Week 1: No Roads Lead to Bluefields

I could not believe the day had come so fast – May 24th and it was time to depart for Nicaragua. I flew out of Tampa and after a short layover in Houston was in Managua, Nicaragua by evening. Jean Baptiste, the coordinator of the blueEnergy office in Managua, met me and two others at the airport and took us to the blueEnergy Managua house for the night. Upon arrival we were introduced to the other participants in blueEnergy’s Global Leadership Program (GLP). There were nine of us in total. We stayed the night at the Managua house and woke up at 3:30 am in order to catch a bus which was the beginning of a very wild adventure. Alex, a blueEnergy senior fellow met us in Managua and escorted us to Bluefields. The morning began with a six hour bus ride across the country. It was really interesting to see how the landscaped changed as we traversed it. The city slowly turned in to a more rural and green space that eventually morphed into a hilly, yet somewhat dry setting. At the end of the trip we had arrived at the water. You see, the only way into Bluefields is by water as there, technically, are no roads to get you there. So here we all are boarding a panga (boat) to get us to Bluefields. It was a two hour trip and I swear we had to be going at least 60mph in that panga. It was super windy and water was coming in everywhere. The little boat hopped the waves and we even managed to get through a small rain shower which was accomplished by covering up with a large tarp that would just whip at us as the winds picked up with the speed of the boat. There was jungle on both sides of us and every so often stilt houses would be seen in various colors and styles. Two hours later we had arrived at Bluefields. The first impression I got of Bluefields was of the various colors used throughout the buildings and the diversity in design and construction. We boarded a bus set for the blueEnergy compound and got a further sneak peek of the city. The compound was much bigger and greener than I had expected.   My room was a good size and came equipped with all the necessities: mosquito net, fan, and filtered water. After a quick tour of the facilities I was definitely ready for an early night – which is not difficult as the sun sets around 5:30pm here.

Some colorful boats in Bluefields

Some colorful boats in Bluefields

Bluefields boats

Bluefields boats

A Brief History of Bluefields

The city of Bluefields is the capital of the Southern Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. In 1642, Dutch Pirate Blauveldt founded the city (among a few others in the Caribbean). The current population is estimated to be around 60,000 comprised of six unique ethnic groups. The city, like the country of Nicaragua, has had its share of difficulties through the years. In recent history was the Sandinista revolution and Iran Contra Affair from 1979-1985 followed by hurricane Joan which absolutely decimated the city and most of the country in 1988. Recovery from these events has been difficult for the city of Bluefields.

Monument in Bluefields celebrating the six unique ethnic groups.

Monument in Bluefields celebrating the six unique ethnic groups.


blueEnergy is an NGO that has maintained a permanent presence in Nicaragua, specifically Bluefields, and works directly with local and national government, other NGOs, major international financial institutions, and a plethora of other agencies. This work is conducted to create a holistic, long-term solution for communities so that they may receive water and sanitation, renewable energy, education on climate change, as well as other necessary amendments that the government or people cannot provide on their own. The blueEnergy model is slightly different than some others you may have seen as their philosophy considers the environment, health, income, and capacity building, allowing recipients to learn about and maintain their own systems at a small price. The power is put back into the hands of the impacted individuals and, as a result, they experience greater health, expanded knowledge, and economic opportunities where none had existed prior. I have had the pleasure of interacting firsthand with the director of blueEnergy, Mathias Craig, throughout the first week of my time here.

Orientation Week

blueEnergy supports a holistic framework from their major operations all the way to their summer fellows (that is me and the group I came in with). The GLP is a portion of the capacity building segment of the underlying philosophy of the organization. We had a great time during the orientation conducting site visits (next posting), doing team building activities (hilarious and fun), and learning a great deal of valuable information and techniques.  The education portion of orientation included topics that would not only help us during our time in Nicaragua but in life as well. The courses we attended were taught, in person, by Mathias Craig. He is an incredibly busy man and the fact that he took the time to personally instruct each of us for an entire week reaffirmed blueEnergy’s authenticity and passion for achieving goals and bettering Nicaragua. The courses included: the history of blueEnergy, the structure and purpose of the GLP (the program I am participating in), global issues, Nicaragua and the coast, management and leadership, personal effectiveness, and even mindfulness – further solidifying my admiration of this NGO.  To continue our education and build our skillsets we are attending Spanish lessons every morning before the workday starts and have the option to participate in exercises, team sports, and many other activities in the evening.  This is just a very brief overview of the organization and does not even begin to touch on the depth of it – I feel so very fortunate to begin my adventure with them.

One comment

  1. Bob Stugard · May 31, 2015

    So really great to hear from you, Clarissa!!! It sounds really terrific there and I’m glad there is a good sized group of you and that the leadership sounds very responsible. I’m sure you know I’m a worrier and its a relief – no a joy hearing what you have written. BTW, I also did a fair amount of research online about Nicaragua and was very happy to hear that it is a top tourist destination in Central America. Very safe (the safest country in CA by far) and beautiful natural attractions. I just received the latest issue of Maxim and there was an article in there about how the country has been “re”discovered by surfers and hippies. Kind of reminds me of some places I’ve visited or wanted o visit back in my own hippie/vagabond days. Oh, to be young again!!! Well enjoy yourself, get as much as you can about the WHOLE experience, and for sure stay safe, kid! All is under control with Bean and the home front, so don’t worry about us! 😘


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