September 2006 Nicaragua: Achuapa and San Juan

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Almost three weeks after arriving in Nicaragua, we’ve taught five days of school and visited several cool places. The second weekend we were here, we had a “Welcome” party at the apartments. The school sponsored it, and all of us from the apartments came, and about 10 other teachers and our admin came. Not surprisingly, only a few of the Nica teachers showed up. This I have learned about teaching internationally- there is always a big divide between the imports and the local teachers. Or maybe the locals just have better things to do on a Friday night.

Anyway, I stepped out of my apartment on Friday evening and the first thing that greeted me was a nice, strong Bloody Mary, with a fresh squeeze of lime in it. Aaaahh. That did set the mood for the rest of the evening. We grilled burgers, listened to tunes, and swapped stories while drinking mixed drinks and Tona beers. Our director Elsa and our principals, Joey and Rodolfo, even came and we all had a great time.

The next morning, Kathleen and Kristen and I set off for a great adventure- to find the Casa Ben Linder house in Managua, a non-profit organization that had set up transportation to a music festival in the tiny city of Achuapa, several hours away. We took Consuela, our chihuahua, with us for the adventure, and got a taxi and found the Ben Linder house. About fifteen people showed up for the ride, mainly various NGO workers, aged 25-40, and off we set.

We rode the bus up through Leon, then to El Sauce (I love the name of that town), and finally down a loooong (22km) dirt road, and we arrived in Achuapa. This music festival has been going on for 6 years now. When we arrived in town, we signed up at a little casa. The volunteers for the music festival set us up with local families to stay in their houses. Kathleen, Kristen and I, as well as some others from our bus, all stayed in a large room at a family’s house (with Consuela, of course). All this was free.

We set off for the town square (two streets over) and found us some Tona and some food. We had pollo frito, gallo pinto, queso fresco, and ensalad, and mucho cerveza. When we paid, our total for the 3 of us was $12US. Nicaragua rocks!

We drank beer and stayed up as long as we could, but the music festival went all night and we only made it to 2 am, I think. We met a fun guy named Matt who was backpacking the area; he was brave enough to go onstage and sing Sublime for us. We kept running into people from our bus. All in all we had a blast. I found this guy’s blog about the Achuapa festival; I think it is from last year but you can check his out if you want.
We bused back the next day and rested, and then had to go to WORK. Ah yes, the reason I am here. But who wants to hear about teaching?

Luckily, we only had three days of work, and then a holiday! Nica rocks! As soon as school let out on Wednesday, we hightailed it for the bus depot so that Alecia, Kristen, Kathleen (and Consuela), and I could go to San Juan del Sur. San Juan is a great little town about 2.5 hours south of here, it’s becoming quite the little surf capital. We took the bus for 50 cordobas, I think ($3), and got there around 7 pm Wednesday. We found a small guest house/ hostel for $7 for each of us. Alecia and I shared a room right across from Kathleen and Kristen. We immediately headed a la playa and caught the sunset. Mucho gusto! It felt great to get our feet wet and feel the warm sand in between our toes. Of course, it’s not nearly as beautiful as any one of Haiti’s awesome beaches…..

We stayed in San Juan for a couple of days and ran into some fun people. San Juan is touristy, but to a lesser degree than somewhere like Cozumel or Puerta Vallarta. I’m sure in years to come it will turn into one of those places. But for now it remains a quiet little town about the size of Jacmel, where breakfast is cheap and there’s plenty of guest houses to stay. It’s easy to get transport in and out and a fun place to visit.

We had awonderful dinner of pescado a la plancha y gallo pinto y cervezas, and cruised around for a while. We ran into two of our apartment neighbors, Yakshi and Kedra. We stayed up late drinking Tonas and looked at the huge full moon, reflected in the ocean. The next day we played in the water and sat on the beach after a great breakfast, which was under $3. We walked over to our friend Emma’s house, at the end of the beach; she is a former ANS student now in med school in the States, home in Nica for her summer break. She heads back tomorrow so it was nice to be able to say goodbye to her. Her family has a fabulous beach house and we hung out there all afternoon. We walked back into town around sunset for another great dinner, and ran into Kyra and Rachel, two other new teachers from ANS. After dinner we went looked for ice cream, and saw Zack and Erin, our two remaining neighbors. Ah, just like Haiti…. you really can’t go anywhere without seeing everyone you know. Oh, not to mention the three students we stumbled across.

We planned on taking surf lessons the third day we were there but it rained, so we just hung out. I love watching the ocean when it rains. We walked around the tiny town, stopping in at markets and buying trinkets. We kept running into the two cute Canadian guys we had met and had drinks with the night before. It really is a small town. At last it was time to head back. Kyra, Rachel, Alecia, and Kathleen took the bus back, and Kristen and I stayed a bit longer in town. Then we ran into Yakshi and Kedra, and hopped a ride back into town with them. On the way home, we stopped for quesillos- a new culinary treat for us. It’s a corn tortilla wrapped around a piece of cheese- almost like a mozzarella- served with a sour cream sauce and grilled onions. Amazingly messy but quite yummy.

We relaxed the rest of this weekend, hanging out in Managua. Saturday night we went to a bar and had drinks and dessert. Sunday we had no electricity for several hours- they are rationing it these days (love the third world!!) so we had to get out of our apartments and head to the mall. They, also, didn’t have electricity, but at least some stores were open and it was fun to walk around. Hello, a mall? Always fun. Tonight we’re all making dinner together and trying to get ready for next week- a full, five-day workweek.

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