Nicaragua: Laguna de Apoyo, the Achuapa Music Festival, and San Juan del Sur

three girls in Achuapa Nicaragua

In August I flew to Nicaragua with three other new teachers, who are also all living in on-campus housing. We were welcomed at the airport by our director and taken to our cottages on the school campus, where we unpacked and settled in. They had even done some grocery shopping for us, so we had some essentials already there for us.

The next days were spent in new teacher orientation and getting to know the city. We had a doctor speak to us, a security advisor, and we met with our principals. We also were taken to the grocery store, the mall, and to lunch. So we’re beginning to get our bearings around the city. I’m so happy to be living somewhere with a mall and a movie theater!

On Friday night, our director, Elsa, had all the new staff (about 25 people- half US and half local or other nationalities) over for a dinner at her house. She has a fantastic, typical Central American house. Lots of gardens and greenery, very spacious, and a pool. She fed us caballo bayo, a dinner that is tortillas, beans, rice, pico de gallo, pork, beef, chicken, vegetables, and sour cream. It was wonderful and went great with a cold Tona, the local beer.

Over the weekend, we went to the Laguna de Apoya. We stayed at a lovely little resort on the lake and spent the day there. They have a beautiful volcanic lake, at a perfect temperature, and we went on a hike to the top of the crater (okay, we didn’t make it all the way to the top; the lake and a round of mojitos were calling us back).

Monday and Wednesday were teacher work days. This year I will be teaching 8th grade US History, and 12th grade AP US Government. Tuesday was a religious holiday, Santo Domingo. Alecia, Kristen and I took a cab to lunch and then to Huembes Market, a big outdoor market where you can find just about anything you could ever look for, all at cheap prices. You just have to have patience.

It’s been quite hot here, and our classrooms don’t have a/c. They do have windows along two sides and plenty of fans. My apartment has a/c in my bedroom, so that is a relief. It rains often, as it is the rainy season, making everything green and cooling it off. In the evenings I’ve been running on the track at school.

Th second weekend we were here, 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, Kathleen’s 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 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 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. On Sunday we all bussed back to Managua.

Luckily, we only had three days of work, and then a holiday! 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. It’s is a great little town about 2.5 hours south of here, 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.

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, 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 a wonderful dinner of pescado a la plancha y gallo pinto y cervezas, and cruised around for a while. We ran into two of our colleagues from school, 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. We walked over to a former ANS student Emma’s house, at the end of the beach; she is now in med school in the States, home in Nicaragua for her summer break. 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 in town.

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. 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 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. 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. I’ve only been in Nicaragua for a month, but I think I’m going to like it here.