Trip Start May 12, 2009
Trip End Sep 29, 2009

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Friday, June 26, 2009

To really orientate you to what I am experiencing, you have to know the place.
     You have to know about the curbs. In Central America, the sidewalk is separated from the street by a giant gutter for the torrential rainfall. It is often about a two foot drop. So, mind the gap.
     The sidewalk is put in by whoever owns that peice of curbfront property, so it is a patchwork and changes every few feet. Really, watch where you step.
    You have to know about the pulperia. This is the tiny corner store you see everywhere. As a rule, they are run by women.. Pulperia Isabel, Pulperia Rosa, Pulperia Maria. Sometimes, you see Pulperia Numero Dos. They sell a variety of non-perishables like sodas, breads, candy, chicken bullion, and toiletries. Mangos, onions, avocados, bananas, and eggs are delivered every few days by local families to add to the selection. The biggest ones have a cooler for dairy products. Usually this includes just cheese blocks and flavored milk. Milk is sold by the pint- forget about those huge gallons of milk in the States. Meat products are sold elsewhere at the carniceria. The best bread only comes from the panaderia. I love the tres leches cake, sold by the slice. Mmm, the perfect treat to grab before jumping on the bus.
    The bus. What will you see on the bus? Probably Che Gueverra. Heīs not dead. He lives on in almost every chicken bus in Nicaragua. You see his stencilled face at the front of the bus near the flag. The busses are old US school busses, sometimes repainted in bright reggae colors. Many are manufactured by the Blue Bird Body Co. in Tennessee. Believe me, I have had a lot of time to study the inside of a chicken bus. Many also still have the ten safety rules sticker at the front, in English. They say "Your childrens SAFETY is our BUSINESS" (in English).
    Cows. Yes, theyīre in the road. There is variety as well, I no longer look at them all as one category. There are oxen, dairy cows, Brahma bulls, meat cows, and some other ones with interesting horns. Texas longhorn, almost.

Seen from the bus today:
     A man riding a bike with a 50 pound bag of rice balanced on the center bar while leading two horses, one on either side behind the bike.
    So far the winner of the quantity contest, though, is the four person family plus pets on one bike. The man rode the bike with his wife on the handlebars. She was carrying a small toddler against her chest. Wedged behind the man on the banana seat, a six year old was holding onto is waist. A parrot rode on the manīs shoulder. On the bar between the seat and the handlebars, between the man and the women, was a 30 pound bag of rice.
    A teenage boy belly dancing. The bus pulled to a stop because someone needed to talk to someone for a minute. I looked into a nearby house and was dismayed to see a girl about 11 dancing provocatively with a shiny silver bellydancing wrap around her hips. After a minute, the older teenage boy she was dancing for shook his head.
He thought she was doing it wrong. So he took of his shirt, and put the gaudy fake-silver bikini piece on. Then, he also put on the hip-wrap. He showed her how he thought she should do it. This got A LOT of whistles from everyone on the bus! He stormed over to the window and slammed it shut.

     I enjoyed a fantastic lunch today. So good, in fact, that I returned to my hotel to take a siesta. When I groggily left the hotel, the street was blockaded by police and ambulances. These would actually be the first ambulances I have seen in Central America... It felt like a waking dream. This feeling was only enhanced when the bands arrived. The first band was fronted by schoolgirls in their white and navy blue uniforms twirling batons. I thought this was incredibly cool, but looked up and saw an entire corp of teenage boys ready with drums behind them. The leader gave the cue, and it was a riot. The marched down the street with maracas, xylophones, trombones, snare drums, base drums, flutes, you name it.
    Behind them was a second school band. Apparently, it was a duel. And each group carried signs saying "NO a las Drogas!" I thought the first group was good, but maybe thatīs why they were in front. The second group outfitted their dancers in some kind of Spaniard costume with white boots which laced up to the knees and red dresses. Their drums were louder, and they had more motorcycles strung with streamers following them.
   I like it. Nicaragua says "No a las Drogas" by saying "Yes a las Pounding Drums in the Street". I like it.

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