There has not been any school this week because of a week long school vacation. I’ve taken this week as an opportunity to try to expand my network and meet as many people as possible. I literally have a list of people I am trying to visit and meet (with varying degrees of success) But primarily, I am meeting local business owners through a non-profit, León 2000 IMF (IMF has nothing to do with the International Monetary Fund – it is short for micro-finance institution in Spanish). León 2000 gives micro-loans to small business owners in Nicaragua. They also have other programs, like micro-insurance.
León 2000 has been looking to do a customer satisfaction survey, so they asked me to administer 20 of them. Easier said than done. I had to go to find each client, whether they were at home or somewhere else in the city, such as their business location, and administer the short survey. I was furnished with each clients’ home and business addresses, but something I have failed to mention before on this blog is that in Nicaragua there are not street names. Some people actually think that U2’s song, “Where the Streets Have no Names” was partially inspired by Nicaragua. For example this is the actual official address of my old house in León:
“Del Banpro Sutiava, una cuadra al norte y media cuadra abajo”
“From the Banpro in Sutiava, one block north and one block down”
Down, meaning in the direction the sun goes down, is west, and arriba is east.
So to find a house, you typically have to ask an acquaintance where the landmark is, and then once you think you are near the house you ask around. Sometimes the landmark is a big church and it’s easy, but sometimes the landmarks don’t even exist, such as “where the motorcycle repair shop used to be.” And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing this week. I’ve just been riding my bike around, long pants and a cotton polo, 97 degree heat, interpreting addresses and trying to find people. It’s taken me all over the city too. On Tuesday I was from San Felipe Cemetery, one block south and I saw one of my students. All he could say was, “What are you doing over here?”
I haven’t gotten to all 20 clients yet, but I’m nearly there. It has certainly been an interesting week though, and I’m glad that I’ve gotten to see more on León. I have one kind of funny story too. Today I was looking for a pool hall called Lacayo. I knew I was near it, but I couldn’t find it, so I asked at a police station that I was close to. They pointed me right to it, but rightfully asked me why I was looking for it (pool halls have a seedy reputation here). I told them that I was only using it as a point of reference and that I was actually heading five blocks north of it, and then another block or two abajo from there. He told me to hold on a moment. When he came back outside five minutes ago he said that where I was heading was dangerous – there had been a lot of reported assaults/robberies, so he would send me with an escort. Turns out this escort included a male office on a bike with a semi-automatic strapped around his back, and another female officer on a bike, sans firearm.
Me an my motorcade found the address without incident. But unfortunately when I asked for the woman I was looking for I was told that she had moved to Las Vegas in January. It was a bit anti-climactic, given that the police had escorted me to this house. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary with the neighborhood, although it was a bit out-of-the-way.
Tomorrow afternoon I’m taking a break from my frantic networking. I will be for Estelí (yes, I am headed back) and a weekend celebration of Matt and Ania’s birthdays. My work this week is already paying off though. One woman I interviewed a few hours ago just called me with some questions about the business advising that I do. If she doesn’t contact me again in the next week or two I will make it a point to visit her at her convenience store (she also has a cell phone kiosk in another part of town).