Hola a Todos!!
It’s time for another update from Nicaland! The last couple weeks have been pretty eventful. In my last blog post I talked about my plans for Semana Santa (Easter Week), it was really fun and relaxing I didn’t end up going to the Miraflor nature reserve but I did get to spend an extra day in Esteli a neighboring department capital with my friends. Esteli is a thriving city similar to Matagalpa well known for its cigar factories. My friends and I wanted to take a tour of one of these factories but unfortunately because of Semana Santa the factories were closed. I thought that was pretty odd because everybody travels during this week, I would think a touristy city would be open for business but apparently not. I have learned to never assume anything in Nicaragua because this country and it people are full of surprises.
That being said my friends and I still had a good time. We went out to this all natural homemade restaurant, and had some of the best non-Nicaraguan food I have had in this country. I had fresh whole wheat rolls with a big chunk of brie cheese and a plate of vegetables along with some homemade yogurt and honey. Everything was to die for!!!
The next day our group split up. Some people when home, some went to Miraflor and the rest of us myself included stayed at the hostel. Just by chance one of the girls in my group ran into Ali a Nicaraguan friend that she had met at an embassy English in December. He invited us out to go swimming at a nearby natural reserve called Tisey Estanzuela. It was super fun and really scenic, but man that water was cold!! We brought fresh fruit, drinks and some chips and had a little picnic. Later that day Ali took us out to lunch at a place whose specialty is carne asada. You can never go wrong with grilled meat in my opinion. It was delicious! Then he invited us back to his house and we had more barbeque. I tried grilled kidneys which had an interesting and familiar taste from something that I had eaten while in Spain.
Afterwards I returned back home to meet up with my friends to fix my leaky water tank. We spent most of Tuesday morning breaking up the leaky parts and then sealing it was cement. It is much better now there is no longer a stream of water that is running off my roof! There is little dripping from the inside but only when it’s really full.
The rest of my week was really quiet came back here expecting some kind similar processions that I saw when I in Spain but in Nicaragua at least in La Dalia that doesn’t really happen. Everybody just leaves town to go to their farms and goes swimming. As a result the entire town shuts down from Wednesday and does open back up until Monday. I went swimming a couple times but I picked up a cold after leaving Esteli so I wasn’t really in the mood to do much swimming. (Fortunately I recovered.) So I spent a lot of quality time in my hammock resting and watching movies. Not a bad way to relax at all, but next year I think I'm going to go somewhere outside La Dalia and explore more.
The following day people were slowing coming back to work but still in the vacation mood. The following weekend was a 3 day weekend for Labor Day here. I took this opportunity to go down and visit my friend who lives down in Rio San Juan in the south of the country. Just getting there was quite an adventure! My plan was to take the early morning express bus from La Dalia to Managua then get on another direct bus from Managua to El Almendro, where my friend lives. I had never taken the Managua expresso before so I asked 3 of my Nicaraguan friends what time the 4:30am bus gets to Managua since I had to catch the 9:10am bus to El Almendro. All of my friends said and I quote” if you leave here at 4:30am you will get to Managua between 7:30 and 8.” Great that will give me plenty to catch me next bus I thought. So I get to bus stop a 4:15am to find no bus. Not good, not good at all I thought. Turns out the 4:30 bus actually leaves at 4am, which my friends failed to mention. So I got on the 5am bus to Matagalpa hoping to still make it. As luck would have it on the way to Matagalpa we passed the express bus on the side of the road with a flat tire. I actually made it to Matagalpa before the expresso did. I took a taxi across town to catch another express bus to Managua that left 7:20 and was scheduled to arrive Managua at 9:20am. It was going to be close. I called my friend and asked her if she thought the bus driver who she was friends with could wait ten minutes. She told me that she doubted it but that I should get off in this suburb of Managua that both buses pass through. So that is what I did as soon as I got off there was a non-direct bus to Juigalpa a city where her bus took a short rest stop. So I got on that bus because she wasn’t sure if her direct bus would stop and pick me up because she couldn’t get a hold of the driver. It turns out not ten minutes after I got on the bus her bus driver friend said he would pick me up. Oh well I was ahead of that bus and scheduled to arrive Juigalpa before the express bus. Everything was going great I was enjoying the ride passing by a lot of towns where other volunteers from my group live. That was until about the last half of trip to Juigalpa when a large coach bus went sailing pass us as we were stopped picking up people. Not good I started to panic again. My friend said not to worry as long I got there before 11:30am I was fine. We got in to town at 11:20 and I started to relax a little bit, but then proceeded to stop at every block in town! We are never going to make it in time I was sure of it at the crawl we are going at right now. We got to the bus station just as the express bus was pulling out. I made it just by a hair, but I made it!! I sat down and took a big sigh of relief.
The bus was one of the most comfortable buses I have been on in the country; it was an actual coach so my legs actually fit even the seats reclined! That is really nice given that the trip is 7 hours long. I arrived at my friend’s town around 3:30 exhausted but happy to be there.
This weekend was the Patron Saint festival so there was a big celebration. Some other volunteers had come down for the festivities as well. It was really fun, we went to fair the first night and watched some local guys try to climb up a greased telephone phone to get 2000 cordobas that were sitting up at the top. It was pretty comical watching them try to climb up on each others’ shoulders. My friend and I commented about the safety standards of this event, with combination of grease and heights it was a miracle that nobody slipped and hurt themselves.
We spent the rest of the weekend swimming a nearby rivers and waterfalls during the day and going out to eat and drink in the evening. It was a lot of fun! Rio San Juan didn’t look like what I pictured. Before going down I was expecting hot humid jungle like landscape that I had read about in my guide book but I think that is closer down to the actually San Juan river and Costa Rica border. La Dalia and Matagalpa are more lush than El Almendro, although her site was much warmer than Matagalpa so I definitely sweated a lot more than I usually do. She told me that it a more of a cattle and dairy farming area. These farmers were doing very well for themselves because there were lots of nice elegant houses in a country town that had mostly dirt roads. It was a very interesting juxtaposition. Another thing I found very interesting was the in town's central park you had the Catholic church on one side with the devout followers attending the patron saint mass and on the other side was the rest of the town enjoying the patron saints festivities to drink and party.
My favorite part of her site was all the fresh fruit right off the trees. For breakfast I went out and picked mangoes and coconuts right off the trees. It was amazing!! The availability of fresh fruit and vegetable is definitely one my favorite things about Nicaragua. In La Dalia there is a wide selection in the market which just as cool.
Everything else is going well there is not much to report on school life I’m still working out the best time to plan with my counterparts because they are both really busy. It’s a slow process and I am trying to keep upbeat and not just go through the motions. I am thinking about planning a HIV/AIDS pool tournament with my new health sitemate. I think it will be a good project for the raining season.
Well that’s all folks! Until next time
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