October was a heck of a month as I scrambled to finish up my first MBA application to Berkeley(nightmare), sit for the GMAT(nightmare #2) and plan Chinandega’s regional competition for my entrepreneurship class. It ended with a bang when Julia and Kelly arrived on October 27th to celebrate my birthday and just in time for the annual Peace Corps Gala. My Small Business Development Project puts on a formal evening each year to raise money for the national competition between the winning student teams from each department in Nicaragua. Julia and Kelly, although exhausted from traveling, held it together for a night of dancing and the usual Peace Corps shenanigans. It was awesome to have them meat the majority of my Peace Corps “Family” down here. They originally flew in to celebrate my 27th birthday, but they got oh so much more!
Our adventures started out the next day as we headed to my home in Chinandega. After a quick visit to my house in Chinandega and meeting the family we headed to my second home, the beaches of Chinandega. We spent two nights at Coco Loco where the gals took surf lessons and went barefoot beach running. I taught a little yoga and we got to see the baby sea turtles released in to the wild. We enjoyed the fresh local fair that Coco Loco serves and chilled in the pool with cervezas. It was really neat to see my Kel and Julia engaged and so interested in the projects that Coco Loco/Waves of Hope are performing in the community as well as the people driving them.
Sunset on Coco Loco Beach
On my actual birthday I woke up at Coco Loco and headed out for a morning surf, ate breakfast burritos with the gals, practiced some yoga and then had a message! Not bad! We also kept up or daily ritual of beers before lunch, usually around 11. In the afternoon we headed over to Marta Montealegre’s house where she threw a little birthday shin dig. I know I have mentioned the Montealegre’s in my past blogs, but they have become my family down here over the past several months. Julio and Marta have practically adopted me and given me my own room in their beach house just minutes from Coco Loco. I feel very at home with them and their family. Marta had originally said that she wanted to put on a little birthday celebration and have Kelly and Julia stay over. I casually mentioned to my friends in the community to stop by for some drinks and appetizers that afternoon around 4. I had no idea she was going to put on a three-course meal and make a tres leches cake! She made sopa de albondigas or a soup with meatballs made of shredded chicken held together with cornmeal and immersed in vegetables(one of my fav Nica meals). There were quesadilla like appetizers and tacos to wrap it up. My jewelry ladies Norma, Hazzel, Maria and Sendi came as well as some local Nicaraguan surfer friends Victor and Yerlis. Holly and Jackie came from Coco Loco with Waves of Hope volunteers Milo and Edgar making it an eclectic mix, which was really neat. I looked around the huge circular table and realized that all of the people there have been really great to me and I am honored to have each and every one of them in my life. After a Happy Birthday serenade I blew out a single number “6” candle since that would be the average age of Marta’s grandchildren, ha ha! Her tres leches was seriously the best I’ve ever had. If your not sure what that is, tres leches is a cake that is basically moist with milk and covered with a meringue frosting. For my birthday present from Marta and Julio I got to choose a puppy from their Rhodesian Ridgeback’s litter. I named her Sirena and there will be much more posts on her as she grows.
The next day us gals went on a horse back riding adventure down the beach. It was quite hilarious as I was riding the Montealegre’s horse who only knows one speed, gallop, and Kelly was on a moderately fast horse while Julia was on Molasses, we named her that for a reason. It was a hilarious day of running up and down the beaches and trying to stick together. The rest of the day we hung with Marta as she filled us in on how the Nicaraguan war of the 1980’s affected her family and their life as a whole. We chatted about politics and filled Kel and Julia in on how things work down here, dysfunctionally. Marta is a very talented, intelligent and gracious woman who I now call mama Nica and she calls me hija gringa(white daughter). I think we all agreed that we could have spent more time at Marta’s house lounging in hammocks and soaking in the view. The house is gorgeous and right on the beach. But we had a date to climb a volcano the next day so we were off to Hacienda Consiguina.
Hacienda Consiguina is owned by friends/yoga students of mine who were so kind to let us stay for free in their beautiful ranch house tucked at the base of the volcano. We lounged and chatted over wine that night, entertained by their crazy kittens. We were in such another world I almost forgot it was Halloween. The next morning we road in the back of a pick-up truck to Volcan Consiguina. We were tossed about like rag dolls as the truck sped across peanut fields and started to climb gradually as tree branches smacked us down and sent us flying around the bed of the truck. It was quite an adventure before we ever started the climb. At the top we took in the views of the islands of El Salvador and Honduras while listening to monkeys howl from down inside the crater. I had hiked the volcano once before, but the views were still just as amazing if not more the second time. After climbing back down we set out on our way back towards Managua, but this time to the beaches outside the city. We all agreed that about 24 hours was enough time away from the beach and we were glad to be back by the water. We loaded a big school bus from Chin to Managua for Kel and Julia to get a taste of the open air, 80's beat bumping, public transportation. At one point we video taped a music video to Titanic's "My Heart Will Go On" for the entertainment of the passengers. Kel is that video available for public viewing yet?
We arrived at Los Cardones at night and they don’t have power in their cabins. It was quite fun switching to head-lamps and candle light. I think I can speak for Kelly and Julia as well that this place was really special. Our cabin had a huge porch looking out towards the ocean with hammocks and rocking chairs to take in the view. It was primitive but oh so quaint. The waves were awesome and despite my bronchitis that I was sporting at the time, I took advantage of them every morning. I came down with a cough right before the gals got in to town and with no time to see a doc I kept hacking my lungs up through out the trip and taking my crazy prescribed cough powder medication which I referred to as “crack”. Honestly I was having such a good time I didn’t really let it phase me accept for the fact that I couldn’t breathe. Despite my bronchitis we practiced yoga, walked the beaches, surfed and just plain chilled. We ate some typical Nicarguan dishes and indulged every meal. At night we sported our head lamps to dinner and then retreated with handfuls of beers to our cabin before cracking open our wine. The sunsets were incredible, as usual. I took advantage of the late high tide and did a sunset surf everyday up until the waves coming at me were just a silhouette. One evening there was so much ocean activity I saw fish swimming beneath me and a stingray jump out of water! To continue with the animal theme we went on a crocodile search, but only ended up seeing one splash back in to the murky water.
The last few days at Los Cardones were pretty special as it really set in on just how long it had been since I had gotten to spend some real quality time with my girls. Our morning coffee/tea ritual looking out at the ocean was one of my favorite activities. We once again all got messages from the local women and mine happened to be just before we headed out on our last day. I showed up to lunch after my message on cloud 9 as the girls handed me a beer. We ate and drank cervezas until our taxi driver Jose arrived. The catch was Jose was almost 2 hours late, so something like 7 beers later we loaded the truck to head off to Granada feeling pretty darn good. As Jose sped over the washboard roads we realized that all of Nicaragua would be dry that day. Before we went in to panic we picked up Jose’s wife and son of 4 years to accompany us to Granada and then found a restaurant in route to sell us tall boys. On the way to Granada Jose’s son fell in love with Julia and continued to take picture of her on his mom’s cell phone and then stretch her face out like a fun house mirror. Needless to say he had us rolling in laughter all the way to Granada. When we arrived to the city and before Jose left we all climbed a bell tower of a church to take in the sunset and views of the city.
The last night we spent at Casa San Francisco with mojitos in the pool and then a roof top dinner. It was so awesome to share my experience down here with Kelly and Julia. It was really special to be able to share the life that I’ve built down here.
Kelly took some amazing photos over the trip and captured the sweetness of the country. Julia and I stopped asking each other where Kelly was once we realized her tennancy to wander off randomly and engage in photo shoots with the local plants.