Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo

I had a super tranquila Christmas because I had a nasty cold all of last week, but that meant I got caught up on my hammock sitting/reading time and went through like 3 books. Here in Nicaragua Navidad refers to the 24th instead of Christmas Day on the 25th. It’s funny actually, when we were talking about holidays in class this past year and I asked the kids what day was Christmas half said the 24th and half said the 25th.

The Christmas tree that sits between the central park and the catholic church:

Overall Christmas is a much smaller deal here than in the States, there are some present exchanges and some people put up small trees and a few lights but nothing over the top. I’m used to Christmas being a holiday spent with close family and the whole world shuts down outside. Here some families have dinner together or make something special and some don’t do anything at all. And of course there are parties - house parties, bar parties, parties in the street and at midnight (which is apparently the exact time baby Jesus was born) people set off fireworks & hardcore catholics have their dinner. With such a different atmosphere than the one I associate with Christmas (umm, snow??) it really felt like a normal day, except a lot noisier in the night.

I did get out of my hammock a little bit on the 24th though so I could see some friends and do what we always do, sit around and talk. I brought my camera but the only picture I took was of my landlord’s niece’s daughter who’s adorable and has finally decided that she isn’t completely terrified of me so we played and she tries to say my name but it comes out Issimer instead of Jennifer. We’re gonna keep working on that one.

Just to make it feel a little more like Christmas I bought some goodies and stuck them in my stocking, which included an apple like, ahem, Santa always left in my stocking at home. It is an unfortunate fact that apples are seriously expensive in Nicaragua. Why? Because they import the suckers from the US, the climate isn’t exactly prime for growing apples around here. So the standard, cheap fruit of my previous life suddenly became a rare treat when I moved here. I accept that because previously rare treats such as mangos & avocados are so plentiful and cheap in Nica. And of course, I took a picture of me and my apple:

One friend did comment something about who knows where I’ll be next year on the 24th. Usually when people speculate about where I’ll be in a year I laugh because I really have no idea, but I told him “I imagine I’ll be in Minnesota with my family next year on the 24th.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Roaming Around

Last weekend I finally went to see the infamous waterfall in a nearby pueblo (I say infamous because the town is named for it) and to wander around on a finca (farm) as I love to do. Photos:

Little bitty plantain plants:




Dried up corn:

Perty flowers:

Really big plantains:

Climbing a tree:


Me in the waterfall:

On Friday I went to the beach with my local NGO for their Christmas party which included all the Nicaraguan staff as well as the remaining German volunteers. At one point we decided there were more Germans than Nicas (and clearly I was waaaay outnumbered):

Perfect swimming spot:

Look at all those cheles (white people)!

My two favorite ladies:

And cute kids:

And just to make my tranquilo life here a little more interesting, I came home on Friday night to find this on my bathroom wall:

It’s only the second scorpion I’ve had in my house in the year that I’ve lived here and the other one was out of reach to kill & left on its own. Luckily this time I had my handy can of Raid so I grabbed a flip flop as back-up, carefully opened the door that goes outside from the bathroom so I could hide behind it and escape in case of Very Angry Scorpion, and sprayed the sucker. Thankfully it fell off the wall and tried to escape but fell over so I smashed him with the sandal & kicked him into the backyard. The end.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Back to Work

After coming back from vacation with my parents I didn’t have a lot of time to rest before jumping back into my random little projects and commitments. On Thursday I accompanied my friendly neighborhood NGO to do a Dia de Accion (Action Day!) with a group of primary school kids and their parents in a little community that’s technically in the municipality to the northwest.

We drove a ways on a dirt road though sugar cane fields that I never realized extended that far out. The caña is ready for harvest so it was huge and some areas were really pretty with the silky flowers blowing in the wind (sidenote: I would say hands down the favored liquor in Nicaragua is rum, and that rum generally is of the Flor de Caña variety, which refers to these pretty silky flowers).

But the harvest also means that giant, and oftentimes overloaded, trucks hauling caña go flying down these little dirt roads:



It’s not totally obvious in that photo, but the trucks kick up massive plumes of dust which get blown into the houses and the school which is located right on the road. I was coughing just from having spent the morning there so I can’t imagine what havoc that must wreak on the respiratory systems of long-time residents.

The NGO is building a new school for this community, the old one you can see to the left in the above pictures. Here’s what they have so far of the new one:

It’s pretty close to being done, just missing the zinc roof, the floor, and a coat of paint. We gathered the kids and adults outside for the morning underneath a giant chilamate tree:

The day’s activities included two piñatas and some presentations on family planning, some of which were more age appropriate than others in my opinion but that’s neither here nor there. The whole piñata thing here is just slightly different than how we do it in the States – throw in some energetic music and make the kids dance in between swings and you’ve got the Nica piñata:

And ensuing chaos:

And here's my Facebook album from mom and dad's visit.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Papito y Mamacita visitan a Nicaragua

Despite the obvious attempts of that big snowstorm to make my parents turn right around and return to Managua, they did in fact make it safely home. Overall, everything went really well – they enjoyed their foray into international travel, I didn’t have an anxiety attack, and no one got hurt. Now that’s what I call a successful vacation! I realized that I can’t think of a time in my conscious memory during which I spent every waking hour of an entire week with both my parents so I think it at least partially made up for my long absences over past few years. But what am I going on and on about? Pictures!

Mom and dad helped some of my friends/colleagues practice their English:

But work didn’t last long before we went to the schwankiest resort in Nicaragua, Barcelo Montelimar:

Mom loved the ocean:

Dad wore a fancy hat:

We swam in the biggest pool in Central America:

And watched the sunset over the ocean (I believe that was a first for them both):

Next we went to Granada where I ate tasty food to my heart’s content and we tried to negotiate their love of coolness with my now ridiculous sensitivity to cold as we programmed the AC. Mom and I went shopping in Masaya, we walked around town a lot, saw the lake, and a little bit of the Purisima (the celebration of the conception of the Virgin Mary). But the definite highlight was Volcan Mombacho, which now every member of my immediate family has seen since I first ventured there with my brother back in May.

A crazy guy who claimed to be Daniel Ortega’s brother kept hitting on me, which evoked the complete opposite reaction in my dad than I expected (he thought it was hilarious!) but at least the guy can take a decent picture:

Mom and dad on the trail:

This is the truck that drives up and down the volcano while you hold on for dear life:

We were pretty active in the morning and evening but we mostly chilled around the hotel in the heat of the afternoon - either in the pool or reading (my mom took one of me so I just had to return the favor):

I'll upload more of my photos on Facebook and link it here, but my computer is being finnicky so that will have to happen later.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

They`re still alive and kicking!!

So far so good on the parental visit. They arrived safely on Tuesday night and I ran them pretty hard on Wednesday, we traveled from Managua down to my town, practiced English with some advanced speakers as well as a couple beginners and walked around town a lot. I don`t think they were quite prepared for the heat coming from chilly Minnesota! But Wednesday was the only night they`ve had to spend without AC because Thursday we headed off to a schwanky resort on the Pacific coast and then yesterday we trekked our way over to Granada where we`re staying in a cute little colonial hotel. I will post pictures as soon as I`m back in site, but I thought I would alert the rest of the family that mom and dad are in one piece and enjoying their vacation, though they`ll probably be a lot more comfortable when they`re back in the house they keep at 65 degrees all year round in the ´sota.