New Regulations for Nicaragua: Mandarin Required


Breaking news! In a dramatic policy change, the legislative branch of Nicaragua, the National Assembly, confirmed today that Mandarin will become the official language of Nicaragua. An amendment to the Nicaraguan Constitution requires all foreign residents and nationals to pass a Mandarin proficiency test.

In expectation of thousands of Chinese immigrants entering Nicaragua to work on the proposed Nicaraguan canal, the spokesperson for the President of the National Assembly states that the rule change is a result of concerns that national and foreign residents will not easily assimilate into local communities where the Chinese immigrants will settle. Without a solid foundation of the Mandarin language, it will adversely affect the local populations.

In a prepared statement being distributed to foreign embassies, consulates, and the Nicaraguan embassy, as well as immigration offices in Managua, the National Assembly states, “We recognize that Mandarin proficiency will be a major predictor to adapt to Nicaragua and a new Chinese culture. We have become increasingly concerned about recent clashes between the Chinese and local residents. Language problems may be causing the clashes due to cultural differences and misunderstandings.”
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Duped on Ometepe Island?


         “Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains    enough to be honest.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
 

 

I think I have been duped! Last week, a Department of Health medical brigade (MINSA) came to Ometepe Island offering medical services. They walked door to door accompanied by a police officer on a motorcycle.

It’s common to see a MINSA medical brigade here. When severe flooding eroded the shoreline, MINSA came door to door passing out free antibiotics for Leptospirosis. During the rainy season, they pass out a poison powder to sprinkle in standing water where mosquitoes may breed. But, they never come accompanied by the police, and they are always local MINSA employees.

Marina was cleaning my house, and I was raking the yard when I saw the medical brigade come to my door. I didn’t catch the beginning of the conversation and my Spanish vocabulary with medical words is severely lacking. Although much of the conversation was lost in translation, this is my interpretation of the conversation that took place:

Male nurse: We are offering free medical exams at the hospital on Friday and Saturday.

Me: Great! Sign up my husband and me.

Male Nurse: No. I can’t do that. It is an exam of your ‘bahena’.

Me: What is a bahena and why can’t my husband get the exam, too?

Me: Is it an exam for your heart? For your stomach?

Laughter all around.

Marina: No. It is an exam of your ‘bahena’ and a papagramo exam. ( she said while holding back a chuckle)

Male Nurse: Laughing, while he pointed to my vagina.

More laughter.

Me: Oh, I get it. You are offering free vaginal exams and Pap tests. Sign me up.

I signed a sheet of paper and included my telephone number so they could call me for the time of the appointment. Friday and Saturday passed, and I never received a call. Then, I read this in La Prensa:

courtesy of La Prensa

courtesy of La Prensa

 

For three consecutive days an alleged brigade of the Ministry of Health, heavily guarded by police, has tried uselessly to get into the communities of Sacramento, Moyogalpa, Ometepe Island, where residents maintain an armed encampment with sticks, stones and even machetes. Alberto Lopez, the county Esquipulas, Moyogalpa, said villagers reject the action of MoH for ordering information and ask their opinion on the Canal.

Here lots of times have been brigades of the Ministry of Health, to vaccinate and dispense medicines and they have never come up with police and military riot police, so people joined and they will not be allowed to come to our communities, Lopez said.

He noted that the communities where the brigade is interested in the survey is in Esquipulas, Los Angeles and Sacramento. People decided to keep them out because we want to tell you that nobody here wants to sell their property, are in our territory and we are defending what is ours, argued López.

Juan Barrios, who lives in the Sacramento community, again reported that island communities have returned to ring their church bells to alert the public when pollsters brigade and police and riot police trying to enter the community.

For three days straight doing this encampment to ask these interviewers leave here and the police will say we are not willing to get us out of our territory. Today (last Friday) morning, the police tried to persuade for maintence, but the response of Sacramento was to leave here said Barrios.Juan Barrios, a resident of the community of Sacramento, said when the brigade withdrew assumptions threatened to not send medicines to the health center of the town and told not to return for that place. Villagers said they will not move until the brigade and the police desist from entering the community to ask personal data on the draft of the Grand Canal.

So what exactly did I sign? Who knows? I had been warned by local friends…after the fact…never to sign my name to anything. Have I been duped? Probably. I may have signed a petition in support of the grand canal. They never asked me any questions about the canal…I suppose that once they figured that I didn’t know what a ‘bahena’ was that I would stupidly sign anything. And, I did!

We assume so many things in living in Nicaragua. I want to believe that the police are here to protect us. I want to believe that the Ministry of Health is only offering medical services that we are unable to get on Ometepe Island. I want to believe that the Nicaraguan government wouldn’t use tricks and treachery to gain support for the Nicaraguan canal.

I’ve learned never to assume anything and never to sign anything without questioning.  Always expect the unexpected while living in the land of the not quite right. Life goes on…but I’ll always wonder what I signed…and probably never find out the truth.

 

The Dream Dome


“Create with the heart; build with the mind.”
― Criss Jami

 

Ron and I have known Francheco for over ten years. When we first moved to Ometepe Island to manage a youth hostel, Francheco worked at the hostel. In 2012, Francheco’s new yellow house and property were expropriated by the Nicaraguan government to make way for the La Paloma airport. He dismantled his house, brick by brick, dug up his newly planted saplings and flowers, and relocated to a beautiful piece of land south of the airport, near Punta Jesus Maria. The House that Francheco Built.

He married a beautiful Nicaraguan woman. They have a little son, now. Francheco built a temporary house for them and started a restaurant, Dos Mangoes. You would think this story has a fairytale ending, right? But, not so quickly.

Francheco’s dream was to build a dome home. He is extremely talented, which translates to his ability to create from the heart, yet build with his mind. With the help of one worker, he began building a dome home two years ago, one row of bricks at a time.

Francheco’s house from the back of the property.
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International Human Rights Day in Nicaragua


“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
― John F. Kennedy

December 10th is International Human Rights Day. In honor of this day, a great March Against the Nicaraguan Canal is scheduled in Managua. This year’s theme is Human Rights 365.

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Someone Else’s Island


I don’t often respond to the WordPress Daily Post, however Someone Else’s Island spoke to me personally. Ron recently asked me, “Debbie, what would we take if we were forced to leave Ometepe Island?” My post is a twist on Someone Else’s Island, instead of being stranded on an island, what would we take if we were forced to leave?

Everyone is nervously awaiting the construction of the Nicaraguan Canal by the Chinese. Construction is supposed to start on December 22nd. I am taking this personally because what if Ometepe Island becomes someone else’s island? I heard rumors…that’s all we get…that over 300,000 Chinese will be granted Nicaraguan citizenship to work on the canal.

The map below shows that one half of our beloved island will be controlled by the Chinese. Everything in red along the canal route.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Come Together Right Now


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Converge. The Nicaraguan people have converged or assembled for many things recently. Using some of John Lennon’s lyrics for “Come Together”,this is a visual story of the ways in which the Nicaraguans converge.

                     Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
                     He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
                    
Nicaraguans converge at the cemetery to celebrate the life of my neighbor, Don Jose.
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Ometepinos March Against the Canal


“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.


Over 2,000 people attended the march against the canal in Moyogalpa, Ometepe Island on Saturday, November 15, 2014. When I filmed the march, it surprised me that there were less people in attendance. The last march against the canal drew 4,000 people.

It wasn’t until the march was over that I learned of military tactics to prevent hundreds of  people in buses and trucks from attending. They were detained at check points along the main road from Altagracia by the Nicaraguan military.

There has been a lot of “detaining” lately in Nicaragua. After the first protest march on Ometepe Island, the ferry was detained for 20 minutes by the Nicaraguan military. I know of several other situations where people were detained in Nicaragua because of taking photos of the canal route, or simply trying to fish off the coast of Ometepe Island.

 

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Sharpening Machetes


 Our hands will not tremble when we bring out sharp machetes to protect our families, our
land, and our basic human rights. ~ The Nicaraguan people

                                 
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I was going to write a post about the many uses of the machete in Nicaragua, but with recent protests and lack of transparency about the Nicaraguan Canal Project, I foresee many Nicaraguans sharpening their machetes. The comments below represent the alarming anger, mistrust, and nervousness of the Nicaraguan people.


Thousands of locals along the route have begun protesting against their impending expropriations with several demonstrations having taken place in just the last few weeks. Many of the signs they carry read: “No Chinos!” The anger has become so intense that police have begun patrolling outside of the Chinese engineers’ headquarters in the provincial city of Tola.
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Speculating about the Nicaragua Canal Project


“Speculation is an effort, probably unsuccessful, to turn a little money into a lot. Investment is an effort, which should be successful, to prevent a lot of money from becoming a little.”
― Fred Schwed Jr.

 

from La Prensa Newspaper

from La Prensa Newspaper

Yesterday, October 24, 2014, over 4,000 people protested on Ometepe Island against the Nicaragua Canal Project. Ron and I didn’t go to the protests because we are guests in this country and we didn’t feel it was appropriate to demonstrate. However, that doesn’t stop me from speculating about the effects this canal will have on our adopted country and its resilient people.

Read more to find out if the Dragon will spit fire on Nicaragua’s natural resources.