In Central America it’s common for airports to be in the center of big cities, nestled in deep valleys. Airline pilots have to pass a special course in which they demonstrate their proficiency in approaching the runway at a 90-degree angle, then banking a 747 so severely that it pirouettes on its wingtip and drops onto a postage stamp runway, where the pilots clamp on the brakes and pray.
Landing in Managua, Nicaragua was not quite that severe, so I feel that I’ve started my summer research adventure on a good note! My checked bag made it here, customs took a mere 20 minutes and my Spanish was sufficient to get me to the hotel; all in all, Central America y yo parecemos de llevarnos bien!
I’ve been in Managua for two days making arrangements with my partner organization Grupo Fenix, a Nicaraguan non-profit dedicated to community self-determination in energy production. They have proven to be one of the more organized, efficient and friendly groups of people I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and I’m excited to continue working directly with some of them in the rural country (el campo, in Spanish.)
My summer’s plan is to live with rural farming families and bring with me solar-charged LED lamps developed by Patrick Delaney of BrightNewIdeas and designed specifically for un-electrified Nicaraguan communities. I will test anecdotally whether these lights work and are useful to families. Hopefully, my results will be sufficiently interesting that next summer I will be able to run a full-scale study using the lights as an incentive for investing in elementary education.
I am very excited to see new places, meet new people and work directly with the theory, people and ideas that so often we Macalester students only get the opportunity talk about. Stay posted on how my project develops!