>> Friday, October 19, 2007

A few weekends ago we went to Matagalpa in the north to visit some friends. The city of Matagalpa is cool—we went to a nice coffee shop and I tasted good coffee for the first time in 6 months and afterward we tracked down the source of the coffee and I bought a huge 500 g bag for 30 c√≥rdobas (about $1.50). Afterward we went to a grocery store with peanut butter and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. (Never before in my life have I been so deeply concerned with the offerings of grocery stores, but here it becomes sort of a scavenger hunt and because I’m interested in it, I assume that you must be also. I apologize if that isn’t the case. I’d be pretty bored too if everyone wrote to me to tell me about the new grocery store in the US that has everything you could possibly want to buy. But I digress.) After lunch at a real Italian restaurant we made our way to the outskirts to see a real-life chocolate factory!

This chocolate factory is pretty small and doesn’t have any Willy Wonka-style security precautions. There were some short people running around, but I’m pretty sure that they were just children and not oompa-loompas. We just walked up to the gate and even though the owner insisted that he was gardening and not giving tours, he eventually relented after hearing that we were Peace Corps volunteers. Maybe because he felt that we looked underfed or maybe because he was really nice, he gave us tons of free samples during the tour, sometimes even opening up new candy bars just so we could try a bite of the “old recipe.”

The owner is an extranjero (foreigner) but the chocolate is pretty Nicaraguan. It uses cocao and coffee from all over the country and it’s made by hand in Matagalpa. Here are some pictures from the trip:
This is the cacao before it gets smashed up:
Here they crack the cacao by hand to begin the process of separation:
Here’s Holly and me on top of the castle:We all felt pretty giddy in the presence of so much chocolate:

After we were done and we had bought a 2-month supply of sweet sweet rations, we made our way to Nicole’s very small, very rural site. It was raining, and sometimes there aren’t many buses passing by. This was one of those times, so the bus that we took looked something like this:
Yeah, those are people riding on the roof. When our bus came, that would have been the only option, but the cobrador opened up the back door and yelled, “Make room for the gringos!” Never before had I felt so guilty and privileged, but I wasn’t about to ride on top of a bus on a terrible road for more than an hour to assuage my guilt. Instead, we were lucky enough to be crammed into the bus with no room to move. It was a fun trip and it was nice to see more of Nicaragua, but by the end of the weekend, we were ready to come back to running water, less erratic electricity, and a real toilet. On Sunday when we finally got back to Masaya after riding on bumpy, slow buses for five and a half hours we jumped in our hammocks and both thought to ourselves, “There’s no place like home.”


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