Thursday, December 28, 2006

Navidad en Nicaragua

We miss seeing everyone over the holidays!

Navidad here in Nicaragua was very low-key. It was refreshing (for me) not to be drowning in commercials and Christmas carols. Gift exchanges in San Ramon were very modest. The big moment of anticipation was staying up with family and friends for 12:00 midnight on the 24th. The tradition is to have a dinner at midnight and then the gift exchange. Brad and I cooked up a big pot of homemade pudding (delicious...with locally made chocolate) and gave that to our friends as gifts.

Other then visiting with friends we have not been doing much because a lot of things are closed during this week. We have been playing a lot of SKIP-BO (a card game) with our friends Alvaro and Ivonne. We have also been taking lots of walks. The weather here is absolutely is transitioning into spring and the air is cool, the sun is warm, and all the birds are going crazy. We might be taking a mini-trip this weekend to Granada or Leon before we pick up our friend Caity at the airport on Sunday in Managua. I am very curious about New Years eve. Apparently, (or at least from my translation), people make big dolls or scarecrow type things with old clothes which they burn for the new year.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Purisima & other odds and ends

Things remain interesting here in Nica. and the past few weeks have been busy.

We returned from an all too brief visit with the Wilson clan in Florida for Thanksgiving. We had a great time catching up with family, sharing stories, eating, sleeping, and generally being lazy. Brad and I also got to satisfy some nagging cravings (right after we exited the airport in Miami) a dunkin donuts egg and cheese bagel sandwich for me and a McDonalds burger and fries for Brad. We also relished in listening to NPR. Although the visit definitely helped refresh our perspectives on being in Nica and reminded us to take advantage of our remaining time, we had mixed feelings about returning.

When we reached Managua, we ended up in the wrong immigration line (for tourists, we have residency cards). A little frustrated, we were the last people out to the baggage claim. Once we saw our friends Alvaro and Ivonne waiting for us at the airport exit, it felt a little bit more like home. We were excited to get going; to be back in San Ramon. That was right before I went to pick up my suitcase (black with a rainbow belt around it), the last remaining piece of luggage, only to realize it was Henry Boufous fróm Chinendegaega Nica not Cynthia Gorman from San Ramon(welcome back to Nicaragua!). Identical bags...what are the odds? It took us over an hour to file the missing bag claim. The whole time I pictured Henry enjoying my newly bought American sunblock, snickers bars. We did eventually recover the bag (two days later with sunblock and snickers in tact). While this experience was a bit stressful and defiantly humorous, it was great reminder that once you are here, you just have to go with the flow.

I was surprisingly excited to eat rice and beans again.

Within the week of our return, Brad got sick and we spent two days in the hospital. He is fine now and back to his normal, energetic self.

After Brad recovered, I had an adventure of my own. I decided that it would be great to do a homestay out in the campo for a week, a great way to learn about how people in the country live, practice my Spanish, cut coffee during the harvest. I was supposed to go for a full week. Well, I only lasted two days (something about the latrines), but I did have my very first motorcycle ride! Our friend Javier drove me out to the town where I was staying. Once my heart stopped pounding in my ears and I was not paralyzed by fear (we were on a winding, mountainous road with gravel, mud, w/o helmet - sorry mom), I enjoyed the hour long ride through coffee plantations and small pueblos. We stopped at some waterfalls along the way and by chance saw a baby sloth `actively´ jumping from tree to tree for fresh leaves. Once we arrived, I stayed with a very kind family that is part of an all-womens farming cooperative. I watched them make tortillas, I cut coffee, practiced my Spanish, drew with the little kids, ate rice and beans, and asked as many questions as I could about their lives and work. It certainly felt like an adventure and I plan to return for another visit in the future.

I made it back to San Ramon in time for an interesting Nicaraguan holiday called Purisima, which is a kind of Halloween for the Virgin Mary. Those who participate go house to house and sing in groups at an alter that has been set up featuring the Virgin Mary. In return, the host gives everyone in the group a little bag of treats. Kids with backpacks, stuffed with goodies, filled the sidewalks in Matagalpa on the evening of Purisima.