Saturday, December 1, 2012

National Entrepreneurship Competition and Thanksgiving

It's that time of year again when the winners of the departmental Emprendedurism Business Competition travel to Managua to compete at the national level.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to represent the Chinandegano region with my kids who made a Vinegar from Mimbro, which is a acidic fruit grown in this region.  Yes it is the first of its kind, but there were some much more creative products that they were up against.  There tend to be a lot of food products in these competitions and really we would like to see products that have a positive effective on the environment and/or better people's lives.  This year the competition started with a 2 day congress where the kids and teachers of the winning teams got to spend 2 nights at the hotel in Managua.  We had presentations on opportunities after graduation, how to network, how to legalize and finance your business, and motivational speakers.  I gave the talk on how to legalize and finance your business with another entrepreneur from Leon who had started his own eco-tourism company.  It was really neat working with another experienced individual and I learned quite a bit about the government legalization process here in Nicaragua.

Over all my teachers and students got to mingle with students from all over the country and expand outside of their Chinandega bubble.  They had a great presentation, but did not place.  When I asked them how they felt about the outcome of the competition, they said they felt they did their best, but there were some really great products that deserved to win.  I was very proud of them for realizing its about the experience, not the winning.  The winning product was a mosquito trap that utilized a natural solution to draw mosquitos in, but they couldn't find a way out.  This is a product that will positively effect the lives of the Nicaraguan people, since Malaria and Dengue are a reality in all parts of Nicaragua.  The second place winner was a contraption that connects to a water faucet and that shuts off the water flow when the buoy can tell that the sink is going to overflow.  To put this in to context, many Nicaraguan communities do not have water 24/7, many only at night.  Families will turn their water on during the night to fill up a pila(water bucket) so that they have water the next morning and day.  What usually happens is the pila overflows, wasting water and racking up a higher water bill that the family can't really afford.  This new product will help manage these real life issues.  Needless to say these products deserved to win seed money and recognition for their hard work.

The competition and congress ended the day before Thanksgiving so we stayed put in Managua to spend the holiday with an Embassy family.  Noelle, Kelli and I were placed with Gary and Eve Clements who cooked a fabulous Thanksgiving day meal.  Not only did we get the Thanksgiving favorites, but we got ricotta stuffed bell peppers, quinoa, and butternut squash.  It was a lovely day filled with lots of wine and laughter.

The following day a group of 19 of us headed out to Laguna de Apoyo, which I know I mentioned during my training months because we used to hike down in to the crater and bathe in the crystal clear water on the weekends.  Basically it's a crater of a dormant volcano that has filled with rain water over the years to create a lake and its absolutely beautiful.  We rented a 6 bedroom open air house with a huge kitchen and beach with a private floating dock.  We held the first annual Beer Olympics where we competed in our training town team from back in the day.  The Nandasmo crew or Nandazy-survivors dressed for survival as we all know we had the roughest training town.  With headlamps, duck tape, glow sticks, bandanas and swiss army knives we were set to take on our opponents in a series of 6 events.  We walked away with the gold from flip-cup, surprise!  We wore our crushed beer cans strung around our neck with pride!

Please excuse the flipped up shirts, but this was an event requirement since this is how grown Nica men cool themselves by exposing their huge protruding bellies in the heat of the day

Needless to say it was a great time! The rest of the weekend was pretty tranquilo.  I taught a yoga class one morning and we cooked excellent meals.  It was nice having some down time with a group of people that I have grown to love and truly respect.  Us volunteers keep saying that its amazing how Peace Corps brings people together from all walks of life and many people that I may have never sought out back home are now great friends. To sum up the weekend, it was a great reward after a long school year of hard work with our kids.

I'm not going to lie, I was a tad bit upset that I missed the Latin American Surf invitational in Chinandega where our local ripper Holly Beck took 2nd place.  I got to hear all about it when I got back which just contributed to my FOMO(Fear Of Missing Out).  My puppy Sirena is starting to show personality and play a bit.  The pups are almost a month old and you can see that she is definitely the runt of the litter, but maybe not such a bad thing since she is going to be a massive dog anyways.  Check pics on Facebook.

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