaved between them. Smiling and realizing I was being introduced to a very different way of life, I snapped a photo and wished I could get a cell phone signal to share the moment on Twitter.
We arrived in El Tránsito just before 3 p.m. We were on our way to the school to meet Michael Parrales, the Director of CREA, the person I was to interview. We drove over a hill and there it was: a sleepy village next to the coast. It was beautiful and stark at the same time. In the distance I could see the blue water of the Pacific, black volcanic rocks, and a beach. The sky was cerulean, cloudless. Dozens of houses and buildings with rusted corrugated metal roofs blanketed the rolling hills down to the edge of the beach. The trees, bushes, and plants looked dry and brittle, almost dead. It was the dry season and it wouldn’t rain for a least a month, but there was evidence of erosion along the steep slopes everywhere. Outside my window an elderly women sat in a rickety wooden chair near a horse so thin I could count each rib. At the edge of the road, chickens pecked into gravel and people glanced our way as we passed by. It was if the world was in slow motion.
Maria turned onto what looked like the entrance to the village, where the road turned narrow and extremely rocky. The runoff from heavy downpours had cut swaths of ruts into the earth crossing the road. It was impossible to avoid hitting the tops of large exposed rocks. I lurched forward in my seat and grabbed the dash to brace myself. “The terrain isn’t kind to vehicles is it?” I asked. Maria shook her head. “We have to fix them all the time,” she explained. Rural Nicaragua is a harsh environment, and everything in sight looked cooked and weathered by the sun. Nothing we drove by as we entered the village was new, and every house we passed looked the same, as did the look on the faces of the people. It was a place of acceptance. This was El Tránsito.
Stay tuned for even more details about Jeremy's journey to Nicaragua!