The COS Bell

>> Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Every time that someone finishes his or her Peace Corps service in Nicaragua (called "COS" or close of service), he or she rings this bell that's in the middle of the office. It's a tradition that started right around the time that we got here, and today is finally our turn to ring the bell and become RPCVs, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. 


Romel and Azalia

>> Sunday, June 14, 2009

Whenever TEFL volunteers get together, an inevitable topic of conversation is difficult counterparts. It always made me feel a little smug that I never had anything to contribute to those chats since my counterpart, Romel, has been a really great teacher and friend over the last two years. Even though my official job here is to help him improve his English, I think he has taught me more.

I can't really say enough nice things about Romel: he works really hard to support his family, working 10-hour days teaching at two different schools. He's a really affectionate and kind father to Jeycob and Natalia, and he and his wife, Azalia were always there to remind me that the odioso Nicaraguans that want our dog dead or to kick us out of our house are the exception rather than the rule.

Romel and Azalia are two people that I know we'll stay in touch with and they're a big part of the reason that we will continue to come back to Nicaragua to visit.

Romel and me planning a lesson:

Azalia and Jeycob:
The family at Natalia's first birthday party:
Romel with a gigantic mutant mango:
The family motorcycle (I worry every time I see them get on it):
Romel and me on my last day of school:



>> Saturday, June 13, 2009

Carmen has been my counterpart at school since the very beginning. Here in the English program, we are required to work with Nicaraguan counterpart teachers so we're not taking a job away from a Nicaraguan, and so our work will be more sustainable as our counterparts improve their English and their teaching methodologies. So we plan for all of the classes together on the weekends, then teach together during the week.

The first time I met Carmen was at our Counterpart Day during training, and I honestly found her really intimidating and I thought she hated me. I was even more worried because we had to live with Carmen and her family for the first six weeks that we were in Masaya. Fortunately, my first impression was wrong and Carmen turned out to be not only my colleague but also one of my best friends here.
Carmen is unlike any other Nicaraguan I've come to know; she is a really tough lady and has a strong sense of fairness and right and wrong. Carmen is very different from the Nicaraguan women I met in training: she's independent and raised her daughter by herself and cares for her granddaughter while also working as a teacher. She's one of the only people that doesn't continually ask when Paul and I are planning to have kids, and she stands up for me when others ask by saying that we're still young and it's better for us to complete our educations and have jobs and establish ourselves before rushing to bring kids into the mix. Though that's not revolutionary idea to have in the States, it is quite atypical here, and is one of many examples of Carmen's modern thinking and willingness to disagree with the majority.

I've come to trust Carmen a lot and can talk honestly with her about any subject. Carmen and I have a lot of free time between classes, and we use the time to talk about just about anything. She's probably the only Nicaraguan I feel comfortable talking to about the things about this country and culture that I dislike--the sexism, the way politics influences all decisions, and the way people are mean to dogs, for instance. In Nicaragua it's pretty risky for Americans like us to discuss topics like politics because people feel very strongly about those issues and are often biased by their loyalties, but Carmen is always honest and open about her opinions and she is never afraid to call it like she sees it, always while thinking critically about each topic. Carmen and I are also very similar in that we enjoy complaining and finding the irony in things, so we really were a perfect match.

During the last two years I've also gotten to know Carmen's daughter, Lizayara, and her granddaughter, Natalie. Lizayara has been studying English in Managua on Saturdays and I'm amazed at how well she speaks after a short amount of time. She's one of the most studious people I've met here, and though she doesn't yet know what she'd like to do as a career (engineering and medical school are a couple of her top contenders), I know she'll find success and grow up to be as smart and independent as her mom. Recently Lizayara invited us to her 16th birthday party this spring:
I'm amazed at how much Natalie, Carmen's granddaughter (also in the picture above), has changed over the last two years. When we first moved in with Carmen, she was living with her son and helping care for Natalie because Natalie's mom was killed in a motorcycle accident the year before. Natalie was very shy and quiet and I'm pretty sure she found me really annoying. Now when I go to Carmen's on the weekend and Natalie is visiting, she's a lively little girl who is always scheming to get cookies and is willing to talk with me and let me help her study for her upcoming tests, and is even eager to show off the English she's learning in school.

On my last day at school the teachers threw me a despedida, a going away party. I had to say a few words, and as I was talking about how much I appreciated Carmen, I started to tear up, the first time since we've started saying our goodbyes. Tomorrow Carmen, Lizayara, and Natalie are coming over to have lunch with us, and we're also going to make sure that they have e-mail accounts and give them a crash course in how to use Skype so we can stay in touch. Carmen really has meant a lot to me during these two years, and it's going to be tough to say goodbye.


Peace Corps Office

>> Friday, June 12, 2009

The Peace Corps office in Managua has a lot of functions: it's (obviously) an office where people go to work, a meeting point for volunteers from all around the country, a doctor's office, a library, and an air-conditioned refuge for volunteers. It is especially easy for Holly and me to get to the office because it's right off of the highway that we have to take to get to Managua, so if we have a lot of work to do, it's worth the $1.50 roundtrip to go to the office and do the work in air conditioning and with free internet since there's basically no place in Masaya with air conditioning.

Here is the outside of the office. Up the stairs is the entrance into the security guards' office; they are always really friendly as we sign in, and always on guard for stray cars parked in front of the office or terrorists that may be passing through (the FBI's most wanted list and various terrorist pictures are prominently posted in their guard station, just in case) :
The fleet of Peace Corps Landcruisers that are ubiquitous in international development circles:
The front door:
Mimi really deserves her own entry; she is the receptionist at the office, but you can tell by the cards hanging around her office that she means way more than that to the volunteers. She has lots of responsibilities and is always busy, but she is on top of all of her duties and is never too busy to say hi when you walk in and to ask how everything is going. She also seems to recognize all volunteers' voices when she answers the phone, even if you're really sick and mumbling that you need to talk to a doctor. We really appreciate Mimi and will miss her very much when we leave. Gracias por todo, Mimi!
Karen started working as the project specialist for the TEFL sector just a couple of months before we arrived in 2007. Before that she was a Spanish teacher in the Peace Corps. During our two years, we have had three separate APCDs (the sector boss), but just one Karen. She has been wonderful and we can't thank her enough either--especially for those months when there wasn't an APCD to help shoulder the work load.

Here is Karen with her really adorable son, Ryan.
Here's the entrance to the Peace Corps medical office, a place we visited far too many times. Marva was responsible for making all our appointments, filling our prescriptions, and keeping everyone on schedule (a nearly impossible task), and Maria Elena, Mariano, Marta, and Ximena were the four doctors charged with keeping us healthy and sane.
The books in the PC library are all donated, and since no one is really responsible for upkeep, they usually look about like this. That said, there are always good books to read in there, and it's definitely part of the reason why we both read more than usual during our two years.
The bulletin board is also a little on the Laissez Faire side, but it lets volunteers find out about important new events, like who was elected president. There are also glimpses of the volunteer computers; there are supposed to be two in the lounge and two in another room, but at least one is almost always broken or missing.



>> Thursday, June 11, 2009

Today is my last day of classes at my school, INJOCRUM (Instituto Nacional José de la Cruz Mena).  I’m actually pretty sad to be leaving the kids… though at the beginning of my service I sort of dreaded going to school, by the end I finally found my groove as a teacher and going to school became the only thing that I really enjoyed about being here.

Here’s where I walked daily to get from the market where I got off the bus to my school.  This is also where Marvin and company always harassed me:
This is the outside area of my school; this is before first hour when kids are just hanging out, playing soccer, and buying snacks:
Here’s the marching band at a competition my first year at INJOCRUM.  I never liked all the class we missed for the band to practice, but I did like their cheese grater instruments. 
I spent many, many hours in the teachers lounge since my teaching schedules always had a lot of free hours in them.  The barred doors in the first picture go to the principal’s office, the secretary’s office, and the vice principal’s office.  The painting in the second picture is of José de la Cruz Mena, the musician for whom the school is named.
These are some of the students I had my very first school year here, in first year (7th grade) in the morning with Francis.  The one in the middle is Eddyson, and he was one of my favorites:
This is my IV E (fourth year, section “E”) class from last year.  This class first made me enjoy coming to school, and I was legitimately sad when I no longer got to teach them.  They were all good kids that participated in class, did their homework, and laughed and my corny attempts to make jokes.
Here’s III G (third year, section “G”) from this year.  In the first picture they’re learning directions.  I had many of these same students last year in second year as well.

This is Rafael, one of my favorite kids that I had both last year and this year.  He loves to ask me how to say new phrases and then practices them on me later (like, “Teacher, welcome to our class!” “I am finished!” and “See you tomorrow, teacher!”).  Here he is showing off the chicken skeleton he made for science class.  They asphyxiated the chicken so as not to break any of its bones, and then he carefully disassembled it and glued it back together.  I think it’s really gross, but also pretty interesting.
Here’s Rafael’s class, III I, learning prepositions of place.
Finally, I’ll also miss the teachers.  This picture is from a staff meeting where we also had a dance competition to practice our solidarity.  This is Lila, who is an amazing seamstress and sews most of her own clothes (and also brings clothes and purses to school to sell to other teachers).  At the far left is Iris who took a long time to warm up to me, but eventually she learned my name (“Holly Regan, but not like Ronald Reagan, that’s it, right?”) and we became friends.
When the last bell rings at 5:45, the kids come pouring out of the gate to the school.  I rarely get out of school quickly enough to see the whole mess of students leaving to go home; these are a few stragglers that took more than 30 seconds to get out of school.
I never thought I’d say it, but I’ll actually miss being a teacher here.



>> Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One of the many chores that I get roped into just because I'm a man (see also taking the dogs out late at night, talking to strange people at the door, and cooking) is the weekly water bottle run. In our old house there was a pharmacy with water just down the street, but once we moved the closest place with water was the supermarket in the park, so I had to balance it on my bike. I'm pretty sure that by now with all of the frescos and helados we've had we are more or less immune to whatever is floating in the water, but it's nice knowing for sure that the water is clean.
Now we're living close again to Farmacia Carolina, but only for a short time to take advantage of the close access to clean water. I'm not sure we'll be able to find a place to live in the US that has 5-gallon jugs of water easily accessible by bike and/or foot. I guess that's just another sacrifice that I'm willing to make.

P.S. 1 week from today we'll be back in the States (and with any luck, we'll have Dorita in tow).



>> Tuesday, June 09, 2009

We’ve said before that you don’t really choose to become friends with other PCVs—it just happens. Nicole is one of the people in our group that we probably would have been friends with anyway. We’re usually the ones that stay at home rather than go out and party, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, but we’re all a little boring.

Nicole and I lived on the same block during training and since her Spanish was already pretty perfect when we got here, I would go to her for homework help, and during the week we would make frequent trips to Eskimo.
Even though now we live 5 hours apart, we still see her pretty often because she can stay here when she needs to pass through Managua or just needs a rest from San Dionisio. We went to visit her once, and that was enough for us. She and Dora are best buddies, too, and Dora treats her just like family by eating her underwear.

I think one time Nicole came to visit us and asked, "So... where are all of your friends?" I know she didn't mean anything by it, because that's just the way Nicole is. She makes friends with everyone everywhere she goes. We tried to explain that it's different being married in a big city, but ultimately she was a pretty good example of how to be a good volunteer. Everyone in San Dionisio will remember Neeecole for years and years, and if the goal is to give people in the host country a positive impression of Americans, the Peace Corps couldn't have chosen a better volunteer than Nicole.

Nicole is moving back home to Florida, and since everyone here assumes that everything not Nueva York or Virginia is just a part of Miami, we liked knowing someone that came pretty darn close to coming from the real thing. The whole family will miss her visits, and our tijera just won't know what to do without her. Even though Palo Alto and Lake Worth are pretty far apart, Palo Alto and Miami are just a short drive away (or so my neighbors just told me).


9. Ten Things I Love about You (Nicaragua)

>> Monday, June 08, 2009

Though I listed yesterday the things I won't miss about Nicaragua, that doesn't mean it was all bad; there are plenty of things I already begin to feel nostalgic about, and we still have a few days left here!  In fact, the things that I disliked yesterday are exactly the same things I like and will miss about the place:

10.  Daily Life – For the last two years we haven’t had to worry about jobs, health care, or (until recently) housing. In the economic security sense, it will probably have been one of the least stressful periods of our adult lives. Our main teaching duties only require about 20 hours of actual work a week, and if we wanted to, we could just do that and spend the rest reading books or playing bocce ball.

9.  The Weather:  While six months of the year are a little too rainy or hot, the other six are pretty nice.  In December through February you can be guaranteed sunny, warm (but not too hot) days with a nice breeze.  It goes without saying that we never have to worry about snow or ice or being too cold, and it’s been nice not to have to worry about heat or air conditioning in our houses during this time.  We’ve become very finely tuned thermometers; I feel comfortable between about 82 and 88 degrees; any cooler and I feel cold, and any warmer and I feel hot. 

8. Food – We’ve eaten our share of gallo pinto, tejadas, and arroz de leche; we can’t honestly say we don’t enjoy the food here.  It’s also so much more convenient here—there are helados and ice cream and snacks for sale in nearly every house, and people go door to door selling other goods or come into buses to sell cheap, yummy food while we’re traveling.

7.  Inexpensive Wares – I think it goes without saying that on a Peace Corps volunteer’s budget, cheaper is better.  Beautiful hand-woven hammocks cost $10 and original paintings can be had for $5.  Additionally, people go door to door selling most things you could ever need, from food to universal remote controls to pillows.

6.  Transportation – Public transportation is inexpensive and prolific. We’ve been without a car for two years, but we only really regret it occasionally. Taking the bus is inexpensive and convenient to and from Masaya almost all waking hours (and several hours before waking).  Additionally, we can take a cab anywhere within our town for 50 cents or a ruta for 15 cents—I am quite sure we’ll never see such cheap transportation again, especially not in Palo Alto.

5. The Critters – Obviously Dora has earned a special place in our heart, along with other neighborhood dogs, little lizards, and Dora’s friends like Brown Dog, Luna, and Colacho.

4.  Culture – It is still kind of a shock to meet grown men living with their mothers without shame, but it is nice that strong family ties are important in Nicaraguan culture.  There’s also a distinct culture here in terms of holidays and celebrations, food, music, and beliefs—it’s very different from the States but sort of comforting at the same time.

3.  Being Different – It’s always easy for our friends to find out where we live once they get close enough because they can just ask the neighbors where the gringos live. Being different also gives us a chance to share our culture and ensures that no taxi ride passes in silence.

2.  Spanish – It’s great to know another language and we’ve learned a lot. Over the last week with the landlady drama our Spanish seems to have improved greatly. Also, English lacks some really useful phrase and words; some things like como no and fachento are just better in Spanish, and (with each other at least) I think we’ll continue to use them long after we leave here.

1.  People – We have made great friends in Nicaragua that we’ll be sad to leave, especially our counterparts, neighbors, volunteers, and Peace Corps staff.  We’ll be talking more about some of our closest friends and Nica family in our last few days here.


10. Ten Things I Hate about You (Nicaragua)

>> Sunday, June 07, 2009

One of the things I think I fear most about returning home after Peace Corps is having to answer the inevitable question, "So did you like it?"

Peace Corps' motto is that it's "the toughest job you'll ever love." It was without a doubt tough, and we're still not sure what the experience meant to us, let alone sure how to condense it down to a sentence or two to explain it to friends and acquaintances. Part of the difficulty is that it's been quite a roller coaster, often with lots of emotions even within one day. We've celebrated little victories and felt helpless during little crises.

Now that we overcame our housing crisis, I feel much more at peace with my Peace Corps service; though it was really stressful at the time, I'm really happy it helped us get closer to Romel and Azalia, and I'm happy we are back in our old neighborhood with people we know well.

That doesn't mean I have a wistful, romantic view of everything that happened here, though; many of the things that I love most days are things that I hated on others. As our time here fades, I think we'll begin to forget many of the things that were so difficult about being here, or that made us want to pack our bags and head home. In case we're feeling sad about leaving, here are some of the things that we won't miss:

10. Daily Life: Even the simplest tasks are just much more complicated here. Seemingly pleasant things like going to a restaurant or ordering a pizza can be complicated, un-fun tasks, and these little things seem to happen nearly every day. Even venturing out of the house can be difficult as we have to avoid the crazy drivers of Ministry of Health trucks, people zooming down the streets in their motorcycles, and other everyday hazards.

9. The Weather: It's unfortunately that Nicaragua only has two seasons since one of them is decidedly annoying. It rains a lot during October. During March right as the rainy season is beginning, it is really hot and downright miserable.

8. Food: No matter how good food may look, there could be trouble lurking. We've imported more boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese than I'd care to count, and even the most basic supplies can suddenly disappear. Outside the home, our options are limited to pizza or gallo pinto, both of which can get a little old.

7. Inexpensive Wares: Stuff here is cheap, mostly in the "poor quality" sense of the word. Most of our Nicaraguan possessions seems to have a two year lifespan and are now giving out: handles are falling off pans and pots now have holes, clothes we bought here (even from the nice mall in Managua) are falling apart, and most recently our prized plastic furniture started giving out:

 6. Transportation: I will never miss being stuck in a tiny microbus intended for a dozen people that has 25 people in it with no ventilation because all the windows are closed because it's sprinkling. During the strike there was no transportation and we were stuck, and we also really hate being overcharged in taxis or buses.

5. The Critters: We've had a lot of critter encounters during our time here. Lately our most vicious enemies have been scorpions, culminating with me getting stung by a scorpion in my arm pit at 2 in the morning a few weeks back. Eww.

4. Culture: It's hard to live in a culture that's not your own, and as much as we try to integrate and accept it, about some things we just have to agree to disagree. The machista culture that's so accepted here just isn't cool, I don't like that people make things up instead of just saying, "I don't know," and politics here caused a lot of uncomfortable situations. Another thing we never came to accept is the different views on personal space and privacy--it's perfectly acceptable for people to blast their music any time, even if it's the Alvin and the Chipmunks birthday song over and over at 5 in the morning.

3. Being different: Missouri isn't known for its striking diversity, and I looked just like everyone else there, so coming to Nicaragua was a double whammy: we came to a place even more homogenous than our own home, and we were totally different from all those other homogenous people in appearance, culture, and speech. People make lots of assumptions about us (like that we're rich, stupid gringos that can't speak Spanish) and it's impossible to blend in and do anything anonymously.

2. Spanish: Related to number 10, any little thing becomes more difficult when it has to be done in a different language. I am not a fan of the usted/vos distinctions or preterit and imperfect split, and a lot of people pretend not to understand what we say even though we're pronouncing the words just fine.

1. People: Some people I just won't miss. We won't really miss the people who tried to take advantage of our volunteerism, people who throw rocks at dogs, the cobradors and other vendors who charge us more because they think we're rich and/or don't know any better, or people who steal stuff from us, and I don't think we'll be sending "We Miss You" cards to our landlady anytime soon.

The bad things are often easier to list and recall because they happen every day and stick out in our minds, and I don't think it would have been fair for anyone to expect that we would love everything about this place and our time here.  Overall, though, I think the good probably outweighs to bad. I don't want to end on a negative thought, but I promise that tomorrow I will have a list of the 10 things we will be sad to leave behind.

With only ten days left, I think we'll make it!


Funny Money

>> Saturday, June 06, 2009

The other day as Paul and I were in a taxi, we saw the driver give a woman some weird-looking Monopoly money. It turns out that Nicaragua got new money overnight:Since then we've decided this money is really cool so we've been trying to collect it. Today, for instance, we just got this C$200 bill ($10 USD):It turns out that might not have been such a good idea, and we plan to spend it first thing in the morning to get it off our hands. Time Magazine talks all about it here:

Most of the criticism, however, seems to indicate an underlying lack of confidence and trust in the government. There are many who remember the first Sandinista government's inventive monetary policies and the resulting mega-inflation of the 1980s. As a result, some people are now treating the new plastic dinero as if it were a hot potato. "Many people don't want these bills because they think they are valueless and they're going to get stuck with them, so they're spending them as fast as they can," says clothing vendor Fabiola Espinoza. It has unintentionally created a bizarre stimulus effect on Nicaragua's beleaguered economy. "As soon as I get one of the plastic bills, I try to pass it on right away to someone else," says shopkeeper Gloria Romero.
Apparently the money is also illegal and worthless (read the Time article for more details), so let's hope we can pawn our bills off tomorrow morning. Yikes!



To have been posted Thursday June 4, 2009.
A daily occurrence for women volunteers here is that we will be catcalled by random men on the street.  These calls of “¡Gringa! ¡Chelita! ¡Hermosa! ¡Mi amor!” really bother some women, but I usually never let it get under my skin.  On my daily walk to school from the market where I get off the bus, though, there are a couple of men in particular that have yelled to me every single day I’ve walked by them on my way to school even though I shake my head fiercely and refuse to acknowledge their existence. 

After my trips to the States this past spring, my first day back to school the cat calls started anew: “¡Mi gringita!  Where have you been?  We thought you were lost! We’re so glad you’re back!”  It was at this moment my heart softened a little bit for these guys… at least they had noticed my absence and seemed to miss me a little bit.  More recently, I’ve been going to school in taxi because I don’t leave the house in time to catch the ruta, so when I passed by them on Tuesday they said, “¡Mi gringita! I know you’ve been passing by in cab so you can avoid me!  I’m glad you’re back!” and at that moment I decided that perhaps I should try to reach a truce.

Yesterday I went shopping for souvenirs during my free periods at school, so I had to walk past them to get from school to the market.  Normally when I approach the men I look straight ahead and keep walking, but yesterday I walked up to them and said hello… this alone was enough to preempt the catcalls for that visit.  I explained to them that I have been ignoring them for all of this time because to Americans, those catcalls are very rude and offensive.  I told them I now realize, though, that they don’t say those things to offend me, but rather because they think it’s nice.  They agreed and said they meant no offense, so we introduced ourselves and agreed that I will stop ignoring them and will say hello to them when I pass, and they will stop catcalling me and say hello instead. 

In the end they told me I needed a picture of them to remember them by, and it just so happened that I had my camera with me yesterday.  Here’s their picture:

The big, jolly guy is Marvin and he’s the one who led the catcalls, the one sitting on the curb is Alberto, and I don’t remember the names of the other two.  Marvin told me that I need to tell everyone who sees the picture, “These are the men who fell in love with me and bothered me every single day.”  There you go, Marvin.



>> Friday, June 05, 2009

To have been posted June 5, 2009
In May, 2007, the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) group came to Nicaragua as its 44th training group. Each training group is referred to by its number, so we're TEFL 44. We started off with 20 and lost a few here and there and are now down to 13.
June 7, 2007 at Volcán Masaya during training. This was before anyone "ETed" (early terminated) but three people are missing from the picture.
Here we are at swearing in on July 20, 2007. At this point two had left, so we were 18.
This is from the despedida (farewell party) for our first boss, Deepa. We had three bosses while we were here--Deepa, Lizzet, and Joayne, and for about 6 months had no boss (though Karen did a great job doing her job and the boss's job during that time):
Finally, here we are near the end at our Close of Service conference in April, 2009.
It's hard not to compare other PCVs to family: you don't get to choose who else is in the group, you have lots of forced quality time, and they're the people that you'll probably spend most holidays with, so you end up liking each other despite pretty big personality clashes. We also know that these people are the only others that will really understand what our time was like here, understand the drama and chisme that comes along with being a Peace Corps Volunteer, and for with it is totally normal to use words like chisme, pinche, como no, and fachento in an otherwise all-English conversation.
Today was our final Close of Service presentation to the Peace Corps staff, and the last time we'll all be together. We had a nice dinner and began saying goodbyes. Fortunately it's not too difficult to stay in touch now with email, text messages, Skype, Facebook, and $29 flights, but we'll be sad to anyway and we're looking forward to seeing everyone again soon.



To have been posted June 3, 2009.

Now that we’re about to leave, we’ve been thinking a lot about what sorts of souvenirs we’d like to bring back with us to remember Nicaragua by. Masaya is the undisputed capital of arts and crafts in Nicaragua, so we have a lot of things to choose from, all right under our noses.

Masaya’s Old Market is its tourist market and it housed in an... old market that looks like a castle.

It’s really nice and clean and well lit, but it’s also a lot more expensive because it caters to tourists. We generally took our visitors here to get a feel for things and to pick out what they want, and then we took them to the other market. They do have a large selection of the wide variety of goods available here.
The New Market is Masaya’s main market where Masayans do their shopping for nearly all goods, but it also has a separate artisan section for the brave tourists. Here’s the parking lot of the market and some outside shops. The entrances to the actual market are past the big tree on the right:
This market is closed in and is therefore dark, dirty, and provides a fairly overwhelming experience. We don’t have many pictures of the inside because it’s too dark and there’s just too much stuff crammed inside to be able to take a picture that does it justice. Here are two attempts:
Finally, the city of Masaya isn’t the only place to find good souvenirs. The entire department is full of artisans, and each little town is known for its own type of work. Masatepe is known for its woodwork (and sometime in the future Paul and I plan to return and buy a nice set of rocking chairs), Catarina has tons of plants and gardens, and San Juan de Oriente is known for its pottery:

We will probably make a couple more trips to the markets to scout out the wares we’d like to buy and bargain to get a good deal on them. We’ve decided to take some art home with us so that we can display it in our home as a recuerdo of Nicaragua and of our markets here.


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