Moscow Sister City Association Newsletter

February 27, 2019

This newsletter was sent via the City of Moscow on behalf of the Moscow Sister City Association. This newsletter was written by Moscow Sister City Association authors and may not necessarily reflect the views of the City of Moscow.
In this issue:   
  1. MSCA history: Connie Larson in Villa El Carmen with Ana Julia Castillo
  2. MSCA history mystery: the ambulance that drove from Moscow to Villa El Carmen
  3. Thinking ahead, with help from other sister cities
  4. University internships for two of our students
  5. Promising new developments in Nicaragua: a new attempt at “Diálogo Nacional”

1. Connie Larson goes to Villa El Carmen, 1994.

            [Based on telephone conversation, Connie Larson and Dave Barber, 1/16/2019]

In the 1990s, before leaving Moscow in 1998, Connie Larson taught French at Moscow High School with Irina Crookston and Nicole Rose, and worked with Leanne Eareckson in international and environmental clubs at the school. Observing kids throwing away school notebooks and pencils and other supplies, she and others began collecting them to send to Villa El Carmen. When Connie spent a month with Ana Julia’s family in 1994, she took a suitcase full of school supplies and another suitcase full of medical supplies. Taking the medical supplies to the local health clinic, she was surprised and pleased to see that school notebooks previously sent from Moscow were being used – by the doctors.

Left to right, Ana’s father Adolfo, nephew Juan, Connie, Ana’s mother Amanda, nephew Roberto, Ana.
Left to right, Ana’s father Adolfo, nephew Juan, Connie, Ana’s mother Amanda, nephew Roberto, Ana.

Connie went to Villa El Carmen for Moscow Sister City and also to improve her Spanish. When she arrived, she was picked up at the airport by people who knew who she was, but she didn’t know “if they were my people.” They were, and upon arriving at Villa El Carmen, she was greeted by a huge celebratory event with lots of people, dances, food. Several such events happened during her month-long stay. 

Her major problem in Villa El Carmen was getting bottled water, and she gave up trying to get it after one time she was handed water -- in a beer bottle. After that, she drank the water she was given and never got sick (except once after reluctantly eating a turtle egg which she suspected had been poached – as in gathered illegally).

Connie lived with Ana Julia’s family on the main street of town: Ana and her mother Amanda, father Adolfo, and two nephews, Roberto and Juan. She remembers Amanda cooking over a wood stove and salvaging anything usable from what Americans would call garbage. She remembers the outhouse and a shower rigged with river water. She learned to wait until late afternoon to take her shower and cool off from the heat of the day – instead of showering in the morning and then getting and staying hot. An electric fan made the nights bearable.

Doña Amanda, at lunch with Mario, 2007
Doña Amanda, at lunch with Mario, 2007

Connie says she was nervous at first about what animals might be around at night. Late one night, alarmed by the sounds of something under the bed, she was afraid to look under it, or get out of bed before light. In the morning she asked Roberto to check under the bed. He found a chicken there. The family thought that was pretty funny.
Ana at that time directed a group of rural schools in the hills. Together they visited some of these schools – once on horseback – and Connie received a ceremonial welcome every time. She met the town mayor, who had briefly visited Moscow a few years earlier. One day the mayor and a driver picked her up in a car so she could take her supplies to a school. She was put in the back seat: “I was straddling this huge gun. We went through some check points on the road,” getting through easily because the people at the check points all knew the mayor. Connie thought it was strange that the mayor needed a driver, and a big gun in the back seat, to take her to a school to deliver pencils and notebooks. Possibly these were behaviors remaining from the Contra Wars of the previous decade.
Connie’s time with Ana Julia in 1994 led to Ana’s half-year stay in Moscow in 1998. But that’s another story. 

2. More History

Connie remembers seeing the ambulance in town that Moscow Sister City had donated to Villa El Carmen years before her visit in 1994. Someone had driven the vehicle all the way from Moscow to Nicaragua. But maintenance problems had made its useful life short, and when she saw it in town, she says, “at that point it was a sculpture.” But who drove the ambulance down to Nicaragua? And who provided the ambulance? Ambulances don’t grow on trees. I’m researching this issue, with the help of various people who were active in MSCA back around 1990. If you know anything, please let me know

An ambulance, not the one sent by MSCA, in León
An ambulance, not the one sent by MSCA, in León

3. Thinking Ahead

Currently our main activity is funding scholarships at two levels: for university students mainly to pay transportation costs and academic materials, and for elementary students to fund uniforms, backpacks, school supplies. Sometime after spring arrives, it would be worthwhile to have a members’ meeting to think about future activities and directions. To this end it might help to look at what a few other sister cities are doing. For example, Boulder, Colorado has an active sister city relationship with a Nicaraguan town, Jalapa, near the Honduran border. More on this later, but if you’re interested in seeing a good sister-city website, check theirs:
The Jalapa valley; photo taken from the Boulder/Jalapa website.
The Jalapa valley; photo taken from the Boulder/Jalapa website.

4. Internship awards for José Isaac Davila and Laura Ivonne Gutiérrez.  

Laura is a medical student and José studies physics. They were both granted a dormitory room in Managua. This is a type of scholarship; it’s very useful to them largely because they don’t have to commute from Villa El Carmen 2-3 hours each day to go to their university classes. 

José at home, with lemons
José at home, with lemons and his mother, 2016
José at home, with his mother, 2016

Laura says she has to maintain an 85% average to keep the room next semester. The medical students also have to perform a community service, which is to go from house to house doing “abate,” she says. [This was a new word for me. According to WordReference, “ABATE is a chemical compound used to prevent the reproduction of mosquitoes in tropical weather. It is a kind of dust that you sprinkle over stagnant water and plants to kill the mosquito larvae.” To do this is to “abatizar.”

Laura with her grandmother
Laura with her grandmother and old friend, 2016
Laura with an old friend

5. What is happening in Nicaragua.


Today, February 27, is the scheduled beginning of a new round of negotiations between the Ortega/Murillo government and various groups in opposition. It is the first time that the government has consented to engage in a “Diálogo Nacional” since talks failed last May.
Since that time the government has been busy doing what dictatorships do:  (1) criminalizing all protests and demonstrations except those approved by the government, (2) criminalizing and censoring the independent press (this repression has been partly frustrated by social media, but many journalists are in exile or prison), and (3) arguing that opponents are “golpistas” (attempting to overthrow the government) and terrorists supported by the United States. There is some truth to the complaint about the U.S., but the evidence is overwhelming that the energy behind the uprisings that began last April comes from the people within Nicaragua.
The organization proposing to negotiate with the government, Alianza Civica por la Justicia y la Democracia, is laying out three primary goals:  (1) the release of political prisoners and a guarantee that the government will respect basic human rights as defined in the Nicaraguan Constitution, (2) reform of the election process to ensure free, fair, and open elections, and (3) justice for victims of governmental repression. It’s a tall order, even before they try to achieve economic recovery.
[This last section will not be included in the version I’ll send to some people in Nicaragua. It expresses my own point of view coming both from news sources and from communications with the Nicaraguans I know. It is not intended either to represent any MSCA position (there is none) or to influence our activities in Villa El Carmen. My hope is to focus the attention of anyone interested in Nicaragua on current events there, which are not of much interest to the U. S. news media, except when the Trump Administration tries to flex its muscles. One has to do a search for information in sites like Google News or The New York Times or BBC; there are some good English articles available on those sites, and on others including Al Jazeera and The Havana Times. In Spanish there is a ton of material available on YouTube and elsewhere.] 

The first dialogue, in May 2018
The first dialogue, in May 2018

MSCA board of directors:
Dave Barber, president
Lubia Cajas Cano, vice-president                       
Amy Garwood, secretary
Jim Reece, treasurer
Board members Elisabeth Berlinger, Linda Christianson,  Cindy Magnuson, Susie Wiese
Newsletter editor:Dave Barber

MSCA Mailing Address:
PO Box 8367
Moscow, ID 83843

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