Friday, August 22, 2008

Revisiting Nicaragua: Part 1

Wednesday 13 August 2008
Long day of travel. When the plane finally touched down, I wanted to kiss the ground. We took a Paxeos shuttle and got to Granada just before 10pm. We went to Granada because Leda had emailed me and told me that that’s where she would be: Al was taking a group of students to visit the US Embassy, and she was going along because she is the nanny of Al and Esther’s baby, Itzel. The whole group was staying at Hostel Oasis, but I couldn’t make a reservation there, so Rob and I booked a room somewhere else.

We checked in to our place and then went to Oasis to see Leda. There was some mild confusion at the desk, but I managed to communicate in my rusty Spanish. Once I dropped Al’s name, everyone jumped up and started making things happen. Since we were so late, Leda was already asleep, but Al came out—more himself than ever. He invited us to “come along” with the students the next day, which I felt would be a total disaster.

Thursday 14 August 2008
Didn’t sleep at all. Woke up with a migraine and feeling fat. Long story short, we finally met Leda at Hostel Oasis. She is so darling, I love her. We had some time to talk for a while, and I asked her about Eduardo. She said she wasn’t sure what happened but thought he left because he and his mother didn’t get along. I tried not to be too sad about that.

Leda and Meli. Only in Nicaragua am I a giant.

Ometepe kids who got to go to the embassy. Top row: Alberto, Junior, Darwin. Bottom row: Eugenio, Lisbia, Horatio, Helen.

We ended up going on a carriage ride through Granada with Al, Esther, Baby Itzel, and the Ometepe children who had been to visit the Embassy. I still felt too terrible to enjoy the carriage ride, and instead just felt bad for the skinny horse who had to pull us all through town.
After the carriage ride, Al, Esther, Baby Itzel, and Nanny Leda left to go to Estelí. We suddenly became charged with the job of helping Tía Maria (Leda’s aunt) with the 7 Ometepe children for the rest of the day. Al had arranged all these activities for the kids to do. First, we did a tour of the San Francisco church and museum. The children were mainly bored by this. Plus, Rob and I ended up having to foot the bill (it wasn’t much, but still).

Proud papa: Don Al with Baby Itzel.

Al, Esther, and Baby Itzel on the carriage ride. Esther explained that Itzel means "star" in Nuahtl (the language of Ometepe's initial inhabitants).

Esther, Tia Maria, and Nanny Leda with Itzel.

Views of Granada from the bell tower of Iglesia San Francisco.

When the tour was over, we shepherded the children back to Hostel Oasis. Rob was actually the only one of us who knew where he was going. It was very difficult to keep track of everyone through the busy market. Little Helen held onto my hand the whole time—not sure if it was to reassure herself or reassure me.

Then we left for Volcan Masaya National Park, Jairo driving the truck. I couldn’t help but wonder how he learned to drive so expertly in frenetic city traffic after having spent all his life on sleepy Ometepe. I sat by Tia Maria (everyone calls her Tia Maria) and she reminded me of my own auntie.

We got to the park and wandered until 2:00pm. I felt terrible since I’d eating next to nothing the past day and had only toast for breakfast. We had a guide at the park (a woman guide—not something you see too often) who led us on some paths marked “prohibited.” Given my obsession with volcanoes, I would have loved it had I felt better.

Volcan Masaya's Santiago Crater.

Kids at Volcan Masaya

"No pasar"

Afterwards we stopped at a town called Catarina where there is a scenic lookout point of the Laguna de Apoyo. It was cold and rainy; I didn’t even take any pictures. The kids were such great troopers though. Nobody was even complaining, though little Helen did say to me—in English no less—“I’m hungry. We are all hungry.” So was I. I felt really bad for the kids.

We finally got to Rivas at 4pm, where Jairo had presumably been told to stop and get us all “lunch” “to go.” I didn’t even know they did such a thing in Nicaragua. I was so hungry I couldn’t form sentences. Somehow Rob and I managed to get a vegetarian plate: greasy white rice, a pipian (squash) sprinkled with Death Cheese, and a scoop of cucumber salad. It had been microwaved in Styrofoam, so if I end up with cancer, I will trace it to this day. I scraped off the Death Cheese and still called myself quasi-vegan.

We got on the 5:30pm ferry that actually left at 5:45. In the year since we have left the price of the ferry ride has doubled from 30 cordovas to 60 cordovas (about $3.00).

They had a shuttle waiting for us on the island. The kids had all gotten cokes and became super-hyper. We finally arrived at Hacienda Merida at around 8:30pm. Sonja and Doña Argentina were working when we got here. Argentina is so dear: she asked me how Rob and I were, how my parents are, how my little nephew is. It is very comforting to see familiar faces and be with people who were genuinely interested in the well-being of my family, but somehow the whole place just seems so overwhelming.

Exhausted. Will sleep and hope for a better morning.


Ragfield said...

I did notice Jairo was way more nervous and cautious than any other Nicaragua driver with whom I've ridden.

Anonymous said...

Awesome photos!!! This trip will make another BOOK for me I think!!!!!!!! hint hint--- can't wait to continue on with you as you travel thru NIC!!! So don't keep us waiting to long before the NEXT post!!! So happy you are back home , among the PRODUCE in your garden, and THE MASSES on campus!!! BABY ITZEL is a cutie....... -- So 'handling 'a group of children ' is harder than dealing with MONKEY'S???? I'll stay tuned for the next report on your trip!!! luv and hugs, foxymama