Friday, November 28, 2008

Saturday notes on the fly

Antigua, Guatemala
I hope you had a happy thanksgiving. We didn't do anything special here. It's no big deal in this part of the world, a fact I find very refreshing. We did, however, have treats. My pick... cheesecake but it turned out to be cloyingly sweet. So far the pastry in Centroamerica has been way too sweet for my taste. Babyland.

Our time is winding down here. We return to the states in about two weeks. Yikes! I'm not quite ready to go back into the box but, on the other hand, I look forward to seeing family over the holidays. There are a couple of things we still want to do before we go, visit Tikal and volcan Pacaya. We're planning to leave for Tikal at the beginning of the week. All in all, that trip will take about four days. And, before we return home, we want to climb Pacaya, a volcano just outside of Antigua. It's a short hike. M. Lee did it once already a couple of months ago but I was in school that day. Gotta see it. Lava pours right out of the earth and you can get as close as you want. If you´re a fire walker this is the place to be, or if you´ve ever wanted to roast a marshmallow over a volcano. Me? I just like lava and in Guatemala you can walk right up to it. This is a world that lawyers have not managed to strangle the life out of yet.

We did climb volcan Cerro Negro while were were in Nicaragua but I haven't gotten around to writing about that yet and so many other things. However, I did post some photos from Cerro Negro on Flickr if you're interested. There are more to come but now my camera isn't showing up on any computer. So it goes. I'll have to do a retrospective after I get home.

Other than that, last night some of my dreams were in Spanish. Oh, and I finally understand the answer to the age old question... Why did the chicken cross the road? Yes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

There and back again or so it seems

Antigua, Guatemala
After a 17 hour bus trip, during which I had an 11 hour bout of motion sickness because the first leg of the winding road was in a lumbering, smelly, double decker bus driven by a lead-footed pinhead who obviously thought it was a taxi in rush hour, we're back in Antigua under the same gray skies we left a month ago, our time in hot hot Nicaragua a phantasmagoria of images, smells, tastes, sounds, textures, and memories of several delightful friendships made along the way, including Paloma the dog. I´m still having trouble accessing my photos. I now have about 3000 on the 8 gig card in my camera so the cafe computers get hung trying to access them. I swear, we both swear, this is the_last_time we travel without laptops. But, in case we do, I did finally get a pro flicker account and from now on will (once I upload these) upload photos regularly instead of waiting until there are so many they would choke a elephant. Bad metaphor. Sorry elephants.

Anyway... about Nicaragua...
From Chinandega we did make it to the beach. Jiquilillo (He-key-leo). We didn't stay at Rancho Esperanza but that's the place I´d recommend. Nate, the owner/manager is a great guy and from there you'll get the purest experience of the place. On his recommendation we hired a local guy, Eddy, to guide us on a boat trip through the Padre Ramos Estuary, an irreplaceable, endangered wetlands reserve in Jiquilillo. Eddy is another great guy (28) who, since SELVA pulled out because of Nicaragua´s political instability, is waging what is basically a single-handed battle to save the estuary that is, among other things, the traditional nesting ground for endangered sea turtles.

Before leaving Nicaragua, we saw ongoing demonstrations in both León and Managua, the capital city. They were a drag. Sunday afternoon, M. Lee walked to the bus terminal to get our tickets for the next day and on the way back to the hostel found himself in the midst of a mob of masked protesters firing morter guns and being generally shitheads in any way they could. The blasts went on for hours. Seems they need to intimidate the losing side which is protesting the fact that the elections were not monitored or transparent.

Ironically, the next evening just after dark as the bus wound its way north through the mountains, I glimpsed two huge white Brahmas bedded down peacefully under the trees by the foot path through a small yard leading to an open air thatched roof hut. The family was gathered around the cook fire on the porch as the cows chewed their cuds in the yard. It was one of the most tranquil scenes I´ve ever witnessed.

Tonight, after the usual round of explosives, the bells of La Merced are engaged in a sad duet. I am awash with fragmented impressions, and detached memories. Anything is possible. At the moment, I´m not even sure which world I live in.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday aftermath

León, Nicaragua.
Today we are hanging out online. Suits me. There is a big FLSN parade streaming by the door as I write this and small bombs going off to whistles, shouts and the barking of dogs. The riot police are out enforce. Seeing them is small comfort. The elections did not go well last week so there is a lot of unrest throughout Nicaragua. Shit. One of our friends at La Tortuga is a Chilean fellow. He grew up with this crap and is very nervous today. It doesn't settle too well with me either. Things are raw here. Centroamerica is not a tidy place. Things are exaggerated, over blown, past ripe. Life is in the streets. Its wild beauty and grace have a corresponding shadow of chaos and despair.

Otherwise, I am melted to a sticky pile of sweat. Showers don´t help. A second later, I am again a sticky, sweaty blob. And I have become addicted to ice cream. So it goes now that the rainy season has finally ended. What was I thinking? Well, gotta go. Keep the home fires burning.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Chinandega, Nicaragua.... So today, back out into the current that flows past our quiet blue room at La Tortuga Booluda, back out onto the road leaving. A cab stops in the middle of the street. We throw our bags in and go. He takes us to the market where we grab a shuttle which takes us out to the highway, trash piled along the side, lined with blooming fence posts. We converge with trucks, bicycles, cars, foot traffic, hand-made carts pulled by half-dead horses... all moving together, a dark flow crossing the smelly gray river, one great hydra-headed body decorated with moons, stars, galaxies, universes moving... always in the same direction... to Chinandega, the hottest city in Nicaragua. Chinandega, where a hen and rooster are shackled together beside three women sitting at a table on the median strip in the road. Chinandega, where life is just a way of keeping the meat fresh until it's time to eat.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Notes on the fly

León, Nicaragua. So far, León is my favorite city in Centroamerica, maybe even throwing in Mexico, except for Oaxaca. The rainy season was looking like it was coming to a close but when we had decided to go to a surf camp on the coast a hurricane blew into the gulf and now threatens to ruin everything. We are going anyway. We got a very special deal through a couple of Canadians we met in Antigua. They know a Canadian guy who opened this place a couple of years ago and, because we know them, he gave us the same super deal he gave them. Sounds too good to be true and you know how that goes, but what the hell? After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Other than that, I haven't found a computer since leaving Antigua that will let me get my hands on my photos. Another opportunity to practice acceptance and patience. Wonderful. I have some notes about Granada and León but probably won´t get around to posting them until we get back from the coast as supposedly there will be no internet or phones there. Maybe later tonight.

Until then, as travelers must do, I will make things do double duty and use words from an email I sent my family.

Election night we were in Granada watching with our house mates at Casa Ernesto. At 11 pm, when CNN announced that Obama the winner, we clapped and cheered along with the rest of the world. Finally, collectively, we mustered the courage to rise above the hate and fear mongering of the radical right to reset the course for America and hopefully the world. Before the election seemed everyone we met in Nicaragua brought up the election. They all, without exception, liked him. Even a couple of kids sitting on a street corner in Granada reminded us to "vote for Barack on Tuesday". Since the election, we are like heroes around here. People have come up to us on the street and to say how happy they are that America elected Obama. A family sitting in their rocking chairs in the evening smiled from their porch, yelled "Obama" and give us the Thumbs Up. Shopkeepers and street vendors have told us how grateful they are Barack was elected president. On the other hand, seems things are kind of edgy around the White House these days, as White House correspondent Jon Decker discovered. Barney lashes out.

As for me, I am thrilled that some unsuspecting homeless shelter pup is going to be our First Pup!

Anyway, I just read this article at Salon that I think details some of the static that's existed between our different generations on these strange things called hope and change (as well as between my own ears) and thought maybe one or two of you might like to read it as well.

Apology. (Click through the ad. Button in top, right hand corner)

So that's it for now. We've gotta get ready to leave in the morning. Hasta luego.