Wednesday, November 21, 2007

León, Nicaragua

León, Nicaragua is a colonial town with just over100,000 inhabitants. It is less touristy than Granada, but in my opinion, more showy. The climate in Granada is cooler, with a location on Lago Nicaragua, while León is inland--warmer and more humid.

León and Granada have been political and economic rivals since their founding. León was the capital of Nicaragua until 1855, when the capital was moved to Managua, situated between the two cities. The re-positioning of the capital was in large part to cool the rivalry between the two cities. Both cities are beautiful and tell the architectural history of their colonial past.

Detail of left-hand tower of the largest church in Central America (León, Nicaragua)

I couldn't help taking all these pictures! The church is STUNNING! (León, Nicaragua)

Looking down the hall of the León Church

In León, every time I got the camera out, kids got excited. These three were playing on the church steps and practically DEMANDED I take their picture.

Opposite the church in León was this sentiment. No translation required.

I can´t acutally see this photo in my preview, so I will give it this generic caption, "I used to think of Nicaragua as only war-torn former territory of the Contras"... I had no idea it was one of the SAFEST central-american countries, one of the cheapest, and one of the most beautiful.

WAIT WAIT! I can see it now! This is a picture of the hostel--which is a typical Leónese house... Sala (Salon) with roof inside the entry from the street, then a "living room" with three walls, and the rest of the house opens up onto a beautiful garden. Indicative of the climate.

The church in the German Village (I kid you not!) outside of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Right after I took this photo, a family of hobbits scurried out of it to go find second lunch.

Granada, Nicaragua

The finish on this wall (unintentional, I believe) is gorgeous (Granada, Nicaragua)

Interior of church on Parque Central (Granada, Nicaragua)

Fountain & treetops of Parque Central and church beyond (Granada, Nicaragua)

Sidewalk cafe, Granada, Nicaragua

Abandoned church. Note the stunning circular tower toward rear (Granada, Nicaragua)

Hall of Mayan idols

Old cars were everywhere! This one is beautiful!

Building materials (not just cement or stucco!) (Granada, Nicaragua)

Moments in time

Here are some random photos, not necessarily in chronological order...

Before the big goodbye

This sweet couple hosted me in San Ignacio, Belize. She is laughing because
he positioned his wife specifically to hide his stomach.

Breakfast in San Ignacio looks like this: coffee, bread, butter,
peanut butter, and sometimes frijoles.

The unbelievable pink-cow-with-swinging-milk-bucket, San Ignacio

Typical: toilet for organic matter, trash can for toilet paper. Yes,
hard to believe: USED toilet paper.

It only LOOKS dangerous because it IS. You haven't LIVED until
your showerhead has sent 110 through your body! (yes, it's
happened MANY times)

Laundry drying atop Doña Antonia hostel (Antigua, Guatemala)

I didn´t know the colonel liked to travel too! Please note my excellent 'sexyface' pose (Escazu, Costa Rica)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Meeting the locals

So today I decided to relax and vegetate. I needed time to ¨decompress¨ after a fairly intense 2-day visit with a friend I met in Guatemala... I was looking for an internet cafe, and walked by one beautifully painted building with the gate shut. I assumed it was a hostel, (not what I was looking for) and walked on by. Later, I re-walked down that same bit of road, and their gate was open, so since some hostels have internet, I decided to investigate (especially since I couldn´t find the place I was looking for).

I stepped into their doorway, looked and saw a ¨pensión¨sign (hostel), but no obvious signs of internet. As I turned to walk away, I heard a voice and turned... I stepped back inside to talk to the Dueña (owner)... (All in Spanish) I told her I was looking for internet, and she started telling me the prices. I told her I already had a room, but just wanted internet. She said that internet came with the rooms, and mentioned the mujers (ladies) sitting in the sala (living room) [who looked like they were dressed up to go clubbing--at 3:30 in the afternoon], and then started rattling off prices. I understood only that the internet was complimentary with the room, and told her my Spanish was very bad.

Then, one of the ladies I hadn´t previously seen tapped my leg from behind me and said (in English), ¨Would you like a massage?¨.... OH MY GOD! Just then my legs started circling and I heard that cartoon noise that always occurs when Scooby and Shaggy get scared and their legs start spinning and they run away.

I wasn´t just talking to the Dueña, I talking to a PIMPSTRESS!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Memories of Guatemala

In no particular order...
  • Wild pointsettias
  • Chickens running around on the roads
  • Ladies balancing baskets on their heads
  • Firewood (llena) being transported home on heads or on bicycles--for cooking
  • Outdoor sinks
  • Thatched roofs
  • ¨Chicken buses¨ packed with produce for sale
  • Instant coffee
  • Tiny sidewalks with huge potholes
  • Breathtaking vistas
  • patient people
  • poverty
  • slow internet
  • fluorescent bulbs
  • street food
  • weathered, wrinkled, authenic aged faces--smiling through spotty teeth
  • Happiness
  • Dogs everywhere
  • Noisy
  • Fear of petty theft
  • Tiendas
  • Exhaust billows into restaurants (no exhaust regulations)
  • The reason scented toilet paper exists--toilets here do not accept toilet paper
  • Car alarms going off constantly
  • Blasting car stereos
  • Lots of noise
  • Brightly painted buses with expressions like ¨Regalo de dios¨(gift of god)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Antigua sights

Beautiful Guatemala

Sky and ground ablaze. Pacaya, Guatemala.

Look dangerous? It FELT dangerous. All the mighty forces of the earth are showing us about 0.0000000000001% of their power. And it is humbling. Very humbling. The lava rock these people are walking on is less than a week old. There were crevices I looked down and saw red hot magma less than a meter deep.

Me + Magma. This was on the living volcano, Pacaya

Dia de los muertos, Santiago Zacatapecas style! The barrelete (kite) festival. This festival is held in an opened graveyard. There are tons of marigolds placed on the graves. Then the guys flying the kites romp all over them while hoisting their kites skyward. I like the festive atmosphere, even in the graveyard. Frequently kites would come crashing out of the sky (and they are REALLY big--some are 20´across!), and nearly miss people. Folks would laugh, including the people who were narrowly missed. Bamboo poles stick out of these kites at all angles. They are seriously dangerous. But it WAS fun.

I thought Dad would get a kick out of this. It´s a hand-cranked organ. Pretty cool! This was at the kite festival.

This is one form of taxi in Guatemala

Typical scene: Baby on the back, basket of goods going to the market to sell. It looks like a daughter is behind her, also in traditional dress.

This is the very famous arch in Antigua. On a clear day, you can see the volcano behind. On this day, it was sunset, so you see the fiery sky... Which is somewhat poetic as Antigua has been destroyed (and subsequently rebuilt) after local volcanoes destroyed it 3 times.

I had an hour-long conversation with my new friend Juan shortly after sitting down in the park to read. It was all in Espanol. It was my FIRST CONVERSATION in Spanish, and I had no idea I could! I won´t lie, I didn´t understand everything, but Juan works in Guatemala city in the Judicial branch records office. His mother is in Antigua and he comes up on weekends to visit. We talked about the gigantic divide between rich and poor in Guatemala and about the upcoming election. Juan continuously said hello to other folks who passed because he is here in the park a lot. It is common in all the countries I´ve been in so far for a person to live in the same place their whole life.

Even the old doors in Antigua are beautiful

A typical street in Antigua. We had quite a bit of rain the 1st week I was there, the streets are wet. And not the streets are not asphault. Every vehicle on these streets gets the HECK pounded out of the suspension.

Antigua´s beautiful Parque Central has this church on its E side

I met this cool gal on Pacaya. We didn´t speak much. She´s from Spain & speaks with a beautiful castillan accent. I can tell it´s a beautiful accent, but it´s difficult to make out much of what she´s got to say. She was doing work for an NGO in Guatemala. Her boyfriend was in Guatemala working on water projects. She has a boatload of spunk. I told her her pants were cool & I wanted a picture, and she just threw herself into this pose.