We are done with spanish classes and just got back to Managua today to start work in the office. No news here yet, but I'll finish with what we did the last week in Leon. While I'm doing this, Kate is doing the real work by getting our room in the dorm here set up and organized. I probably said this in the last post, but we really loved Leon. There's just so much going on and so much interesting history in a very walkable downtown. Our school did a tour of the cathedral. It has your standard, I suppose baroque, cathedral insides with gilded altars and carved tombs and such.
The tour took us on the roof, where there is s a nice view of the city plaza from the bell tower.
A look down shows what one of the inner colonial courtyards look like, and you can see down the main street of town, past the market, and towards the church where our school is located.
We took another school trip to Sutiava, which was originally a native indian village, and the reason why Leon was located where it is. It's basically a suburb of leon now. The Spaniards located their cities next to existing villages so that they could take advantage of the existing resources. The original church, built in the early 1600s, was destroyed by volcanoes or earthquakes or both (I can't remember at the moment) and is only ruins today.
The rebuilt church is still nearby and is the oldest existing church in Leon today. They are working on restoring it and its surroundings.
The inside of the Sutiava church is interesting because the pillars are made of wood, and there is a carving of the sun on the ceiling. The church, in their attempt to convert the natives, eased the transition with objects of native worship, in this case the sun. Supposedly, they also had all of the churches of Leon built to face west to face the sunset as well.
The last highlight of Leon was the parade of the myths and legends of Leon. Nicaragua loves legends and Leon seems to be the capital of that genre. We had a tour of their museum dedicated to it the previous week, and this week we got to see them act them out. The Gigantona is one of the biggest symbols of Leon. She is a very tall and aloof white woman who twirls as little, funny-looking, big-headed men bob around her. Basically it is the symbol of the tall Spanish women who emigrated to leon who viewed the natives as short, funny looking toys. The boys in these costumes would stick their heads out as they were waiting for the parade to start, as it was very hot in their consumes.
The favorite of the students was "Toma tu tete" who was a lady who lost or gave away her baby and would force adulterous men to feed on her, um, large boob until they were drowned.
There was some sort of a devil monster thing with a bunch of devil people running around with smoking and flaming staffs
And there was an ox-drawn carriage with dead bodies that was accompanied by walking skeletons. This also has its roots in the spanish conquest of central America, where the spanish would sometimes come through at night time with carriages, animals, and weapons that were unfamiliar to the natives, and they would often kill off tribes or villages.
Our pictures didn't turn out that well due to some camera problems, but Kate took some videos of the parade, which really makes a better representation of movement of the parade. We put it on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYc7XHuccWU.
Afterwards, we celebrated our last night overlooking the street with Karin, one of our fellow students and friends whom we spent a lot of the last week with (Hi Karin!).
After saying goodbye to Carolina, our host mother, We all went to the beach for the last day and night. Did the usual: swim, eat delicious fish, drink girly drinks, and watch the sunset. No more sunset pictures, since I overdid those on the previous posts. That night, we went on a turtle tour. It wasn't the greatest tour, but it was for a good cause and it was fun. We decided later that part of the fun was walking on a deserted part of the beach that was a nature preserve and watching the milky way overhead. Because of the local demand for turtle eggs, which are illegal to harvest but are threatened nonetheless, this small protected part of the beach has an organization that collects the eggs and rears them in a guarded place. They then take the daily hatchlings into a bucket of water and release them at nighttime, when they have a better chance of surviving (since they can better escape predation). So we got to see the hatchlings and touch them with gloves.
And then we brought them to the ocean to release them and let the waves carry them away.
Another 4 hours of buses and we are back in Managua, ready to see what's up with work here. Wish you all well and happy thanksgiving back at home!
-Jeff & Kate