Yes, this is long overdue, but we had a busy couple of months…
I spent 7 packed days last month in Nicaragua. Michael, my Peace Corps Volunteer son, worked with his girlfriend’s family to make my stay so enjoyable.
The people were so friendly on the plane as we approached Nicaragua. I noticed how loud that flight was. Normally, most passengers are pretty quiet on a flight. But not this one! People were chatting with each other – one man told me his life story and how he was returning to Nicaragua to help with his pregnant niece; a woman told me how she was returning to Nicaragua for a graduation, having set up a school after a mission trip 15 years ago; another man was planning to start a business in Managua. Everyone was incredibly helpful, as we all filled out our forms for customs. It was almost humorous how lost I was – since for some crazy reason I didn’t use my Pimsleur Spanish CD’s prior to the trip! Michael and Kathya watched through the glass as I maneuvered my luggage and tried to communicate with the airport workers. Michael laughed as he noticed a small crowd of people wherever I went, offering to help me on my first international excursion! Then finally, I was through the process, the door opened, and I was able to hug my son after a year and half!
So this will be a pretty long blogpost, primarily pictures. And I’ll break the trip down into 4 posts: (not linked yet)
Managua & LaPaz (the Capitol and where I stayed)
Purisima (a huge Catholic holy day in Nicaragua)
Sightseeing in Nicaragua (Massaya, Granada, La Boquita & more!)
Muelle de los Bueyes (where Michael is assigned)
The airplane was my flight from Atlanta. Michael and Kathya in the car on the way through Managua. Kathya is SO beautiful and was so proud of her country! She loves Nicaragua and wanted to be sure that I saw as many wonderful aspects as possible. Her entire family was so friendly and accommodating!
I took lots of blurry pics of Managua at night I won’t burden you with, but the Christmas lights turned out ok in the square.
Managua is the capitol of Nicaragua, and the only city that receives flights from outside their country.
As I said, Kathya’s family were the perfect hosts. They made sure I had a different delicious Nicaraguan food each day. They kept purified water, made ice from it, didn’t allow tap water to be added to other items that weren’t cooked – and my stomach was so grateful! No problems there!
These were all of the traditional Nicaraguan dishes: Tacos, Bao, fried plantains, Jalapeño (steak), Vigerón, and their favorites: Nacatamal and Gallo Pinto! They have a funny story about Nacatamale. At my insistence, they tried to tell it to me: An American was eating the nacatamale, and when the Nicaraguan host asked, “how did you like it?” He responded, “It was delicious, but the salad was a little tough!” They were referring to the inedible palm leaves that the corn meal and meat mixture is cooked in. They all laughed at the joke saying that they knew I didn’t try to eat the palm leaves, so they knew it must be a mischaracterization. I quickly stopped them. I shared that the truth was, I had no idea whether I was supposed to eat it or not. I simply held back and only ate the way Kathya’ mother ate. She left the “salad” so I did too!! They REALLY thought that was funny!
Their home was lovely. Much of their living is outside with tiled porches and dining alfresco. Gardens surround the home and the porch. It was really lush and beautiful. Almost resort-like!
The weather stayed in the 80’s and it was muggy. But a breeze often blew through the corridors so it wasn’t so bad. The big green doors in the wall, are the Aleman’s front door. The street is just outside those walls, so you have the option of opening the doors wide and driving in to park or opening the small door to just open for people to walk through. They own a bus business, which transports people between towns. They park several vans in the driveway and under the carport. The family’s personal car is kept in the back where the animals are.
My room was offset from the others. They had done a lot to prepare it for me, installing a television, adding a mirror to the large wardrobe in the room, and bringing over a big fan. I think they painted the room as well. This isn’t the best picture – I took it at the end of my stay. The curtains were pushed to the side to allow a little air to flow through the screened window. At one point, I could hear the monkeys in the nearby jungle howling at each other. They get up at 4 a.m. to start the buses, taking people to work in various towns. But even with them right outside my window, I didn’t hear them at all. The bathroom looks a lot like ours. The difference is that there is no hot water. That takes a little getting used to, but with the humidity, it was okay. The buckets in the shower are for later in the day when there is no running water. Each of these pails are filled with water. The water in the blue trashcan is used to flush the toilet and the smaller white bucket has a bowl that you fill and then bring to the sink to wash your hands. I did all my teeth brushing with the purified water they had for me from the kitchen.
The little dog is Bubby. They could be saying Bobby, but I’m not sure. ha! He snuck into my room on my first night and hid under the bed. They definitely deal with dogs differently than we do! They are’t allowed in bedrooms or around the people much. They’re seen a primarily guard dogs or rat chasers. I don’t think they buy dog food per se, but instead give them “people food scraps.” They have 3 generations of these chihuahuas! Very cute, really!
The Aleman family have several people hired to help them with chores. This is a picture of Urania doing the laundry. She also mops and sweeps – and probably more things I didn’t notice. There’s tile all over their porches and even what I would consider their driveway. Makes it easier to mop! And on the last day, they were drying rice all laid out.
Also pictured here is their kitchen. They own a modern stove, but Maria, the cook, is afraid of it. So she continues to cook over this semi-open fire. They cook giant pots of food and often feed a variety of people who just stop by at mealtime. Also, another interesting Nicaraguan fact… they tend to eat a big breakfast, a big lunch, and a small dinner. Our “lunch” is their main meal of the day.
Here’s a link to an outside source that explains more about their food.
These are pictures of behind their house. A giant beautiful coconut tree, as well as Kathya’s sister Fatima and her husband Louis’ house. The giant nativity was built in their front courtyard garden. They keep their personal car here in the back of the house, as well as the horse and pigs.
The first day I was there, we went for a walk around LaPaz. Angie, who is the cutest 4 year old!, went with us. We walked down to Kathya’s paternal grandmother’s home. She lives alone down the road from Kathya. She has a woman help her with cooking and laundry. When we walked back, someone was bringing some cattle down the same road we were working on. Thank goodness they turned off into the pen before we had to share the road with them!
Then we turned to walk up the road to the Church. Unfortunately, the photos were too blurry. It was a perfect church though – just the way you’d think a Catholic Church in a Central American country would look! When you climb the steps to the church, you’ll find a colorful playground. The picture with the gate shows the opening of the church. There’s also a picture of a Purisima altar outside the little red house. (More about Purisima later!)
They walk everywhere in town. Rarely do they need their car. The Pulperia (corner store) is right across the street. If they need milk for breakfast, someone just walks across over to get it. It’s all incredibly convenient!
On another day, we walked next door to Martin and Irma’s house. They were Michael’s first host family. I think the Peace Corps specifically picks the most patient loving of hosts – it gets the Peace Corps Volunteer off to a good start! I’m in love with their teal blue house! That color is so great. Color is something that you’ll see a lot of in Nicaragua! They have a delightful hammock that hangs on their back porch. You pass by their cooking area and their chickens as we walk up to the back door area.
The other pictures of inside Irma and Martin’s house. It’s a smaller than Kathya’s home. Martin owns and runs one bus, whereas Oscar, Kathya’s father owns several and mainly administrates the operation. Irma runs a small pharmacy out of the front room. Irma runs a small pharmacy off the front room of her home. The meal at the bottom is a special meal Irma had created for our last day there.
The next group of pictures shows Michael with Mama Irma. She’s also his godmother – he was baptized while he was there. The two younger girls are cousins and very close. Fernanda, Irma and Martin’s daughter, with Angie, Fatima’s daughter. The larger group picture was taken when Michael first arrived in Nicaragua in 2011.
The rest of my trip… (coming soon!)
Nicaragua in December – Purissima!
Nicaragua in December – Massaya, Granada, La Boquita & More!
Nicaragua in December – Cross-country trip to Michael’s site
Michael’s blog about some of his experiences in Nicaragua: In the Nica Time