October 2006- Omotepe, Lake Nicaragua

omotepe volcano with white cloud nicaragua

Two weeks ago, Alecia, Kathleen, Kristen and I hared our first hash here, at the Volcano Masaya National Park. I guess it’s the first time I’ve really seen into a volcano- this summer Lisa and I went part way up Mt. Pelee in Martinique, but didn’t really see much of it. This one, Volcano Masaya, has sulfuric steam bellowing out of it and is really deep inside, and from the far side of the rim (which is now blocked off after someone fell in), you can actually still see the molten magma in there! Very cool! In 2000, the volcano suddenly threw out a single boulder and crushed a tourist’s car! The indians used to sacrifice people to the volcano to keep it calm. All in all it was a really fun run, as it was about 8 km to the top, which was about as difficult as the 8 km back to the bottom.

Last weekend we went to the movie theater and saw “Snakes on a Plane” and laughed our asses off. What a great stress relief! I highly recommend that movie to anyone who just needs a break. On Sunday, Kathleen and I took a day trip to Granada, a cute little town about 45 minutes away, right on the edge of the big lake here, Lake Nicaragua (or Lake Colciboca, depending on who you ask). We took Conseula with us and walked around the little town, visiting art galleries, little musuems of indigenous art, and eating food at several little restaurants- we had really great huevos rancheros in the morning and later a great burrito- more Mexican than Nicaraguan.

Alecia didn’t go with us that day, because she just bought a new puppy! She stayed home to look after our new perrita. After like three days of debating, we finally named her Lucia, which means “light”. We think she is part beagle and part dauschaund. She is adorable and so little right now- only 6 weeks! Anytime any of us need a little puppy love, we get to carry her around and play with her and cuddle her. Just like baby Jack, she pretty much just eats and sleeps for right now.

Work is going well- I gave my AP kids their first test, and they all passed- and one kid only missed three out of 60 questions! That is like unheard of for a first AP practice test. I think this class (there’s seven of them) are like a little group of geniuses. I truly look forward to their class each day. Each of them has such a unique personality. It makes me think that I may need to get out of middle school soon, as I don’t think I enjoy my eighth graders nearly as much. But as long as I don’t think about killing them, like I did my sixth graders last year, I should be okay.

Living in Managua… well, that’s probably the least great part about Nicaragua. We are continuing to have energy problems, and this past week we had huge blocks of time- like eight hours- that we had no electricity. That means no lights, no fans, no a/c, no internet server, no IM, no toaster oven. We lost power four days in a row, and we would just have to suffer through it or take a taxi to another part of town and try to go to a cafe or the mall or something. Our apartments are not pleasant to be in with no power.

Finally the moment we’d all been waiting for….. 2 pm on Wednesday, we were off work for vacation. Independence Day holiday. We left Thursday morning to take the bus to the little town of San Jorge, on Lake Nicaragua, and then to ferry over to Omotepe, the island out in the middle of the lake (pop. 35,000). We took Consuela and Lucia with us and packed our bags, ready for a short, backpacking adventure! When we arrived in the tiny little town of Moyagalpa on the island, we met a couple who were going to Playa Veneczia, a little guest-house on a beach. We hopped a ride with them and went to check it out. They had one room left, so we stayed there Thursday night. A cute little guest house, we stayed in a room with two double beds and a fan and a bathroom- windows open, a nice lake breeze at night. $25 for the room for the four of us. We swam in the lake, went for a nice walk along the beach and into this forest- where we could hear howler monkeys around us but didn’t see any. Foolishly, we stopped at a beach bar down the way and drank beer until after dark and then realized too late that we had no flashlight to get back to our place! It was pretty damn funny when we had to make a human chain, with poor Kristen in the lead, and feel our way back to our hotel- in the pitch dark. We had a nice dinner, and met other travelers hanging around the restaurant. So many backpackers in Central America; it is truly fascinating to talk to all these people from other countries- on this trip alone we met an Israeli, a Frenchman, a Swede, some Brits, some Italians, and other Americans.

Friday morning, we rode in the back of a pickup truck to the other side of the island, where we were hoping to stay at Finca Magdalena, a cooperative coffee plantation that is also a hostel, and starts the trail to climb Volcano Maderas, one of the two volcanos on the island (the other one is Concepcion). You can stay there in your tent, in a hammock on the balconies, in a dormitory-style room filled with cots, or in a “matrimonial”- double- room. Kristen and I shared a room, $8. Central America is so great.

We had arrived too late in the day to hike up the volcano, they said, and there were no guides available anyway….. so of course Kristen and Kathleen and I (we really don’t like to take no for an answer) hiked up it anyway. Well, halfway; we got up a little past the 2 km mark, but it had taken us 2 1/2 hours and we didn’t have much more water, and we still had almost 2 more kilometers to go. So we had to admit defeat and go back down. But we had fun! And I saw two monkeys! The first one scared the shit out of me- I was leading up the trail, and I turned a corner, and there’s a freaking monkey sitting there looking at me! I screamed, turned around, and went to hide behind Kristen. The second one I saw climbing some trees farther away and I wasn’t scared. That night we ate dinner at the finca- gallos pintos, pollo alla plancha, and cervezas, of course. We watched the most amazing sunset ever, watching the sun drop over this giant lake, behind two volcano cones. Being Independence Day, there was a dance party at the nearby town of Balgue, so we walked down there that night (with a flashlight this time!) to check it out. Everyone from three towns around bused in for the occasion, sponsored by the local beer, of course.

We spent all Saturday getting back to Managua. Bus from Balgue back to Moyagalpa, and this bus was accurately described in the guidebook as “wretched”. It was filled with everything from fruit flies to bananas to chickens to coffee and way too many people. It went slower than I could have walked. I feared we would get stuck in the mud. Although I have to say, I sat in the back, perched on several bags of coffee, and they did make a pretty comfortable seat. We ferried back to San Jorge, and caught an express bus to Managua. Happily, we’ve had power at home and today we are relaxing and getting ready for work this week.

As I travel around, I am constantly reminded of other places I have visited. The little towns of Masaya and Granada remind me of little towns in Cuba that I visited with Tom and Sue. The ferry to Omotepe, and the first night there, reminded me of my last trip to Isle-a-Vache- the romance of a guesthouse, a sunset over the water. Staying at the finca and climbing the volcano reminded me of going to Dominica with Lisa and staying at the 3Rivers eco-lodge and climbing the hills there. All in all, I am so glad that my life is one that allows so many travels and to see such great sights. Today is September 17th. The last year has been filled with so much love, happiness, so many great friends, and has been a wonderful adventure. I don’t regret it at all.

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