here I am in nicaragua and its still hard to believe. i arrived at about noon on Sunday expecting a ride. i realized somewhere over missouri that I hadnt clearly finalized the plans with the owner at the language school for the pick up, getting very necessary details such as "who should i expect to pick me up" or "what will they be wearing". After customs I looked around at the mob of sign holders to see if one of them had either a hat or a t-shirt or a sign for the language school but none did, so i took a taxi. knowing very little spanish i negotiated and was able get a similar rate to what i would have paid the school. We take off for the roughly hour car ride (which i had expected) to the Laguna de Apoyo. We get to the entrance and i had expected to see signs but of course there are none, so the driver asks someone for directions and we proceed to drive up and down and around the laguna's unpaved and rock ridden ways searching for the elusive escuela only to discover after about 35 minutes of searching and asking nearly 8 people for directions,in the 90 degree weather that we had passed it 4 separate times (granted it has 2 separate entrances and only one has a sign which faces one direction). I meet Pablo, a resident biologist and school director, who gives me the run down for the week: times we eat, internet, sleeping arrangements, class and activities schedule.
monday i awoke at about 4am to many unusual noises only to spend the next two hours pretending to sleep in the hopes that if i pretend hard enough that i might fall back asleep. no avail. so i got up at around 6 and got myself ready for the first day of classes. i met my profesora for the rest of the week, Gloria, who proceeded to tell me all about the customs and culture of Nicaragua. the most surprising was the wide practice of "amante's" which is essentially taking a lover. its common practice for men around the age of 40, 50 (real surprising, eh) to get themselves an amante and when i asked gloria if it was the same for women she said no. however, after talking with Jeffrey, the owner of school, he informed me that Gloria is a bit rigid and that most women get themselves an amante, its just not sung about. so there. after classes Gloria, another student Cecilia, her profesora Aura and myself went for a hike. needless to say it was hot but totally worth it. first we saw some howler monkeys in the distance, then we found some helicoptero's (which seemed much more fun than the ones we have in u.s.) of which we gathered a bunch for Gloria's 2 sons. we got some nice views of the laguna and talked about some of the native wildlife and plants. after that i went for a dip in the laguna, had dinner and passed out at around 9pm.
tuesday 4am now known noises which are monkeys, dogs, birds and by 6 a bus is honking the entire time is descends into the crater of the laguna, takes a 20 minute break, honks for 5 minutes to let people know its leaving and then some more again as it ascends the crater. so i stopped pretending to sleep and got up, ate some gallo pinto (which i could easily eat for every meal for the rest of my life), drank some fresh juice and got to class. during my class we saw a native squirrel that looked very similar to guiseppie, my sugar glider, but they are a bit bigger and not able to glide. after classes another student colleen and I walked cecilia to another hotel down the road to get a massage from Julio who is blind but learned the trade through an organization that specifically focuses on teaching massage to blind people. how truly amazing is that.
wednesday 4am monkeys, dogs, birds, trucks, people, noise. didnt matter so much because i woke up at 5am to go bird watching. we saw mono's galore and even almost got some poop thrown at us. the greatest thing that we saw was the Guardabarranco which is the national bird of Nicaragua (i attached a picture). the colors are unreal and even though it was far away i could manage to spot it. i was able to see another later in the day in the garden where gloria and i sat for classes but i didnt have a camera.
thursday 4am, need i relive it? you get it. thursday dinner was a real treat. Juana, the cook, first made chicha which is very traditional drink throughout central america. in nicaragua its served cold, unfermented and made of corn, sugar and water with some red food coloring to make it look just like pepto bismol. also she made a mash of quequisque which is similar to a manioc and tastes, well, like spam. i dont think jeffrey appreciated that comment but tasting like spam isnt necessarily an insult at least i didnt mean it as such. after dinner i wanted to watch a movie so pablo set up the tv and a few of us watched a movie called "La Isla de Ninos Perdidos" (the island of lost boys) which is a documentary about a group of inmates who take a special film making course, aimed at rehabilitating the inmates. each were able to make there own films and also help one another make the films. it takes place in 2001 in nicaragua's largest prison "La Modelo " located in Tipitapa and if its on netflix i highly recommend watching it.
friday 3am ants on my legs, lessoned learned: dont eat sweets in bed, no matter how much you think you cleaned up theres still gonna be one little crumb and those creatures are some kinda scavengers. last of day of classes. bitter sweet because as exhausted as i was i really enjoyed getting to know gloria and truly appreciated her patience and talent for teaching. after class a few of us got in the car for the last activity. first we went to Diria and Diriomo, the pueblos of the brujos and brujas. essentially these two towns are the the host to many clarevoyants which Lorenzo (a professor from the school and our tour guide for the afternoon) said are just a bunch of ladrones (robbers). so he didnt even stop the car, just pointed and drove a few blocks then took off. then we went to three miradors (lookouts) to get some great views of the laguna. all of them were incredible and i probably took too many pictures.
friday before bed i realized i had brought earplugs and decided to use them and wait a relief. saturday morning cecilia, colleen and i woke up early to catch that obnoxious 6:30am bus to spend the better part of the day in Granada. we managed to get our transfer and make our way from the drop off point to the city center. by 7am i was already drenched in sweat. we walked past an amazing historic hospital that is supposedly being rehabbed (but i didnt see any construction). had i not thought that cecilia and colleen would've left me i wouldve gone inside because it looked magical. we proceeded to meander our way towards the city center, centro parque (im not making it up) and along the way stumbled into a non-profit hammock weaving organization, that takes at-risk youth and teaches them the trade. i bought a mini-hammock and i have no idea what i will use it for but ill figure something out. after we had breakfast in the centro parque, we went off to find the san francisco convent which had a beautiful view of the volcano, mombacho. under the impression that this was just a beautiful building we discovered that it was also a cultural center, having both contemporary and pre-columbian art work. next was the mercado. imagine chinatown but with cars, moto-taxis, buses, horse-drawn carriages and cyclist barely clearing you if you stepped into the street to walk by somebody. it was insane. alex would love it. i had a good time there but i really wish i could have been able to ask more questions about the local street fare and other mysteries of the market. soon enough. at about 1:30 in the high heat we decided to find a bar and en-route stumbled upon the Monkey Hut, a hostel. colleen had remembered that they brought people to the laguna most days and we were able to secure a ride back to the laguna when the driver returned for the pick up. we rode in the back of the pick-up truck and once we were off the main highway, panamericana, the driver informed us we were allowed to stand up. stupid or stupendous, a little of both we made it back and im exhausted.
tomorrow i leave for masaya for a week of orientation. im nervous but cecilia said to me that "anyone that ever did anything great was just a little scared". i can only hope to be as amazing as she is at 65.
desde la semana proxima, go to facebook for the pictures.