New Years In Nicaragua-- A guest blog by Tom and Mary Aldon with our host blogess Katie contributing as well
Maria and I, Tomas have come to visit Katie, my daughter for a couple of weeks over the New Years holiday.
After a close connection in Atlanta Mary and I landed on time in Managua and anxiously waited for Katie to show up to meet us. While waiting a very nice looking little boy gave Mary a flower made out of a sugar cane reed. It was only 5 minutes later when he came back asking for
some money--welcome to the 3rd world. Katie arrived and after hugs and such we boarded a very nice van which whisked us off on a hour drive to our first stop-Granada. Granada is a quaint colonial town which I would recommend for anyone who is looking for a quite reasonable vacation spot.
Mary and I were expecting a dirty town with a bunch of traffic and garbage and stuff laying around and were quite surprised at how nice our hotel was and the town it self. I think Katie decided to break us in easy. She even arranged for a fireworks show over our restaraunt while we were eating a very nice meal. Our first day ended with Katie and Maary hittin some nite spots while dear old dad hit the sack by 9:30. I'll let the ladies fill in on their dancing expoits
sidenote from Mary: Never have I ever been scared of my surroundings in the dark... and i really did not think about it until we got halfway across "el parque" and Katie's friend on the phone warned her "walk AROUND the park at night" ...immediately my stranger danger instincts perked up... it wasn't till after we traveled through several alleyways to the pizza place where we met Luis, Johnny and Kate (Fellow Peace Corps amigos) that i finally became at ease. From there we were led by our tour guide, Luis the great who has a story about everything and is OBVIOUSLY an expert in bachata dance as well! We went to a bar with a huge screen playing beyonce live in concert, never thought that crazy in love could feel so comforting. And the drinking began. The rest of the night was a combination of sick dance moves (Most Wii Just dance inspired), rum y cola, and singing random Bring it on cheers. Our dance moves were so impressive in fact that some canadians on the walk home felt the need to come up to us and comment, they were probably being sarcastic but we obviously took their wisecracks as compliments.
Waking up at 10Am was quite surprising to all of us but felt real great. We ambled over to the Garden Inn for an awesome breakfast and a beautiful garden which enabled us to take some pictures of a tropical nature. Next was cathederal visiting and a cool walk up the bell tower where the views provided some additional photo ops. Next was muchas shopping in the square which the girls used to spend Dad's money for gifts for all back home--of course Ellie gifts were the most fun to look at. I was appeased during the shopping by a promise to a cigar shop where I would be able to roll my own cigar! Well worth the wait. Just a really neat place with nice people who let you roll a cigar while you are there. Of course you are expected to purchase said cigar but no problema. Dad purchases several cigars to share with mi compadres back in the big D.
That evening we enjoyed some excellent pizza with a group of Katie's fellow Peace Corps volunteers. Quite the ecclectic and nice group folks. Names withheld to protect their identities but we had a sweet married couple from Michigan, a suave bolla lad from Cleveland who knew all the people in the restaraunt--I thought I was with the Don or something-- a Missourian, another Ohioian and a Oregonian. Also, suave's buddy the Egyptian aka Goldberg (think mighty ducks) Good time and then some nite caps. The boys were just getting fired up but me and the girls decided to call it a nite due to our early morning trip to Katies home in Los Limones.
Arriving at Katie's sight we were greeted with many warm hugs by her familia here in Nicaragua. The little girls, Crystal, 4, and Carlita, 8, ran up to KK and gave her big squezzes, very heartwarming for dear old dad to see. We met the rest of the familia, Donnadonella, the matriarcdh of the family and her daughter,Anna and the only man of the house, Adon, who works tirelessly in the fields all day. Last but not least we met ,Pearla, 11 months as she awakened from her nap--what a bundle of joy! We visited for awhile and then got the nickel tour of Katies site-Los Limones. We met the nurse she works with-Geronima-who told us she loves Katie but she gets sick too often, I told her she takes after su madre. That is where we saw katies work office where they administer medicine ans shots to the locals. Next we walked to Katies project where she is revitalizing a youth center for the children in the area. It is on a very high point in the area and provides outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and country side. Looking over it i could imagine the revolutionaires trekin over the hills and making progress towards Managua. More to follow on that aspect of Nicaragua.
Later in the day after way to much food served to us, Gallo Pinto--rice and beans, and tortillas.
Backtrack-- before we went to Katies village-- no internet or cell service--we stopped in the big town 12 kilometers away, Somotillo to experience the market and have some lunch. The market was what you would expect with chickens out in the open in hot air with flies buzzing around waiting for you to buy them!! We purchased some rice and beans and avocados to contribute to our meals for the next 2 days.
In the late afternoon we walked the town and met Katies extended family, uncles, aunts co-workers, etc. etc. What was supposed to be a 30 minute jaunt evolved into a 3 hour series of visits--something which is the norm in Nicaragua, very cool.
After a very late dinner of Gallo Pinto , tortillas and avocado, we played games with the kids and ajourned to our respective rooms to go to sleep. Those of you over 50 will relate to my middle of the night predicament. The latrine aka outhouse , happens to be in the middle of the pen for the cows of the familia. So Tomas, wakes up at 4 Am and needs to numero uno. Unbeknownst to me all the doors are locked and in the dark I could not figure out how to open la puerta. Fortunately, lpvely Anna was getting up to start breakfast 4AM mind you- and let me out the door. Afyer that embarrasing momenta for me, I then proceeded to step in the biggest pile of cow dung you can imagine on my back to the house. My humility has been gratly enhanced by this adventure and my finding a way to wipe the shit off my docksiders in the dirt--trust me it is impossible and I will be purchasing new shoes and a new suitcase when I return to estado Unidos.
Ah, waking up to the sound of roosters and the smell of cowshit-- there is nothing like it at 4:30 Am! We arose to a lovely breakfast of GUESS-- si, gallo pinto along with ayote-a pretty tasty pumpkin like fruit--again way too much. It was at this meal that Mary started to illustrate the greenest face you could ever imagine on a human being--she just had her fill of gallo pinto! However she was a trooper and ate enough not to offend our wonderful hosts. After breakfast we took a 2 hour walk to see the family farm. Some impressions/sights from our adventure. Ox pulled carts, the scrawniest horses you have ever seen, beautiful countryside, joyful kids and mary racing and hopping and skipping along the rocky/dusty trail, Adon with his machete wacking some bushes in our way, and last but not least an enormous amount of cow, horse and ox dung--it was like a frickin obstacle course!
We arrived at the Rio Guasale on the border with Honduras. It is a marvelous place with rocks and views of the volcanoes, etc. we saw the family farm and all the kids and the familia went swimming in the river. Tomas caught his breathe and laid down on a rock. Katie and Mary waked across the river to Honduras just to add it to their list of countries visited--a proud moment for thier papa--yikes, I was waiting for the federales to come out of the bushes to take them away but I kept my fatherly mouth shut. Everyone took their swims and baths and then we trekked back another 2 hours to Los Limones. Agua por favor!!!
Mary's sidenote: Don't be fooled America, when Katie says rice and beans she does NOT mean your average everyday Anamias side dish. This is red beans and rice... with no seasoning...whatsoever. You also have to keep in mind that that is all that is on your plate. Invision "shots of water" con as many carbs you can manage to swallow at once to clear your plate... ouch! I got to the point where I needed to decide which would be worse/more insulting... not finishing my plate or throwing up from gagging. On a better note, the RIO (yes including the much needed exercise after all of the carbohydrates) was one of the most amazing things i've ever seen. And completely worth the 2 hour walk to and fro. Some things i'd like to add are the border patrol we saw on horseback..complete with large guns. Also that my now nica sisters are the sweetest little girls i've ever met. They would not let go of my hand the entire walk...I would give them my entire wardrobe or anything they wanted! I don't know how anyone hasn't already! Last, it was really hard for Tomas y yo to not join the soccer team that passed us on horseback on their way to their futbol juego en Honduras.
Of course, Eda, another family member who came home that day insisted on serving us lunch before we left. The fried chicken was awesome and now Tomas was turning green from the Gallo Pinto and the Pinol for dessert. There is no way to describe Pinol other than think of the absolute worst medicne you have ever drank and times by 2--again (PS Linds, Ana insisted on us bringing 4 bags of Pinol for you to make, ENJOY ;)) mary and i toughed it out to not cause an international incident or to embarrass Katia--we took one for the Aldon team big time. Our driver ==Darwin arrived in time to enjoy our lunch and load us up to trek off to Leon. Some lasting impressions from Los Limones-- it reminded me of my childhood growing up in the hood in B'More. All the kids were out inthe dirt/rock streets playing with whatever was around. My lasting impression will be this little brother-javeline- probably age 4, running around in his bare feet chasing a bicycle tire. Very reckless and stepping on rocks and crap and hahaving a ball. How tough these kids are with very little and just having fun in the streets--very sweet and innocent. My other impression was the love of the people and how loving they all are of Katie and in turn to me and Mary. I left Los limones at peace with where katie is and confident her familia will always have her back, very comforting for dear old dad.
Mary's sidenote: Mom, they LOVED the gifts, and most looked to fit them. They were nervous to open them in front of us because that isn't in their culture, but once we assured them it was a okay they went ahead. Karlita Bonita LOVEDDDD her Charlotte's Web book because she has seen the movie.. She went through all the pictures and told Katie and I the story. Linds, Ana loved the list book AND the bible! Anna kept referring to Ellie and asking about how she is doing. She made sure to send us with lots of goodies (enough for you and mom) and had already written a letter to send back to you! She really appreciates Perlita's mejor amiga en los Estados Unidos and pointed Ellie out to Perlita in all the new pics. Oh and you'd also love this place because if a dog comes within 5 feet of us Dad yells at it to go away! PERFECTO PARA TI, NO?? Andy, I really could have used you to vaccuum both of our plates...but seriously! And to all, It is such a testament to how much we love our family... we cannot go 20 minutes without name dropping that you guys would love this or that or how much we wish you were here. We wish you all could experience all of these wonderful sights and people, but hope this and the pictures come close to doing it justice! XOXO---MEA
On to Leon-Katies place to enjoy city life, hot water and the companionship of some of her peace Corps compadres.