Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First few days in San Juan del Sur

After arriving in Nicaragua on thursday and having a quick introduction to our AsoFenix` office in Managua, we took the bus to the shore for our first week of spanish classes. Managua is a big city of 3 million people (by far the largest in Nicaragua) and spread out like Los Angeles without a specific downtown. It is not a major tourist destination and the transportation there reflects this fact. Luckily, our co-workers helped us with finding the city bus to get to the long-distance bus station. From there, we took the bus to San Juan del Sur (SJDS)--a typical ride for Latin America--hot, sweaty, and with the standing-room only crowd holding chickens. I snuck a picture of the lady next to me with her lovely rooster. It made me wonder what would happen if I stepped on the greyhound bus in the USA with some livestock, in which case I would be taking pictures of the expression on the faces of the other passengers.

In SJDS we spent a day hanging out in cafes and restaurants, walking the beaches, and browsing the street vendors for the first day. We were greeted by a sunset that, I swear, took a couple hours to sort through its full spectrum of hues and shades. It has remained permanently cloudy here in Nicaragua as the wet season slowly comes to an end, and a break in the clouds over the pacific ocean seems to make a nice window for the sunset every night. The beachfront is filled with thatched-roof bars and restaurants with western exposure to take advantage of this phenomenon.

The next day (Sunday), we found our school and met up with our host family, a doctor and teacher with 3 kids who live one block from the school. They have been very friendly with us and all of them take the time to talk slowly with us so that we understand them. And the food is pretty good, too. Not to knock the Andean food that we had last summer in Boliva and Peru, but the food here so far is much more edible. There is only so much rice with potatoes and noodles that I can eat in one sitting. Here at least there is gallo pinto, deliciously greasy rice and beans, with some sort of meat and veggies or fried plantains. A little protein and grease help the carbs slide down better.

Our first day of school went fine yesterday. The classroom itself is not nearly as beautiful as the colonial courtyards that we studied in last year, but we have 4 hours daily of private lessons, and we can go places with our teacher if we want--they said we might have class on the beach later this week *fingers crossed*. Afternoons have some activities possible with the school, or we just go to the cafe or the beach to study and walk around town. Yes, we do get homework here.

Today was Halloween, and although the country doesn't officially celebrate Halloween, I believe the expat influence in this town has made it a popular holiday here, and there were hundreds of kids in costumes who were invited to hit pinatas at one of the beachside bars. Here they are coming down the street alongside the street vendors, who are out in full force.

A little more about the town of SJDS: it's actually quite a tiny little town, but it has some charm. It's definitely not your typical fancy resort town wit mega-hotels and all the amenities (although there are some expensive resorts hidden up in the hills). it's not large enough to have big museums, great shopping, architecture to admire, or even to have much of a selection of restaraunts. But it is nonetheless pretty and attractive in its laid-back nature--and thus it has grown an expat community that has taken advantage of the political stability and safe atmosphere here during the past decade or so. It's the little things here that are fun. There are parrots squawking everywhere you go here:

The town is located in a very protected bay and estuary with mangroves. This makes for a fairly picturesque view of the waterfront, but somewhat murky and weedy water for swimming. The locals rake up of the mangrove flotsam into little burn piles to get rid of it, so there are some clean, sandy parts of the beach where it is more developed. The really famous and probably more pristine beaches are located a number of miles north and south of town, which require a taxi or bus ride to get to, so we have not had time yet do do that. We did go swimming in the bay here, however, it was not half bad, with safe, pleasant waves for bodysurfing and comfortably cool water.

Just as in south America, there are lazy dogs all over the streets. Here, they are almost always sprawled out, spread-eagle, on the sidewalks to withstand the oppressive heat and humidity here.

And finally, a cruise ship came into port yesterday carrying 1500 people. This little town became overrun for a few hours with grey heads and fat wallets. It was pretty weird seeing this huge ship at the mouth of the tiny little bay here. We caught a picture of it here, lit up like a christmas tree, while studying with a couple beers on the waterfront last evening. Another nice sunset came out to frame another warm, cloudy day.

It poured rain all night last night and most of the morning so everything is very humid and a little cooler. Our towels are still wet from swimming a couple days ago, since nothing dries out here. But it's a little cooler here, and we are in a coffee shop again doing homework and taking advantage of their wifi to update all of you. How times have changed with technology!

So we have most of a week left here still before we stop by the office in Managua again on our way to Leon for the next round of classes. We'll report again soon, possibly when we have time again in Managua.



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