A Day at the Beach
I have realized that the experiences I had when Mary and I went to the beach a few weeks ago are a good reflection of my time in Nicaragua so far. We went with Mary’s host mother, Grizelda, in an old school bus packed to the brim with people going towards the beach of Las Peñitas. We decided that morning that we might go kayaking in the Reserva Isla Juan Venado. We arrived at a beachside restaurant that also managed kayak and boat tours, but there was some confusion over prices and rental length. The tide would also have been strong coming back to the beach in the kayaks and Grizelda was more comfortable going in a motor boat anyway. The motor boat rides through the restaurant were expensive, so Grizelda talked to a friend of hers who was a waitress there and her friend introduced us to an independent guide who turned out to be really informative. We ate lunch and then went with the man, named Don Felipe, and his young son in his motor boat to see the Reserva and the mangrove forest.
The boat ride was amazing and incredibly beautiful. We saw some neat birds even though our guide told us that the tide was too high to see many of them. We didn’t see any of the deer the island is named for since it seemed like they lived more inland. Don Felipe was really enthusiastic about telling us there are crocodiles in the area and pointed out two spots where they sleep sometimes. It would have been cool to see them, but at the same time I am glad that we didn’t run into any crocodiles. The mangrove forest was damaged from a hurricane in the last decade and now reforestation efforts are underway to maintain the number of trees. Our guide showed us the seeds and how the tops are removed and then the seeds are dropped into the water to find a good spot to grow. It was nice to find out that in the reserve at least trees are being replanted since in other areas of Nicaragua deforestation is a major problem. During my time here I’ve had to be flexible if plans changed and not be too disappointed if plans don’t end up happening. I hadn’t expected to go in a boat to see a nature reserve when all we had planned to do the day before was go to the beach, but I am so glad we went since it was a fantastic trip. We also got to see an impressive sunset at the beach afterwards.
No people are allowed to live on the island, but there is an eco-center that offers tours, small structures for lodging, and viewings of sea turtles and their eggs. Don Felipe told us this center was established to support a poverty-stricken village close to the island. This sounded like a good way to help the village economically as long as the island was environmentally protected. It raised the question in my mind, though, of how does one judge which village gets to have the benefits of ecotourism if there are multiple villages in the area suffering from poverty? How does one measure poverty? This is something I’ve been thinking about. Most of the time we think of poverty as lacking economic resources or property, but it also depends on how this is perceived. Some of the happiest and connected families I have met so far here live out in the country in houses that have been in the family for generations, depend on agriculture, and have latrines for their only bathroom. If they are content with their lives and what they have, is it fair for others to judge them as being poorer? Is it when the quality of life suffers that having less material goods or wealth turns into poverty? I don’t think there’s a concrete answer for this question. I also was a bit concerned that allowing one eco-lodge on the island could open the doors to other businesses or even to permitting residents on the island, which would completely change the atmosphere and ecosystem of the reserve.
More updates to come about my experiences at the work sites. 🙂