Sunday, April 15, 2007

First Meetings

Thursday morning we drove back to Managua to begin talking with architects and engineers who are interested in the project. NPH has an office in Managua, and we pretty much just sat down with everyone in the same room at once and talked about the number of people the project is for (500), what buildings need to get built (schools, dormitories, a clinic, chapel, offices, houses for visitors, volunteers and staff, workshops, sport courts and a separate all inclusive area for the babies), what are the important elements of each building (for example, the dormitories will be in the style of individual homes housing two caretakers and 16 kids each) and what the property is like (unfortunately Alejandro forgot to bring any pictures or topographical maps of the property, so there was lot’s of time spent explaining it and using hand gestures).

Everything seemed to go pretty well. Alejandro introduced me as an engineer because it is often the engineer who acts as the general contractor in Central America, so it was the closest he could think of to describe me. But when an architect and later another engineer asked if I was a civil engineer, I gave them the real story.

In general, I appreciated how well I was received by everyone. First, being the only person in the room who didn’t speak Spanish and second, being the only female, I wasn’t sure how it would go. But only one person (the engineer sitting right next to me) seemed to have an issue with making eye contact or acknowledging me. But even with him, I wonder if it was simply being unsure of my spanish knowledge, because towards the end of the conversation with everyone, he leaned over and tried to make small talk. We made it through a couple sentences before he just smiled and left it alone.

I think that this part of the project will be easier that I was afraid it might be in regards to how I am treated. These are all highly educated people and while some of them may be old school Latin American men, they all have a respect for people who can prove themselves through intelligence. They seem perfectly happy to give me that chance (at least for now since I haven't questioned any of their ideas, we'll see how long that lasts!). I think part of the reason behind that is because Alejandro (Construction Project Manager for all NPH countries) Marlon (National Director for Nicaragua) and Raul (Assistant to the National Director for Nicaragua), all show me quite a bit of respect and so that carries on to how the others treat me as well.

So, I suppose I could have just summarized with, everything is going pretty well so far! Now, whether or not I'll actually ever carry something myself again is something else (even though I've seen plenty of Nicaraguan women carrying heavy loads down the road, the idea of me doing anything close to physical labor is laughable to them).

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