Gracias y Adios: Thanksgiving sin Pavo y Papas

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I must say, I miss being surrounded by family, turkey, and football. It’s a bit weird being out of the country during this festive day. All day long, I have been reading everyone’s “I am thankful for…” statuses on Facebook and Twitter. They’re sweet and mostly genuine, but I feel like I can’t articulate that simply, everything that I am thankful for. Thanksgiving is the day that I should reflect and say thanks for everything and everyone I love. It’s an especially appropriate time to reflect over my time and experiences since I have been abroad in Nicaragua. But how would I possibly begin to declare everything I have been blessed with in my time abroad?

Do I begin at the beginning, in July, nearly 5 months ago? Should I work my way backwards, starting with today? What do I include? I just feel that this experience has been so long, so immense, that I can’t even begin to process the amount of memories and stories that I have accumulated.

I’m thankful for my mom and her unwavering support. I’m thankful for the times that she listened when that was all I needed, the fact that she never got upset when I didn’t call for a while, her constant confidence in everything that I do, her calmness every time I think my computer has died for good, and the fact that she always answered the phone.

I’m thankful for my best friends back home. They made time for me and made me still feel important and involved in their lives even though I was so far away. I’m thankful for them listening to my misadventures and triumphs, offering support or laughs when I needed them. I’m thankful for Skype and iMessage, which allowed us to keep in touch… when they are functioning correctly!

I’m thankful for the amazing people that I have met on this adventure. I’m thankful for all of the cool adventures with Zoe and Christian, but even more thankful for the times that we had nothing to do but have a toña or two and play some cards. I’m thankful for Zoe, one of the best friends that I have ever met. I can’t really fathom what it’s going to be like to not see each other every day. I’m so thankful for Jennifer, her optimism, and her childlike demeanor. I’m thankful for Christian… when he’s not bothering me or arguing with me! Our directors, Hector & Morena, were wonderful, enlightening, and at times, challenging, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way! My family here is caring and thoughtful, but just silly enough that we get along just fine. I’m thankful for the new friends and acquaintances that I have made at UNAN or just traveling throughout Nicaragua.

I mean all of these things I am writing, but I just feel like these words are so inadequate to describe what this experience has been like. My friends Christian described how he really realized that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. And as cliche has that sounds, it’s the absolute truth. He talked about how it’s really the little things that make up our memories, and I can’t agree more.

I’m thankful for the all of the cold showers that I’ve taken when it’s been unbearably hot in the afternoons. I’m thankful for the routine of hanging my clothes out to dry in the sun. I’m thankful for the all the times I have been frustrated with how slow people walk in Nicaragua, and perhaps, maybe I should remember to slow down too. I’m thankful for the fresh batidos always available in my little colonia. These little elements have made up what this entire trip has been for me. But there are so many more.

I began writing this on Thanksgiving, but set it aside for awhile. Now I am sitting in the airport in Managua. It’s a weird mix of Nicaraguan souvenirs being vastly overpriced and tourists wearing hiking boots and zip-off cargo pants with no mountain to hike. I already feel like I’m in a different place, very unlike Nicaragua. It’s also very bizarre to listen to everyone speaking in English. I’m hearing Boston accents and British accents, but I forgot how easy it is to eavesdrop in your native language. I can understand everything they are saying without making an effort or focusing.

As I am sitting here, thinking about the things I think I have learned or felt here, I’m sad. Zoe and I went out for a few beers last night at the dive bar across the street from my house last night. She turned to me and said, “this is going to be a new chapter in our friendship.” But in order foor it to be a new chapter, the current chapter must end. I just am having a hard time fathoming that this experience can never be recreated or reproduced. This is the end of the CIEE Social Justice & Development Program in Nicaragua. I’m thankful that I was lucky enough to participate in such an amazing program and so sad that no other students will be able to get to know this place in the same way I did. I’m going to miss this place so much.

On a lighter note, I want to talk about my last day in Nicaragua. It was quite possibly one of my best days here. After one last night out in Managua, I woke up around 10 and hung out with my host mom while eating a nice breakfast. She surprised be by making a carrot and orange juice without sugar, which is likely the most delicious and fresh juice I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Zoe and my friend, Angel, had flown in from New York the night before and wanted to head to Masaya, a town known for their folklore and artesian goods. Angel drove us there in his truck, which was a much welcomed mode of transportation in comparison to the chicken buses and beat-up taxis in Nicaragua. We wandered around the market, gathering last minute gifts and haggling over prices.

When we were about to head back to Managua, Angel asked if Zoe and I wanted to check out a town called la Catarina. La Catarina is a small town, located high on a ridge that looks over an ecological reserve called La Laguna de Apoyo. Zoe and I had never been there before, though it had been recommended to us multiple times. The drive to La Catarina was only about 6 kilometers from Masaya, but we ended up hitting a rough patch of traffic on the way there. We considered turning around, but persevered until the traffic thinned out.

In La Catarina, we drove through the cobblestone streets with little shops on either side. The town is absolutely beautiful and picturesque. We even passed a giant tent-like structure that had been built and was in the process of being covered in flowers, plants, coconuts, bananas, and any other tropical fruit you can imagine. I like to think that someone was going to get married that day, under the beautiful tent, but apparently the celebration of the patron saint of Masaya is about to begin.

Upon entering the lookout, which is what La Catarina is famous for, the wind danced through our hair and blew on our faces as the beautiful view took our breath away. Angel spotted some men offering horseback rides leading down the hill and on a small dirt road. I am not too fond of horses. Actually, to put it honestly, horses freak me out. They are really big, wild, and I usually steer away from any opportunities to ride horses. As soon as I told Angel this, he got this grin on his face that said, “Now we HAVE to do it!”

One of the guides grabbed my hand and rushed me over to a beautiful white horse with brown spots all over it. He helped me get in the saddle and walked me down the hill as my knuckles were white from gripping the saddle so hard. The guide taught me how to use the reins and I loosened up a bit. We went on a nice walk, only with 1 mishap or so. My horse decided it didn’t want to walk with everyone else and would just abruptly turn around and start walking the other direction. By the end of the ride I felt like I was no longer afraid of horses… I might even want to ride one again sometime!

We had a nice lunch at a small restaurant with a view. A two man, father-son band came up and asked if they could play us a few songs. They gave us little samples of songs that they knew so that we could pick the song that we wanted to hear. For the last song, they asked Angel for my name, and sang it to me. Zoe said it was as if they knew that it was my last day in Nicaragua.

We drove back through the construction traffic to Managua in the nice airconditioning, satisfied and happy from the great afternoon. For my final night in Managua, my family asked me if they could take me our for my favorite food in Nicaragua: pupusas!

Yes, pupusas are originally Salvadorian, not Nicaragua. But they are roughly 15 cordoba, which is 62 cents, and incredibly delicious! Imagine a sweet, thick corn tortilla that has been filled with cheese or chicken or beans or whatever and then cooked until the filling is trying to escape. Then you top that with ensalada which consists of shredded cabbage, onions, carrots, and vinegar. The final ingredient is the spicy tomato/onion/chili mixture that gives it a nice kick!

My family, Zoe, and I enjoyed the pupusas under a large, straw rancho hut. We joked around and enjoyed the last meal that we would eat all together.

Zoe and I finished the night with some toñas and a Shakira concert playing on the tv at our local dive bar. We chatted about our times in Nicaragua, and tried not to think too much about how I would be gone the next day. I headed home to get some much needed shut eye before my long day(s) of traveling began.

This bring me to where I am right now. Sitting on a overbooked, late plane from Miami to Dallas. I’ll sleep tonight in the Dallas airport and board a 9:00 am flight to Austin. Lindsay, Bailey, and Ari will pick me up from the airport and take me back to Georgetown. I am so excited to give them hugs and listen to country music int he car ride home.

Thank you to everyone who has read my blog for the past 5 months! I appreciate the support and interest from each and every one of you. My favorite part of writing it was looking at the statistics page after I post something new. From this page I can see a map of the world and how many people and from which countries accessed my blog. On some occasions I saw that friends from the US, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Argentina, India, and Belgium had all taken the time out of their to read what I had written. Knowing that people care really means so much to me.

Miss you and love you all,

-B

 

Mi casita preciosa en Managua, donde yo dejé mi corazón.

Misadventures In Nicaragua: Class problems and being stranded, alone, in the dark, and with no money in another department

This story begins at the beginning of the semester in a class called “Marketing of Tourism.” The class started off easy enough with minimal assignments, hardly any class readings, and powerpoint presentations in an airconditioned class room. Not too shabby, eh?

The class went on a field trip to another town that I couldn’t participate in because we had a program event. I talked to the teacher about it, she said “No te preocupes. No hay problema.” So I didn’t worry about it.

Then we had to write a 10-15 page paper about an ecotourism in some location that we had been to before. Everyone else was doing theirs in groups, but being from Orcas Island, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park. I talked to the teacher, she tells me that I need to have an introduction, body paragraphs, a conclusion, and a bibliography… like any other essay I have ever written, right?

Then we had to do group presentations about Marketing Plans from different countries. Some kids asked me if I wanted to be in their group, and I was totally ecstatic. Then another group of kids warned me about the first group and said they had really bad reputations and got really bad grades. So, they advised me to join a different group, which was known to be really responsable. 

When the presentation came around, I wrote up some notecards and my group said I can just read them out loud. “Don’t worry about it so much, you’re foreign… the teacher will understand that you’re nervous and you need help.”

…Well, when I went to go check out my grade halfway through the semester, she didn’t understand. Actually she was quite upset with me and I was failing the class. Never have I ever failed a class. Needless to say, I was panicking, upset, and kind of pissed. I had a 43/100 in the class.

So I started to ask some questions. She gave me a 50/100 on the Ecotourism assignment because I didn’t follow the “guide.” Ummm… What guide? Well, apparently there was an entire guide to the project that I never heard about or received. I asked her why I hadn’t gotten it and she informed me that “it wasn’t her fault that the other students didn’t tell me that there was a guide for the project.” Wow, whatta a gal! 

Then she also informed me that I missed a 100 points because I didn’t go on the field trip, even though when I asked her about it she told me that I shouldn’t worry about it and that there wouldn’t be points. 

The cherry on top was when she also told me that I failed the presentation because I read off of notecards, when I should have known that I wasn’t allowed to do that… even though my classmates told me that I could.

After a few panic attacks, begging to redo the assignments, and kissing some ass, I finally raised my grade back up to a decent level. I felt that the teacher and I were back on decent terms. She asked me to play the roll of a German tourist (because I am blonde) in a presentation/play that this department was doing, I grinned and bared it. 

The final hoop that I was going to have to jump through was going on the final field trip. An overnight trip to Ostional, a small town near the Costa Rican border. Unfortunately, this field trip was on the same date as our final, farewell activity from the program. So I was going to have to wake up at 5 am, take a bus at 6 am, listen to some educational speeches with the intent of doing group projects after, and take a 3pm bus back to a town called Rivas to catch a connecting bus to Managua before the buses stopped running, by myself.

Theoretically, this should have been a piece of cake. I know the route, I am familiar with the bus system, it costs hardly anything to use the buses here, even if your are traveling from state to state (department to department.) 

Well… I am sure everything would have been just fine if the same awful teacher hadn’t told me to catch the bus too late in the day. She assured me that the 3 pm bus would get me to Rivas in time. Well, that was a big lie. I got to Rivas at between 6 and 6:30 pm and the last bus to Managua had already left. I found myself stranded, alone, in the dark, without enough money to get a room at a hostel, and without any phone calls available on my cell phone. 

Initially, I wasn’t actually freaking about it. I just sat there, faithfully hoping that I would see the bus speeding down the road to pick me up. A man eventually showed up on a motorcycle, telling me that there would be no more buses today and that I shouldn’t be here alone. I mean, I am blonde, an American, and a woman. In Nicaragua, I stick out like a sore thumb. He seemed honest enough and genuinely concerned that I was going to be there alone until I figured out how to get to Managua. He offered to take me to the bus depot to prove to me that there really weren’t any buses left. So, even though my mother wouldn’t have liked it very much, I jumped onto the back of this strangers motorcycle and we sped off to the bus depot. Surely enough, he was right.

I eventually got ahold of one of our program directors, who informed me that the only way I was going to be able to get back to Managua was by taxi. She also strongly recommended that I use a taxi driver that she knows personally, so that I could be confident in my safety with the taxi driver for the long ride back to Managua. Eddie, my 30 year old rescuer, a Jehovah Witness, who works for American and believes you should always help an American in need, offered me a room at his house, if I wanted to spend the night in Rivas and take the bus to Managua in the morning. As nice and trustworthy as he seemed, there have been some really charismatic and “kind” serial killers over the years…

With my safety in mind, I had Eddie leave me at the local gas station where I was to wait 2-3 hours for my taxi to arrive from Managua, and to pay the $60 dollar cab ride back to Managua. I made friends with all of the gas station workers, who bought me juice and candy bars to cheer me up and keep me from falling asleep. One of them even asked me to dance to some live band that was playing at the bar next door. Eventually, Taxista Roberto showed up and I graciously fell asleep in the passenger seat and woke up when we arrived in Managua. 

So at the end of the day, I had spent $60 on the cab ride, $25 on the field trip, more than 12 hours traveling from morning to night, AND the teacher had changed the schedule so I didn’t even get to see the presentations which were the whole reason that I had to go on the field trip to begin with!! 

I am sure you can guess… but the teacher and I are no longer on good terms. And she received an AWFUL review. 

Fortunately, the next day we were surprised with our final activity at Barceló Montelimar, a fancy-pants, Spanish, all-inclusive resorts with open bar, a giant swimming pool, golf course, and really anything we wanted located right on the beach. This resort was a part of Anastasio Somoza’s estate that was confiscated during the Sandinista Revolution. The coolest part of the trip was seeing the casino/club combination at the resort because they are located inside the original mansion that was Somoza’s vacation house. Imagine like 1950′s Cuban Architecture.

Unfortunately, this same class is also preventing me from traveling around for the last two weeks before I fly out because we have to work on final projects and presentations when all of my other classes have already ended. 

Moral of the story: I would recommend to never take this class to anyone who would be joining the program in the following semesters. If it weren’t for the friends that I made in this class, I would have gone crazy, and probably failed. But, I can’t give that advice to any more kids studying abroad through CIEE. Last week, we received word that CIEE is officially shutting down the Managua, Nicaragua: Social Justice & Development Program and that would be the last group to ever participate. No one else will ever be able to experience this awesome, personalized, and highly hands-on experience with a small group like I did. 

-Bobbi

 

P.S. 11 days until I fly back to Texas. Mind is blown.

 

23 Days Away

Things are really wrapping up here in Nicaragua. Next week is the last week of classes and the following two weeks are filled with final exams and final presentations. In all honesty, it is taking a ton of motivation to accomplish anything right now. School work is just weighing me down and I just want to enjoy the rest of my time here in Nicaragua.

I’m also starting to realize all of the things that I am really going to miss here. I’m going to miss all of the friends that I’ve made and my sweet, tiny family. I’ll miss doing laundry and hanging my clothes out on the clothes lines. I’ll probably even miss the trashy little bar across the street that plays the same obnoxious music every single day and keeps me awake. I think I’ll miss how colorful life is here. I mean, yeah, I definitely miss the silence and calm in Georgetown… But I think I’ll grow to miss the constant energy and activity going on in Managua.

But, if you ever ask me if I want to move to Managua, I will say HECK NO. But to a few other places in Nicaragua, I would say HECK YES! Managua is smelly, hot, and dirty. But I love Granada and San Juan del Sur. Actually, I’ve been very seriously planning out how I can possibly return to Nicaragua for the summer. And if Nicaragua isn’t a possibility, where can I go and how can I spend my time? This past summer, I stuck around in cute, little Georgetown. Don’t get me wrong, I love small towns. I was born and raised in a small town. But, one thing that studying abroad has made me realize is that time goes by so incredibly fast. I don’t want to spend this summer working in my beloved Georgetown. I want to get out and go see places with what little time I have before I start riding the 9 to 5 bus. I want to travel and experience new things. I want to continue speaking Spanish or even learn a new language. Portuguese or Italian? Who knows!

Anyway, I leave this great place in 23 days. I’m beginning to be a mix of emotions that range from almost-tearing-up-sadness to oh-my-goodness-I-get-to-see-my-best-friends-bouncing-off-the-walls-glee. Without shame, I will say that man I miss being cold, sleeping with a blanket, cheese, cooking for myself, and driving my little pick up truck.

I guess this is just a little update on where my thoughts are at the moment. And I am still sad that I can no longer upload photos. My computer is still acting crazy and broken. I am just thankful that it has made it this far!

 

I miss you and love you all.

 

-Bobbi

Post Birthday Update

Well folks, I am 20 now. 20 years old. 20.

It sounds weird to say. I mean, it doesn’t feel any different. My hair isn’t grey, I don’t have any wrinkles, and I sure don’t feel any wiser. But, there is such a large jump between saying that you’re 19 years old and saying that you’re 20. Maybe it’s just the feeling of it? Twenty: The beginning of a new chapter. Who knows…

What did I do to celebrate this mile marker?

On Wednesday the 10th, my host mom cooked up some yummy chicken, gallo pinto, and salad for my birthday dinner. I invited my friends from the program over the the house and they sang happy birthday and we ate cake. For the record, I have this unusual aversion to most sweet things (especially since I have been here.) This week my family tried to make me eat fruitcake, like the Christmas kind, and when I kindly declined (twice) they told me that I don’t like anything ever and that I am on a diet (which is not even remotely true.)

I had my cake and ate it too… much to my dismay.

On the 11th, my actual birthday, we woke up bright and early to catch the bus to San Juan del Sur. SJDS was the same place that we went when we were robbed by prostitutes. We spent the day on the beautiful Playa Madeiras in an $8 hostel, right on the beach. We swam, Christian got some surfing time in, and we ate the best pizza I have ever had at this cool little place called Café Revolución. It was quite relaxing and peaceful… and sandy!

The incredible sunset on my birthday!

 

Also, if you haven’t seen the videos, I received the a birthday video from my best friends every single day of the week. They are the best! I couldn’t ask for better friends! Check out the Birthday Finale!

On the 12th, we spent more time at the beach. I even rented a surfboard! I drank more salt water than anyone ever should and I managed to get up on my knees a few times. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to stand on a surfboard since I went to La Escuela del Sol with Lindsay in Costa Rica last summer!

Playa Madieras

That night we headed to the Naked Tiger Hostel to stay for the next two nights. The Naked Tiger is this amazing mansion that sits on top of a small mountain that overlooks all of SJDS. Two guys from the states own it and different travelers who decide to stay for a bit longer run the place. To be honest, this place is absolutely crazy. Sometimes it’s relaxing, but most of the time it’s like a frat house. It was definitely super fun and interesting, but man, I could not live here or probably even stay here for more than a weekend! The house was divided into 3 dormitories with bunk beds and a downstairs chill/hangout/bar/lounge type of situation. It’s a pretty awesome set up.

The Naked Tiger

The bed situation

The amazing view and piscina tranquila

Sunset at the Naked Tiger

Our friend, Sheena, brought some cake all the way from Nagarote that she had someone make especially for me! We shared it with some other backpackers and made friends. We passed the night walking through town and visiting the different bars, luckily this time we didn’t run into any prostitutes.

The next day was super relaxed and we just hung out in town. I got a hair wrap and we passed the day with our good friend, Frank, the jewelry maker. That night we wandered around town again and came across a boy band/cover band from Managua singing current popular songs and shaking their booties in unison. They probably put most girl’s dancing to shame!

Finally, Sunday rolled around and we had to snap back to reality. I woke up super early and headed back into town alone to spend the morning at El Gato Negro, which is this adorable bookstore/coffee shop combination that sells BAGELS. Finding bagels in Nicaragua is like finding a needle in a haystack. (Side note: My Nicaraguan friend Gary reminded me of that expression. I tried to ask him what I should compare finding bagels to by saying “trying to find bagels in Nicaragua is like trying to find tigers in the sea… They don’t exist!” I had completely forgotten the expression!)

We took the bus back to Rivas where Jennifer and I got separated from the rest of the group and ended up on a bus to Granada. They were worried about us and they got off of the bus to Managua to look for us as we drove by them on a bus going to a different city entirely. Somewhere between trying to find the bathroom (which is how we got separated), chasing the bus, and struggling to get onto the packed bus, someone stole my iPod. Initially, I was angry. I mean, no one likes it when people steal. But, after thinking about it, I hope that whoever took it really needed it. Maybe some woman will be able to feed their kids for the month. I just hope it wasn’t some punk kid who wanted something shiny!

Jennifer and I eventually made it back to Managua. The other group waited for another bus to Managua and arrived late.

I am sorry there aren’t more pictures in this post. My computer problems still exist and I can’t upload anything to my computer through USB ports! Also, this post officially marks 5 weeks until my departure. I can’t believe how fast time is flying!

 

I hope all is well with you! Dale pues!

-Bobbi

 

 

Recently…

I have just been trying to get through all of the school work here. This week seems to be the end of the ridiculous amounts of homework, or at least I am praying that it is! Today we went to a wonderful place called Laguna de Apoyo which is a beautiful, crystal-clear lagoon in a crater where a volcano used to be. We spent the day at a hotel called La Abuela. We got to jump off of the dock, sunbathe, and swim out to their floating dock. There was almost no one else there. It was the most perfect way to spend the day after a hard week.

On a bad note, my computer is broken. I am running on safety mode right now. This means I can do basic things like homework, emails, facebook, and blog. But, I can’t use my USB, watch videos, listen to music, access certain websites with graphics that move, and it freezes pretty frequently. This saddest part is that I can no longer Skype with anyone from home :( Sorry guys!  It looks like I can fix it with the OS X disc that came with my computer… but that disc is unfortunately in Texas.  I am just thankful that I still have a way to do my homework!

I’m hoping to get another blog post up after my birthday weekend! I’ll let y’all know how it goes!

-Bobbi

Rio San Juan: Boats, blisters, & bugs… oh my!

Last weekend we took our final overnight excursion with our program to the beautiful Rio San Juan. Rio San Juan is a river that flows from Lake Nicaragua to the Atlantic coast, dividing Nicaragua and Costa Rica. In the present, Rio San Juan is a a sleepy, peaceful farming and fishing area, with little to no infrastructure and a slow, calm demeanor, but you would never guess the interesting history this area has witnessed! In the past, Rio San Juan has witnessed countless pirate raids, the building of a fortress named “El Castillo,” which still stands today, it almost took the place of the Panama Canal, and was a major war zone filled with land mines during the Contra War.

We left on Thursday from the Sandino Augusto airport in Managua and landed in San Carlos, near Lake Nicaragua, and took a three hour boat ride down the river to the quaint, picaresque town of El Castillo.

The airplane was roughly 10 seats and stayed low to the ground as we got to look over all of the lush, green farmlands and the lake on our way south.

Here’s the view from the plane! We’re about to fly over Lake Nicaragua. It’s so beautiful!

Here’s the boat that we took for 3 hours down the river. So thankful there was a roof and a nice breeze!

Here are a few pictures from along the river:

Three hours is a long time to be in a boat, but really, it was wonderful. The breeze was nice, we got glimpses of beautiful birds feeding on the shore, and it’s so nice to get away from the bad smells of Managua for a while. We arrived to El Castillo to find that there weren’t any cars in this town and that everything was in walking distance.

This is El Castillo (the town)  from a distance with El Castillo on top of the hill!

We checked into our hotel that overlooked the river and shot the breeze in the hammocks for the night. The real adventures began in the morning. This is the sunset from out hotel room! Que bonita!

We woke up early, at a great breakfast, and put on some rubber boots to begin the trek. I however, have huge feet by Nicaraguan standards. I lasted 5 minutes in those boots before my skin was ripped off of the back of my ankle. It never even formed a blister, it was just gone.

I knew I would not be able to last the rest of the day like this, so I ran back to our hotel barefoot to grab my sneakers. After I caught up to the rest of the group, we made our way through some farm lands and to another river. We were standing there unaware of what we were waiting for, when a small, homemade canoe started rowing our way from the other side. We assumed that we would be taking two trips in this tiny canoe, but nope, we fit everyone in, crossed our fingers, and didn’t move an inch as more water slowly accumulated in the bottom. We fit 10 people into this boat!

On the other side, we were greeted with fresh coconuts to drink and then continued the trek for another hour or so.

Jennifer and I with our coconuts!

We continued the hike until we reached another river. This time, we gladly split the group in half, gingerly stepped into the boat,  and didn’t move a muscle

From here, we were greeted by a guide and a jeep. We all squeezed into the sweaty jeep, (after they told us we couldn’t sit on top of it), and road for an hour down some seriously bumpy, underdeveloped roads. At this point, I was disoriented in where we were in the world and asked if we had ended up in Costa Rica. I’m still not really sure were we were. We arrived in a small town and continued the trek through more farmlands. We eventually reached ANOTHER river. But in order to get across this one, we had to swing!

We sat on the swing like so:

And then we road across!

From here we entered a cocoa farm! Our guide let us taste what fresh cocoa fruit tastes like, which is nothing like chocolate!

We walked around and learned about the different aspects of the farm. When it started to rain, we took cover under a tiki hut and learned about their compost. We were treated to a nice snack of fresh oranges and coconuts to drink. When we were walking around, we ran into a few different creatures!

Mr. Sloth

A little bat family under a palm tree

Baby piggy

We swung back across the river, continued over the hill, and threw the woods until we got to a little house that makes chocolate. Here we learned how they make chocolate from fresh roasted cocoa beans and got to try the freshest, most delicious hot cocoa I have ever had! I have never had anything that tasted so good!

This is our wonderful chocolatier teaching us how to make the cocoa!

The best I’ve ever had!

I helped make the chocolate and DIDN’T burn anything this time!

We got to help make the chocolates and even take a few of them home!

After this little adventure, we headed back to the hotel. We took the same smelly jeep to a different town, loaded up on a panga, and headed directly back to El Castillo. I’m still confused about how many boats we took on the way there in comparison the single boat we took on the way back!

 

The next morning we loaded back onto the panga, but with rubber boots that actually fit. We met up with a wonderful, brave guide, who leads trips regularly through the jungle.

The boots:

On our way to the jungle!

We docked at a Nicaraguan Military Camp and layered on the bug repellant!

Walking onto the dock, I nearly walked straight into this monstrosity! I still have nightmares.

 

We walked for probably 2 hours through the slippery, wet mud. Our guide informed us of the different wildlife and plants that grow in that area. Everyone was dripping with sweat, but this woman seemed completely unaffected by the humidity!

This was the reason for needing boots!

We got to watch a family of spider monkeys make there way through the trees!

 

There were ant mounds that went on and on forever! I even saw an ant as big as half of the length of one of my fingers! She sad that they hurt like being shot with a bullet and that they were the biggest in the world!

We even ran into some fresh puma prints. We were hopeful of seeing the big cat, but had no such luck!

At the end of the hike, we got to take a refreshing dip into the river. We docked off to the side of the river in an area that seemed to be free of crocodiles and bull sharks and jumped on in!

This is us on the trip back from the jungle!


We woke up at 4 the next morning to take the early boat back to San Carlos. Our flight didn’t leave until 1, which meant we had from about 7-1 o’clock free in a town without much to do. Eventually, we made our way back to Managua and started on our mountains of studying and homework.

The morning after we got back from Rio San Juan, Zoe wasn’t feeling very good. She continued to feel worse and worse with awful stomach pains. Her mom eventually took her to the hospital where after many tests, she was informed that she had Dengue Fever and a bacterial intestinal infection! Poor girl! Jennifer and I went to visit her in the hospital and brought her some apples as comfort food. The fever never very high and she was sent home 3 days later with a few different medications. She’s completely feeling fine now, thank goodness!

Thanks for reading and sorry that this took so long to get out!

-Bobbi

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m behind…

Well, it’s been more than a little while since I’ve done a blog post. Since the last time you’ve heard from me, I have been held captive under midterms, papers, and projects. These are still happening actually, and right now they are making Southwestern look rather tame. I would love more abroad and less study in my study abroad experience. I mean, how are we supposed to go out and experience the culture if we are stuck inside studying all day?

This week I have a large presentation, a project, a midterm, and a paper but my load should (theoretically) lighten up immensely after Wednesday. Now I am going to try to catch up on my blogging in a few different posts. Here it goes!

-Bobbi

Riding bicycles from a bike shop with no tire pump…

Beginning where I left off…

Soon after I posted last, my companions woke up and we took full advantage of the free tea, coffee, and pasteles  offered at our hostel… and by “take advantage” I mean that I probably had 5 cups of coffee. Zoe, the champ that she is, rose to the challenge and decided to power through the day with a serious limp.

Over-caffeinated and eager, we made our way to a nearby market place to find a cheap breakfast (60 córdobas= $2.50 US.) I would love to take pictures of any of the market places in Nicaragua but they are often the location of high crime rates and I am much too terrified to dig through my backpack for my camera or use it in the open. So unfortunately, there are no market photos.

From here we wandered a bit through the streets of Granada. This town is filled with cobblestone streets and beautifully vibrant buildings with a flare of Spanish architecture. The decorated horse drawn carriages cost just as much as the taxi cabs, though neither of them are necessary because everything is within walking distance. Here are some of the things that we saw:

Here’s a funny picture of the horse drawn carriages. It’s romantic and reminiscent of a different time… yet it’s completely decked out in Movistar advertisements. An example of the past vs. the present.

The Nicaraguan flag blowing in the breeze.

An example of the buildings in Granada. These are just off of the main square and the cross from the largest, most modern looking church in town.

Here are some kids playing Red Rover at the church as we walked by. Haven’t seen that in a while!

We turned down Calle La Calzada to search for our bikes that we were going to ride for the day.

Here’s a look at the colorful buildings down Calle La Calzada!

People were just setting up their booths for the day and not all of the tourists had come out from their hostels. We came across the bike shop that cost $6 per day to rent them. Zoe and I picked out some road bikes and Christian picked out a mountain(ish) bike. When we were about to leave, Zoe asked if he had a bike pump to put some more air in the tires… and the bike shop didn’t have one… perhaps that was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

After we hopped on the bikes, we made our way to the lake shore.

Zoe and I, enthusiastic about our new rides! Here’s a picture of the lake:

Lake Nicaragua is much cleaner than Lake Managua (as it has not been filled with human waste for years.) But while we were there, we found out that a rice factory is using a certain pesticide and the runoff goes into the lake and kills a specific species of fish. People have seen the fish floating to the top in large amounts… I wasn’t too interested in swimming in the lake at this point.

Here’s Christian and I at the lake lookout.

From here we headed through the tourist center and out towards the peninsula. We passed by all of the boats, eagerly waiting to take the tourists out.  Apparently, one of the volcanoes on Isla Ometepe, located in the center of the lake,  spit out a bunch of lava and other things years ago and those turned into Las Isletas de Granada. Most of the islands are only accessible by boat, but there are some roads and harbors that we hoped to get a look at the islands from. We road down a few smooth, paved roads but couldn’t really get a good look at any of the islands.

We passed a bumpy/rocky/dirt road earlier on and turned back to find it. Zoe’s knee was still busted up pretty badly and her road bike’s tires had completely given up on this awful road. We were all sweating under the Nicaraguan sun, hoping that we could find a place with a tire pump.

Here’s a look at the never ending road.

At the end of the road was a small town and a mechanic with a tire pump. We grabbed some bottles of water and took a breather. We got a glimpse of the lake in this small town but decided to continue on to find another beach.

We turned down another very rocky, tumultuous road. We were told to go through two gates, over a hill, and that we would find another lake spot. Somewhere on this road my back bike tire decided that it was going to pop. My metal rim clanked over the rock, very painfully, without any shocks… I was in pain for a few days after.

At the end of mystery road #2, this is what we saw:

A private house on one of the isletas.

A pretty little view with a boat that we could have borrowed… but didn’t.

A colorful clothesline from a house overlooking the lake.

At this point, we applied some more sunscreen and painfully made the long bike ride back to Granada. I was sunburned, cranky, and my body hurt from the bouncy road and lack of shocks. We dropped off our bikes with the intention of getting new ones later in the day and headed back to the hostel for some down time and a swim in the pool. Zoe gave the leg a rest, but was still limping about after the bike ride.

That night we went out for some dinner and drinks, walked around the town some more, got in an argument about Cuba with a Nicaraguan man, met a Texan man who didn’t speak any Spanish, ended up in an Irish pub, and met an Australian offering us jobs in his restaurant that he hasn’t opened up yet. We never did go back for the bikes, but stopped by that night to pick up Christian’s card that he left as collateral, but they had completely closed shop and had been replaced by restaurant tables.

The next morning we went out for some breakfast at the backpack-friendly Euro Cafe and hopped back on the bus to Managua. I had a cold at the beginning of this trip, but by Sunday it had turned into full blown misery. I spent the rest of the day in bed. And the next day. And the next day. I’m actually still really congested, but I’ve gone back to going to school and doing homework.

I’ve been thinking about Texas a lot lately. I hope everyone is well.

-Bobbi

 

 

While I have a free moment…

At about 5:50 this morning, I awoke in a muggy hostel room accompanied by my two weekend travel companions, Christian and Zoe. I am currently under the weather with a sore throat and a prospering cough to go with it, but I was just too damn eager to see the beautiful, colonial Granada. We arrived sometime around 6 pm last night off a US $1 bus from Managua. We hoofed it around the main square and off of accompanying side roads to track down some local hostel prices. Our program director had recommended one named “Lazy Bones,” but Christian figured out that hostel was in León, another city all together. We excitedly settled into “The Oasis,” which is fit with a community kitchen, plenty of hammocks, free tea and coffee, AND (here’s the kicker) a POOL! For $10 a night, we are sharing a reasonably sized, clean room with three beds and a community bathroom. Here’s a link to the hostel (http://www.nicaraguahostel.com/

For dinner last night we headed to La Calzada, Granada’s equivalent to a bustling down town area, except minus the bustling for now. We dinned at a typical, Nicaragua style restaurant, where the waiter asked “Have I seen you before? I think I’ve seen you in Granada before…This isn’t your first time, is it?” Real original. I ordered a delicious bowl of chicken soup (< US $2) to soothe my aching throat. Nicaragua is very modest about their soups, but I have had some of the best soup in my life here. Veggies, broth, big hunks of meat (chicken, beef, or seafood)… I am in love.

We headed back to the hostel for a nice dip in the pool before we left for the night. We confirmed that I can not swim as far as my friends underwater because I just float to the top and I can’t stay deep under the surface. This is a problem that I have dealt with since childhood and something that I have always blamed on my my mother. I mean, we may not look very much alike, but the floatation device that is my behind clearly comes from her. I love you mom! (This is especially disheartening as I was planning on learning to scuba dive from one of our bar regulars upon my return to Texas. Maybe I can overcome my current disposition.)

We were in the middle of contemplating whether to go out for the night when BOOM, the hammock that Zoe was sitting in broke and toppled her over onto the unforgiving cement floor. Her leg was pretty beat up and a kind, British women came out to make sure it wasn’t broken. She prescribed 3 aspirin and some ice for the time being. We have plans to rent bikes for the day and explore the Granada area and I’m hoping she’ll be up for it!

Since I have been on this trip, I have been thinking about some plans for the future. What do I want to do next summer? What do I want to do the summer after that? What kind of internship do I want to find for spring semester 2013?

In chronological order, here are a few things I have come up with:

I would really like to find an 8 credit, paying internship next semester working in either public relations, promoting, event planning, marketing, or advertising in the Georgetown/Austin area. I would really enjoy working with a festival or music venue, a website, or any interesting business I suppose. I’m incredibly excited to start looking at what is available and researching my opportunities!

This brings me to next summer. I don’t think I will be able to wing studying abroad again while still receiving the credits that I need in order to graduate in 2014. But, I do have the summers to work with. I would like to find an internship abroad, either staying in a single country or a traveling internship. Or even a temporary job that allowed me to expand my language skills or learn a new one. Ideally, If the internship angle doesn’t work, I’ve gladly considered being an Au Pair or teaching English abroad. Since, I have been in Nicaragua, I’ve found myself day dreaming about the next adventure. Where could I go next? What could I do? How could I sustain my love for travel, while improving my job experience outside of the restaurant world, and paying my bills?

I really don’t know the answes to these questions just yet, but I can’t wait to figure out what they are!

This brings me to the current biggest question I have: What do I want to do after I graduate? 

Some of you (Bailey), might just be laughing at me. “You’re in fall semester of your Junior year. You have so much time before you have to figure that out!” Well, if you know me, you know that I like to plan things out. (In August, I was trying to my best friends to tell me what their holiday plans are…) 

But, seriously, I am really considering what my possibilities could be and where they could take me. Do I want to find a serious job right out of college? Could I find a grown-up traveling job right out of college? Do I want to Au Pair or teach English abroad long term? Christian mentioned a job that his brother had as an adventure leader in Central America where you lead people through hikes, take them dancing, and take them surfing or climbing. The requirements include being fluent in Spanish and having lived in Central America for an extended period of time. I mean, that sounds like something I could do for quite some time!

If anyone has any recommendations or ideas, I will gladly listen!

-Bobbi 

8 Weeks in Nicaragua…

Today, I have officially been living in Managua for 8 weeks. Time sure does fly! We were greeted this morning by a 7.6 earthquake that occurred in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-19490503) Lucky for us, we only felt some movement and rumbling, but there are many people concerned for their loved ones living near the epicenter of the earthquake.

Since we have been here, somethings have become normal for us to see everyday. Including but not limited to:

  • Crazy bus drivers and buses packed like sardines
  • Men walking around carrying machetes
  • Drinking juice out of bags
  • Bars on all of the doors and windows
  • Men calling me “Chelita” every day
  • People using their mouths to point
  • Greeting people by kissing them on the cheek
  • Ants everywhere, all the time
  • Showering with cold water
  • Having to bring your own toilet paper to school
  • Incessant honking at all hours of the day

I guess these have all just come to be part of what it means to live in Managua. There are still plenty of things that I don’t exactly understand. Here are a few examples (I am sure there are a ton more than I can’t think of right now):

  • Why are people constantly mopping every surface, even when there not dirty?
  • Why are there stop signs if no one uses them?
  • Why do people only drink instant coffee when this country produces delicious, organic, shade-grown coffee?
  • Why are there no addresses in Nicaragua?
  • Why don’t people here drink any water? (I have literally never seen a Nicaraguan family or friend drink a glass of water)
  • Why don’t people move out of each other’s way on the sidewalk?
  • Why aren’t people quite in the library?
  • Why are Nicaraguan boys so stinkin’ aggressive?

I am completely dumbfounded that so much time has passed. I do have to be honest though, I am really excited for some cooler weather when I get back to Texas in November! (Did I really just say that? Cooler weather in TEXAS? Who would have thought!) Today is especially hot, not even my icy shower couldn’t help cool me down!

Things are really kicking into gear here as we are nearing midterm time in late September. I have a giant exam where I have to know about the gaining of independence of every country in South America, I have to create a public relations analysis of Southwestern University, and I have to give a marketing presentation with a group that I have never met nor do know anyone’s names.

This weekend we’re heading to Granada, Nicaragua to blow off some steam and hang out. I’m sure I’ll be posting about that too. And if you’re lucky, maybe I’ll do a post about Nicaraguan food sometime in the future!

-Bobbi

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