Day 12: Trees of Life

Everyone wants the key that will unlock their particular jail. During conversations on the ride, women’s dignity and empowerment were fumbled after as being such a key for Nicaragua. Not that we had given up on educating men (poor, thick-headed clods that we are), but the best kindling for lighting a social fire seems to be the women, and their rights. They care, and suffer, and work the hardest to make things better.

The First Lady of Nicaragua may have felt the same way, and this may explain something that I can’t otherwise fit into anything sensible: The Trees of Life. These are the huge yellow sculptures, all identical, that dot Managua. They grow very thickly around the airport, and in major roundabouts you will sometimes even spot a grove of three.


If you ask a Managuan about them, they will look up and to the left, trying to see if there’s anything reasonable to say about them written there. No; they mean whatever it is they mean. They were apparently inspired by Gustav Klimt, about whom Wikipedia writes:

His primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism.

I like them, but I don’t know what to make of them. My first sighting of one was during the descent into Managua (when we first arrived). From the plane I saw a gigantic Santa, beside two chubby reindeer that looked more like footballs being launched on a Hail Mary pass. They stood in front of what seemed to be a yellowish Christmas Shrub about 40 feet high. Very odd.

A Managuan, commenting on them, suggests a “mystical, Christian, socialist, feminist” agenda. He could be right.


I kept on telling Vince that no picture we had could capture the feel of the houses that our many of our borrowers live in. They grow out of the soil, or are falling back into it, or both. I finally got a picture that sort of captures it:

This a restaurant in Monte Fresco

This a restaurant in Monte Fresco



Lastly, you should know that a discussion with the board back in the spring featured an inspirational moment, when Vince said “And the women could ride with us.” A flurry of voices met this idea with affirmation or objection. The logistics were ridiculous; these women would have to arrange sitters, take time, endure long bus rides to various meeting points along the way, ride the hills with us, and more. But once the idea was planted, it took root. Every day, one of our borrowers rode along with us, making the ride their own. “I ride because through this we make Nicaragua better,” said one. Look at the smile on Jerlling’s face at the end of this video.

They made the ride their own, these trees of life. I hope you will too.