The Little Ones.

There is something I finally incredibly cathartic about taking pictures. Especially of the littlest ones.

Here are a few favorites from the last weeks of some darling ones I get to spend time with…

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Thanksgiving Day Adventure!

So Thanksgiving was definitely a little different this year. But absolutely amazing and lovely, too. I took a little vacation time and a few friends and I headed straight from our National Business Plan Competition to Matagalpa to play for the weekend. Actual Thanksgiving Day was not filled with turkey and gluten-free stuffing, but instead waterfalls and cups of coffee. I’ll take it 🙂

And bestill my beating heart.

Matagalpa.

You win.

Your mountains, you hills, your breeze, your coffee, your everything.

We started out the morning with some lovely coffee and reading/journaling time on the patio in our hostel, then headed off on our adventure – Cascada Blanca – a beautiful waterfall located outside Matagalpa city about 25 minutes.

It was not so much a hike as much as a walk. You can walk from the entrance of the reserve to the falls in about 5 minutes, but we just lazed our way through the day, exploring, photographing, chatting with the local boys who were clearing the trails and swimming, and doing a little cliff jumping and swimming of our own. And besides our two little 10 year-old friends, we were the only people in this entire place.  It was glorious.

Here are some permanent memories of a crazy wonderful day:

First glimpse of the falls!

Adventure buddies at Cascada Blanca!

Our new friends!

Can you find them?

Mandatory jumping picture!

A well tucked into the jungle

Nothing liking taking a break to take your anti-parasite meds!

and we’re jumping!

The ladies of the day.

Trail around the back of the falls.

The river we hiked down.

One final splash!

Through Their Eyes.

Ever seen the documentary ‘Born Into Brothels’? I would recommend checking it out if you have not already. In it, a woman returns to Calcutta, India to teach a photography class to young kids who live in the slums. The documentary follows her and their story as she struggles to get them assistance (healthcare, schooling, future options), but the part that I love is the photography that the kids turnout with the little cameras they are given. The photos they produce from their everyday lives are pretty incredible and such a fresh, fun take on how one sees normal, daily activities.

With this in mind, I’ve discovered a new little joy in life – teaching students how to use my camera and letting them have a run at it. And the photos they take are pretty fun.

Here’s a little selection from the past week, taken by both high school and elementary-aged students in my communities both at school and on field trips:

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Ladies’ Laguna Hike.

Oh nature, sweet nature. This Pacific Northwest lady has been going stir crazy without regular outings into the mountains and thank goodness for fellow outdoor-appreciating friends who decided that this was the weekend to go explore a bit. After a three hours of buses, a bumpy off-roading moto taxi ride, and only a bit of confusion, we found ourselves on our way to our destination: Laguna del Tigre. This beautiful place is only accessible by a very dusty dirt road. Quite literally ‘off the beaten track’. My perfect kind of adventure!

Our instructions on how to find it? “Take the dirt road at the fork in the road on the way to Volcan Mombotombo and walk down the road, staying left at each turn. Watch for the farm where you will find a guy named Reynaldo, pay him the fee and continue hiking in. The mirador (lookout/view) is up the hill, but the laguna is at the bottom.” Crystal clear, right?! Especially out in the middle of nowhere Nicaragua…

Well, we found it and had a darn good time getting there, sharing the trail with herd of cattle and cowboys, then exploring, and swimming in the beautiful laguna. Here are some pictures of our adventures:

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Boxer Shorts & A Precious One.

*Warning: If you don’t have a strong stomach, I would not recommend reading this/viewing the attached photos. It is pretty disturbing. Also, this post is just long – Annie Dugas, consider yourself properly warned.

As much as I love and appreciate where I am living and what I get to experience here, there are a few parts of Nicaraguan culture that I am never going to be able to understand. And I hope to God that this never becomes ‘normal’ to me. What am I talking about? That animals are left on the streets to become like this:

 

I met this poor baby on the street while walking back from the beach yesterday and she instantly broke my heart. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but she had no fur except for a few wisps on her back, could barely walk, had insects crawling out of her body, and a face that appeared to have been burned and was now molting.

I tried to feed her a granola bar I had in my backpack, but she didn’t even have the energy to eat anything. She simply stared at me for a few minutes, hung around for a bit, then slowly, very slowly, limped off.

My friend and I were on a bit of a tight schedule and had to return back to my town right away, but I couldn’t get this horribly sick creature out of my head. So after a quick consult with the local vet who happened to be a few blocks away from the bus stop, and calling my dear animal-loving friend Laura for some how-to advice, I went back home, grabbed a cardboard box, some crackers, an old pair of boxers, newspaper, bought some gloves, and then went back to the beach town to search for this sweet thing.

It took three hours, but some amazingly kind women who I had talked to earlier in the afternoon and had shown a picture of the dog to (I took one on my cell before we left the dog the first time), called me over across the street as I was getting ready to call it a day. They had just run into a lady who said she had just seen the dog. And she would take me to the spot.

We walked about a block and after all this time, there she was. Curled up in a box of garbage that was laying on the side of the highway. After profusely thanking the women, I put on my gloves, got out the crackers, and worked on trying to get her attention. She didn’t move. It took a good five minutes before I could coerce her to pay any attention to the crackers, let alone get her out of her smelly yet cozy spot. And after putting up a very, very small little fight (she only tried to nip me once), and with the help of a woman who helped corral her, I wrapped her in my old boxers, put her in the box, and carried her to the vet. From the second I put her nestled in the newspapers and boxers in the box, she didn’t move. At all. I know it sounds melodramatic, but it was just so obvious that she was done. She had had enough, was done living.

The vet had earlier told me that he thought we should try to treat her, but after actually seeing her, he agreed that it was best to put her down. So we did. In a cardboard box. Wrapped in an old pair of boxers.  On the floor of a makeshift veterinary storefront. In a Nicaraguan fishing village. And I sat on the floor and cried.

The part that really gets me it is that it only cost 50 cordobas (about 2 dollars) to do all this. That was it.

The women who had originally spotted her stuck around the whole time. They didn’t laugh at me. They didn’t say I was crazy. They just stayed and watched. And helped. They even went home to find somebody who could take her to be buried out in a field. Their dad showed up 5 minutes later on his with his machete to dig a hole, took the box to the sugarcane field, and that was that. I am so thankful to these wonderful ladies and man who went against the culture of passivity towards animal cruelty to help a ‘chela’ out in her efforts to bring a little peace to this dreadfully sick animal.

So my sweet dog is now buried in a sugarcane field, wrapped in my old boxers. I have taken a bucket shower and used about half a bar of anti-bacterial soap in the hopes of not contracting any diseases from the poor thing. And have cried some more. There are some things I don’t think I will ever get used to her, nor mental images that will ever leave me, and this is definitely one of them. This was not a part of the Nica PC experience I had expected, but here it is, the grimy reality.

So friends and family back home, thank you for being so kind to your animals. And thank you to the Nicaraguans who do treat their animals with dignity, care and respect.

And sorry for the downer post. But it is a true part of life here and I wanted to share it. Thanks for reading.