WHO: Essa (aka Vanessa)
WHAT: Peace Corps, Environmental Education
WHEN: Sept '05 - Nov '07
WHY: La vida es un carnaval
Almost the entire Nica-39 group met in Granada to celebrate Christmas together. We had about 3 days for vacationing and found that Christmas is not the big deal it is in the States. So, it was a relaxing break in a hostal where the only unexpected visitor we got on Christmas morning was a roach. Noemi is good at taking care of them, though...lucky for me.
The owner of the hostal we stayed at hosts a free Christmas dinner for all the guests - meat, rice, bread, salad and a typical Christmas dessert called "sopa borracha" or "drunken soup". It's cake swimming in rum. The food was great, but I can't say I was a fan of the dessert - I would've rather had pumpkin pie.
One of John's parting gifts from Boaco was a bottle of Nicraguan hooch (rum based, of course) called "morir soñando" which means "to die dreaming". He generously gave me half the bottle, so I spread the Christmas cheer with the other volunteers. In true Nica style, the dinner party soundtrack included lots of Reggaetón - a mix of rap-hip-hop-reggae with an unmistakable rhythm and whose videos always feature scantily-clad-gyrating women.
Seeing this flooded me with nostagia for the original Granada - in Spain, and where I lived for two years and learned Spanish. It is located in the Alhambra - originally a mosque and where the Muslim's ruled Spain, and converted into a Christian summer home when Isabel and Ferdinand took over. Fortunatley, much of the original architecture has been preserved. The plaque says, "Give him a dime, lady, for there's nothing sadder in the world than being blind and living in Granda."
The contemporary art scene is alive in Granada - these pictures were taken at the Casa de Cultura. Besides these studios, there are also photography exhibits and a small concert hall.They host summer art programs for children, as well.
A couple of artists - the top one is also in a heavy metal band. Most of his art materials are sent to him by his mom who lives in the States.
On Christmas morning, a group of us got up early and hiked around Volcan Mombacho. There's no record of eruption in the history of man, but there are small fumaroles where steam is constantly emitted. It's pretty close to the Volcano Zapatero on the island of Omotepe (located in Lake Nicaragua), which did erupt a few months ago. Here's Volcan Mombacho from Granada:
We were lucky to find a family living at the bottom of the volcano that didn't mind feeding us Christmas breakfast - bread and butter, rice, a chicken salad of sorts, and coffee. Their house is actually an old bus that they built around. They also offered us the leftover pork from Christmas dinner for lunch.
The visitors center near the rim. It's also a hostal and restaurant. It was obligatory to have a park guide to take us on a 4-hour tour of the rim and cloud forest. He was really good and even located one of the smallest species of orchids in the world - it was maybe a half centimeter tall and has a bigger leaf growing behind it to protect it from strong winds. I tried to get a photo, but I lack the photo equipment. Mombacho is home to howler monkeys, tree frogs, rare birds and sloths. Unfortunately for us, none of them like to be seen.
Noemi and our guide - much of the hike was like this - walking through a verdant tunnel. It was cool, damp, and mossy.
Here's a view from the top - these are the isletas (little islands) of Lake Nicaragua - just outside of Granada. There's supposed to be a great boat tour of the isletas - saving that for my next trip...
A view of volcan Zapatera, on the island of Omotepe. This is the one that erupted not too long ago.
Though the fauna was scarce, the flowers were abundant...
Didn't get to see any sloths, but there we lots of spiders and insects.
I thought this ant's girlfriend would be happy to see him..
Back home - I think I've found a place to live - just down the street where I'm currently renting a room, and part of the same family. Patricia (there's a picture of her with John and I on a previous post) and her family live in a house close to the street, and the house I hope to live in is located on the same property, but set back aways. Its been abandondend for a few years and needed lots of cleaning up. I was astounded by how much Patricia's kids wanted to help out. They must have spent about 25 hours in all helping me sweep, scrub, shovel, haul, and cement in holes. Still have to get the ok from the Peace Corps security officer, but I can't see how he'll shoot this one down. It even comes with a guard dog, that evidently they won't let me refuse. Pictures of Ursalito next time.
Julito playing with the family deer... besides this pet, there are a number of doves, parrots (but they're not too noisy), dogs and puppies, 2 geese, and 2 huge pigs. Seems like it would be noisy, but I think the key is that there are no roosters.
On the 30th, I went to visit Celine in her town - about an hour or so away. It was her birthday so I thought I'd take her some cookies - there's one one public phone in her town so I couldn't let her know I was coming (besides, I wanted it to be a surprise). Turns out she woke up not wanting to spend her birthday alone and got on a bus for my town. So we missed eachother...when she got to my familie's house Patricia told her I had gone to see her - so she jumped on a bus for home, just as I had done..in the end we met up en-route as our buses skidded to a halt to let me change buses and join her.
Here's Celine on the overlook of her town - it's got about 1400 people, and I would guess 5 times that number of poultry. Can't believe the din all those birds make - we could hear them from here!
Some random pics...
So, you all will have to stay tuned til next year for pictures of New Year's festivities - I was too tired from hiking all over Celine's town to stay awake until midnight. Sorry.