We changed our plans a little this week. Originally, we were going to go to Leon on Saturday, using the weekend to travel via the office and repack for a longer time there. But the school we wanted to go to there was booked until wednesday because they had a big group, and then there were the elections. This weekend is election weekend here, and we found out later that most of the transportation shuts down on election weekend. Actually, most of everything shuts down. For a few days before the elections they have a period of silence here where there are no political advertisements allowed. The three days around the elections, it is also illegal to sell or drink alcohol in public. And many of the non-essential services shut down for election day. So we decided to stay here a few more days and head to Leon on Tuesday and start classes there on Wednesday. That also gave us a whole weekend here, which was nice.
So, on saturday we went to Playa Hermosa, a beach that's maybe 10 miles south of here. It's quite a rough drive through the jungle to get there (it's not walkable--too many cliffs on the shore, and the rural streets and trails through the jungle are not safe). It is a mostly natural beach with a little food stand and some huts with hammocks. We spent the day combing the beach for shells, enjoying the scenery, and swimming in the water. I rented a boogie board, but the waves were a little too big for my taste. I don't know what the waves there measured, but they were well over the heads of the surfers there. I think it was the first time that I saw surfers riding inside of wave tubes, standing practically straight up. For me, I couldn't even get out that far if I wanted to because the wash from the waves just threw us back to shore. So we stayed close to shore and tried to catch the occasional small wave that came up. Mostly, we just enjoyed playing in the water and getting crashed by the wave wash. They were working on a little hotel there that would be a nice way to spend a couple days if you wanted to hang out at a pretty remote beach surrounded by jungle and a few gringo surfers. It made for a nice little vacation.
As you can see, Jeff was thrilled when we first saw the beach:
It lives up to its name, which means "Beautiful Beach":
The waves were big, although it's hard to tell from the picture, since we never did catch any surfers in action with the camera:
There is already a little restaurant (or at least a kitchen and some seating) and some hammocks around - the owners of the beach know what they're doing:
And there were interesting shells to be found:
Election day (sunday) was very calm and quiet here. The family has been watching the news here about the election. We went for a walk around town again, and the beach looked so nice that we decided we had to go hang out there one more time. It looked like the whole town was out there. there must have been 4 or more different soccer games going on at the same time, and hundreds of people in the water. I rented a boogie board for the day, and the waves were perfect. We took a break to have juice and steamed clams at one of the restaurants, but I went right back in and boarded until after sunset. I could literally see the moon and stars overhead when I decided that I needed to go back in.
One other happening during the week was Dia de los Muertos. The Nicaraguan version is much different than what we had imagined - very tranquilo, with families gathering in the cemetary to clean the graves of their loved ones and decorate them with flowers, and to discuss the lives of those gone before. We went with our homestay family:
They had several graves in several different locations in the cemetary to decorate, and we stayed a while at each, sitting and chatting and watching the goings-on.
As at any gathering, the vendors showed up with their wares, and all through the cemetary there was the constant sound of bells ringing from the ice cream man, and people hawking snacks like fried plantains and even cotton candy.
Monday is the last day of school for us. We'll miss the place and our teachers:
And, of course, the school "mascota," Chucho:
Normally, classes here go for a week at a time, but since our next school had a weird schedule and it is the sister school of this one here, and since the lessons are 1:1 private lessons, it wasn't a problem to arrange for an extra day. We miss a day of classes due to needing to travel on tuesday, but in exchange we got an extra weekend of beach bumming that we weren't originally counting on.
Classes have continued to go well. Kate switched teachers because her first teacher wasn't really enthusiastic about anything and her second teacher is much better. we've both been learning a lot--both language lessons, but the teachers also talk a lot about cultural stuff--history and legends of nicaragua, plus some politics and cultural stuff. Being here during the election has been a fascinating but extremely confusing study in Nicaraguan politics. Everyone is happy to tell you about the political history and current events of the country, but no two people will tell it the same. Nearly everyone we talk to is a strong Sandanista supporter, which is the leading party and is the party of the current (now re-elected) president, Daniel Ortega. Of course, his opposition includes an ex-president who basically pillaged the country a few years ago and was conviced of embezzlement and corruption, so perhaps the >60% vote for Ortega isn't too suprising... But anyway, it's all very complicated and hard to get a grip on. We have been hearing a takeoff on the song "Stand by Me," that is the official campaign song for Ortega, called "Otra Vez" (One More Time): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuPdTP284kg - interesting, considering that it was illegal for Ortega to run otra vez until a recent supreme court decision. Yep, the sketchiness of politics is not just relegated to the US.
At any rate, we're off to Leon tomorrow, so we'll be posting about very different things soon besides beaches and sunsets. Hope all is well in the US!