Immigration. What’s the problem and how do we fix it?


Sustainable food production at our border may be the answer.

The Mexican “Braceros” worked in agriculture in the US through the Bracero Program during the early phases of World War II and it ended about 20 years later. The Catholic Church in Mexico didn’t like that families were being separated, but the program ended largely due to labor disputes and strikes. This single program paved important politics between the US and Mexico (with Mexico being the underdog) during and after the program unfolded.

The program had problems, but a modern day resurrection seems like a good solution to the displaced Mexican farm workers (for instance) caught-up in matters like NAFTA changes and social problems in Mexico. But, legal immigration, through programs like these, would solve so many problems at our border, and could work again, since we know one program had a life span of over twenty years.

With the idea of growing desert crops – like watermelons, apples, green onions, cucumbers, corn, hot peppers, melons, bell peppers, radishes, carrots, cabbage, soybeans, pears, tomatoes, squash and spinach – using modern-day sustainable food production techniques, I’m wondering if a program like the Bracero could be resurrected AT our vast border? Putting migrants to work at the border, for a fair wage, could solve a lot of problems. Schools and decent abodes could forge new communities, just inside the US border. That food could then be sold back to Mexico or the US, or better yet make a dent in feeding world hunger, in exchange for the wages, housing and education benefits paid to the migrant workers. If there’s a deficit from food sold that doesn’t stack-up to labor and education costs, it seems those could be offset from what we’d save in detaining and incarcerating illegal immigrants. Rather, we put these people, fairly, to work at our border. Unskilled and illegal immigrants could be taught how to farm there too, for that same fair wage, so they are better equipped to take care of their families when they go back to Mexico, if their entrance into the country is only short term. But, when they leave, they take new skills and newly acquired education with them back to their own countries to better IT, not OURS.

If people coming in, truly want to work for an honest pay, that’s a good way to find out quickly. Perhaps the best workers, committed to the program, could earn their ticket fully into the US, with their families, after a period of time through a farm-release program. Given the sheer number of people approaching our borders, that’s a lot of new food production.

These are just some of my thoughts from a social entrepreneurial lens. I know it would be a massive undertaking. Our federal prison is currently comprised, by 14%, of Mexican citizens. Extraditing them back to Mexico, could raise over $800,000,000 per year to fund the program.

Perhaps it’s time for a border within our border, letting good people in and weeding bad people out.

These are just my musings, and one crazy idea on a potential solution to a big problem. I, for one, would like to hear less political banter from both sides, and more mindshare on our problems with potential solutions. The conversation is so much more productive that way.

So what’s the problem and how do we fix it?

(Photograph is my own. I took them while traveling and working extensively throughout Nicaragua through The Finding Corte Magore Project.)

Immigration. What’s the Problem and How Do We Fix It?


Sustainable food production at our border may be the answer.

The Mexican “Braceros” worked in agriculture in the US through the Bracero Program during the early phases of World War II and it ended about 20 years later. The Catholic Church in Mexico didn’t like that families were being separated, but the program ended largely due to labor disputes and strikes. This single program paved important politics between the US and Mexico (with Mexico being the underdog) during and after the program unfolded.

The program had problems, but a modern day resurrection seems like a good solution to the displaced Mexican farm workers (for instance) caught-up in matters like NAFTA changes and social problems in Mexico. But, legal immigration, through programs like these, would solve so many problems at our border, and could work again, since we know one program had a life span of over twenty years.

With the idea of growing desert crops – like watermelons, apples, green onions, cucumbers, corn, hot peppers, melons, bell peppers, radishes, carrots, cabbage, soybeans, pears, tomatoes, squash and spinach – using modern-day sustainable food production techniques, I’m wondering if a program like the Bracero could be resurrected AT our vast border? Putting migrants to work at the border, for a fair wage, could solve a lot of problems. Schools and decent abodes could forge new communities, just inside the US border. That food could then be sold back to Mexico or the US, or better yet make a dent in feeding world hunger, in exchange for the wages, housing and education benefits paid to the migrant workers. If there’s a deficit from food sold that doesn’t stack-up to labor and education costs, it seems those could be offset from what we’d save in detaining and incarcerating illegal immigrants. Rather, we put these people, fairly, to work at our border. Unskilled and illegal immigrants could be taught how to farm there too, for that same fair wage, so they are better equipped to take care of their families when they go back to Mexico, if their entrance into the country is only short term. But, when they leave, they take new skills and newly acquired education with them back to their own countries to better IT, not OURS.

If people coming in, truly want to work for an honest pay, that’s a good way to find out quickly. Perhaps the best workers, committed to the program, could earn their ticket fully into the US, with their families, after a period of time through a farm-release program. Given the sheer number of people approaching our borders, that’s a lot of new food production.

These are just some of my thoughts from a social entrepreneurial lens. I know it would be a massive undertaking. Our federal prison is currently comprised, by 14%, of Mexican citizens. Extraditing them back to Mexico, could raise over $800,000,000 per year to fund the program.

Perhaps it’s time for a border within our border, letting good people in and weeding bad people out.

These are just my musings, and one crazy idea on a potential solution to a big problem. I, for one, would like to hear less political banter from both sides, and more mindshare on our problems with potential solutions. The conversation is so much more productive that way.

So what’s the problem and how do we fix it?

(Photographs are my own. I took them while traveling and working extensively throughout Nicaragua through The Finding Corte Magore Project.)

VISION STATEMENT – THE FINDING CORTE MAGORE PROJECT

We believe the dreams of children are the most precious resource in Nicaragua – but also the most squandered.  So many dreams go unfulfilled due to poverty.  Every child deserves a shot to go after their dreams, and the Finding Corte Magore Project intends to give it to them.


Problem: 42% of all children along the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua drop out of school by sixth grade, if they ever enroll at all.  (The Guardian)

They drop out because they don’t have shoes to walk to school, because they have to watch their siblings while their parents work, or because they themselves have to work to support their families.

They drop out because they see school as pointless.

Guess what?  They’re right.

There are no jobs waiting for students if and when they graduate.  Which means poverty will live on in Nicaragua forever.

Solution: Our project aims to start to reverse this cycle of poverty by driving social good tourism to the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS) in Nicaragua via the island of Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua.  At minimum, our project works like this:

Tourists visit the island, driving revenue to fund…

  • Jobs and job training for locals seeking to better provide for their families, such as eco-building, island maintenance, security, hospitality, transportation, and cooking – skills that parents can take back to their communities to show their children that job security is on the way.

  • Education for students, like a floating educational barge to deliver school supplies to remote areas, after school sports and crafts programs that only students who stay in school can partake in, or on-island biodiversity research camps for older students.

By providing job opportunities for parents and making school meaningful for students, the island will free students to stay in school, go after their dreams, and spread prosperity as they become business-owners, entrepreneurs, tourism professionals, artists, scientists, coders, teachers…

We believe the dreams of children are the most precious resource in Nicaragua – but also the most squandered.  So many dreams go unfulfilled due to poverty.  Every child deserves a shot to go after their dreams, and the Finding Corte Magore Project intends to give it to them.  We believe that achieving their dreams can not only elevate them above their birth circumstances, but also their communities and, over time, their nation.

We’ve secured the island – how would you like to help?

Project hyperlinks

Finding Corte Magore – findingcortemagore.com

Tonia Allen Gould – toniaallengould.com

FCM YouTube Channel

Tonia YouTube Channel

FCM Twitter – @cortemagore

FCM Facebook

Donate to FCM via PayPal

A Step-by-Step Guide on What to Do When You Lose Your iPhone


Here’s what to do when you lose your iPhone. Follow my step-by-step guide to get it back or at least regain your sanity:

Call it immediately from another number. If it rings to voicemail, the Son of a Beast/Daughter of a Beast (SOBDOB) who stole it won’t answer because he/she knew to shut it off.

Log into iCloud and click, “Locate your phone,” which you discover isn’t plausible (and is actually a stupid step) because you already knew the SOBDOB shut it off when he/she pocketed it like an off- Broadway street boy/girl practicing his/her role from Les Misérables.

Click “Report your phone lost or stolen” and mutter “by a SOBDOB” under your breath loudly so an entire convention center of your industry colleagues can hear you.

Click “Erase your phone” so when the SOBDOB begins to feel high-and-mighty, turns it back on and tries to creep into your password-protected life, it immediately gets wiped clean.

Brush off your alter-ego (your alternative personality that would never be so dumb as to put the phone down in a public place), go to the Apple Store and purchase a bigger and better phone (from a young, handsome man that lessons you on iPhone (and anger) management and up-sells you a better phone by preying on your love of photography while also suggesting one that is water resistant because of your previous phone accident history, e.g., murky pond water CIRCA 2013, pedicure water CIRCA 2014, panga/bottom of the boat water CIRCA 2015, et al.) But, the real reason you upgrade is because you should be rewarded for the extra 11,377 physical steps you took on foot the day before trying to hunt down the SOBDOB.

Finally, and this is the most important step, get down on your hands and knees and pray that the SOBDOB who stole your phone gets all the karma he/she deserves.

Tiny Feet


I woke-up early to a the sound of sweet, beautiful, pelting rain; an  utterance that’s become more familiar this fall and early winter. It’s tune, rhythmic; it echoes and reverberates throughout the house. 

No, that’s not it. That’s too trite. Banal. I’ve trivialized the importance of this rain.

Rather,

Tonight, the rain heralds more like a song, or a victory dance upon my rooftop, denouncing the drought we’ve been in for so very long. I can almost hear the melody being tapped out by the rain’s tiny feet.

“Drought be damned! Drought be damned!”

Ominous


 

©ToniaAllenGould
 
A murder of crows flew over hundreds of them, each as dark as night, wings wildly flapping

CAW-CAW-CAW-ing from the painted and falling dusk sky, high-up overhead

There we stood, feet planted, necks stiff from watching the sheer lot of them pass by on their way to another world

Ominous. 

TA Gould

A New Year Blossoms


Post holiday hustle

My Feet are up…taking it all in

On this last day of the year.

Fond memories were made

Tucked inside, heart and mind.

Reflecting on a year of mini triumphs, 

little successes and major defeats

Comprising who I am

Time to let bygones 

BE GONE

I can’t take them with me 

As a year blossoms

I can breathe in the fresh air 

Starting anew

Pointing me 

in a new direction 

Sad, still, to say goodbye to a year that has past

But, grateful to have lived, and loved, another year.

TA GOULD

A Christmas Story


Yesterday, I had to jet to the bakery to grab some bread for Christmas dinner. I had just arrived at the counter where a woman began inquiring about her custom order. The bakers were scurrying around looking for her bread, but to no avail. “We’re so sorry, Ma’am, it looks like your order is not here,” one of the bakers said. 

“What? Are you kidding me?” the lady screamed! “YOU have RUINED Christmas! You have RUINED my whole family’s Christmas! I am feeding 20 people! What will I do?” 

Her tirade went on and on for minutes, as the bakers searched for some sort of resolve, and as the rest of us stood uncomfortably by. The lady was unrelenting. 

Finally, I had to speak up. I had to say something! 

“Ma’am these people are working here on Christmas Day. It’s Christmas Day! And, even if it were not, no one deserves this kind of treatment. No one can ruin your Christmas, but you. I can tell you are a smart and crafty person, and you can make any bread work for your special dinner tonight. Take what the bakers have to offer and be blessed you have food on your table, unlike some who do not.” 

She took the bread they offered, mumbled a lackluster apology to us all and scurried off. I was tough on her, and probably should’ve bitten my tongue, but I remembered this quote while she was going off about not having the right kind of bread at her table:

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. -Mahatma Gandi 

The Percussion of a City from a Hotel Room


Andrew d’Entremont -photo credit

The city pulses and throbs,

Outside my seventh floor window.

Sleep escapes me – everything from the occasional wail of a siren, or the honk of a horn, to a faint whistle in the far off distance  – keeps me from drifting off.

Even the Metro’s rhythmic trundle of wheels on steel tracks that buckle tired railroad ties, tethered beneath – keeps me awake.

The old wood supporting the train, creaks and moans, protesting the weight of an era of passengers who have relentlessly traversed The City of Magnificent Intentions, the beautiful Capital of the World.

And, when my ears become immune and my eyes finally droop, the air conditioner in my room rattles on and hums her own tune.

The percussion of a city from a hotel room, reminds me of the musical, STOMP. It is all at once both mesmerizing and environmentally overloading, and I am completely lost in it like writers are when they try to find words that describe what their senses see, hear or feel. 

When I can’t sleep, I write. And, when I write, sleep most certainly never comes. 

Good morning from Washington D.C.

 #amwriting #insomnia 

Fresh Out of Gildan: Tonia’s Practical Advice on How to Deal with Email Scammers


In addition to being a writer/ author, I own a 21-year-old consumer promotions and marketing agency called Tagsource (AKA TAG!). This is how a children’s book author deals with scammers who want to pay for product with a stolen credit card. (Blank goods orders are always the dead giveway.)

Background:

On Jun 3, 2016, at 7:55 AM, Steve Finley <steve.finley433@gmail.com> wrote:

sales

I would like to know if you do sell or can order blank t shirt,Let me know the pricing on them and how soon you can get them when payment is made.

Brand:Gildan 50/50% Cotton

Size : Medium

Color :Daisy

Quantity : 500 Pieces

Size : Adult Small

Color : Marron

Quantity : 500 Pieces

Size : Adult Small

Color : Electric Green

Quantity : 500 Pieces

Size : Adult Small

Color : White

Quantity : 500 Pieces

Total 2000 Pieces

Let me Know the Total Pricing want you to email me back with the price for me to proceed on with payment Phone via Credit card.

Best Regards

  Steve.

 Tonia’s Reply:

Dear Steve, thank you for reaching out! Each of our t-shirts are spun with diamonds and gold, and cost $10,995 each. Unfortunately, that’s all we have in stock right now. We are fresh out of Gildan. Admittedly, our moisture-wicking, and diamond and gold laden t-shirts are heavy and costly to ship, given they weigh twenty pounds a garment, but they will arrive packed and protected in a heavy cushion of gnome fart and fairy dust. 

Should all this meet your approval, please send us your credit card information and we’ll get things shipped right out to you in La La Land.

We look forward to servicing your account for a long time to come. Truth be told, we’ve been saddled with these shirts for some time now. Sorry again about the Gildan!

Sincerely, 

Tonia Allen Gould

Behind the Finding Corte Magore project



Tonia Allen Gould talks to middle schoolers at a Technology Magnet School about all things authoring and dreaming BIG. Here she walks you through her journey to Finding Corte Magore.

Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, in time for the holidays!


Just in time for the Holidays, Autographed hardcover books, are offered at the lowest price of the season, plus FREE SHIPPING to anywhere in the continental U.S.! (Limited time only)

By children’s author, Tonia Allen Gould, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, tells the story of a small land and sea fiddler crab (complete with a fiddle and a bow) that finds himself on the sandy shores of an idyllic island named Corte Magore. When he arrives at Corte Magore, Sam decides he wants to make this place his permanent home, but he realizes he will have to build himself a shelter from the rising tides that could take him and his fiddle and bow back out to sea. He must work diligently and ignore mocking from hermit crabs and seagulls and beat the clock on his arch nemesis, The Great Tidal Wave if he wants to stay.

Sam’s story is art directed by Mr.Lawrence; an original Storyboard Director for SpongeBob SquarePants and mostly illustrated by Marc Ceccarelli, another Storyboard Director for SpongeBob SquarePants. Michelle Fandrey at Skies America Publishing also contributed. The colorful book explores several important themes for young readers, including: – The concept of building a home – Hard work and self-reliance – Daring to dream of a better life – Overcoming adversity – Dealing with bullies and naysayers I want this story to help parents start a conversation about hard work, dedication, and independence. Sam does everything himself in this book, and he doesn’t ask for help. I want children to understand that life isn t always peaches and cream, but if you re willing to put your nose to the grindstone and ignore bullies and naysayers, in the end, everything usually works out okay.

Click here to order. Thanks for supporting my book!

Sam is also available on iTunes as a narrated and animated picture book app with an original musical score.

Book Cover for Instagram

People don’t change, they grow.  


 

©ToniaAllenGould
 

I sat outside on a bench next to a kind, aging lady, last night, before entering my son’s Christmas pageant. After we chatted a bit, she announced she was celebrating her 60th anniversary next week. I smiled and said, “60 years, huh? Now that’s something! What’s the secret?” She thought a minute and said, “You can’t change each other; no sense in trying. People don’t change, they grow.  

Might as well accept each other for who you both are – the person you were when you got married, and the person you’ve each become.”

Grisham, a Homeless Man, and My Spilled Groceries


  
For Thanksgiving, I have a story to share. Yesterday, I pulled into the crowded grocery store parking lot, where cars were stopped everywhere, waiting for a place to park. Towards the back of the lot, a homeless man sat under a tree with a book in his hand. The book was covered with a handwritten sign asking for money. Next to him was an empty space – where no one wanted to park. No one wanted to park their car next to the homeless man.
Honestly, I didn’t get it, and I was overjoyed by luck at finding a space. So I pulled into it, and dug through my purse looking for some bills. I got out of my car and said, “Hey! Whatcha reading?” He looked up at me in surprise. “Grisham,” he said with a smile. I handed him the money and smiled back, “I love Grisham,” I said, and walked away. By the time I came back out – he was gone. I was hoping he went to find food with the money I gave. 

After dealing with the long line at the grocery store, I hurriedly put my groceries in the back of my SUV, and unbeknownst to me, the gate didn’t latch. By the time I made it onto the street – three bags of groceries toppled out and into the middle of the left turn lane. I was horrified and worried my groceries were going to cause an accident. So I whipped back around – turned on my hazards – and got out of the car while a young lady had already crossed the street from the gas station to help me get my groceries out of the way. 

Every single one of my food items survived the fall – except for two bottles of sparkling lemonade -but, everything else I picked out for today’s feast was left totally unscathed. And, I couldn’t help but think, as I raced to get those groceries out of the way, that my willing gesture of kindness with the homeless man came right back to me with someone who was willing to help me out in my own time of need. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

An Ode to a Veteran and Handi-Snacks with Their Little Red Sticks


  
That handsome feller is my Grandfather. He died when I was ten. He served his family and country well. He ruffled my hair with his calloused hands and carried an ample stock of Handi-Snacks cheese and crackers (packed out with the little red stick), just for me. He’d let me spread my cheese over that cracker and watch me stuff my face – and laugh – whenever I was down. And, that was all I needed. Me and my Grandpa, bumping along the back roads of Indiana in his old jalopy, and laughing, with my cheese and crackers. If that ain’t a God Bless America tribute, I don’t know what is.
  

   

Vision Statement – The Finding Corte Magore Project


IMG_5660Problem: 42% of all children along the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua drop out of school by sixth grade, if they ever enroll at all.  (The Guardian)

They drop out because they don’t have shoes to walk to school, because they have to watch their siblings while their parents work, or because they themselves have to work to support their families.

They drop out because they see school as pointless.

Guess what?  They’re right.

There are no jobs waiting for students if and when they graduate.  Which means poverty will live on in Nicaragua forever.

Solution: Our project aims to start to reverse this cycle of poverty by driving social good tourism to the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS) in Nicaragua via the island of Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua.  At minimum, our project works like this:

Tourists visit the island, driving revenue to fund…

  • Jobs and job training for locals seeking to better provide for their families, such as eco-building, island maintenance, security, hospitality, transportation, and cooking – skills that parents can take back to their communities to show their children that job security is on the way.
  • Education for students, like a floating educational barge to deliver school supplies to remote areas, after school sports and crafts programs that only students who stay in school can partake in, or on-island biodiversity research camps for older students.

By providing job opportunities for parents and making school meaningful for students, the island will free students to stay in school, go after their dreams, and spread prosperity as they become business-owners, entrepreneurs, tourism professionals, artists, scientists, coders, teachers…

We believe the dreams of children are the most precious resource in Nicaragua – but also the most squandered.  So many dreams go unfulfilled due to poverty.  Every child deserves a shot to go after their dreams, and the Finding Corte Magore Project intends to give it to them.  We believe that achieving their dreams can not only elevate them above their birth circumstances, but also their communities and, over time, their nation.

We’ve secured the island – how would you like to help?

Project hyperlinks

Finding Corte Magore – findingcortemagore.com

Tonia Allen Gould – toniaallengould.com

FCM YouTube Channel

Tonia YouTube Channel

FCM Twitter – @cortemagore

FCM Facebook

Donate to FCM via PayPal

The Bones of Freedom


photo by Tonia Allen Gould
 

Don’t think your freedom is deserved because they served – that’s absurd. Freedom is not just a word. Freedom is a privilege granted you. Paid by sacrifice – in red, white and blue. But, have you paid back your due?

Are you being a good citizen? Respecting your fellow men? Showing up to vote again? Fighting for what you believe in? Showing gratitude to whom you depend? Time and time and time, again?

The tax on freedom is to do your part

From the start…

And from your heart…

Do they really have your loyalty?

Those men and woman who keep us free? 

Or, is this just another fruitless holiday? 

One where you get to stay… 

At home – with pay?

-TA Gould

Top Five Writing Mistakes in a Handy Infographic


Last year during NaNoWriMo, Grammarly worked with nearly 500 writers from 54 countries to crowdsource a novel. They analyzed the resulting 40,000 or so words and uncovered some writing mistakes that happened time and again, then summarized the top five in a handy infographic.

  
Reprinted with permission. Infographic and body content of the article attributed to https://www.grammarly.com/grammar-check

My Not-Quite Homemade #GlutenFree, #EggFree, Extraordinary Pumpkin Pancakes


Tonia’s Pancakes

FIRST – Buy Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Pancake Mix.


Follow the recipe, but double it, and  substitute every egg with one tablespoon of Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter. I also used canola oil in the recipe (butter optional).


Pour batter onto a hot griddle spritzed with coconut oil spray. Cook until lightly brown and flip.

Remove and stack two on a plate. Drizzle with melted butter. Skip the syrup and dollop with pumpkin butter. Garnish with a basil leaf.

 

 

What If All My Followers Donated Just $10? You May be Surprised.


I have precisely 3,154 followers on Twitter.  What if every one of them donated just $10 to the Finding Corte Magore project?  We’d raise enough money ($31,540) to buy a panga, outfit it with a teacher(s) and enough school supplies to keep our floating educational barge on the water for one full year – delivering education to the remote indigenous regions of the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS) in Nicaragua. CEDEHCA – the human rights organization we are aligned with – can traverse this region daily, serving some of the world’s most poor who currently have no access to school or books or learning supplies.

Our educational barge will depart right from our own dock at our 29-acre island on Corte Magore at Hog Cay – Bluefields, Nicaragua.


What if you could be a part of something great like that? We are currently looking for a corporate sponsor for our educational barge, but just $10 can make all the difference in the world. Please go to our website and click the PayPal link at the top make your $10 (or any amount you can give or afford) tax-deductible donation to our California Benefit Corp and that money will flow to our joint partnership with Ambassador Campbell on our 29-acre island of Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua. You can make a difference by contributing now.

Tonia Allen Gould

Thought Leader

the Finding Corte Magore project

5 Minutes, $10, and a Share?


Corte Magore , Hog Cay, Nicaragua

If you’ve been following my island project, Finding Corte Magore, then you’ll know it has been my lifeblood for the past fifteen months or so. What’s miraculous is that my lifeblood has flowed to numerous volunteers who have given of themselves freely to see this incredible project come to fruition. What’s miraculous is, my lifeblood has also become theirs, too.

In that time, my team and I went from having a dream of making a fictional place real – to actually being awarded an island in Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S – and now have the ability to put the island to social good use, reversing the cycle of poverty along the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS) in Nicaragua – a bio-diverse region that serves some of the world’s most poor. And, that poverty is what is driving the nation’s children from school into the workplace. (Guardian).

Sam's Lookout on Corte Magore
  

29-acre, Hog Cay, Nicaragua is now ours to share with the world. And we can put it to very good use by creating revenue producing opportunities from it that work to keep kids in Nicaragua in school.

Here’s what I know to be true. My dream is not your dream. I know you have dreams of your own. I know the economy is tough and many don’t have a great deal of discretionary income. I know you probably already have your own, favorite cause. I know people inherently like to give, but sometimes can’t. I also know I have to ask. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but raising money is not one of them, so I hope I’m going about it the right way.

Today, what I really want you to know about this island is that it’s not some ruse to generate huge corporate gains. It’s not my island. It’s everyone’s island. It’s about turning dreams into reality – setting out to do something so big and grandiose – that proves to the world, particularly its children that anything is possible, and their obstacles can be overcome, just like mine were growing-up in the U.S.  My story as it connects to the island can be read about here.

So, I’ll make my plea short and to the point. Today, I’m asking you for 5 minutes of your time, to go to our website, to click the PayPal link at the top, and to make your $10 (or any amount you can give or afford) tax-deductible donation to our California Benefit Corp and that money will flow to our joint partnership with Ambassador Campbell on Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua. You can make a difference by contibuting now – and you can help me keep this island dream alive.

If you can’t donate, I understand, but I’m asking you, please, for your share on each of your social networks you participate.


Throughout this blog, there’s more detailed information about the Finding Corte Magore project, it’s sustainability measures and what not – should you wish to learn more about it. In the meantime, thanks to your donation today, an indigenous child in the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region of Nicaragua can have access to learning materials delivered by the human rights organization, CEDEHCA, through the Finding Corte Magore project.

Check out the Finding Corte Magore project, live in Nicaragua.  Here we interview, Denise with CEDEHCA, who talks about their support to the children in the Kukra Hill municipality.

Please donate now.

Sincerely,

Tonia Allen Gould

The Finding Corte Magore Project

Author/Founder/Thought Leader

Don’t Fall for this USB Drive Scam from China


USB Drive
USB Drive Received in the Mail
I definitely want to put this out to the masses – especially to people in my network within the promotional products industry. In my regular USPS mail, I received a key chain USB Drive that was packed-out in a small padded envelope. The product was addressed from Factory A, on Ground Floor Gee, Gang Ind Bldg., No 108 Lok Shange Road, Tokwawan KowLoon J-BSJ. Nothing else was inside the package but the device itself.

In addition to being a children’s picture book author, I also own a 21 year-old marketing business specializing in the wholesale distribution of promotional products (logoed merchandise). Needless to say, receiving a sample of this nature would be fairly commonplace, especially since we sell imprinted USB drives to our clientele – except the package was addressed to me personally and not to my promotional products business, Tagsource, LLC.  The mailing label also had my home phone number on it – a number that is never given out by me or anyone on my staff. That mere fact alone probably saved me from throwing the USB drive into the company sample bin or a desk drawer, or worse yet, letting curiosity get the better of me enough to plug it in to see what was on it.

So, I did a little research on this little USB, and discovered that the “probability” is high that the device has an autorun feature installed on it, malware or other potential virus. Plug it in and your laptop or desktop could be fried, or you may even expose yourself to identity theft. While I can’t be sure that this particular drive is part of a scam, I’m posting several links below which cause me a great deal of concern. Any additional shared insight from other promotional products professionals would be great. This is definitely something we should start talking about within the promotional products industry as a whole. Note that I have sent a tip to the FBI about the device I received. I will let you know if I hear back from anyone there about any known cyber attacks with USB Drives being sent via the USPS from China.

Perhaps maybe our days of reselling imprinted USB drives should be over?

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2010/10/dont_stick_it_in.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2997401/The-killer-USB-FRIES-laptops-Malicious-drive-uses-high-voltage-destroy-computer-s-circuit-board.html

https://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin/comments/1ozisp/this_suspicious_little_usb_device_that_our_it_got/

http://www.wired.com/2014/10/unpatchable-usb-malware-now-patchsort/

http://www.ucs.cam.ac.uk/support/windows-support/winsupuser/usbinfections

http://magazine.promomarketing.com/blog/yes-we-should-be-scared-about-bad-usb-drives-dale-denham

Tonia Allen Gould/CEO

Tagsource, LLC

www.tagsource.com

#USBSCAM

biobag_specsUpdate:  We took the liberty of querying one of our USB Drive suppliers, iClick, about the security risk.  Here’s their response on the matter:

From: Jacquie Little [mailto:jacquiel@iclick.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 2:21 PM
To: kelley@tagsource.com
Cc: TJ Vail

Hi Kelley,

Thanks for sending this our way. We have been aware of these types of scams and our solution to combat was to provide a sealed security packaging for all of our USB drives. See the specs attached. This may be something you would like to share with your team.  It’s another element of our commitment to product safety and protecting our customer’s from potential hazards associated with USB distribution.

If you have any questions or further concerns, please let me know how I can assist.

Thanks for reaching out and have a great day.


Jacquie Little
Decorate and Customer Resolutions Lead / iClick

 

Custom Ninja USB Drive produced by Tagsource.com
 

Hug-A-Tree on our island of “Corte Magore” and Keep Nicaraguan Kids in School


HugATree on Corte Magore and have your tax deductible donation work to keep Nicaraguan children in school through the Finding Corte Magore project.
HugATree on Corte Magore and have your tax deductible donation work to keep Nicaraguan children in school through the Finding Corte Magore project.

Join us on our first money-raising initiative for the Finding Corte Magore​ project. With your tax deductible $250+ donation – you, or someone you love – can be memorialized forever by “Hugging a Tree” on Corte Magore, at Hog Cay, Bluefields, Nicaragua​. I promise you, with every ounce of my being, your money will be put to very “GOOD” use.

On Google Maps the Coordinates for Corte Magore at Hog Cay are the following:

11°59’25.2″N 83°45’09.7″W

Here´s an aerial view of the island.

Tree Huggers® are created using high-grade stainless steel and are noted for being the only tree plaque that gently wraps around the tree (by means of plastic-encased springs) and expands without harming it as it grows! It will not rust or corrode or release any harmful toxins or chemicals that could harm the tree.  There are hundreds and hundreds of trees on Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua – and we anticipate that eventually, every one of them will be memorialized by our donors.   Click here to make your tax deductible donation.

The Finding Corte Magore Project Problem: 42% of all children along the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua drop out of school by sixth grade, if they ever enroll at all. Poverty in Nicaragua drives kids out of school and into the workplace. (The Guardian).  They drop out because they don’t have shoes to walk to school, because they have to watch their siblings while their parents work, or because they have to work to support their families. They drop out because they see school as pointless. Guess what? They’re right. There are no jobs waiting for students if and when they graduate. Which means poverty will live on in Nicaragua forever. Unless…

Solution: Our project, led by Author, and Entrepreneur, Tonia Allen Gould, along with her team, aims to start to reverse this cycle of poverty in one large region of Nicaragua by driving sustainable, best practices, social good tourism to Bluefields via the island of Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua. Our social enterprise works like this: Eco-Tourists and Flashpackers visit our island in Bluefields, driving revenue to fund programs such as: Jobs and job training on the island for locals seeking to better provide for their families, such as eco-building, island maintenance, security, hospitality, transportation, and cooking, training they can take back to their communities to earn money. By showing kids along the Atlantic Coast that their parents can be trained and then gainfully employed, we can offer children hope for a better life for themselves. Hope that may start to reverse the cycle of poverty.  By providing job opportunities for parents and making school meaningful for students, the island will free students to stay in school, go after their dreams, and spread prosperity as they become business-owners, entrepreneurs, tourism professionals, artists, scientists, coders, teachers…

We also intend to fund educational programs for students in Nicaragua – programs like a floating educational barge that delivers teachers and and school supplies to remote indigenous regions, after school sports and crafts programs that only students who stay in school can partake in, or on-island biodiversity and environmental learning research camps for older students.

The Finding Corte Magore project will establish ecotourism operations in under-developed and ecologically vulnerable areas, and set the precedent for sustainable development in a way that prevents the destruction of pristine natural habitats by irresponsible tourism. The FCM business model will be validated in the Hog Cay pilot site in Nicaragua given the biodiversity attributes and relative lack of development in the area, as well as the recent influx of visitors to the country. The FCM platform will subsequently be exported to similarly vulnerable areas with a viable and repeatable business model that creates investable and scalable opportunities to promote sustainable development.

Meanwhile, we intend to build a global, K-12 environmental learning curriculum from eco-projects happening on the island -which is an identified bio-diverse hotspot, projects that have research attraction from many of our potential partners and universities, as well as will put locals to work with proper training:

  • Building our Eco-Beach complete with a volleyball pit
  • Mangrove protection and devising ways to eliminate natural, island erosion
  • Building the bar and commissary
  • Renovating the basketball court with recyclable products like used tires
  • Building floating casitas
  • Training of locals to do construction, learn hospitality, cooking, bartending and how to captain a panga, etc.
  • Creating a Zipline from one part of the island to the other or connecting the island to a neighboring island via zipline that won’t infringe on passing boats
  • Eco-Spa – Building natural, spas from collected rainwater
  • Lighting the island for evenings
  • Building eco-sensitive tree houses on the island
  • Rebuilding the island’s suspension bridge
  • Artisanal Fishing Demonstrations with natives
  • Creating Cultural Excursions like to the Garifuna annual anniversary celebration
  • Coral Reef Restoration Projects
  • Turtle Protection and Migration Projects
  • Building Photovoltaic thermal hybrid solar collectors to convert solar radiation into thermal and electrical energy to power the island and how people may be use similar technology to power their lives after a hurricane
  • Farming Mussels in the lagoon to clean up the brown water
  • Various Eco-Farming projects – (we have access to an eco-farm across the lagoon) – training on planting and growing foods in tropical climates despite global warming
  • Figuring out how to divert town rain water and brown water from flowing into the lagoon
  • Creating and traveling with our floating educational barge to indigenous regions, bringing education to children who otherwise can’t access education
  • Inventing hurricane resistant “kit” housing for poor coastal communities led by a team of engineers in a think tank
  • Building a bird sanctuary
  • Creating Vertical Gardening Systems despite the clay soil which is conducive to growing certain types of food only
  • Implementing fishing best practices
  • Introducing diving to the area and along the many shipwrecked boats
  • Finding the tradewinds and introducing surfing to areas which are untapped or undiscovered

No other tourism venture strategically connects the dots between social good, environmentalism and education – making our project the first of its kind and further promoting sustainability by making the number of visitors, to the island, virtually limitless. Planned educational opportunities at FCM are extensive and do not just include educational experiences consumed by the eco-tourists we attract. Rather, we see an opportunity to build a K-12 environmental educational platform that makes FCM virtually accessible from anywhere in the world. A FCM student/teacher/professor/university inspired curriculum will be at the core of our offerings.

We have been in talks with many notable agencies and insitutions such as NOAA, Conservation International, CREST and UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science. Sustainable, best practices and conscientious travel is imperative to this region or it may be devastated by tourists. That said, the tourism is still coming to the region regardless, here’s why:  Eco-Tourism is already happening in Nicaragua  A dirt road from Managua that normally takes twelve hours to drive, is currently being paved. This connects the Atlantic Coast to the rest of Nicaragua without having to fly.  Lonely Planet calls Nicaragua the Top 4 place in the world to visit  The Canal de Nicaragua is a shipping route under construction through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean Sea (and therefore the Atlantic Ocean) with the Pacific Ocean.

Our business partner is: Ambassador Francisco Campbell, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S. and owner of 29-acre, Hog Cay. FCM has negotiated a 15-year leasehold already on the island. We are halfway there to make our vision at Corte Magore a reality.

Hog Cay Google Coordinates: 11°59’25.2″N 83°45’09.7″W.

We believe the dreams of children are the most precious resource in Nicaragua – but also the most squandered. So many dreams go unfulfilled due to extreme poverty. Something needs to be done about this.  Every child deserves a shot to go after their dreams, and the Finding Corte Magore Project intends to give it to them. We believe that achieving dreams can not only elevate children above their birth circumstances, but also their communities and, over time, their nation.

We have acquired the island through a lot of hard work and dedication, and now we need to build it out, develop programs and put the island to work to keep a nation of children in school.

Finding Corte Magore is a California Benefit Company. The purpose of a benefit corporation includes creating general public benefit, which is defined as a material positive impact on society and the environment. A benefit corporation’s directors and officers operate the business with the same authority as in a traditional corporation but are required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on society and the environment. Finding Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua is a Nicaraguan joint partnership formed under Nicaraguan law.

Project hyperlinks:

Finding Corte Magore – findingcortemagore.com

Tonia Allen Gould – toniaallengould.com, author and founder

FCM YouTube Channel

Tonia YouTube Channel

FCM Twitter – @cortemagore

FCM Facebook

Donate to FCM via PayPal (Donations are charitable and tax deductible)

Oh, and one day, we hope to see you visit us on Corte Magore!

Aerial Photo of Hog Cay - Left The Bluff and Caribbean Sea - Right Bluefields - Top Rama Cay - Bottom Escondido River

My Hometown Newspapers Connect the Dots Between My Background, Book and the Island of Corte Magore


By Culver Citizen Editor, Jeff Kenney - Culver, Indiana
By Culver Citizen Editor, Jeff Kenney

Title Waves: Big Thoughts Behind the Story of a Little Crab and His Home


This article includes toddler BabbleMusing on the title of my children’s picture book, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore…

  On a summer’s drive to the beach, almost eighteen years ago,  my daughter, Whitney Ann- a toddler at the time – was playing with her little bare toes and babbling the nonsensical words from her car seat, “Corte Magore…Corte Magore…”  Over and over again, she’d prattle, burble and blather the words, giggling as if she had a secret, while my husband and I scratched our heads, and racked our brains to figure out what she was trying to say. 

Since I fancy myself a bit of a poet (I hope you do too), I started making-up a rhyming poem on that fateful drive along the California Coast to Santa Barbara. I toyed around with the sound of those two words, out loud and in my head, crafted by my toddler’s own two-year-old imagination. Whitney’s made-up words formed the beginnings of an epic poem, one that I just couldn’t shake free from my brain long enough to ever let it go. And, for years I honed various drafts and versions of Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, but never got serious about publishing it in the form of a children’s picture book until much later in my daughter’s life. 

But, how do you spell words conjured-up in the boundless creative mind of a child?  Originally, I was spelling Corte as “Corta” because I like phonetically correct spellings. But, one day, I noticed one of my employee’s checks was addressed to Corte Madera, California. So I looked up what “Corte Madera” means. In Spanish, Corte Madera means the imperative command “Chop wood”, as in “To chop the wood”.  A crab uses a chopping motion with his pincers. So Corte – to chop – seemed befitting for my land and sea fiddler crab, awashed ashore of the island that would one day be Corte Magore (fictionally, and in real life.)  

California is also a land wrought with Spanish derived spellings and places, so “Corte” stuck, even if not phonetically correct. (I didn’t know then that my book’s unintentional Spanish influence would later be connected, serendipitously,  to Latin America through the Finding Corte Magore project).  “Magore”, or the second part of the name of the island in my book, rhymes perfectly with Moore, lore, before and a slew of other words used throughout my prose in Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore. Every poet feels blessed when she uses a word and finds it amassed with other phonetic or rhythmic  words.

And thus, a book’s title was born. And my life has forever been altered. 

 

from a recent book signing in Culver, Indiana
 

School Author Visit: SRTMS Career Day 2015 on Writing, Islanding, and Social Good


Food and Fun on Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast


By Guest Blogger, Whitney Gould, the Finding Corte Magore project

Traveling along the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua is like shopping in a thrift shop – the gems are there, but you have to search for them.  And when I say gems, I mean the most gleaming gems of all.  From its jungle river rides to its coconut-infused cuisine, the often overlooked Caribbean Coast is full of discoveries, activities, and cuisine that left the three of us – my mother and founder of Finding Corte Magore, and Eric Anderson, FCM’s Communications Director and me – feeling as if we’d found a new wonder of the world in Bluefields, Nicaragua.

Bluefields was named after the Dutch pirate Abraham Blauvelt who hid in the bay’s waters in the early 17th century.[1] It has a population of 87,000 (2005)[2] and its inhabitants are mostly Mestizo, Afro-descendant Creoles, and indigenous Miskitu, along with smaller communities of Garifuna, whites, Chinese, Mayangnas, Ulwas, and Ramas. Bluefields is Nicaragua’s chief Caribbean port, from which hardwood, seafood, shrimpand lobster are exported. Bluefields was a rendezvous for English and Dutch buccaneers in the 16th and 17th century and became capital of the English protectorate over the Mosquito Coast in 1678. During United States interventions (1912–15, 1926–33) in Nicaragua, American Marines were stationed there. In 1984, the United States mined the harbor (along with those of Corinto and Puerto Sandino). Bluefields was destroyed by Hurricane Joan in 1988 but was rebuilt. (Source:  Wikipedia)

When traveling to this coastal region in Latin America, you’ll want some handy tips on the food and fun. Here’s where to start:

Food – When it comes to food, try everything with the Nicaraguans’ trademark coconut flare.  Coconut accents enhance the flavors of rice, shrimp, and bread in ways you’ve never tasted. Hunt down a bakery selling signature pan de coco (coconut bread) – a dish with subtle but delectable hints of coconut that grow on you as you eat it. It’s nearly impossible to save any for later. If I’ve tempted your taste buds and no immediate trip to Nicaragua is in your future, trying making your own pan de coco bread at home with this recipe.

For seafood, try Pelican Bay (or as the local taxi drivers call it, “El Pelicano”) – not necessarily for the cuisine (although it’s good), but for the view. Take a look at the dishes cooked with coconut – I recommend the shrimp and rice.  It was so good I ordered it two days in a row.  Be sure to find a seat outside.  Seated over Bluefields Bay, the balcony offers amazing views of the water and nearby islands.  It’s a great place to take pictures of the passing pangas, well-presented dishes, or better yet, both:

image3
View over Bluefields Bay from Pelican Bay restaurant
Fred Ulrich, Casa Ulrich
Fred Ulrich, Casa Ulrich, Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
Casa Ulrich CuisineFun – A foolproof way to have fun in Nicaragua is to spend time in the water.  Take a panga through the bay and the connecting rivers.  This is the easiest (and sometimes only) way to travel from place to place.  Pearl Lagoon*, home of Fred Ulrich’s restaurant, Casa Ulrich, is known for vibrant locals, a beach-like atmosphere, and big screen TVs for sports fanatics.  Order the seafood platter, have a beer, play a game of beach soccer, and you’re sure to have a fun-filled day.

If you’re up for the day trip, take some time to go to Pearl Lagoon by boat.  Fred Ulrich, Swiss trained chef and Nicaragua local, owns this top-notch seafood restaurant right off the dock. Since you’ll be staying for dinner as well as lunch, be sure to try the seafood pasta in both the red and white sauces.  Don’t forget to wash your food down with a Toña Cerveza – the most popular beer in Nicaragua (and we see why)!  Watch the video below as Eric gives his critique of this Nicaraguan beer.

image a
Soccer match on the new beachfront recently installed at Casa Ulrich
HugKey
HugKey, Bluefields, Nicaragua
DSC_4190If you have time for another day trip, schedule a tour at CEDEHCA’s own farm, HugKey**.  HugKey is a sanctuary unlike any other for ducks, pigs, turkeys, and chickens.  Set on a lush, sprawling, open field, the island is also covered with gardens, fruit trees, and vegetable patches.  Plus, your visit contributes to a great cause.  CEDEHCA is using the farm to teach young people how to raise farm animals -like hogs, chickens and turkeys, grow fruits and vegetables, and sell to local businesses.  If you’re interested in visiting the farm, contact Earl Gregory Taylor, CEDEHCA’s Operations Coordinator, at (505) 8430 0884 or earl.taylor@cedehcanicaragua.com.  Munch on some sugar cane while you’re there!  

*Be sure to wear pants to protect from local mosquitos! – Yes, I learned the hard way. By the time, I left Pearl Lagoon, I had over 50 mosquito bites on my legs. Mom and Eric both paid heed to local advice to wear bug spray, but I thought I was impervious to what I thought I was only local lore. By the way, my mom was using her own lavender, orange and euculyptus natural oil concoction and she escaped the whole trip without a single bite.

SnakeOh yes, and do watch out for snakes, while touring any tall, grassy areas – after all, you are in the jungle.

I hope you fall in love with the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua like I did.  Open yourself up to experience the flavors, personality, and beauty of the coast and its people, and I promise that you, too, will enjoy not only these gems, but will find some of your own!

Some day soon, we hope to see you visit us on Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua!

image2 DSC_3695 CM1 DSC_4067 DSC_4095

Want to Guess your Child’s Future Profession? Ask Them to Describe a Tree. 


Last night during dinner, we sat outside with our out-of-town guests and looked at the same tree, and I had an idea. Going around the table, I asked everyone to use their own words to describe it. Funny how the writers were more descriptive and detailed, while the two lawyers dug deeper and were more analytical, but the financial guy was perfunctory and straight to the point. A mathematician might have talked about the distance from the tree to the water feature and other, nearby trees. Want to guess your child’s future profession? Ask them to describe a tree.  

Welcome to the Jungle


By Lorna Pierno

When I travel back to Nicaragua, the phrase “Welcome to the Jungle” means more than the iconic Guns & Roses song.

Here, “Welcome to the Jungle” means waking up to the sounds of roosters crowing, birds chirping, and the leaves on the palm trees swaying to alert us of a pending storm. It means returning to the jungle of my childhood and the vivid memories that live here, like when I laid the first brick of what would later become the family farmhouse I sit in now, looking out at the trees that my brother and I climbed when we were kids.

“Welcome to the Jungle” means I’m home at Finca Zaragoza, a luscious coffee farm located on over 500 acres of nature in the mountains of Nicaragua’s La Dalia region.
Lorna's Laptop

In the blink of an eye, over 30 years have passed since I climbed those trees. While much of the coffee farm remains the same, there is one big, new addition that fills me with hope for the future of the country. Across the way, in what used to be an open cement field where we dried coffee beans and I learned how to ride a bike, there is now a schoolhouse.

In 2012, my father, Omar Perez Leclair, built the schoolhouse for the kids of the farm workers who harvest coffee here. Prior to the schoolhouse, parents struggled to keep their kids in school. Unable to afford cars, the only way for kids to get to school was “on foot,” and since the nearest schools were five to ten miles away, the kids’ shoes would quickly wear out. Without money to spend on new shoes, parents would sometimes just take their kids out of school. By building a school on the farm, we hoped to save not only kids’ shoes, but their dreams.

Francis, a 7-year-old girl, who enjoys playing hide-n-seek with her friends, told me she wants to become a doctor so she can take care of anyone who gets sick.

Francis’s family has worked in Finca Zaragoza for many, many years. My mother taught her grandfather, Don Julio, now retired, to read and write. He will never forget it and tells me this same story every time he sees me. For me, the joy he got from learning to read and write reinforces the importance of investing in Nicaragua’s future by making sure that essential resources (such as accredited teachers, desks, notebooks, pencils, a chalkboard, etc.) are in place to educate the kids.  Francis

Despite the efforts of people like my father, many kids here will not make it past the 6th grade. Their parents will force them to start working in the city, the streets, or in other farms so that they can help contribute towards food and clothing to support the rest of the family – including younger brothers/sisters and grandparents. Without school, many won’t have a shot at fulfilling their dreams.

I need only look at my own path to see how important school was in building the life I lead in Los Angeles. In 1983, my family and I fled to the United States. I was in 2nd grade, enrolled in “El Americano” School and learning how to speak English, when fighting between the Sandinistas and the US-supported Contras grew severe, causing Nicaragua’s economic and civil rights conditions to worsen. My family and I settled in the San Fernando Valley in California, and I enrolled in the 3rd grade with American kids. I quickly learned how to read and write in English, and by the end of the school year, I was helping my American classmates with their homework. I admit, I was kind of a nerd, but I just LOVED going to school and I never missed a day – I looked forward to winning “perfect attendance” awards at the end of the year. When I got chicken pox in 4th grade, I was crushed that I had to miss a full week.

I went on to attend Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills, CA, and then CSUN (California State University Northridge), where I graduated with a bachelor’s in Business Administration. After graduating, I ventured into the world of marketing at several fast-paced telecommunications companies.

Today, I am thankful for all the events that have led me to this point, and feel that the school is an expression of our gratitude and hope for the parents and children in Finca Zaragoza. Yet for as many as we’ve helped, there are millions more across Nicaragua who are forgotten. Spreading quality education to a whole country of children is a huge task, one requiring big ideas, hard work, and the coordinated efforts of dedicated people. It’s more than my family and I can do alone.

Then, one day, on Facebook, I saw a video about the Finding Corte Magore Project.  But, it was this personal video from Tonia, about Finding Corte Magore, that got my attention the most because it tells the story on how her personal journey to Corte Magore began and how that relates to my own experiences, growing-up Nicaraguan.

I’d known Tonia Allen Gould, the project’s founder/CEO, for several years after we’d worked together in Los Angeles and became friends on social media. I learned that Tonia had published a children’s book, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, and now was turning the book’s fictional island of Corte Magore into a real island in Nicaragua to help kids stay in school. I knew I wanted to learn more, be a part of it, and help Nicaraguan students fulfill their dreams by helping Tonia fulfill hers. When Tonia approached me about visiting kids in Nicaragua, I welcomed her with open arms.

One conversation led to another and six weeks after our initial conversation, we were at the schoolhouse in Finca Zaragoza watching the kids’ faces glow as most of them received coloring paper and crayons for the very first time. They also received an English lesson from Tonia for the very first time as she taught them to say “Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore.”

Ultimately, I understood that The Finding Corte Magore Project’s mission was to bring awareness to education in a country that desperately needs it.  This trip to the schoolhouse was a starting point for a grand initiative, a vision and a project that started out as a dream in the pages of a children’s book but was going to leap off the pages into reality.

So with great hope and excitement, I invite Tonia, the island, and the Finding Corte Magore Project to Nicaragua by saying: Welcome to the Jungle.

About the Finding Corte Magore Project: Our goal is to crowdfund a “social good” island in Nicaragua to raise awareness to the children who may drop out of school before reaching the sixth grade. In an effort to promote dreaming amongst children at home and abroad, our goal is to rebrand the 29-acre island of Hog Cay, to Corte Magore, after the fictional island in the children’s picture book, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, authored by Tonia Allen Gould. The main character in this story had to overcome a lot of challenges to accomplish his goal of building a life for himself.  We believe, with a little help from students and teachers in the US, crowdfunders, and the Finding Corte Magore Project, that the children in Nicaragua too can create a better life for themselves as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THREE ENGINE FAILURE ADVENTURES IN NICARAGUA


By Eric Anderson

As the panga roared away from the dock and into the humid twilight of Laguna de Perlas, Tonia, Whitney, and I waved goodbye to Mr. Fred and the partiers at Hotel Casa Ulrich, his beachfront restaurant where we’d spent the afternoon eating fresh seafood, dancing to Caribbean music, and playing a made-up volleyball-soccer hybrid game straight out of childhood – only better now, because we could drink beer.

 
The party animal in me wished we’d taken Mr. Fred up on his offer to stay the night at his hotel so the fun could go on.  But we had to get back to Casa Rosa, our hotel in Bluefields, before nightfall.  The next day, we’d arranged to visit the Pearl Cays, a snorkeling and diving destination with clear waters and abundant marine life.  To get there, however, we needed our passports, and Whitney and I had left those at Casa Rosa.  So we would come back this way tomorrow morning, which was pretty okay, too, because it meant we’d get a couple more panga rides up and down the stunning Kukra River (watch documentary) that connected Laguna de Perlas and Bluefields.

Warm breeze in our hair, cold beers in our hands, it was a fantastic ride.

“I could do this all day,” Tonia had said on the way over.

Now, sitting near the bow of the boat, I directed my camera at the passing shoreline and brought into focus a green-grey blur of palm trees and foliage, the leaves fat and wet from the light afternoon rains, broken only by a sporadic flash of color in the decorated fishing boats, tin-roof huts, and laundry lines of an indigenous village.  Orlando, our driver from Casa Rosa’s Rumble in the Jungle, had selected the biggest, fastest panga – with a 200hp outboard motor – at Casa Rosa because it could make the winding 30 mile trip between Bluefields and Laguna de Perlas in 50 minutes, and because it had room for his brother, friend, and girlfriend.  As we traveled further, the distance between each village became greater.  Soon, we would cruise down the throat of the Kukra River, and the jungle would close in around us.

I was about to start recording when the panga came to a sudden, jolting stop in the middle of the lagoon, throwing me against the bench hard enough to briefly knock the breath out of me.  The cooler we’d stocked that morning with Toña beers and bottled water slid into the bench Whitney was sitting on.  Jicaro, a skinny 17-year-old boy, had been sitting on the bow but was now on the floor of the boat.  I rose, unhurt but unsteady, and looked over him to see what we’d hit.

There was nothing.  Just open water.

I turned to Tonia and Whitney, searching their faces for what had happened, only to hear the answer a moment later in the wa-wa-wa-wa-wa of an engine refusing to start as Orlando turned the ignition.

Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.  Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.  Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa –

As Orlando tried and failed to start the engine, Tonia gave me a knowing smile.  “Didn’t I tell you we’d have an adventure?” she said.

Before coming to Nicaragua for the Finding Corte Magore Project, she had promised me an adventure.  With a week of experiential tourism offerings involving filming the 29-acre island of Corte Magore on Hog Cay, meeting with the Campbell family (the island’s owners and Finding Corte Magore’s partners), and exploring an eco-farm, Bluefields nightlife, restaurants, casinos, and surrounding areas like Laguna de Perlas, I had no doubt an adventure would happen.  I did not, however, expect it on day two, and frankly wasn’t convinced a minor mechanical hiccup qualified.  Everything we’d done today had gone off without a hitch, and I was pretty sure the boat would start back up in a second…

Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.  Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.

Frowning, Orlando raised the engine from the water so he and his friend, a large guy in a Boston Red Sox hat, could examine it.

We waited, bobbing listlessly in the middle of the lagoon.

  
I scanned the shoreline for civilization, but there was none.  We had only gone a mile or two, but it was enough.  There were no villages in sight, no other boats passing by.

Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa…

That sound was starting to get on my nerves.

Tonia dug out her iPhone.

“Who are you calling?” Whitney asked.

“I’m going to ask Mr. Fred to tow us back,” she said.  “I worked at a marina in Indiana.  I know what a broken engine sounds like.”

Mr. Fred had given her his number just before we left and told her to call anytime.  He would have a good laugh at this one, I thought.  Mr. Fred had offered several times to accommodate us for the night, and, when we’d declined because we didn’t have our passports, offered us use of the showers and a change of clothes and, when we’d declined that, suggested we at least stay for one more round of beers.  “You must have work to get back to,” Tonia had said.  “We never work on Saturdays,” Mr. Fred said with a smile.  Now here we were, about to take Mr. Fred up on all of his hospitality after all.

Tonia frowned.

“He didn’t pick up?” I asked.

“The call’s not going through.”  She dialed again.  Again, the call didn’t go through.  “How do you make local calls?”

There were seven of us on the boat, but we couldn’t figure it out.  Orlando gave Tonia his phone and this time, the call went through.  But Mr. Fred didn’t pick up.  Tonia dialed him again.  Again, Mr. Fred didn’t pick up.  Tonia left a voicemail, explaining the situation and asking Mr. Fred for a ride back.

“So much for calling him any time,” she said, jokingly.

“They’re probably still partying,” Whitney said.

“Okay so we need to call the restaurant itself.”  No one had the number to the restaurant.  Back on her iPhone, Tonia googled Casa Ulrich, but the connection was slow.  We waited, silently, as the webpage loaded and she got the number.  Using Orlando’s phone now, she dialed.

No one picked up at the restaurant either.

At least for now, Casa Ulrich was a dead end.

Orlando called Casa Rosa in Bluefields.  Someone picked up, but that didn’t do us any good.  Randy and Rosa, the owners, were gone for the week on a fishing trip.  Casa Rosa had several spare pangas, but everyone who worked there who could operate one had taken a vacation day to come on this boat with us… this boat that was stranded in the middle of a lagoon with a busted engine, a long way from home, without any help on the way.

I had to smile at how fitting it was that we’d found ourselves living out a textbook opening to a horror movie.  When I’d first met Tonia on a flight from LA to Chicago, I was working as a script reader at a horror film company and was all too familiar with the scenario we found ourselves in now.  A group of tourists spend the day living it up in paradise.  Just when they think nothing can go wrong, they get stranded in the wilderness.  They have no cell reception, but one of their cameras is conveniently still going and catches every moment in trendy shakycam as a monster rises from the muddy depths of the lagoon and tears them apart… 

There were no monsters in the lagoon.  There were, however, alligators.  Baby alligators, Orlando had stressed.  They couldn’t eat people… though I wondered whether whatever gave birth to these baby alligators could.  Fred Jr., Mr. Fred’s son, had joked that there were anacondas.  Tonia had joked there were piranhas.  Everyone was a comedian when we were safely ashore.

Looming nightfall, however, was a more realistic challenge.  I’d heard earlier that the only boats on the river at night were those of drug dealers, but even they rarely frequented the waters, given Nicaragua is the safest country in Latin America.  By nightfall, we’d have to do watch rotations.  We’d have to figure out a way to light-up the boat so no one crashed into us.  We’d have to split, what, the five or six bottles of water left in the cooler? The beer would have to be rationed. Oh no!

Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.  Orlando tried one last time then shook his head, defeated.

“Battery,” he said.  “Engine,” Tonia said.

So his friend proceeded to peel off his shirt, shorts, and Red Sox hat and jump into the water.  He hadn’t expected the water to be so shallow and hit the bottom hard, tumbling over.  For the first time since the boat stalled, we laughed.  Jicaro jumped in next and started pushing as well.

Unable to restart the engine or call for a pick-up, we had come upon our last resort: pushing the panga back to shore.  I powered up my camera.  This was turning out to be an adventure after all.  Which meant I had work to do.

Part of the reason I was on this trip was to gather footage for the Finding Corte Magore documentary.  I imagined the film telling an inspiring tale about the obstacles Tonia and her team overcame to make the fictional island in her children’s book real.  I knew of many of the obstacles already – locating the island, negotiating with the Ambassador to let us use it for the project, crowdfunding it, building it up, and managing it for tourists. But surely we could find room in the film for getting stranded in a jungle river, too.  I pressed record:

Maybe more than two miles.  I couldn’t even see the village Casa Ulrich was located in.  Pushing a panga was slow-going so whatever the distance, by the time we made it back, it would be nighttime.

Jicaro waded to the bow of the boat and started pulling the rope used to dock it.  After steering the panga on its course back to Casa Ulrich, Orlando jumped into the water as well and started pushing.  I felt a sudden urge to do the same.  So, kicking off my flip-flops and holding my $1,000 Canon D70 above my head, I stepped over the side of the boat and into the water.  It was bathwater warm.  The bottom consisted of a squishy mud that sucked in my feet.  I felt like the intrepid storyteller I’d always dreamed of being but, in this business, so often remains a dream.  As I filmed, I felt myself enter the sweetspot of adventure.  This plan was last-ditch, slow-going, ludicrous, but spirits were as high as they’d been all afternoon.

There was only one thing that could make the adventure sweeter…

And Tonia made it happen by doing what I imagine every documentary filmmaker would want from its chief subject: without prompting her, she jumped into the water and started pushing the boat, too.

As a storyteller, a part of my mind is often separate from whatever’s going on before me, running through quality control checklists: What am I trying to get across?  How do I get that across?  What contribution am I making to this story, all stories, the world?  Here as I filmed Tonia pushing the panga, I thought of the famous shot of General Douglas MacArthur wading ashore in the Philippines WWII, of Daniel Craig announcing his presence as the new 007 in Casino Royale by strutting through the Caribbean.  Walking through water isolated human toughness.  Motors broke, cellphones died, but willpower was its own power source.  The idea that, through hard work, anything is possible was a central message to the Finding Corte Magore Project, and here it was in action. Our fearless leader did not let us down. I waded behind, ahead of, and to the side of the boat, shooting as much and from as many angles as I could before Tonia climbed back in.

As we went along, the water started getting deeper, and I had to hold the camera higher and higher.  It rose to my waist, then my stomach.  When it reached my torso, I decided there’d been enough mechanical failure for one day, and put the camera back aboard the panga.  Then, unable to resist becoming a character in the story, I grabbed the side of the boat and started to push.

We docked the panga at the first fishing village we came across.  A dock worker and two small children had seen us approaching and were waiting for us.  Orlando explained the problem and, a few minutes later, the dockworker had a fresh battery.

“This is why I love Nicaraguans,” Tonia said as they connected the new battery.  “They’re some of the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve ever met.”

Orlando fired up the engine.  Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.  Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.  Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa –

So it wasn’t the battery after all.

Tonia sighed.  “I knew it wasn’t the battery.  The battery starts the engine.  Once it’s running, even if it goes out, the engine would keep going.”

Eventually, a fisherman tied our panga to his and towed us the rest of the way back to Mr. Fred’s.  As we neared, we saw the beach party was still in full swing.  The partiers gathered on the pier and greeted us with big grins, none bigger than the told-you-so grin of Mr. Fred as he helped us off the panga and onto the pier.

He couldn’t resist saying it either.  “Told you! You should’ve stayed!” he said.

Our engine failure adventures continued.  A few days later we were taking a panga away from Corte Magore on Hog Cay in the lagoon when the engine died and the boat came to a (much gentler) stop in the middle of Bluefields Bay.  Here we go again, I thought.  

All afternoon, I had been gathering on-island footage for the crowdfunding video, something I’d been waiting to do for months.  Having done it at last, I’d awarded, if only to myself, a “mission accomplished,” and allowed myself to turn off the camera and settle in for the ride.  It seemed I had celebrated too soon.

Juan Martinez, our driver and our island handyman, took the casing off of the engine and started fiddling with it as Tonia told the story of our Laguna de Perlas engine failure to Earl, our guide.  Earl is a coordinator for CEDEHCA (Centro de Derechos Humanos, Ciudadanos y Autonómicos, or the Center for Human Rights, Civil and Autonomous), a human rights organization stationed in Bluefields and run by the Campbell family.  He had given us the tour of the island and the eco farm.  Now we were swapping engine failure tales when we heard the throaty but lyrical roar of the engine coming back to life.

Within minutes, Juan had fixed the engine, and got a job offer:

After we’d docked at Casa Rosa, Tonia turned to Whitney and me, smiling.  “That makes two engine failures.  We’re due for one more.  Things always happen to me in threes.”

I would have considered this no more than an idle superstition had I not read Tonia’s memoir-in-progress, When it Comes in Threes.  In it, she traced threepeats through her adult life and childhood.  If Tonia’s rule of threes held true here, we were indeed due for one more engine failure, and running out of time for it to happen.  It was our last night in Bluefields.  Tomorrow, we’d fly to Managua.  I don’t think any of us liked the idea of climbing into a single prop plane with fate owing us one last engine failure.

So it was with some relief when, that evening, our cab broke down as we were driving to a seafood restaurant called Pelican Bay.

“This is the third time!” Tonia said, vindicated.  “I told you things always happen to me in threes!”

As if to reinforce it, Tonia gave the driver three unsuccessful turns of the key before calling Earl, who we were meeting for dinner.  Tonia checked with Earl if we were in a safe area (we were, even though a large, muscular man standing on the sidewalk made me uneasy), and had him talk to the driver in Spanish.  An arrangement was made to have the driver’s cousin pick us up.  We were getting good at this.

The next day we boarded a small prop plane and slept easily on a wonderfully unadventurous flight back to Managua, and eventually – safely back on American soil – I marveled at the experiential tourist this trip had helped me become.”  

As a follow-up to this post, we got a kick out of a tweet Tonia received on Twitter. It reads, “@MyWeego: Sorry @ToniaAllenGould. If you had a Weego jump-starter, you could be back on the water in no time. Check it out 🙂 http://t.co/0zculKdDYf” 
Given the frequent trips to Nicaragua, we might just have to buy the WEEGO jumpstarter and battery pack.