Mischief Managed

>> Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You turn your back for one second and BAM! there goes a roll of paper towels.

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Living la Vida Rica

>> Monday, May 26, 2008

It’s been a little hard to readjust to regular life when just a week ago we were in Granada staying in a great hotel, eating spaghetti and garlic bread, and having our fill of sangria. Though we originally worried that the strike might ruin my mom and Laura's trip, it probably helped; we rented a car and were able to tourist ourselves through 5 departments here in Nicaragua.

When my mom and sister got in, their bags were bulging with goodies from la USA. It’s been great, but every time Holly and I dig into some trail mix or amazing gouda we can’t help feel a little guilty and spoiled... I say bring on the guilt. Thanks Mom and Laura!

On the first day we went to the zoo and it was just as cool the second time around. Afterward we stopped at a touristy restaurant on the highway overlooking the Laguna de Masaya.

On Friday it was off to Granada. We weren’t sure what to do with Dora so we decided to test our ability to take her just about anywhere, including to the top of a church belltower. It worked spectacularly.

This is a view of Granada’s famous rooftops from the belltower.

On Saturday we drove up Volcán Mombacho to go on the canopy tour; this is a difficult task in a Toyota Yaris, but it's less difficult than having to hike up. One of the guides with us became our official photographer, so now we have plenty of pictures to document our valor and bravery.

In the afternoon we drove down to the Laguna de Apoyo. It's really close to Masaya, but we had never gone down to the bottom before. A rental car with air conditioning was just the motivation we needed.

Dora really enjoyed herself and had her fill of algae.

She was off of her leash and got to run around as she pleased.

Dora took advantage of the extra attention from Laura and my mom, too.

On Sunday we went to San Juan del Sur and stayed at a super nice resort with all kinds of pools and fancy rich people. Somehow Dora was allowed here, too.

We went to one of San Juan's beaches (with Dora, of course). She wasn't as fond of the waves and salt water, instead preferring to stay on high ground.
It was great to travel around and eat amazing food, but after traveling through Carazo and intruducing my mom to my Nica mom, on Monday we had to come back to Masaya. The last meal of the trip--grilled chicken, tejadas, and gallo pinto from Doña Emilina's--was pretty good, too.

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Dora's Senior Pictures

>> Sunday, May 18, 2008

My mom and sister have been here visiting for a few days and we've been doing all kinds of fun stuff. Yesterday we made a trip to the Laguna de Apoyo and Dora posed for some good pictures. Here's one and we'll post more later.

On a somewhat-related note, the strike ended Friday night. Most buses are running again and things appear to be back to normal.

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Strike!

>> Friday, May 09, 2008

Starting this past Monday, most taxis and buses in the country have been on strike to protest the rising prices of gas. Since very few people have cars of their own, most rely on taxis or buses to do any travelling, even to work or school. Additionally, there have been road blockages that have prevented commercial trucks and private vehichles from travelling from one department to another; apparently over 100 people have been arrested for protesting and business losses are already estimated at millions of dollars.

For our part, the Peace Corps has been keeping a close eye on the situation; we're all required to stay in our sites, though we couldn't really go anywhere if we wanted to--all the busses from Masaya to other cities have stopped running, and only a few taxis remain in the city.

Fortunately, Paul has his bike to go to school and I can walk briskly to mine in about 20 minutes. Many of the other teachers at our schools live in nearby towns or cities and just have to stay home.

It is nice having a lot less traffic on the streets in Masaya, but it's been a big hassle to be unable to take the city bus to school. Business also seem to be running out of some items due to delayed deliveries, so we hope this all gets worked out soon, especially before we get visitors next week!

Here
is an article with a little more information:

Nicaraguan taxi and bus drivers that transport an estimated 1.5 million people a day went on strike yesterday saying they won't start up their engines again until the government sits down to negotiate a solution to skyrocketing gas prices, the highest in Central America.

Trucks drivers were also on strike, paralyzing the economy.

The strike comes as international crude oil prices topped a record $120 a barrel this week.

“There's been no response from the president of the republic to end the strike,” said Vidal Almendárez, president of the Federation of Taxi Drivers. “There have been attempts to negotiate locally, but we're telling them negotiations have to happen here in the capital.”

The federation, which represents an estimated 15,000 taxi drivers nationwide, began the strike along with the National Transportation Coordinator and the Interurban Transportation Directorate yesterday, which represent regional bus drivers.

The only bus drivers that have kept the motors running were those on urban Managua routes, which receive a subsidized gas price that is about half the market price for gas in Nicaragua, which was more than 90 córdobas a gallon this week ($4.70).

Almendárez said the rest of the country's bus and taxi drivers want a deal similar to Managua buses, and want the government to sit down with driver union leaders to find a solution.

The government says it has offered to sell the cooperatives gasoline at cost – for a savings of roughly 6 córdobas ($0.30) less. But as of 6 p.m. yesterday evening, no agreement had been reached.

“We seek an alternative in which the price of gasoline is frozen so we can have a reasonable price for users. People aren't able to pay these prices,” Almendárez told The Nica Times.

Keep your fingers crossed that it all ends soon!

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99 Years of Solitude Remaining

>> Friday, May 02, 2008

A year ago yesterday I posted about having made it to Nicaragua safely after such a long wait. That seems like such a long time ago, especially when measured in Nica time. Since then we've lived separately with two host families, survived a rainy season, figured out how to get around, and learned where to buy everything we need. That all happened before we even became volunteers. Then we had to leave our host families and move in with a new one while we looked for our own house.

We have worked pretty hard in the schools, but we won't get angry if it seems like all we do is celebrate, though. There were times when it felt like we were missing class for all the wrong reasons. We have seen all kinds of animals running the spectrum from wild all the way to domestic. We've traveled to the mountains twice--the second time almost resulting in divorce or murder, whichever was most convenient.

We entertained visitors and made a comeback, then had summer camp in January.

We since started school again, learned to laugh about what now seems normal to us, and have learned to party the Nica way.

Our Nica 44 TEFL group began with 20 trainees, but five are no longer here. Certainly we, and probably the other 15 remaining volunteers as well, are excited to begin year two of our time here.

It's really appropriate that we mark one year in Nicaragua with a four-day weekend from school. We've already enjoyed a really delicious lunch in Granada with Dora who loves riding on the bus. I think later we'll relax in our hammocks, have Holly's favorite meal, and maybe even stay up until ten o'clock.

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Ya Queremos Pastel!

My counterpart's daughter had her 1-year birthday last Saturday, and Holly and I went to her piñata, which turned out to be really fun. Romel and his family have become pretty close friends to us in Masaya, so it was nice to be there. While a piñata is the general name for a kid's birthday party, it's also the beloved candy-filled punching bag. We had both. The theme was Strawberry Shortcake and as soon as Rosita Fresita hit the ground, it was total madness.

I tried everything to turn this video around, but I failed. So, if you want to watch it, please tilt your head 90 degrees clockwise or your computer 90 degrees counterclockwise.
video

There were also many failed attempts to get Natalia to smile while the photographer was there:

But finally after the paid photographer left, we got a good shot of her being cute:


The Nicaraguan birthday song ends with a verse of people singing, "ya queremos pastel," or "we want cake already!" over and over, so of course there was cake:
And dancing: And balloon fights:
Here Natalia is looking a little afraid again, but I don't think it was our fault. Here we are with Romel, Natalia, his wife Azalia, and their nephew in the bottom left. Also in the family but not pictured here is Jeycob (see balloon fights):
Romel and Azalia definitely know how to throw a birthday party... I can't wait for Natalia to turn two.

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