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Birmingham fairtrade campaigner Maggie Jo St John is about to quit the city for an expedition to Nicaragua. Over the next few months she'll be keeping us up to date with her journey.

Excitement and panic sweeping across in alternate waves. Only a week to departure.

I've been to Nicaragua several times, have contacts and know the scene, so the idea of going back is fun. But this time it's for much longer. My ticket's valid for 6 months, though I'd like to return earlier. There's lots I want to achieve and it all takes time so we'll see. At least Tony and I are getting Christmas together in Costa Rica.

First off is to fix myself up with a room in the little northern town of Esteli. When I've been before I've just been nomadic - 3 nights consecutively in one place was a maximum so I was like a snail and ‘carried my house' in my rucksack on my back. It feels as if I need a base this time and the occasional home comfort - that'll be some music from a portable CD player, so long as there's enough electricity or sun to charge the batteries.

Then it'll be a tour of the Miraflor Nature Reserve and the communities and volunteers involved in the English and eco-tourism project. Five years in and there are some young English speaking guides and lots of great spin off work that volunteers have made happen. It's a wonderful area to visit ( I haven't been for 15 months and there've been lots of changes so I think there's a heap to sort out.

Then I'll start travelling to meet other communities with eco-tourism programmes to see which ones are hoping their guides and homestay families can learn some English. The coffee cooperative, Cecocafen, in Matagalpa is one, so that'll give me a chance to catch up on the situation with Fairtrade coffee registration and sales. The coffee harvest will begin around November / December, depending on region.

But before I go I really want to get at least a holding page up for the Nest Trust website ( I've had great help from a fellow Nicaragua supporter and designed some pages. But I've failed this morning in my attempt to publish. It's much more complex than I know and I'm completely stuck.

I want to go but I'll miss all sorts of things - including the first birthday party for Birmingham as a Fairtrade city - largest in the world! (November 28th) and all the planning for the special event in Fairtade fortnight.


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