Granada and Laguna de Apoyo.

Trip Start Sep 30, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We left Ometepe Island at midday on Sunday, unfortunately the boat schedule was not very reliable since it was Sunday. We made it to the dock just in time for a "lancha" (which means speedboat). It was nothing as such. It was a wooden thing that looked ready to fall apart. Somehow we did make it across and took a taxi from San Jorge to Rivas to catch another chicken bus to Granada. We had to wait around 40 mins on the packed bus before it even left, it was hot and stuffy and noisy of course. At least while we were driving there was a nice breeze and I even managed to get a seat after a while. A sales man came onboard selling corn on the cob and since it was lunchtime we got one to share. It cost 7 cordobas (1usd= 22/23 cordobas) and was really yummy, still warm and with just the right amount of saltiness. We made it safely to Granada in more or less the promised time and were able to just take a short walk to out hostel, Hostel Oasis that we had booked by email a few days before. We got a tiny little double room which was very very hot but had both a floor and a ceiling fan. Well needed! We knew Granada would be hot, everyone had warned us beforehand. At least Hostel Oasis has a small swimming pool for anyone who wants to cool off. We dropped the bags and headed for lunch at Querubes restaurant just on the next block. Wonderful! They had chicken burgers and chips, we were so happy we didn't have to eat another plate of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner here)!! After lunch we set off to explore the centre of Granada, it is really a small town of around 100, 000 inhabitants or so. There is a nice main square with a cathedral and a pedestrian street called La Calzada with plenty of bars and restaurants without outdoor seating. We checked out the address for La Esperanza Granada for the next day so we’d know where to go. Then had a seat at one of the restaurants in La Calzada and enjoyed the 2x1 Mojitos for 30 cordobas (just over a dollar for 2 mojitos!!!!!)

On the Monday morning we had to set the alarm for a change, which was quiet nice actually. We were meeting Pauline, the director of La Esperanza Granada at 9:30, on the way we had a quick breakfast in a French bakery on La Calzada and bumped into a Danish man also having breakfast with his Guatemalan wife and son. We have met very few Scandis so far. The meeting with Pauline was very interesting and she told us a bit more about their project and what they need. They have 7 schools around Granada where they employ local teachers and rely on volunteers to help as teaching assistants and to help out with English classes and afternoon activities. They normal have around 20-30 volunteers at a time. Right now they kids are on summer holidays until the end of January and they were just starting the summer school classes that same Monday. Because of this we have decided to continue travelling until the end of January and then decide which organisation we like the best and return. La Esperanza Granada offers volunteer accommodation for couples for 46usd per week in a double room in one of their volunteer houses. One of the guys working with Pauline in the office brought us to see one of the houses. The accommodation is basic but covers the main needs, there is a shared sitting room and kitchen, washing machine, wi-fi… If we decide to go for La Esperanza Granada I think we would probably stay for a few weeks and then search for something by ourselves. The afternoon we spent searching the web and trying to get hold of another two organisations we liked the sound off.

In the end we were not able to see either on the Tuesday so we signed up for a day trip to Laguna de Apoyo through our hostel. It was only 6usd for return transport and free use of the hostel facilities at the sister hostel at Laguna de Apoyo, such as hammocks and beach area. Laguna de Apoyo is a clear blue, thermally vented 48-square kilometre body of water contained inside the crater of the inactive Apoyo Volcano (think big warm clean lake!).Laguna de Apoyo is one of Nicaragua’s most beautiful natural wonders and just a 30 minute ride from Granada. We spent the day chilling out in the warm sweet water lake and swimming to a little dock to sun bathe all day long.

The next morning we were busy, first we met with Empowerment International about 20 mins walk from the city centre of Granada. They work in a neighbourhood of Granada doing home visits to promote schooling of the children in the local school. They also work as support for the parents of the local children, being there to listen and give advised to abused mothers or parents that have problems with alcohol or drugs. This way they can build a closer relationship with the whole community and understand better if a child is not doing well at school and hopefully give him/ her the right support. The children all go to the local public school and can then go to the Empowerment International community centre to get extra classes in subjects they need help in, or help with home work or just additional adult support. They also have a photography and bicycle club. They need volunteers that can help out in any of their projects.

After that we were meeting with Donna from Building New Hope in the centre of Granada. They have two private free schools where the children attending public school can come for extra support and extra classes in subjects they need extra support in. In Nicaragua the children either goes to school in the morning or the afternoon, Building New Hope therefore offers classes in their private free school to complement the public school hours. They need volunteers to help out giving classes at the school and to lead discussion groups for the teenagers in the evenings. After our two meetings we were heading for León via Managua. Unfortunately we didn’t research the transport well enough and ended up on a chicken bus taking over 2 hours and arriving at the wrong terminal in Managua, meaning we had to get a taxi to go to the right terminal for a microbus to León. Had we checked beforehand we would have been able to get a direct microbus straight to the same terminal as the microbus to León. After a good few hours of travelling and changing buses in Managua we arrived to a crazy León! It was the last day of 9 days of processions of la purisíma (similar to the ones in Sevilla for Easter but smaller) culminating in the “gritería”, the big shout. The locals celebrate with fireworks and the virgin Mary is on display in the cathedral all night long. They serve street food and have little stands everywhere giving candies to the children. The locals shout “Quien nos causa tanta alegría?” and the answer is “La concepción de María”. Which would literally be “What brings us so much happiness?”, “Marias conception!!”.
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