Tuesday, October 26, 2010


A year ago, my daughter Libby asked me if I wanted to go with her and some of her friends to Nicaragua to build a house. The last I had heard of Nicaragua was during the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s, when the US was funding an effort to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. Since then, the Nicaraguans have overcome the Contras, the Sandinistan government has been voted out, and voted back in again. Daniel Ortega, one of the Sandinista leaders and the former President, is also the current President of Nicaragua.

We built a house in Guanacastillo, a rural area in the town of Nindiri, about 45 minutes south of Managua. Our home for the week was the small village called Papayal, which consists of a small church, where we slept, a two-room schoolhouse constructed by the government, and the teacher's house -- by far the nicest house in town.

We worked through an organization called Bridges to Community, which has worked on a number of projects throughout Nicaragua, including water projects, medical clinics, house-building, and school-building.

Papayal School, Nicaragua, February 2010

The kids have a great time in school, and they all show up with clean white shirts and navy blue pants or skirts.

Guanacastillo, Nicaragua, February 2010

The houses that Bridges to Community builds are simple but practical. The foundation is concrete on a base of crushed stone for earthquake resistance. The walls are concrete block with steel-and-concrete post-and-beam construction. And the roof is sheet steel welded to steel roof beams for hurricane resistance. Each house has two windows and two doors and a tile floor.

Papayal School, Nicaragua, February 2010

During the week it takes to build a house, you get to know the school kids, the masons, the family for whom you are building the house, and assorted other characters and hangers-on.

 Building Rosa's House, Guanacastillo, Nicaragua, February 2010

If you've read this far and you'd like to contribute to the work that Bridges is doing, go to our FirstGiving web site: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/bacher/bridges-to-community-inc. Thanks.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Franconia Ridge

Lonesome Lake, New Hampshire, October 16, 2010

It feels like fall here in southern New Hampshire, but it's already early winter in the mountains. I went hiking with my son last weekend in Franconia Notch. We stayed overnight in the Appalachian Mountain Club hut at Lonesome Lake. As we climbed up the shoulder of Cannon Mountain toward the lake, we started seeing snow at about 2500 feet. The boardwalk over the bog on the north side of the lake was slippery, but we made it to the hut without falling in.

We couldn't see anything beyond the lake that afternoon, but in the morning, we had this wonderful view of the Franconia Ridge across the valley.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Connecticut River Ferry at Rocky Hill

When I'm driving back from New York to New Hampshire, if I have enough time, I like to get off Interstate 91 and take the Connecticut River ferry from Rocky Hill to Glastonbury. Ferries are fun, and this is one of the smallest I've seen. The other small ferry I remember is the cable ferry crossing the Missouri River in Montana: the Virgelle Ferry. The Connecticut River ferry itself is an unpowered barge.  A small tugboat maneuvers the barge in a wide sweep across the river:

Rocky Hill, Connecticut, September 2010. Photo by Ed Bacher

As always, you can click the pictures to see a larger image.

This ferry carries three cars, or two cars and about 20 cyclists:
Rocky Hill, Connecticut, September 2010. Photo by Ed Bacher

There's also a great hot dog and hamburger stand on the Rocky Hill side, so if you have to wait, you can have a snack and watch the ferry come and go.

Update: I discovered a wonderful photograph of the Virgelle Ferry (mentioned above).