Beisbol & Volcano Boarding (Andy)
Trip Start Oct 04, 2009
70Trip End Nov 20, 2010
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Before coming to Leon I knew only what my very high level and biased Lonely Planet summary gave me. The city was moved in 1960 because of an earthquake, Ruben Dario is a big deal, Nicaraguans love baseball and the US is evil. We originally were going to pass over the city on our way to Lago de Nicaragua but decided to make a stop solely based on the fact that we didn't want to be traveling that much in one day. This may not have been the best way to plan out the journey but the spontaneity and feeling that you could do whatever you want whenever is freeing. So it was with this we headed to Leon.
Border crossings in general are extremely hectic and the people are, unfortunately to say, usually very untrustworthy. It just sucks that after an amazing experience in a country meeting unbelievably helpful and kind people that the taste in your mouth when you leave is that of deceit. On top of the 3km lie we were also told Honduras buses don't take US cash (they do), there is no ATM on the Nicaragua side of the Honduras border (there is), and the buses to Leon are extremely infrequent (they aren't). For some reason, call it my trusting nature, no matter how many times I'm lied to at the border my nervous guy instincts kick in and I believe whatever anyone tells me. Thank God Lindsey is there to knock some sense in to me.
We arrived in Leon in the late afternoon and were surprised to see the amount of tourists in the area. While in El Salvador we often found ourselves in places where we were the only non-nationals (with the exception of el tunco) but here we seemed to be the majority. It was actually quite unsettling at first. It sort of felt like all these other tourists were ruining or experience or something (i know its a stupid way to think being a white american tourist myself but its tough not to have those feelings). Our search for a hostel took us to three different places until we settled on a less than ideal spot on the north side of the city, El Albergue Hostel (loosely translated in English; the hostel hostel - great name). As both of us were a little tired and sick from the day of traveling we crashed for the night.
So with all of this we figured that Leon would probably be one of the most open and welcoming cities that we would visit. It turned out to be the exact opposite. We blamed it on the influx of tourists, especially the late teens and early twenties tourists who spent their time drinking, yelling and going out in large groups. But either way, we found that people were annoyed with our presence, giving us strange looks and one word answers. Even our waitress one night after we ordered the typical India Viejo dish (unbelievably delicious by the way, like a stir fry curry soup, so good) barely talked to us, acted annoyed that we were asking questions and when we gave our tip (which was a decent one still) acted like we were inconveniencing her. It was frustrating after a country thats people welcomed us with such open arms to come to a city where people seemed annoyed with us there. But, that didn't stop us from partaking in some of the big events going on in the city, namely baseball.
The first thing you notice about the stadium is the crowd. Extremely rowdy, they are on their feet from the start of the game and blowing horns at every opportunity they get.
The game ended up being a great one. Leon goes down early 5 to 0 but fight their way back to win it in the bottom of the 9th. Check out the video that we took of the winning run, i know i said this a million times but just craziness. I mean this is 1pm on a Friday of a regular season game! I wasn't particularly impressed by the defense of either team (there seemed to be a lot of errors) the Nicaraguans seem to be focused on two things, pitching and hitting, which makes for an entertaining game.
After the high of the baseball game the next day we decided to do something a little less crazy and we tried our hand at a sport called volcano boarding. While it is a bit expensive in comparison to a $2 baseball game, it seemed like a pretty cool experience flying down the side of the volcano. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) for us boarding actually meant sledding. Lindsey and I have had a bit of an itch to hit the slopes after hearing about how much snow everyone is getting back home but it will have to wait until later in the trip I guess. So we make the trip 45 minutes outside of Leon to a small volcano in one of their national parks where we proceed to climb for an hour up the steep cliff.
While hiking up the volcano we are carrying a protective outfit and our boards (makeshift plywood sleds that seriously could have been made by a ten year old in shop class that do not look like they will hold up sledding down a volcano). We take some time putting on our over-sized protective suits noting that on each of them the butt region has taken considerable damage and emotionally prepare ourselves for the trip. Our guide gives us instructions on how to steer which basically sound like "don't do this or you will flip the board and tumble down the entire volcano." Seeing the way we were supposed to go down didn't not lift our spirits much either, it was basically just a straight path down a cliff.
Îm starting to find myself a bit restless with our travels. Its been amazing seeing everything that we have an opportunity to see but I'm ready to start something a little more concrete again. Studying spanish and focusing on that has helped but I'm about ready to find a project to work on. Soon I think we may bunker up with a family at a home-stay in one of the upcoming cities or potentially do a farm stay. Not really sure but just getting to know some locals on a more personal level would be very rewarding. Speaking of that we formally accepted our positions at SKIP (Supporting Kids in Peru) and will become their Economic Development Coordinators in February. It looks like an amazing organization that has taken an all encompassing approach to helping the poor communities around Trujillo. Most of our work will be around business education and micro-finance projects so Lindsey and I are both looking forward to put what we learned at Bentley and during our careers to good use for the poor in Peru. To learn a bit more about them feel free to look them up on-line - www.skipperu.org
Next stop for us, Granada! Tourism capital of central america. I hope everyone is doing well back home and our thoughts are with those people closely affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Miss you all.