Is this a PDC?
No. The Permaculture Design Certification course is an introduction to permaculture, a taste of everything in a short amount of time, but not enough hands-on experience. The Harmonia Apprenticeship is a working classroom that covers in detail all aspects of the design and construction of the eco-village and education center. We will be happy to write detailed letters of reference and recommendations for participants in good standing.
What kind of projects can I create?
Your imagination (and money and access to materials) are the only limits. Depending on the core and funding campaign, a small temple in the forest, yurt, yoga shala, mosaic, mural, wildflower garden, greenhouse, ceremony, wildlife rescue building, dance, bike/hiking trail, performance, aquaponic garden, bee hive/honey dispenser, documentary, project diarist, outdoor art, crystal altars, pretty curtains or decorative paths. Maybe you won’t figure it out until you get here, or maybe you will be too busy helping others to have another project. Don’t worry. Check out the Harmonia Pinterest boards (HarmoniaNicaragua) for inspiration.
What can I expect?
It will never be dull or boring and will continuously impact your life your life in big and small ways. There will be days when you are covered with bug bites and rashes, lost a boot to the mud walking to the compost toilet at midnight, haven’t slept in three nights because the rain is too loud, and curse yourself for not heeding the warnings in the FAQ. There are days you will sit on the beach and watch the sun rise over the horizon while serenaded by the howls of monkeys and birds, then dance on the beach as the sun basks the volcanoes in clouds pink, coral and tangerine before the sun disappears for the day and then you are stare at the Milky Way in the midnight sky and suddenly you know everything is perfect and how it should be. Maybe one day you wake up angry, judging the world and despising yourself for not meeting your humanly impossible standards of how the world should be, but then a troop of monkeys bellow a few feet from your window and who can be mad when there are monkeys howling at your ego? You will soon forget your judgments and get lost in the friendships and stories of your tribe, a seemingly random group of souls gathered with the freedom to take an active part in the creation of something beautiful, fulfilling part of their destiny as well.
It’s an unfolding journey, an opportunity to surrender and share your natural gifts from building the foundations to the finishing touches of a sacred gift from Existence. How it manifests is the leap into the unknown. Confia con amor. Trust with love.
I don’t have the money. Do you have scholarships?
Not at the moment, but you can create a campaign to cover your tuition and travel expenses and fund a project at Harmonia at the same time.
Want to learn how to build your own house, plant one hundred fruit trees, design a mountain bike course, paint a mural, create a labyrinth, or sow a wildflower garden to attract honeybees? Be a co-creator at Harmonia by initiating and funding a project. Create a crowdfunding campaign to cover tuition, travel expenses and/or a personal project. As a reward, perhaps naming rights to a building or tree, a mandala or altar of natural materials placed in the forest in their honor, a sign or bench in the forest with a quote or poem in their honor, or maybe a handmade thank-you card on banana leaf paper mailed from Nicaragua.
Talk with neighborhood associations or city councils about setting up an agrihood. In return for a scholarship, volunteer to oversee the creation of the project with the skills and creativity gained through the internship. Contact Local NGOs or Chambers of Commerce about scholarships in exchange for volunteer (or paid) work upon completion of the internship. Ask your local nurseries and gardening clubs if they have scholarships. If you are an avid mountain biker, talk to your local teams and clubs about sponsoring part of a trip to learn how to build mountain bike trails in the forest. Approach a professional builder about a donation in return you consult with them to make their future projects more in harmony with nature. Speak with your employer about a sabbatical, with tuition in lieu of salary. Upon your return, help the business to create a greener footprint, even if it is in a city surrounded by concrete. Address the people and businesses that directly benefit from permaculture principles; they are your target audience. There is always the lottery, but you will probably be more successful using the methods mentioned above.
Check out for www.thetrees.com for crowdfunding permaculture projects.
What are the food options?
We will serve three balanced vegetarian meals a day, with raw, vegan and gluten-free options as well.
In addition, the Jungle Love Cafe will be open from morning until 8 or 9 in the evening, offering a selection of vegetarian sandwiches and entrees, chocolate, juices and smoothies. Friday and Saturday are Pizza Nights. (Locally made bacon and sausage will be available for toppings, only on pizza night.)
What is the alcohol/tobacco policy?
Harmonia is a high visibility demonstration space; we ask folks to be fully present to themselves and to all other relationships. Do not show up to work, class or talks hungover or under the influence of mind-altering substances.
At the end of a hot day, a cold beer is absolutely refreshing. We get it. At the same time, we want to keep guests, residents and instructors in balance with vibrations of the forest. We ask that guests limit their alcohol consumption to after work hours in their private quarters, offsite or the public beach. We will serve wine and beer at the Jungle Love Cafe on Friday and Saturday pizza nights, with a 3 drink maximum per person.
Any beer, wine or alcohol brought in to the community needs to be in glass bottles. No tetra packs (boxed wine).
Natural hand-rolled tobacco is permitted in outdoor areas where the smoke does not impact others. No commercial cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Vape pens will not be used in the classrooms, gardens, and common area.
What is the weather like?
The rainy season begins in May, with heavy rain in June that eases off a bit until September and October, when the rain is full-on torrential with the rare hurricane in the meteorological mix. The rain stops early December, when the wind kicks into high gear until March. From September through February, it is cold enough at night and the early mornings that you might want jeans, a long-sleeve shirt or shawl, and a blanket at night (unless you are Canadian!).
April and May are the hottest months of the year. On May 1st, the sun is directly overhead our latitude and work slows to a mellow to non-existent pace. There are days it is so uncomfortable that the best options are to spend the day in the lake or the forest, which we take into account in the program. The Papagayo winds off the lake keep the temperature cooler in Cardenas than San Juan del Sur.
The climate is tropical – warm in the day and cooler at night, with an average temperature range of 74-93 Fahrenheit (23-34 Celsius).
Our land is home to fives kinds of Monkeys (Howlers, White-Faced Capuchin, and Orange, Yellow and Brown Spider monkeys), Deer, three varieties of Skunks, Porcupines, Anteaters Armadillos, Foxes, Tayras, Raccoons, Pizotes, Badgers, Sloths, Squirrels, Raccoons, Kinkajous, Ocelots, Margays, Jaguarundi and so much more. The trees and skies are filled with Toucans, White Hawks, Eagles, Hummingbirds, Oropendulums, Parrots, Macaws, Parakeets, Orioles, Guardabarrancos, Mot-Mots, Trogans, Pink Spoonbills, Herons, Sparrows, Owls, Yellow-winged Tanagers and a few hundred more species of birds.
Are there bugs?
Harmonia is an entomological paradise filled with hundreds of fantastically colored and patterned species you may recall seeing in a DMT trip. You have a high probability of discovering a bug that has never been catalogued before and can claim naming rights! Lucky you! Hopefully it is not an addition to the 1,500 species of blister beetles (maya bugs) that ejaculate caustic cantharidin (male ejaculatory fluid of the blister beetle that is so strong it can dissolve tattoos) as a defense mechanism to keep predators away from the eggs of his mate. If only sea turtles had this biological design! Don’t worry, “Maya” bugs have a limited season and Nicaragua only has a minute fraction of the blister beetle species and global population thereof. Most long-time residents have not had the misfortune to experience the maya bug personally and must live vicariously through the tales of others. It’s all part of becoming one with nature and avoiding potential legal claims. Never touch the pretty bugs, as they are the most likely to be of the shower you with said ejaculatory fluids. Just saying.
The rest of the time, bugs are only an issue for the squeamish and arachnophobic. The good news is that there are not too many mosquitoes and flies thanks to the wind from the lake. Unfortunately, there is something called a chayule, a small brown, non-biting gnat that travels in swarms of an octillion to the octillionth degree multiplied by pi. They have a 24 hour life cycle and defy any logical reason for their existence. They are one of the Great Mysteries of the Universe.
They hatch on the Atlantic coast, moving inland in massive dark brown clouds until they settle upon a field or tree tops or the beach. If they are out at night, they are attracted to white light, although it appears purple and orange keep them away. They do not normally attempt to invade structures during daylight hours. We use screens, sealed doors and appropriately colored lighting (purple, orange and red) when they swarm, which is not too often but certainly annoying when it does and one is not prepared. They have no schedule. A month could go by without one and then three nights in a row, the lake is invaded. Fortunately, they tend to stay near the lake . The village center for Harmonia starts about 750 meters from the water
There are scorpions, snakes and even a cayman (small 4 foot crocodile). That said, there is antivenin at the central de salud and if you stay on trails and cleared areas, you will probably never see a snake let alone a poisonous one, and even less likely the cayman that lives two miles away and almost no one has seen it. You are almost guaranteed to see a scorpion if you stay for a year and 100% guaranteed to see some freaky looking spiders even if you are a day visitor. You will also see hundreds of species of butterflies and moths in June/July as they migrate along the lake by the tens of thousands every hour, ending somewhere we have yet to discover.
Is it safe?
Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Central America. Petty theft is the biggest security issue and most likely happen outside of Cardenas. Cardenas is a little bubble, perhaps one of the safest towns in Nicaragua. Even during the revolution and civil war, nothing really happened in Cardenas. The city didn’t have a police station until 2001, when the road was constructed. There are military outposts in Cardenas and Sapoa that help keep the community safe.
That said, with the introduction of foreigners and relatively open structures, there will likely be an incident or two. We can keep your passports, cash and credit cards locked in our vault. We will have a separate vault for laptops, cameras and large items. The accommodations will have built in floor or wall safes large enough for a laptop and camera.
For security, no overnight visitors without prior approval, no exceptions. (No bringing a date home for the night.) Overnight guests will pay a $15 per night impact fee, limited to weekend nights, semester breaks, and tent accommodations (unless the participant is a year-long resident with private accommodations).
When traveling around the country, don’t walk around with a pocket full of cash at night with lots of cash night and don’t leave your cell phone or shoes on the beach unattended.
What about the political situation?
Foreigners are prohibited from getting involved in Nicaraguan politics and there was never any threat to foreigners during the political turmoil last year. The fallout from the turmoil has been devastating to Nicaragua’s economy. Tourism still is the second largest industry in the country, but it has been severely affected by the closing of many resorts, hotels and restaurants. Cardenas is an agricultural town not dependent upon tourism, but a number of residents who worked in Rivas and San Juan del Sur have lost their jobs.
By creating Harmonia, we will have full and part-time work for approximately 80 workers during the construction phase, and 20-25 full-time positions and 20 part-time positions beginning in January 2021. Harmonia will have a large impact on the local economy.
Is there WiFi?
We will not have wifi service in the village center. We do not want the gardens, birds, animals, bees and people exposed to unnecessary EMFs. We encourage people to unplug from social media, at least during the day.
Both Movistar and Claro offer cheap internet plans and pre-pay offers. 10 GB ranges from $40-$80, depending on the plan. The internet desperate (pretty much everyone) can purchase a $3 SIM chip for an existing phone or an inexpensive smart phone that can also be used to create a hot spot. Both carriers provide coverage in the accommodation, classroom and common areas.
Limited public internet will be available in the Jungle Love Cafe.
What should I pack?
A pair of comfortable rubber boots with good tread. Get gel sole inserts for your boots if you plan to purchase the standard black rubber boot made in China sold in the Rivas mercado.
Breathable covered hiking shoes/sneakers. Keens are iffy because bugs, thorns and spurs can get through the openings. Leather attracts white mold in the rainy season.
Crocs, sandals, or flip flops for daily use, and something slightly more presentable yet comfortable for special occasions or if you lose or destroy the other pair. If you have an odd size shoe, need extra support or you are a woman with a shoe size 8 1/2 or larger, you will have a hard time finding quality replacements locally at an affordable price.
Socks, multiple pairs.
Extra underwear. You will sweat profusely, sit in mud, and occasionally wade through water. Overpack the undies, preferably cotton. Rethink the thongs, ladies. You’re welcome.
Jeans or pants comfortable enough for hiking and that you don’t mind trashing because they will be trashed, perhaps within the first week of your arrival.
Light cardigan/heavy long sleeve shirt (June-March nights).
Light long sleeve shirt for hiking.
Long denim shorts/capris for women, long shorts for men. Sitting with bare legs touching the ground is uncomfortable and sitting on a synthetic chair in the heat is brutal on bare legs.
Bathing suit. Cardenas is on the conservative side. A lot of people are fully clothed when swimming or wear a one piece bathing suit, so save the thong for another beach. (Bikinis are fine.)
Cotton breathes, so you will want cotton shirts and shorts when working outside and cotton sheets on the bed. Synthetic shirts create the conditions for heat rash. There are lots of second hand clothing shops in Rivas. You can pick up a new wardrobe of ironic and iconic t-shirts for $20.
Natural soap. (Ditto.)
Sulphate and phosphate free shampoo and conditioner. (Can be purchased at Harmonia.)
Rechargeable flashlight. Don’t trust that you will always have your phone handy and/or charged.
Clock, watch or charged phone so that there is no excuse for being late to presentations, meditations and meals.
Waterproof sack and shock resistant guard for cell phone. Ideally you have an old school point-and-shoot camera in case you lose the use of your phone from Acts of God, of which there are plenty in Nicaragua.
Backpack/Daypack for hikes.
Leatherrman/pocket knife. Optional, but comes in handy for the MacGyver types because it turns out that Duck Tape isn’t that suitable for the jungle. Do not put this in your carry-on bag!
Don’t worry about traveling with a machete. You will receive your very own machete upon arrival and each casita will have a machete because you just never know when a machete will come in handy in the jungle. Truthfully, not very often and most of the time it is to open coconuts, but it will make for an exciting Instagram pic.
How do I get there?
There are daily flights to Managua, Nicaragua, from Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Panama City, Mexico City and Central American airports.
Harmonia is 2 hours and 15 minutes from the Managua airport by car, taxi or shuttle.
Liberia airport in Costa Rica is 70 minutes by taxi to the border or an hour and a half by bus, and 10 minutes by taxi on the Nicaraguan side.
Harmonia is 40-60 minutes to San Jan del Sur, depending on traffic and form of transportation.
Is there an ATM nearby?
The closest ATM (Visa) is 13 kilometers away on the Costa Rican border. There are several ATMs in Rivas and San Juan del Sur.
Do I need health insurance?
Yes. All students must present proof of insurance upon check-in. We will have some inexpensive options available shortly.
Nicaragua has excellent medical services available. There is a new hospital in San Juan del Sur and several good hospitals in Managua, including the world class Vivian Pellas Hospital, which is a private hospital with excellent, affordable insurance policies. Basic public health care is free in Nicaragua, but if you have a severe injury or need transportation by air, you will need health insurance or plenty of room on your credit card before you are loaded on the helicopter and admitted to the emergency room of a private hospital.
What is there to do on weekends?
We have special rates at some of the hostels in town and along the coast. San Juan del Sur offers surfing, shopping, bars and restaurants and will be a needed getaway at times. The colonial city of Granada is less than a two hour trip from the border.
Those who wish to stay in Cardenas for the weekend and in between programs may use the kitchen to prepare meals. We have stereo speakers, a mixing board and a few bins of costume materials should anyone want to create an end of the week party.
Rivas is the closest major shopping area, approximately 30 minutes from Harmonia by car.
There are two restaurants in Cardenas, plus the mercado. It is a 4 kilometer walk, $1 taxi fare, or US $.35 bus fare into Cardenas.
Taxi fare to or from San Juan del Sur is $25 in the day, $35 at night. Bus fare is $1.50, but requires two buses.
One weekend a month we will organize a weekend excursion to Colon, Solentiname Islands, Ometepe, Granda, etc. This is not included in the tuition. Prices may range from $10 to $200 (Solentiname) depending on form of transportation and overnight accommodations.