The journey between San Ramon and Matagalpa is very scenic. The road winds up and down the hills, passes by small pulperias and ‘mom and pop’ shops selling everything from gravel to guajara (a local cheese), small clusters of houses with clothes hanging on clotheslines. People come on and off the bus in what seems to me like random stops leading to no where. The road is surrounded by vibrant green mountains, sometimes engulfed by voluptuous rains clouds. Cows, sheep, goats, chickens graze by the side of the road.
Since I began my Spanish classes on Thursday, we’ve traveled into Matagalpa everyday. This will be part of our routine for the next two months. I will have one-on-one instruction three hours a day, five days a week. The classes have been great so far; I am eager to become conversant. It also gives Brad a break from my constant barrage of questions about Nicaragua and Spanish. In a place where people go with the flow, it’s also nice to have something to structure the day around.
We finally turned in our ridiculously small rental car (his name was stupid car), and have been taking the bus back and forth to Matagalpa. I’m glad we had the car for a few days so I could see my surroundings (the windows on the bus are tinted to block the sun and its hard to see outside). The ride is very bumpy because the road is littered with potholes and the buses are all school buses. Taking local transportation lengthens the journey by about fifteen minutes between San Ramon and Matagalpa because the Buses (big yellow school buses) don´t have that much horsepower. We catch the 8:20 bus to Matagalpa, which takes us to La Guanuca section of the city. La Guanuca I a reference to one of three indigenous groups in Northeast Nicaragua (Sumo, Miskito, and Guanuca). La Guanuca were the first to ethnically mix with colonizing groups, creating what Nicaraguans call güegüense or mestizaje. La Guanuca is the place where all the buses from the Northern regions come to Matagalpa so in many ways it represents the intersection of two cultures – one indigenous rural campesino lifestyle and one market urban lifestyle. La Guanuca is a mixture in a place.
From La Guanuca we either walk to the language school or take a taxi to be at the school by 9:00. Taking the buses has helped me feel more comfortable and connected. Brad usually hits the internet café or goes to the library to work for a few hours.
We are home in the afternoon. This also happens to be the time when our neighbor’s parrot is taking its afternoon recess. The parrot sits in a tree right next to our window and whistles for a few hours. It drives me crazy. Brads is trying to teach it another song.
We just recently got our stove cooking – there has been a gas shortage to go along with the telephone outage, daily brownouts, and water insecurity. Its been a pleasure to make tea and coffee, to sit and talk, and listen to Duran Duran on the computer when we have electricity. Last night we cooked up a feast of rice and vegetables with nuts and drank fresh mint tea.
Brad had an incredible meeting with a neighbor who happens to have played a key role in supporting a group of coffee workers intensely effected by the crash of the coffee prices starting in 1999. He may have told you the story about the plantones – a group of some two to three thousand people who moved to the side of the road in Matagalpa because they owned no land and had nowhere to work after the banks foreclosed on the large coffee plantations in the area. It was a desperate time for these people. Brad is trying to resurrect some of this history to include in his project. Our neighbor has agreed to help him get the project off the ground.
All is quaint and cool in San Ramon. The rains keep coming. Our only complaint is that our clothes never seem to get dry after a washing.