Yesterday we arrived at a "low-key budget-friendly Spanish school eco-hotel animal rescue place" in a small town about an hour from Granada ". A place of many purposes. In a town called La Conception, the school is called La Mariposa ("butterfly.") It was started by a British woman who adopted a daughter from Nicaragua and wanted to give back to the community in a meaningful sustainable way. There are at least six ongoing local projects that are funded by La Mariposa, including (and not limited to) natural reserves for endangered plants and animals, sustainable agriculture, reading education, wellness services, school supplies donations, equine therapy and more. All of these projects provide above-minimum wage employment for people from the community as well as opportunities for volunteers and interns.
Scratch what I said above about impeccably clean.* Ha! There's a bit of a moldy smell everywhere, but then we are indeed in the rainforest. Ha again. Harder to actually laugh about the multitude of extremely large spiders and their webs EVERYWHERE. Trying not to think about it. Hot water available most days. You get my drift.
The girls are LOVING IT here though, which really surprises us since re: spiders. The thing they love are all the animals running around (countless friendly dogs and cats, as well as rescued bunnies, Parrots, toucans, and MONKEYS!!!! Adorable. Spider monkeys and white-faced.) Jane said that she wants to live here. They didn't even want to go to the grocery store today, but rather play school in the open "classrooms" here (a wooden table and chairs in different nooks around the building.) There are white boards they can use to play, and they think it's the greatest thing they have yet to encounter on our trip. They also love all the chair handmade hammocks! Dan and I are amazed that they have yet to complain (as we've each secretly done) about the eternal feeling of dampness. Lots of rain here, which is only the case during winter (now, for about 6 months.) There are no laundromats (or machines) in this or any nearby town, so we have handwashed some clothes (but they never seem to dry! Big surprise in a rainforest reserve.)
On a great note, I went on a hike this morning w the school and saw pineapple and dragon fruit orchards
galore, placed among the rainforest trees in an experiment & example of agriculture sustainability. Dan did schoolwork (and postcards!) w the girls while I hiked. They are both ahead of their class w math (we get all the update emails from their teachers) and they love the videos from Khan Academy. (Free and amazing videos on all math levels and topics.) We start Spanish classes tomorrow morning, grammar and conversation, (and each morning this week, with one on one teachers, all employed from the community.)
Yesterday we went to a pottery studio where they (still) make traditional pottery without electric wheels, with local mud and sand and water, and pigments from rocks & stones. The girls each tried making a bowl on the wheel! So cool and memorable. Of course we (hopefully) have a couple of beautiful tropical animal mugs and small plates on their way to CO in the mail.
*It turns out (we have since learned from our Spanish teachers here) that Nicaraguans usally keep their homes free of spiderwebs, and are much cleaner than the school all around. Our school/ lodging is run by a somewhat crazy (but incredibly generous and well-intentioned) British lady.