Tuesday, March 27, 2012


After a week in San Isidro with amazing EOS International staff, it was time for me to move on. I ended up going to Leon with a Peace Corps volunteer that I met during my stay in San Isidro. She was going to Leon to celebrate her birthday with some other PCV and had invited me to come along.

It was one of my better travel decisions for sure. Everyone that I met from PC was amazing. All super nice and welcoming to a non-volunteer. It was in the 24 hours I spent with them, that I decided I could never do PC. They were all doing such amazing things with their time and energy. I was definitely impressed but also reassured that PC is not for everyone, especially me.

We spent last Saturday afternoon on the beach west of Leon. It was great to be near the water. Being land locked my whole life, I always get super excited when I get to hang out near large bodies of water. This beach experience was different than any other I have had in the past, why? Because it was hot. It is hot. Leon is hot. The usual breezy at the beach felt like a hot wind from hell. The water was at least 80°. So when you went in, it was only marginally cooler than the air outside.  With all of my statements of, "it's so hot," it was sill an enjoyable experience. It was also good to get my tan on. I need all the help I can get.

After our afternoon at the beach we made the seemingly longer journey back to our hostel. It was there that I met another 7 or so PCVs. We quickly got ready with the prospect of food in our thoughts. A few of the volunteers had been to Leon before and they lead us to a cheap and delicious shawarma place. Thank Nicaragua for dinners that cost 2 dollars.

Once we were all feed and back in good spirits we headed to the nearest bar. My apologies to everyone we encounter that night. Our American reputation held true.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

San Isidro, Nicaragua

After spending the weekend in Matagalpa with some awesome new friends, I left Monday day morning for San Isidro (aka the location of the EOS International office).

The buses are always an amazing experience. Full of interesting looks, food, people, and of course, me, a gringa. I can all most hear people's thoughts when they see me, 'what the...?' I totally get it but my presence does seem to throw people for a loop. But, I guess I like knowing that I keep people on their toes. I also know, that now this backfire because I said something. Murphy's law.

Anyway, San Isidro is a pretty small town on the road from Matagalpa to Esteli. There is not much here in terms of things to do but I like that it is somewhat quieter than the other cities I have visited. I learned last night that there is not even an ATM here...good to know. Even though it is a small town there still seems to be some money coming through. The houses in the main part of town are very cute and brightly colored. The people are nice and they like to watch as I walk past. If they seem real surprised, like these two grandma's yesterday, I like to say, 'hola.' Their faces are priceless. They have no idea how much Spanish I know, which isn't much, but they kind of wave back in confusion.Ahh, good times.

In the two days that I have been in San Isidro, I have been trying to study and practice my Spanish skills. I really appreciate the EOS Nica team for trying to talk to me when they have a few minutes and asking me about my day. They are all so amazing and they work so hard. I am not sure if yesterday an atypical day but some of the team was here at the office for more than 12 hours. They are so dedicated and truely care so much about their local community and their country. I also like to walk around the town which is a concept they don't really understand.

For example, yesterday I was walking through the central park here and two policemen stopped me. Turns out they were just really curious and wanted to know why I was in such a small town and what I was doing. For me the answers to these types of questions are apart of my script and I almost sound like I can speak Spanish, haha.

I feel bad  because there is not much more to say. I know my time here in San Isidro is not the most exciting part for others to read but I want to encourage anyone who is interested to c heck out the EOS website for more information on what we do. It is really exciting when you are here and see the technologies people are going to be getting. For example, yesterday, on of our techs was packing up the EOS truck for three installations. I village that takes almost almost three days to get to, is getting a water chlorinator, a biodigester, and solar panels. How cool is all of that? They are going to have clean drinking water and electricity for the first time. That is amazing!!! That is why it is so cool to be here and see what they do because in the US, we just send money and we don't really get to see the final product. We see pictures, but we don't really know how that new technology is going to change that person's life. But here, I walk around and I can see some of our technologies and I see them using them. That makes my heart soft and fuzzy, haha.

And from that soft moment, I will say good morning morning to a new day of the unknown and potential to change lives.

My New Fav!!!

Granted I have yet to visit other places in northern Nicaragua but I think Matagalpa is my favorite.

I am loving the weather and the people, oh and the food! The chicken from the street vendors is the best chicken I have ever had. The great thing about street vendors is that the food tastes like it's from a down home BBQ. Def some of the better food I have had in a foreign country. It's all about the spices. That being said, I try to eat street food at least once a day. Plus it is also the cheapest. Bonus!!!

This past week I took 15 hours of Spanishes classes. Most days it was for 4 hours a day. It was intense but totally worth it. It was nice to have a memory jog on the grammer and some vocab. Ttyhe only problem is that I stayed at a ostel and spoke English with other Americans every day. Which is why I am excited for next week when I will be staying at the EOS office in San Isidro.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I made it to Matagalpa and got signed up for Spanish class. I think my profs from college would be impressed. Not just because of what I remember but by the fact that I was never very good at Spanish in the first place.

Being here is very much a wow, holy Spanish experience. Especially in the northern part of the country where thee are fewer tourist and fewer people who speak Spanish.

Other than Spanish and studying Spanish, I have met some very inspiring people. An American woman who is between med school and her residency. She is WOOFFing on a new farmer near a village called San Antonio. She lives in a shed with another American. They have a dirt floor and they cook most of their meals over a fire. She is roughing it for sure. This is her huge adventure, at least for the next three years while she is doing her residency. Then, we met another man in Spanish school and he is a civil engineer from the UK. He had some time off from so he partnered with an NGO and he is working on a foot bridge on the south end of Matagalpa. Right now the workers from the not so great areas was to walk across stepping stones when the river is dry and when it is wet they have to walk 2k out of their way so they can make it to work at the coffee plantations. The foot bridge he is working on will save them time and hopefully they can make it work more during the wet season. He is here for a month on his own dime and had never studied Spanish before he got here. I just think that is so generous.
It's people like those mentioned above who inspire me. They are willing to give up their own time and money to do something for someone else. Of course they have an amazing experience themselves but I still think it is pretty incredible.

 On a totally different note. Yesterday I was able to visit the EOS International office. It was amazing to meet Alvaro and his wife. They are SO nice. Because my Spanish is not good and his Spanish is hard to understand we had a hard time talking but we were able to accomplish a few things. Hopefully after this week at Spanish class I will be able to understand and communicate a bit more. It was just so cool to see all of our technologies in one room. It felt like I was finally living my dream. Next week I think there will be an installation of a water chlorinator on the campo (farm). I talked to him about observing the install. All is said what get ready for an adventure and not to worry. And with that I was sold. I am hoping that next week I will go to San Isidro for the week. There are definitely no tourists there so it will be very different. I will have to really use what Spanish I have. It will be just like Georgia again. I guess that is the only way to really learn.

No matter the challenges I think I am ready for a few days of adventure.

Sunday in Matagalpa

From 3-18-2012

Sunday in Matagalpa.

Sundays are the slowest of days in most countries around the world. Especially in smaller mountain towns of a predominantly Catholic/Christian country.

At La Buena Onda I woke up to Bob. Not a bad way to wake up.

Today I have to move hostels because they are booked up in the dorms to I made my way to another hotel in town. It doesn't have Bob buy it does have a wonderful garden in the back with hammocks and wifi.

Later in the day, I run into a Peace Corps volunteer at my hostel. We went to an Italian place for dinner and talked shop. She is doing some projects similar to what EOS International does. Being able to bounce ideas off each other was great. Hopefully we can work together through EOS in the future.

On the Move

From 3-10-2012
Last Saturday I traveled to Matagalpa. It was definitely an
 experience at the bus station. Think a very large dirt lot 
with a few steel structures. It is not a place where you want 
to spend a lot time. Which is why it was so great to go straight 
from the car to the bus. 

Which was also an experience. They have these clowns that
"entertain" the passengers for the first part of the trip. 
It seemed  a bit much but I couldn't understand them.
Then some guy tried to get me to get up out of my seat so 
I would have to stand. He literally looked around, saw the 
white girl and thought, " I am going to make her stand, 
so i can sit." I just turned my head and pretended like 
I didn't  understand what was going on. What an asshole! 
I sank into my seat, hoping no one else will confront me. 
I knew it was going to be hard but for the first time yet
this trip, I almost let myself feel defeated. 

Remembering that I had felt similar to this at one point 
in time while in Georgia, I reminded myself it will get 
better. BUT not before it got worse. I had made a stupid 
decision to travel later in the day than normal and I 
ended up missing my stop. So i was freaking out that I 
was going to get in after dark. Longer story short, I 
made it before dark. Thank you group of older men who gave 
me directions and a very nice taxi driver.Lesson learned. 
Travel earlier in the day.
I stayed at La Buena Onda. Def one of the better places 
in town. The people who work there are great!  They are 
super nice and fun to be around. The younger 
Nicas for sure. Bob Marley helped with the cool status also.

Volcan de Masaya

From 3-8-2012
After having made two new friends the day before, we decided 
we were ready to get out of Managua but only for the day. 

We decide on going to the Volcano in Masaya, another 
touristy kind of town close to Granada. Initially we though 
we could bus it but after some much needed research we hire 
one of the hostel taxi drivers to take us around. This end
up being a great idea, not only because of the 15k walk up 
to the volcano but also because he is like a Nicaraguan 
history book. (Good thing the girl I had invited with us 
the day before spoke Spanish as her first language. 
We were set). We start at the visitor's center for the 
National park where the volcano and craters are located. 
I was really impressed by VC there. Every sign there had
a translation in English and there were great visual 
qualities as well.

Also included in our entrance fee, was a cave tour. 
It was really interesting.  (Not quite Carl's Bad 
Caverns but still quality). We were given flash 
lights and hard hats as we entered the cave. I wasn't 
sold at first because I could hear the bats flying 
around us. I would say we were definitely intruding. 
We only walked a third of the cave is what the guide 
said. Being that my flash light was on its let leg I 
was more worried about getting left behind with the 
bats then how far into the cave we were.

We stopped in an opening in the cave. We were told 
this is where the indigenous people used to make 
their sacrifices. Although there is little remnants 
of those times, it was still very interesting to hear 
about the cave explorations still being done today. 
Then we got to my favorite part of the tour...please 
turn off your flash lights. Hello, did anyone see that 
movie where the women to spunking and those weird cave 
craters kill them all? I say, get me out!

On on top of solid ground, we started up to the 
crater/inactive volcano. At the top, I felt like I
 was on top of the world.  It was one of the most 
amazing views of my life. It was also incredibly windy; 
we had a hard time standing up. We snapped a few pictures 
and we were out. Only to realize, we still had to walk 
up the 177 steps up to the volcano overlook. That was 
so incredible. It was really acidic though. We all had 
a hard time breathing so we be got the quick history 
from our driver, Roberto, and we left for lunch. 

After having such a long day hiking we chilled out 
at the pool for the rest of the afternoon.

New Friends, New Food

 From 3-8-2012
This morning for breakfast I had a "el tipico" to eat. That would be two eggs, gallo pinto ( beans and rice with some spices and chili), and sweet bananas, with coffee. So good. Or at least that is what i thought until today.
Toward the end of breakfast a guy at another table asks me what I ordered. I tell him and that's how conversations start. Long story short, we make two additions to our wolf pack and head out.
We were headed to the only museum in the city, which ended up being closed for Women's Day. Shouldn't they have done something different for the day? Oh well. I guess it means the women who work there get the day off. But they probably didn't get it paid. Tangent, back to food.
On the way to figuring all this out we stop at a place on the street for some food. Best food yet!!! It was so much and for such a good price! I wish this  food stand was by our hostel.
My point being, def try street food. I have heard to be cautious with beef and pork but chicken is usually good. Shoot, just thinking about it makes me hungry for more. I wish we had food like this at home.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When they forget you are different

Being in Nicaragua and being white, are the two most opposite things one could think of. Being white with lighter hair, I stand out no matter where I go.  Of course, I fully knew this going in, but what I didn't know was that it was going to be such a dividing line. 

For example, when I was in the Republic of Georgia I also stood out but they, as a country, got used to us, Westerners. Whether it was because of the TLG TV commercials or whatever else, it was nice to feel like I was starting to "fit in." This was especially true in my village and on the bus to and from town. At first, I was treated as a novelty, but finally I was treated like everyone else. No special treatment, no sitting in the front seat of the Marshrutka, and not being able to help with clearing and setting the table. Once all of things stopped happening, I started to feel "normal." Which is, of course, what I was wanting all along. This brings me back to Nicaragua. 

I would like to walk down the street without people stopping their conversations, go shopping in the super market without peering eyes looking at what I am buying, and I would also like to walk down the street without having every taxi driver honk at me, gesturing they are free if I need a lift. And I would like to walk down the street without men hollering and making kissing noises at me. 

I'm addressing all of the above: I walk just like everyone else, maybe a bit faster than some Nicaraguans but the commonality is still there. The food I am buying is a yogurt and an apple. Both of which seem normal here due to the large selection of each item. The way I would hail a taxi in the US is the same way I do it here. Just a wave of the arm. So stop honking; I will let you know if I need a ride.  Finally, if I wanted more from you,  guy hanging out of the car window, you would know. Subtleness is a much more attractive quality in a man.

Although this post carries some serious aspects, I am trying to make light of the fact that I am not much different than anyone else in the world. I know my skin, hair color, and language are different but I carry out the same basic functions. 

Those who travel to different countries not only wish to observe every aspect of that country, but we wish to be included. We don't travel to eat McDonald's, we travel because we want something different, and in most cases, some thing better to eat. Don't worry about the language barrier, we obviously don't. Don't look at us like aliens, you can laugh, we know our we sound like a hot mess. We are here to to learn and experience a life different than our own. We know it might not be easy but we are here because we are willing to try. 

Us vs. Them

Without trying to start a political conversation, that will inevitably spiral downhill, I write on.

Today I woke up feeling like I was ready to move on to the next city. I like Managua but I am ready to see more of this beautiful country, and maybe cooler temperatures.  The one thing I decided not to do yesterday was to see the New Church. It was finished in 1993 and structurally different than many other churches here, or in other parts of the world-think the roof tops of a Turkish bathhouse. It was fairly austere but amazing architecture. It is unlike any other church I have ever seen.

So, that was 15 minutes well spent...now what.

I decided to walk back across town to a little beach front bar area. Don't get too excited because the lake is far to polluted to swim in; what a shame, that could be a huge tourist attraction. There is this government owned restaurant and bar area that my taxi took me my first day here but we didn't stay that long. So I find my way during my hour walk across town. 

On my way I see many of the government buildings full of lush gardens and gorgeous courtyards and, I also see the other side of Nicaragua.  The side that is very much representative of Nicaragua being one of the poorest countries in the world. These two words are separated by cast iron fences and security guards.  For example, Daniel Ortega's house/office (I have heard both), is across the street from some of the worst conditions I have seen here. With trash everywhere, with children and dogs searching the rubbish for food and clothing. Good thing he has tall bushes and a small park in the way to block his view. 

I do understand that there is only so much money to go around but still... I don't think those two worlds should be so separate. Parks and gardens can be enjoyed by all people, from all walks of life. Enough of my "why can't everyone just get along" bs.  I just wanted to comment that Managua is the greatest example of the haves and have -nots.

Deciding I had had enough of the heat I stopped at a restaurant for lunch. I was served ice with my water...it hasn't hit me yet. But it tasted so nice and cold! Again, I gave up and took a taxi back to my hostel. 

Still burning up from the inside out I head to the pool. For $11 a night and a pool at my disposal,  its the perfect price.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Day in the Sun

I will start this post by saying it is so hot here. Secondly, it is really hot here. Third, it's also super humid.

My first full day in Managua started with an early wake up. Apparently people get up early here. One because it gets too hot to sleep and two there is no safe night life here, so people go (foreigners) go to bed early. After getting myself ready, I head to the main location of my hostel (one block away).  There is a small kitchen where you can buy breakfast "meals". After eating a surprisingly good omlette and some oj, I am ready for my day to really start. 

After looking in my guide book for something to do or go see, I realize Managua doesn't have a long list of true tourist attractions. I decide on seeing Loma de Tiscapas. It is a creator in Managua.  I ask the guy at the front desk (he speaks English) what is the best way to get where I want to go. This starts a lengthy chat on things Nicaraguan and other random topics. Anyway, I decide to walk, rather than take a taxi. I, of course, get lost. But I did find my Spanish school for next week. I resolve to waving down a taxi. Super nice guy who didn't over charge.

Once atop a small hill, I am looking at a not so impressive site. Still worth the experience though. At least I wasn't the only one taking pictures.  I buy a popsicle and head down the hill. (I figure I can walk back).

I wonder into another shopping mall. It's not as nice as the one near my hostel but alas it has a food court. I decide I am not ready to search for food on the street (even though I have heard it can be very good). I switch it up by ordering some Cuban fare. I still don't know what makes it Cuban because it looked just like the other Nicaraguan eateries. Whatever, it wasn't great but the people watching was worth it.  Kids on the play structure, parents looking burnt out, moms trying to get a quick bite in while they can...somethings never change.

I start the long haul back across town. A little sunburn, a few blisters, and a stop for cold water, and I am back at my hostel. Where I decide that a little TV and relaxation with my lone fan is a good idea. I turn on the TV and I see a commercial (in English) for the show Hillbilly Hand Fishing. I laugh and think of Brad, Andy Jr, and his boys.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Frist Day in Managua

My travels began with a rocky start...literally.
After a tearful goodbyes with family and friends, including the most difficult goodbye at the airport with Brad; I am off to Managua, Nicaragua.
My trip started with the worst flight of my life from  Denver  to Miami. With the tornadoes below our plane rocked from side to side. (Having had a bad feeling about leaving, I was starting to wonder why I had gotten on the plane in the first place). Following a few hour layover in Miami, I boarded my plane; full of emotion.

Once on the plane I fall asleep again. When I woke up (finally due to heat rather than freezing airport air), I looked out my window and see clear blue...waves. Oh, this is real.

Walking off the plane I quickly get lesson in hot and humid Nicaraguan air. I was not out of the airport before I started to sweat. 

Collecting my bag and a quick pass though customs (ten dollars please) and am off to find my ride. I find a man holding a sign with my name and hostel name, looking very official in a casual tee and faded jeans. We do not really talk at first but the questions begin when we step out into the Nicaragua sun. In Spanish he asks me, "do you like the sun," my response "si," next question, "really? Because you are a different color than me." I laugh during my response, "I know." (It was at this point I thought, " oh shit, why didn't I study more before I left? So many verbs, so many tenses, objects, and the other not so critical parts of speech that seem not to matter at this point).

Instead of taking me to my hostel he takes me to a great museum across the street from la casa de Presidente. He gets me in at half price and walks me though. Between his Spanish, my broken Spanish, and a pictionary like attitude we make it through. 

Finally, after a Georgian like driving experience, we make it to my hostel. I check in and get situated. A little face wash here and solid amount of deodorant later...I feel like a new woman. Quick call to mi made and then a Skype chat with Brad, then I realize I am super hungry.

Stumbling through my Spanish once again, I ask the very patient woman at  my hostel, "Where can I find a good restaurant?" She tells me there is a mall not far. I vaguely remember from the drive in. So I walk my hungry self over and go in search of food. I finally find a food court. It is full of places I know, as well as, white American faces. I suddenly feel a sense of home. I decide on a place that has fajitas. Stereotypical I know. At least I didn't go to Mr. Lee's. That place just seemed blatantly racist and something about Chinese food in Managua didn't seem quite right. I order my fajitas and a lemonade. I get fajitas and Coke. (Nit sure what happened there but it tasted like home.

I walk around a bit more looking for an ATM. When I found one I have to stand there doing currency conversions. I know I looked like I was talking to myself and probably not helping the American image much. So, after much walk around I headed back to my hostel for some much needed rest.