Saturday, December 12, 2009

A little bit of introspection, and on to Granada


Well, sorry for the depressing post earlier this week, and thanks for the words of encouragement. I am learning a lot on this trip, and much of it is about myself. I used to get a lot of pleasure out of anything social, including going out with tons of new people and talking a lot, even if it was about nothing. These days, rather unexpectedly, I´m finding that I don´t automatically get pleasure from social activity. I still like to be around people, but I´m spending more time alone than usual. I no longer really find it satisfying to talk and drink just to talk and drink, to fill the space, you could say. And there is a lot of that to be found on the Gringo Trail in Central America, not surprisingly. I´m not sure where the new attitude or awareness came from, but I´m sure it has something to do with throwing myself into a situation where I don´t know anyone, and even the culture is unfamiliar. It´s easy to segue into questioning/reevaluating everything... It´s a little hard to adjust to these emerging feelings, but I think overall it´s a good thing for me. I´m learning how to just be with myself, more than usual anyway, and I´m valuing the experiences I have with genuine people more. Some days are better than others, but overall I feel very positive and strong.

I stayed at the organic farm and found a really nice group of people there. After a few days of getting accustomed to the neighborhood, bus schedule, local businesses, etc, things were a lot better, especially with the local people. There ended up being several musicians in my hostel, so that was fun. We had a couple of jam sessions with a ukelele and two guitars...I really wished I had my mandolin. I took a capoeira class on the beach. That was interesting... Fun, but I don´t think it´s my passion in life! I also went horseback riding with one of the French girls. That was great. The horses here are trained a little differently. I haven´t asked anyone for the details, but the most distinctive thing I noticed was their trot. Visually and while you´re riding, it´s noticeably different. The horses we rode had a really slow, smooth trot - virtually no bounce at all. At the farm, I slept in my hammock for 6 days. It was awesome, cool and comfortable (thanks, SNL friends :) ). I stayed in a dorm my last night, and I missed the fresh air.

Now I am in Granada, and I have a feeling I am going to like this city. It´s small, with old colonial style architecture, and a really busy main street full of markets. I have a closet obsession (okay, not so closet) with markets. To top it off, there´s another city a 30 minute bus ride away that´s known as the city for craft markets. Yay! Supposedly, they also have several music stores, so I´m going to see what kind of interesting instruments I can find. Tomorrow, I´m going to go for a run in the morning and try to get oriented here. In fact, I´ll probably just spend the whole day wandering around. Then on Monday, I´ll probably go to Masaya, the craft-music-rocking chair town. I´m really excited! On Thursday, I head to the airport for my flight home, which is at 2:00 in the morning on Friday. Kind of a pain, but oh well. I´ll let you know how the craft scene is...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Beach to present, and beyond!

The good...
Well, I´m a bit behind on blogging. It´s about an hour to get to internet where I am now, so I haven´t been online much. The beach was very nice and relaxing overall, although the tourists were starting to come in droves as I was leaving. It´s the beginning of the high season, so it will get a lot busier. I felt like I really got to relax there, and I gained some new perspective. I read some really good books. I stopped drinking beer :) I spent a lot of time with my Argentinean friends, who are some of the most genuine people I´ve met traveling, and let me stay with them for a week. And - my Spanish is really good these days. Not perfect of course, but I can communicate generally without any trouble. When people ask me if I speak Spanish these days, I say yes (instead of ´kind of´). Strangely, I keep getting asked (by several locals and 2 Germans) if I´m from Germany. I don´t think I have a German accent in Spanish! Either way, I take it as a good sign. Maybe, at the very least, it means I don´t have a screamingly obvious American accent :)

Thanksgiving was a huge success. I started cooking the night before, making cold salads and stuff, and cooked all day on Thanksgiving. We had about 19 people show up - 3 Americans and others from France, Belgium, Italy, Costa Rica, Argentina, Israel, England, Holland, and another little bitty country that I can´t remember the name of! There was plenty of food - I´ve never cooked for so many people in my life. Everything went really smoothly too, until about 5 p.m. I had been running back and forth from the house to the grocery store to a neighbor´s (because she had an oven), and about 5 or 5:30, she got home and ran down to tell me that the oven was out of gas. I had stuffed chickens inside it at that point and two casserole dishes waiting to go next. Eek! Fortunately, the Belgians own a bakery, so two of the guys left, balancing the chickens and the casseroles on their laps on a four-wheeler, to stick them in the oven at the bakery. What a trip :) They made it back safely and we all ate and drank wine. Overall, it was probably my most interesting Thanksgiving yet. Everyone thought it was really cool - a lot of them commented that the only things they new about Thanksgiving were from the movies. After that, I hung out for a few more days and then headed north. I did my first payed work before I left the beach though - I worked in a surf shop on the beach for 3 hours. They paid me $6. It was actually my friend Noe´s job, but she couldn´t go that afternoon, so I went for her. Crazy, huh? I don´t know of anywhere else in the world where you can send a friend to work for you if you can´t make it...

The bad...
After I left the beach, I spent a night in Liberia and then crossed the border into Nica. The border crossing was LONG and hot. First I had to stand in line for a couple of hours to leave CR, then I walked across the border (maybe a third of a mile?), then I had to stand in line to enter Nicaragua. Then I had to cross through a gate to the border town, where I got on a crowded school bus to go to Rivas. Tourism has done some not so nice things down here. The main aspect of it that I find frustrating is the people constantly trying to ¨help¨ you. It drives me crazy. When I crossed the border, every time I got to a new location, about 5 people would surround me to offer their guide services, taxis, etc. And they all talk at once, and get too close, and it´s really nerve-wracking. I think it´s worse too because I´m a girl, traveling alone, so the offers are usually mixed together with suggestive comments and lots of kissy faces. Yes, truly - lip-puckering. No kidding. By the time I got to the border town I was frazzled, and when I got accosted there, I looked up and said in Spanish rather forcefully ¨Look guys - leave me alone, I don´t need any help, or a taxi, or anything, thank you very much, excuse me!¨ That worked pretty quickly. I felt bad for shouting, but geez! I was definitely channeling someone more assertive than myself :)

The ugly...

Well, it´s not really fair to call lay all of the ugly blame on Isla de Ometepe, where I am now. All of this was fairly common in Costa Rica as well. In fact it´s really gorgeous here - the island was formed by the two volcanoes that are still here, in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. It´s way calmer and safer here than it was in Costa Rica. There are some nice beaches, and yesterday I climbed the smaller of the volcanoes. But...the harassment continues, and it´s making me feel quite alienated. I can´t walk around by myself without people coming onto me - maybe it´s a common part of Nica culture, but it really makes me uncomfortable. To top it off, the other day this kid followed me home in the dark as I was walking back to my hotel, and seriously wouldn´t leave me alone. He was 16, for christ´s sake! I told him I didn´t need help, I knew where I was going, etc., but he just kept on saying he could ´accompany´ me. Then he started trying to put his arm around me, asked me to kiss him, etc. If I wasn´t so agitated I probably would have busted out laughing. I literally had to remove his hand from my waste tell ask him not to touch me or bother me because it was pissing me off. Then he was like, ¨Oh, sorry, I didn´t mean to make you angry. Do you want to give me a tip for walking you home?¨ I just walked off. I figured it wasn´t much use to try to explain to him why I most certainly did not want to tip him for making my walk home extremely unpleasant.

So, I´m feeling a bit isolated. I can´t really blame the Tico (Costa Rican)/Nica (Nicaraguan) culture for all of it. Honestly, there are plenty of people who show up in the smallest towns down here, don´t speak a word of Spanish and have no desire to take a bus, and they want someone who speaks English to lead them to a taxi. So there is a demand for this sort of thing. To top it off, although there are some well-intentioned ex-pats and travelers, there are also plenty that are arrogant assholes, so I guess I might not have that much respect for me either, if I was from here, and I didn´t know me! There are some other travelers to hang out with - yesterday I hiked a volcano with some of them. There´s a French couple in the hostel/farm where I´m staying that is really nice, but other than them, I haven´t really connected with anyone recently. I think that I will leave here on Tuesday or Wednesday and go to Granada, which is a decent sized city. It´s supposed to have beautiful architecture, and I´m sure there´s plenty to do there. I´ll probably stay there until the 18th, when I´ll head to Managua for my flight home for Christmas.

Sorry for the downer post, I´m just feeling a bit disillusioned this week. Como siempre, estoy segura que solamente necesito tener paciencia. Espero que todo esta bien con ustedes :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nicaragua...and Christmas!

Well, I made it to Nicaragua. I haven´t ever walked across a border before! The trip was interesting, but I haven´t got good internet right now. I´ll blog about it later this week. For now, I´m on an island called Isla de Ometepe, place called Venezia, which is in Lake Nicaragua. I´m going to spend a week here exploring and then we´ll see.

In other news, I´m coming home for Christmas. Long story, but I kind of already had a ticket, so... I´m flying to Atlanta on Dec. 18th, and I´ll be flying to Guatemala on Dec. 30th. If anyone is still thinking about joining me around the New Year, I plan on being in Guatemala for several weeks, starting the 30th. It´s really cheap to fly before the new year! I´m not sure what I´m going to do for New Year´s Eve yet, but I´ll find something.