Selva Negra is a private reserve in the cloud forests. You can enjoy the walking trails, try the delightful assortment of cakes in the restaurant, and visit the coffee farm. The term "coffee farm" should only lightly be applied. In addition to organic shade-grown coffee production and processing, Selva Negra also maintains horticulture greenhouses, fruit trees, composting and bio-gas facilities, a cheese-making dairy, and an abundance of livestock (cow, sheep, goat, chicken, duck, and quail for starters). Most of the products and produce get used in the restaurant or by the farm workers, but through a partnership with the Rainforest Alliance, you might find their coffee being sold in your local Whole Foods. My overnight visit was a good chance to see another dimension of Nicaragua's agriculture.
Our return trip was not without its own excitement. President Daniel Ortega, whose face and logos and slogans are all over billboards, bus stops, and bumper stickers in Nicaragua (elections are later this year), was giving a speech in Matagalpa. It seemed like everyone in the highlands was turning out to see him. The roads were packed with caravan after caravan of wildly hootin' and hollerin' supporters. Then, we even passed the president's own car!
Our arrival into Managua itself was more subdued. I did finally have a chance to taste that traditional weekend Nicaraguan treat - the nacatamale. On the outskirts of the city, we drove into an unremarkable residential neighborhood. We stopped outside a house with a tiny handwritten sign ("Hay nacatamales") and shouted through the gated door how many we wanted. The lady of the house came out to hand us the steaming bundles in plastic bags. Slow-cooked, spiced pork was encased in masa (corn meal dough) mixed with potato chunks, peppers, and onions. The sizeable mass - roughly 2-4 times the size of any Mexican tamale I've ever had - was topped with a slice of tomato (and possibly a grape leaf) and then wrapped in a giant plantain leaf to steam. It all made for a greasy, spicy, porky bundle of absolute deliciousness.
We headed back into the office for my final work day, exchanging pictures and checking paperwork. I continued to work on the report, the single most important document for a Farmer-to-Farmer program volunteer's assignment. Aside from chronicling our activities, it also details all the recommendations I made to growers, the Farmer-to-Farmer program itself, and even future volunteers. My assignment was part of a larger, ongoing horticulture project in the Nicaragua Farmer-to-Farmer program so it was also interesting to observe any changes made based on previous volunteers' suggestions and document them.