PeasCorps Update 2.0

>> Sunday, October 26, 2008

In case you normally read PeasCorps via RSS or the subscription e-mail and don't normally visit the blog itself, you might come check out our new website design.

Paul took the masthead picture at the Malecón, a block and a half from our home, and it shows the Laguna de Masaya and Volcán Masaya.Please leave a comment (no registration required) to let us know what you think, or just to let us know that you're reading. Thanks!


Our Flickr Photos

>> Saturday, October 25, 2008

Recently there has been an epidemic of volunteers' computers crashing or being stolen; I think one of the things that they have been most upset about is that they lost all of their pictures. That would a disaster for us, so I decided it was time to get everything backed up and uploaded just in case something bad happened. After a lot of hours spent weeding out, organizing, tagging, naming, and titling all of our pictures using iPhoto, we finally have all the pictures (and movies) of our time in Nicaragua uploaded to Flickr. Not only are they all there for safekeeping, but Flickr lets you do a lot of awesome things to organize the pictures:

  • Tags: I've "tagged" all the pictures by topic, so you can go here to see pictures of volunteers, food, fiestas, Dora, family, or pictures from training, to name a few.
  • Map: All of our pictures are placed on to the map so you can see exactly where they were taken. You can zoom in, browse around, and in some cases (like in Managua or in the US) even see the building where the picture was taken.
  • Sets and Collections: These are like photo albums and groups of albums, so you can explore by event.
  • Archive: Here you can search by date and even seen the pictures displayed on a calendar.
Some of these pictures made it on to the blog, but the vast majority didn't, so please check it out, leave comments, and point out typos. We'll try to keep regularly updating more pictures as we take them, so bookmark the page.


Where's that Mosquito Net?

>> Thursday, October 16, 2008

In our time in Nicaragua, we have met all sorts of creatures of various sizes . But now to our list of lizards, spiders, chickens, tarantulas, beetles, ants, cockroaches, and mice, we have a new addition: a big scorpion. Sunday night we were all getting ready to go to sleep when Dora seemed particularly interested in something back by the bedroom door. Paul saw it first and, fortunately, pulled Dora away and stuck her on the bed for safety. We didn't really know the best way to kill and dispose of a scorpion, but we feel no shame in saying we took the coward's way out: we used a heck of a lot of Raid on that thing. Though Raid is designed for cockroaches and flies, we were pleased to find out that it works just as well on scorpions. We also learned that scorpions' tails uncurl when they die.

This was another creature that we wanted to kill first and photograph later, so this is it once it was already dead (its tail isn't curled anymore). We also tossed a córdoba down to help judge the size... we realize it's less than ideal because most people don't know how big a cord is, but it's about the size of a quarter.

We had hoped that by moving into a different house, all the animals whose family members have perished by our hand would be unable to track us down to get revenge; unfortunately, we seem to make small yet venomous enemies everywhere we go.


The Streets are Full II

We have been dreading October since November 1st of last year... last year it rained heavily just about every day the entire month. We missed school and wrote letters in protest, and we've been anxious about October since then, particularly since we now have a dog that doesn't take rain days from needing to go outside to use the bathroom.

Now that the month is more than half over, I feel comfortable saying that this October hasn't been as bad. Last year was a particularly bad year because Hurricane Felix seems to have hovered near Nicaragua for the whole month; this year it still rains just about every day, but it's been mostly limited to a few hours in the afternoon or raining during the night. Even though it hasn't been as bad, though, doesn't mean we're not going to complain...

Now since we've moved to a different part of town, even a relatively small amount of rain can cause quite a bit of disaster. On this side of town, Masaya slopes downward with all the water running to the Laguna de Masaya... we live two blocks from the lagoon, so quite a bit of water has accumulated by the time it gets to us: This picture is from last Sunday. I went to a counterpart's house to plan for this week's classes and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Just as we were finishing our plans, the sky turned a dark, menacing gray and I decided that it was time for me to leave. I hopped on Paul's bike to come home just as it started to sprinkle, pedaled as fast as my little legs would go, and arrived home about 5 minutes later; by that time, it was already a downpour the likes of which I've only seen a couple of times in Missouri. I unlocked the gate, brought the bike in, and grabbed the camera to take a picture: this was what our street looked like probably 10 minutes after the first raindrop fell. You can see the tiny stripe of street that remains unsubmerged, but otherwise the water comes up to the sidewalks.

A few blocks "up" from our house, there's a big interestion (with a stoplight!) that is hands down the worst area for flooding that I've ever seen. Two weeks ago I was walking from school to a pharmacy near our house to get my antibiotics for my bacterial infection (I'm all better now!). It started sprinkling as I was walking, and I very foolishly decided to stop in to my favorite store "Everything for a Dollar, More or Less" to see if they had any new dog toys for Dora. When I walked out of the store a few minutes later, the one intersection that stood between me and the pharmacy was completely flooded with water up onto the sidewalks and entering the buildings that lacked a high step up. I considered rolling up my pant legs and fording the river, but a man told me it was too dangerous and that the water would drain soon. The "Todo por un Dollar, Mas o Menos" people shepherded me back inside the store to wait out the rain, and I ended up spending an hour and 15 minutes sitting cross-legged on the floor waiting for the rain to slow enough that cars and buses were willing to drive across the intersection.

I finally got home at 4:45 and my community class begins at 5:00 across town near where we used to live. Last year Paul and I rolled our eyes at classes being cancelled due to the rain, but I have a confession to make: I cancelled class, changed into dry clothes, and had some hot chocolate while I spent the evening watching t.v.

We haven't had any official unofficial rain days at our schools yet, but if that day comes, I'll gladly sacrifice my moral high ground in order to stay high and dry myself.


The Streets Are Full I

>> Monday, October 13, 2008

Last year, San Jerónimo's parade came as a surprise to me. This year, we were ready. Masaya's fiestas patronales began a couple of weeks ago with the hipica horse parade and the running of the bulls (we stayed safely inside the house for that one). Then last Tuesday there was no class because it was again time for San Jerónimo and sidekick San Miguel to go parading up and down every street in Masaya. Tuesday came and went with no parade, so Wednesday I went off to school because my counterpart had said that there would be class. I arrived at school to find about 4 teachers and 15 students, so had to turn right back around to go home. When I made it home, the streets were completely full with people and one of my students (who knew better than to go to school) told me that San Jerónimo was just about to pass. I went inside, grabbed the camera, and took a few pictures.

Here's the loud band passing by.
Here are the obligatory beer carts and mobile barbeque stations.

And here is a (loud!) video of San Jerónimo passing by with the huge crowd running behind. Paul thought the video had been sped up, but they really were running this fast.

Just as quickly as they ran by, everyone disappeared and the street was quiet again. Filled to the brim with trash, but quiet.


Do Laundry like a Nica in 10 (Not Very) Easy Steps

>> Sunday, October 12, 2008

For the most part, I think Paul and I don't really complain about missing the comforts of home that we lack here... the most notable exception to this is the washer and dryer. I have no idea what I was complaining about even when in college I had to carry my laundry all the way to the laundry room and then I had to be in the laundry room as soon as the washer or dryer finished to avoid some other laundry zealot taking it out and stealing my machine. I would now be happy to have to fight for my right to put an extra quarter in the dryer.

Here, laundry requires far more time and dedication, and your clothes end up far less clean and far more stretched out than they would in a machine. Just in case you don't believe me, here is how to do laundry Nica-style in just ten steps.

1. Gather all the supplies you will need: a big bucket for water, a medium bucket for soaking your clothes, and a small pan for rinsing; powdered soap, bar soap, an Aunt Jemima's syrup container full of fabric softener; a brush; a washboard; dirty clothes.
2. Fill up your clothes soaking bucket with water and your powdered soap. Let the clothes soak to loosen up all the dirt and grime. I don't recommend the "sun" scented Xedex; apparently the sun smells sort of moldy.
3. Lay your newly soaked clothes out one by one. First use the bar soap (Transparent Maravilla is the best) to get the clothes all soapy.
4. If the clothes are sturdy and not going to stretch out, use the brush on the tough-to-clean areas or on any particularly dirty spots. If the clothes are delicate or going to stretch out a bunch (I'm thinking of you, Old Navy tank tops), skip this step.
5. Run the clothes along the washboard inside and right side out. Watch your knuckles!
6. When you've completed steps 3-5 for each article of clothing, rinse each one until the water runs clear--no soap bubbles allowed! The easiest clothes to wash and rinse are, by far, underwear. The most difficult are jeans and other pants.
This shirt isn't done yet because the water's still soapy.
7. Rinse out your medium clothes soaking bucket and fill it with clean water and fabric softener. We suggest a maple syrup bottle as your fabric softener dispenser for its precision. Let the clothes soak in the fabric softener (from 15 minutes to however long you need to regain your strength from all the washing, rinsing, and wringing).
8. Wring out the clothes again as much as you can.
9. Hang your clothes up on the line. Make sure to turn them inside out first; clothes here fade mere seconds after being exposed to the sun. If your laundry line is inside, congratulations! If it's outside, keep a close eye on the weather (you don't want an extra rain rinse cycle) and bring your clothes inside anytime you're leaving the house--you don't want anyone to steal them after all that hard work. This is one of the Old Navy tank tops that started as a medium and is now probably an XXL.
10. Let the clothes dry and pray that it doesn't rain--you need the sun and don't want the humidity! In 24 to 72 hours (weather permitting) you should have dry and more-or-less clean clothes.


Mini Guidebook: Masaya

>> Saturday, October 11, 2008

There was once a plan to create a guidebook for new volunteers by volunteers but like most great ideas here it never really materialized. I spent some time writing this, though, so I thought I'd share it with the Internet.

Masaya, Nicaragua
  • To here: Buses leave constantly from Managua coming here from la UCA, Huembes, and Oriental (UCA is best). You can also get on any other bus that’s going south (Granada, Rivas, etc.) and get off at La Esso. Micros from Managua cost C$13.50 and expresos cost C$10.
  • Around here: Taxis in the city cost C$10.
  • From Here: Big buses leave from the mercado nuevo and travel regionally—Granada, Masaya, Huembes, and Carazo. The best way to get to UCA is to take a bus that leaves from Iglesia San Miguel.

  • Groceries: There’s a Palí facing the central park that usually has most things. You can also look around the mercado nuevo for vegetables and stuff. If you want things that are generally hard to find (Dr. Pepper, Tabasco, Rice Krispies) there’s a store in Nindirí (about a 10 minute bus ride) called Porta’s that has all kinds of stuff imported from the US and Europe.
  • Restaurants: Restaurants are pretty easy to find. The best Nica food option is Asados Emelina that is 2 blocks south of Iglesia San Miguel and ½ block west (about C$100/person). We have a Mexican-ish restaurant called La Jarochita that has decent vegetarian burritos (most dishes are about C$100). From the northeast corner of the central park walk a block and a half north. For less expensive fare, try some of the fritangas/comedors that line Calle Monimbo—in the middle of central park take the road that leads south.
  • Other: My favorite place for bread and such is Repostería Castro. If you’re at the mercado viejo walk one block north past the BAC and turn right. It’s about ½ block on your left. For desert try one of the many Eskimos around or the Homemade ice cream place that’s 1 block east and ½ block south of the park.

Where to Stay
The majority of people traveling through Masaya don’t stay the night here so there’s not a great lineup of hostels to choose from. Most people just stay in Granada, so if you want a place filled with mochileros then go with that. Otherwise, there are some decent options in Masaya that are usually much less crowded.
  • Really Cheap: Hotel Masayita (2 blocks west of Palí) is C$80/person but not exactly the greatest place in town (don’t stay there).
  • Mid-Range: You have to walk through Fruti Fruti smoothie shop to get to Hotel Mi Casa (1/2 block north of La Curacao), but it has a variety of comfortable rooms that range from C$100 for a shared room/bathroom/no A/C to C$400 for a single room/bathroom and A/C. The bar next door can get loud at night, though. Hostal Santa Maria (1/2 block south of the mercado viejo) is nice and quiet and about C$200/person.
  • Carísimo: Hotel Ivania’s is about $35/night and has A/C and cable. It’s nice and is more centrally located than the other hotels in this range. The other nice hotels are on the highway and preclude walking anywhere for anything, so only stay there if you don't mind taxis or if you have a car.

What to Do
  • Coyotepe is an old fort right outside of Masaya that was used by both Somoza and the Sandinistas to hold political prisoners. Besides that depressing use it’s a really nice lookout over the city of Masaya and the surrounding countryside.
  • In front of the baseball stadium in Masaya there's the Malecón that overlooks Laguna de Masaya and the volcano.
  • I’m sure you’ll make it to the markets if you pass through Masaya. The mercado viejo is the place if you’re buying something that’s one-of-a-kind or you want select higher quality things. It is generally about 2-3x the price of the mercado nuevo and for the most part they carry the exact same items. If you start at the central park and walk west you'll first see the old market and then eventually the new market. They're about 5 blocks apart.
  • The Laguna de Apoyo is a great place to spend a day/night swimming and relaxing. There are several hostels that will let you use their stuff for about $5/day or if you want a more upscale place San Simian is farther to travel but the beach is nicer and it’s not at all crowded. You can get there in a bus that leaves a couple of times a day from the market that goes only about 1/2 way down or if you have a group you can get a taxi to take you all the way down there for about C$100 (depending on your bargaining skills).
  • The mirador overlooking the Laguna is also a great place to go. It’s in Catarina about 15 minutes away.
The view of Masaya from Coyotepe:The Castle-like old market is a nice place to browse but you can find almost everything you need in the new market.
The new market is actually the dirtier market but the handicrafts section is pretty well stocked, though.
The Laguna de Apoyo with Volcán Mombacho in the background.
The mirador overlooking the Laguna.


A Dora Bowl

>> Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dora and I took a long walk the other day and she seemed thirsty so I went into a store near the market and got this bowl. She didn't really want to drink out of it, though. She mostly wanted to wear it as a hat so I indulged her. 



>> Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Every once in a while Dora goes crazy like this. She had even been for a really long walk and a ball-throwing marathon at the park. Even though we're terrified/annoyed/amused when it happens, there's nothing we can do but wait it out until the inevitable conclusion when she just collapses in the middle of the floor.

Sorry that the videos are poor quality; it's really tough to properly light wild animals in their element.


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