After some serious research, we chose ABC Spanish school - which really caters to Nicas wanting to learn English but they do have a couple of Spanish teachers as well. The school was nice, small and clean and the staff are very friendly. For 2040 Cordobas, we got our own teacher, four hours a day of immersion instruction for 5 days
! A good deal, (although next time I think we'll take the course in Guatemala and get a home stay included for the same price...); and we enjoyed it very much. Our teacher, Larry, started off with some serious grammar and spooked us a little but we realized his intention was to give us a handle on HOW the language is put together, thus allowing us to build on our knowledge and home study ourselves by filling in vocabulary and verbs.
Every day we went to class from 8am to 12pm then would have some lunch then spend the afternoon in the park or at the back of the hostel studying our lesson.
Nosotros hablamos mucho ahorra!
(My spelling might be WAY off, but we're trying! And practicing all the time with locals really helps).
To celebrate on our last day we sat in the park and had Vigarron, the local delicacy of fried pork rinds on almost mashed yucca, topped with coleslaw, and all sitting on a banana leaf. It was delicious the last time we tried it. This time, we were a little appalled to find coarse, dark, thick, black HAIR on the pork! We pushed down as much as we could before submitting to defeat.
During the week we also took a day trip to a wonderful crater lake called Laguna De Apoyo. It's only a short bus ride then taxi/bus (if you can manage to catch it) ride again to the lake
. You can chose to stay at The Monkey Hut (affiliated with the Bearded Monkey in Granada) or chose another cabin-esque place to relax along the lake. The water is crystal clear, the views of the other side beautiful and the activities perfect. We went kayaking and lounged around on the inner tubes then relaxed on the veranda overlooking the lake in hamacas before we had to leave at 4:30 to catch the last bus. (Note of advice, if you find yourself at Laguna De Apoyo, make plans to stay overnight - most places offer accommodation - or go in with a few people on a taxi and make a time with the driver to pick you up later in the evening. It's only about $10-15 but the more people who are in on it the cheaper it gets of course...)
It was a lovely day and exactly what we needed to break up the week of study!
Next we're on to Leon via a short trip to Managua...
From Ometepe we made our way back to Rivas then on to Granada. Granada and Leon have both claimed to be the "unofficial capital" of Nicaragua in the past and each has it's charms, however, we chose to stay in Granada and take a Spanish course before heading up to see Managua on our way to Leon. It is a wonderful little colonial-looking city with pastel coloured houses on both sides of narrow streets. The Parque Central bustles with all kinds of life, from the homeless dogs trying to forage a meal to the older generation Granadan men who happily (and sometimes seriously) chat away on benches littered throughout the leafy park.