Editor’s Note: Over the next 10 days, we will bring you dispatches from our summer intern, Alexius Burton, who is spending 10 days in Nicaragua with Just Hope, a non-profit group, teaching art and music to children.
By ALEXIUS BURTON
Today marks my first of 10 days in Nicaragua. I am fortunate enough to travel with a group of faculty and students from Tulsa Community College and work with Just Hope, a non-profit organization that builds partnerships with communities in Nicaragua. Our goal is to teach children art and music in a community called Chacraseca.
Last night we flew into the capital, Managua, and stayed in a Best Western across the street from the airport. Our group woke up late this morning and said goodbye to air conditioning as we headed to La Casa De Paz (The Peace House) located in Chacraseca. Before we reached our final destination we stopped in Leon, a city about a 20-minute drive outside of Chacraseca.
In Leon, I explored the local market. Leslie, the leader of Just Hope, divided us into groups of three to four people. Each small group was given 80 Cordobas, Nicaraguan currency, and told to buy food for a “simulated” family. In our simulated family, I was a single mother who was employed at the local factory. A woman working in a Leon factory typically works six days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and makes $3 a day.
Leslie then instructed us to create a family budget. Our group of three took a couple of minutes and determined our electric and water bill was $16 a month and it cost $1 a day to send my oldest son to school. After adding together these expenses, in order to stay within our determined budget, I was only allotted $ 1.28 a day to spend on food.
I was able to purchase 1 pound of arroz (rice) 1 pound of beans (pintos) and 3 eggs (huevos) to feed my family without breaking my budget of 31 Córdoba.
To put this level of poverty in perspective, currently $1 in U.S. is equivalent to 27 Cordoba.
As I walked around the colorful market, stray dogs begged for food and children were free to run around. One little girl was especially friendly and greeted me with a toothless smile and an energetic wave.
The market was loud and vivacious; however, it was a special day. While we were visiting Leon the Nicaraguan baseball championship game was taking place. Everywhere we walked, I could hear radio coverage of the game and fans blaring horns throughout the streets.
The game was sold out, but a section of the stadium is open to the public. Our group decided the game was worth seeing and made our way to the field. The stadium was packed and I couldn’t even see the bases. A couple of us in the group made our way through the crowd and with the advantage of my 5-foot-8 stature I was able to stand on my tip toes and see a couple of plays before I was drenched in sweat and covered in beer.
After leaving the game I bought a Gatorade from a local gas station. At the register I realized one Gatorade cost 25 Cordoba, about $1. This amount was more than half of what I was allowed to use in the market in order to feed my family of three.
A simple purchase in Tulsa is a luxury in Nicaragua. Back home, I consider this sports drink a common option, especially as a student athlete — however, when I return to the states orange Gatorade will never taste the same.