Katelyn Zollos is a recent graduate of Purdue University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering program and is serving as an Intern with AsoFenix and Green Empowerment in Nicaragua for six months. Katelyn will return to the US in June 2010.
It’s the week after Semana Santa (Holy Week) and the three month mark for me here in Nicaragua. Time has really flown by. Most of my days have been spent in a small community called La Laguna. I really couldn’t have asked for a better location or family to live with. They’re an active group, and some of the hardest workers on the micro hydropower system that is being installed on the nearby river. La Laguna is lucky to have plenty of water, in an especially dry, dry season this year. In it, the community swims, bathes, washes their clothes, and night fishes with home-made harpoon guns. The night fishing has been one of my favorite experiences here. I didn’t fish; I just walked along on the shore and put the fish on a stick as they threw them at me.
The most disheartening experience here has been going back to the community after spending Semana Santa with my parents, and seeing the banks of the local swimming hole with a blanket of food wrappers and other colorful scraps. The river was full for the holiday and people from the nearby city came in truckloads, bringing with them picnics with plastic utensils, Styrofoam cups, and metal sardine cans. Then they went home after a great holiday swimming under the waterfalls and all of their trash is right where they left it. Hopefully, little by little we’ll be able to clean up the swimming hole and return it to its original state. The littering problem is something that bothers all of the interns here. Sometimes it seems like a lost cause, but hopefully, we’ll be able to set an example and get them to think about the consequences the next time they want to toss aside their coke bottle.
The 30 kW micro hydropower system in La Laguna is the largest AsoFenix has installed in Nicaragua. The system will easily serve over 40 houses in La Laguna. Right now the tubing is being stabilized, and the electrical lines will be installed soon after. The area in which the system is being built provides many challenges. The white PVC pipe seems to stretch out forever along the cliff-side.
It takes about an hour to hike from the turbine house to the dam (at least for me, Nicaraguans are a bit more sure footed). The slopes are steep making it difficult to haul water, sand, and rocks from the river. I give the guys credit; the work they are doing is in no way easy. They work hard, and do it for their families and the betterment of the community.