Alive and Kickin! (As mi papa would say!)
Trip Start Sep 28, 2012
11Trip End Apr 09, 2013
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Thank you so much for the kind comments, great advice and well wishes! The support means so so so so so so much!
The photos I've taken are on my camera, however I have yet to find a computer that takes memory cards. Last time I took pictures with my iphone of the pictures on my camera to post on the blog (that's why they were so grainy!) I tried that again, but it was a failure! I apologize, but some pics will come soon I hope!
HIGHLIGHTS: climbing the Leon Cathedral, Spanish classes with Dennis and Chester, horse riding to the volcano, fresh pineapple, organic granola!
FACTOID OF THE WEEK: Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in Central America/Caribbean, second only to Haiti.
HOMESICKNESS? I NEVER GET THAT! .....
No that's a complete lie. I totally do! Its not just something that little kids get at sleepovers! Even though its only been a week away, I am still comforted by the pictures I brought with me, and other memorabilia from home. It may sound dorky, but having never been this far away from family and friends before, the distance is something I'm going to have to adjust too. I also hope to be able to turn this place into a temporary new home!
WHERE IN THE WORLD?
I am currently staying at La Mariposa Spanish School in the town of San Juan, Nicaragua. San Juan doesn't usually show up on maps, but is considered to be in the vicinity of La Concepción. The scenery around here is beautiful, green as far as the eye can see! The towns are lovely, many pulperias (small corner type stores), news stands and food vendors line the street. I find tough to take in the level of poverty amongst people, and the number of stray dogs that roam the streets. It's hard not to want to bring them all home!
WHAT IN THE WORLD?
Finished my first week of Spanish class and made it out alive! Wahoo! Boy was it ever challenging though. It wasn't until I was completely immersed in a Spanish-speaking culture, that I realized how much there was to learn. I also found out the hard way how much I rely on speech as a form of communication (hand gestures only get a person so far!). The great news though, is that the folks around here are happy to slow down their normally lightning fast words for beginners like me :)
Weekdays here consist of two morning classes (one-on-one) of Spanish grammar and conversation (2 hrs each) with optional afternoon activities. Or you can do as many of the locals and laze around in a hammock, or take an afternoon siesta (I've adopted some of these VERY beneficial practices!). I've also had the pleasure of joining some of the activities: exploring San Juan, partaking in a political rally (for what I am not actually sure as it was all in Spanish!), visiting a local school where we can volunteer, touring a "finca de piña" or pineapple farm (and learning that there are over 7 varieties and that pineapples grow on the ground...who knew!), taking the microbus to Masatepe- a town that overlooks Laguna Apoyo (a volcanic crater lake), learning about homeopathic medicine in the garden of a local herbalist, visiting a furniture making shop, trying out the looms of a family cooperative blanket-making business, climbing a cathedral tower in Leon, and more!
Weekends are the best time to explore the rest of Nicaragua as we are able to take trips to other cities the ocean, lakes and volcanos.
WITH THIS TRANSPORTATION, WHO NEEDS AMUSEMENT PARKS?
So far I have endured (and/or enjoyed, depending...) many modes of transportation: motorcicleta, microbus, truck bed, horse, and taxi (3-wheeled motorized gadget). Micro buses are like vans, except they pick people up along the way if they have the same destination. Once this week I landed between a young boy blasting his music, and a pair of female Nicaraguan police on the microbus.... At least I knew I was safe!
Road rules here exist, however they are not fully obeyed by the majority of the population. People are courteous, however, pedestrians do not have right of way and it is not uncommon to see vehicles jammed to the roof with people - few seat belts. And there are random speed bumps located in the middle of roads and major highways!
CHALLENGES FACING THE REGION:
This area of Nicaragua faces quite a few difficulties. I learned about a couple this week, the first being solid waste disposal. With so much plastic garbage, and no where to put it, the only thing to do is try to burn it. Evidently, trash lines the streets and roads, and the amount increases everyday. Secondly, they face challenges presented by the volcanic chain. In Nicaragua, there are over 40 volcanoes with over a dozen active at any one time. This area around the school, runs parallel to many of the active ones which erupt gases into the air. These gases cause any metal material to corrode at unusually high speeds (hinges, roofs, window frames, even parts of cars). They also cause contamination to drinking water (which people have no choice but to use) thus causing rotted teeth. Internally, breathing this air in all their lives, has caused some locals to have lung and other organ problems. Although their are some alternative building materials out their now ($$$), the water still presents a major issue. Also there is an issue around kids going to school. Because of the remote locations of many homes, towns and schools, people find it challenging to send their kids to schools. Also, they are another pair of hands that can be used on the farm, or in work. Something the government has set up, is supplying each kid a meal at school. This gives many families incentive to get their children to school as this supplied meal may be the only one they get all day.
FIRST PANIC MOMENT:
I locked myself out of my room.... not once, not twice, but THREE times! Talented. But I felt SO bad! (Although in my defense, my door is the kind that locks when you accidentally push the knob!) I also lost the key to the desk drawer which contains a few valuables and electronic cords. There apparently isn't a spare, so I think the guy ended up taking a hammer to the poor desk!
NIGHT TIME ENTERTAINMENT: (not THAT kind silly!)
Currently, I am lying in bed, mosquito net overhead, listening to the sounds of the night. La Mariposa Spanish School primarily supplies Eco hotel rooms on site (basic room with own bathroom), however I opted for the slightly more wallet friendly option of staying in the cabin, also on site, however, rooms are smaller and share a latrine and shower with everyone. The room itself is comprised of bamboo and volcanic rock walls, quite interesting, and utilizes resources of the region. Anyways, laying here, there are many many sounds penetrating these not so solid walls. Most noticeably, there are a kind of frog that create a sound similar to that of an older video game. Almost a "Pew! Pew!" sound that they put on repeat. Adding to the chorus there are crickets, thousands of those around here! Then we have the monkeys and all kinds of birds. Next, there is my human neighbor who's room is next door. She currently has a black bat flying around in her room so I hear the odd shriek here and there from her (we tried to get it out, but they fly ridiculously fast!). Finally, we have the tunes of the "Macarena" and the Spanish version of "Love Shack" blasting from somebody's home nearby. It is really quite an economical way of playing music. Only one family in the entire town needs to have a stereo because they can blast it so loud! It's great!
Oh! Did I mention that these are all sounds I am hearing WITH earplugs in?! :P
A SAYING TO LIVE BY:
"Hay mas tiempo que vida."
Meaning: there is more time than life.
It emphasizes that there is no need to rush things. This is a way of life that I am finding challenging to adapt to. Back home, speed and time played a factor in almost everything. However, here it is certainly not a priority! Learning to loosen up and take it easy is "muy deficil!", very difficult, for me! But life is about constant learning right?