We-re done! (Sorry, can-t find the apostrophe key on this computer!)
After one last bit of Nicaraguan craziness, we finished our final report yesterday and made a presentation in Managua. We were up till 3 a.m. dealing with computer problems and general sleep-deprived, last-minute formatting, then got up early and worked up until the "ultimo momento" and beyond. There was no way we were going to make it on time with the bus, so we took a taxi to Managua - not cheap, but que suerte that there are three of us. On arrival to the FINCA office we had a joyful reunion with our colleague Amelia, who is another FINCA fellow working as a "business analyst" in the central office for the summer. Apart from the fact that she-s a lovely person, it was unexpectedly wonderful to hang out with 1) another American who 2) understands exactly what we-ve been doing these past weeks and does not make stupid comments about how we are all on vacation!
We-ve actually been quite fortunate to have timed our Managua/non-Managua travels when we did, because apparently the electricity outages have been really bad in the last few weeks there, whereas in the other areas where we-ve been they have been much less severe. Our presentation was thus in a dark room by the romantic light of Jeanette-s laptop, but went reasonably well considering we were all hallucinating from sleep deprivation and I could barely think straight in English, let alone Spanish. But our main finding - that the majority of FINCA clients would not be officially classified as poor by either the Nicaraguan or the international standards - was, I think, well received. The program director asked about the best way for them to carry out a low-budget impact assessment, and Jeanette gave a quite good explanation of how they could take advantage of their credit officers regular trips to the field to avoid most of the costs of such a study.
Then it was back on a bus to Leon. Jeanette and Lauren leave tomorrow for Guatemala, and I-m heading up to a rainforest lodge in the mountains called Selva Negra for a few days of R and R before returning to DC.
We-ve been in a nice backpacker place in Leon called Lazybones Hostel for the last three days. Oddly enough, although the rooms are certainly nothing luxurious, basically a wooden box with a bed and a fan, I-ve noticed that backpacker places have the highest standards of customer service in Nicaragua. Maybe this is because the staff include foreigners, maybe because ALL the guests are foreigners. Regardless of the reason, it-s very nice to deal with friendly and helpful staff. The place has a (clean) little pool, hammocks, a garden, free halfway decent coffee, and lots of internet stations, so we-re all enjoying kicking back and indulging in some well-earned relaxation.