The Unexpected Art.

Graduations 2013 217 (800x401)

Every single bus ride out of site and back to site takes me by this abandoned building. And every single time, I think to myself, “I really want to photograph that.”

Well, it finally happened when my dad was here and we had a car to stop and go as we pleased.

Graduations 2013 200 (800x533)

Last year I had the honor of photographing the Inside Out Project in Granada that a group of Peace Corps Volunteers organized. While a post on that is long overdue, you can read a little bit more about the project and see some of my photographs of the event here. The idea is to share a message through photographs that are then printed and posted in public spaces.

Graduations 2013 209 (800x533)

That said, street art has since caught my attention, and this building has a lot of it.

Graduations 2013 203 (533x800)

What makes this place really unique besides the art, is where it is. Just outside of Managua is a little mountain town, El Crucero, that is home to the windiest and blusteriest weather one can find within a hundred miles. This gas station is on the very outskirts of the town, right as it hits the narrow part of the mountain, where you can see on both sides of the highway, out to ocean one way, towards a range of volcanoes the other way.

Graduations 2013 208 (800x533)

With a mix of posters with photos on them, political messages, and random kids’ graffiti, it has a bit of everything.

Graduations 2013 204 (800x533)

I’d be curious to know who put what up. The painting of the man above is rumored to have been done by a famous artist here, but I’m not sure.

Graduations 2013 211 (566x800)

Anyway, just wanted to show off a little love from a small corner of Nicaragua. Art, mountains, and photography – you can’t go wrong!

Graduations 2013 197 (800x533)

Advertisements

Waldo’s Nicaraguan Adventures.

My amazing dad came down to visit me for a brief, but adventure-filled, week right before Christmas. What a gift. We spent the week trekking around in our little rented car, finding all sorts of adventures down random dirt roads, zip-lining, exploring beaches, mountains, coffee farms, historical cities, and drinking coffee multiple times a day. It was a grand time.

Graduations 2013 187 (800x533)

About 10 years ago, he and I started a tradition/joke in our family around Christmas time. My mom has a ridiculously large Santa collection that she puts out every year on the living room mantle. My dad and I decided that display looked like a page from a Where’s Waldo book, so he printed out a cutout of Waldo and we hid him. It took my mom a couple days to find it, and her reaction was priceless. Needless to say, it became a tradition and every year that sneaky Waldo finds a place to hide in the Santas.

First Leg Home 079 (800x504) (2)

My dad brought me down a bunch of Christmas goodies, and in one box my mom had packed Waldo! After discovering him, we quickly decided Waldo needed a grand tour of Nicaragua. So, without a legit passport and an ever-constant grin, Waldo joined us on our quick jaunt around the lakes of volcanoes. Check out where we found him hiding:

Dad's Visit 004 (800x533)

Waldo soaking up some semi-cloudy rays of sunshine and getting salty on a rural beach.

Dad's Visit 187 (800x533)

Posing on the zipline company vehicle in San Rafael del Norte.

Dad's Visit 193 (800x533)

Post-ziplining hang out time with our guides.

Dad's Visit 067 (571x800)

Roadtrip pit-stop for french fries in Managua on the way to Matagalpa.

Dad's Visit 071 (800x533)

Chilling in the hotel in Matagalpa.

Dad's Visit 073 (533x800)

Enjoying a mocha and light reading in Matagalpa city.

Dad's Visit 083 (533x800)

Exploring Selva Negra in Matagalpa.

Dad's Visit 111 (800x546)

Flirting with an indigenous woman…tsk, tsk, Waldo.

Dad's Visit 174 (800x533) (800x533)

Checking out the art at Selva Negra.

Dad's Visit 238 (800x572)

Learning to make black ceramic pottery in the mountains of Jinotega.

Dad's Visit 625 (533x800)

Enjoying a cocktail in Granada.

Dad's Visit 271 (800x533)

Cheese, chai and fresh bread in Esteli.

Dad's Visit 281 (533x800)

Chilling in the cacti in a mini-botanical garden in Esteli.

Dad's Visit 304 (800x533)

Waldo goes green.

Dad's Visit 416 (800x533)

Checking out cigar boxes in Esteli.

Dad's Visit 418 (800x533)

Woah there, Waldo, lay off the cigars will ya?

Dad's Visit 603 (533x800)

Catching a good night’s sleep in a sweet historical hotel in Granada.

Dad's Visit 612 (800x533)

Taking in the view of the cloud-covered volcano from our hotel room in Granada.

Dad's Visit 620 (800x533)

Enjoying the cathedral from our hotel balcony the last night in Granada.

Well played, Waldo, well played.

River Gems.

Christmas in La Trinidad 259 (800x533)

When you get approached by this group of girls at a rural river and they ask you in whispers to take their picture, you absolutely do not say ‘no’. Once they saw the group picture I snapped, they requested individuals, which is how this happened:

Christmas in La Trinidad 261 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 264 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 272 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 266 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 279 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 267 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 227 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 269 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 282 (800x533)

Christmas in La Trinidad 289 (800x533)

Oh sweet girls, thank you. Your sweet and sassy spirits and beautiful faces did my heart a world of good.

Don Félix.

About 3km off a small highway to the beach is a turnoff to a small pueblo tucked into some beautiful hills. Walk half a kilometer down this road. When you reach the main corner of the small community, take a right and follow the road another kilometer even farther out into the middle of nowhere until the road ends.  The small wood house on your left is where you can find this amazing guy:

Christmas in La Trinidad 683 (800x533)

Meet Don Felix, who I had the privilege of getting to know on Christmas Eve. This incredible man is 105 years old, still collects firewood for his family and can often be found wandering his corn fields. I had gone to the house to teach some folks how to make sugar cookies and banana bread, and he was sitting in a chair in a corner of the smoke-filled kitchen. Greeting me with a gummy, toothless smile and I was smitten. His family asked me if I could take a few pictures of him to print, and well, duh, I agreed.

Christmas in La Trinidad 678 (800x576)

Christmas in La Trinidad 685 (533x800)

He didn’t understand what was going on when I snapped this first one, but after showing him on the camera what the picture looked like, this was his face. The largest smile I have ever seen and a loud, triumphant “BAH!”. It is a little blurry, but the following photo is his reaction to seeing his picture on the camera:

Christmas in La Trinidad 676 (800x533)

Quite probably the most special and precious moment I’ve had yet in-country. We took some more and he quickly got to work posing, then wanting to see his picture. I’m predicting an even longer life that includes a stand-up modeling career for this guy.

Christmas in La Trinidad 680

Thanks Don Felix and fam for allowing me this privilege. Just such a joy!

Christmas in La Trinidad 682 (800x533)

I’m going to attempt to post a bunch of Christmas photos and stories in the coming days, as well as a recap of my Dad’s time here the week before. These past weeks was full of amazing memories and I can’t wait to share some of them!

Gettin’ Veggie With It.

Veggies 001 (800x603)

Oh, the perks of living two blocks from a daily, open-air market!

This was my morning purchase the other day, a huge back of fresh amazingness from a couple different vendors.

Those are oranges, limes, bananas, plantains, tomatoes, green beans, cilantro, radish, green pepper and chilies.

The best part?

Only 70 cordobas, or about $3 for the whole lot.

Veggies 014 (800x724)

La Purisima.

¿Quién causa tanta alegría?

¡La Concepción de María!

La Purisima 015 (628x800)

The Christmas season is celebrated in a unique way here in Nicaragua. Lots of bombas (fireworks that don’t actually look like anything, just make a lot of noise), roasting pigs, small strands of Christmas lights, and La Purisima, which we celebrated on Saturday night.

The holiday is a Catholic celebration of the immaculate conception of Jesus, and is a cross between the ever amazing Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating and Christmas Eve carols. I didn’t quite know what I was in for, as last year during La Purisima, I was relaxing on the beach with some surf buddies in the midst of medical craziness. My host family knocked on my door Saturday evening and invited me to go ‘gritar’ (shouting) with them. I was told to bring a ‘saco’ (traditional Nica bags made of woven plastic) and off we went.

La Purisima 035 (800x533)

All over town, selected houses had spent the day decorating altars on the front porches or in side alleys. Each altar holds lots of plants, flowers, Christmas lights, a statue of Mary, and sometimes pictures of loved ones who have passed away. At one of my student’s houses, they had even taken woven reindeer and a wood cart to make a large Santa meets Mary display. Awesome.

We started about 6pm and managed to go to a couple houses before the crowds formed. But as you can see from the picture below, the crowds later came! At some of the houses we had to wait up to half an hour for a turn to go to the altar area and sing.

La Purisima 007 (800x533)

When it is your turn, you and your group of friends and family sing carols about Mary from a book that is available to buy around town. My family selected a variety of about 4 different ones and at each house we visited, we sang two of them. My host mom was nice enough to help me find the right page every time so I could attempt to sing with them!

After you have sung for a few minutes, you step away from the altar/display and approach the door of the family’s house, where you are handed, without fail, a present. It was ridiculous and incredible. I then understood what the saco was for. We visited about 10 different houses and I walked away with sugar cane, oranges, cookies, lollipops, fresco (fruit drinks in a bag), plastic cups and bowls, tupperware and my favorite, this awesome mug:

La Purisima 042 (800x533)

So here’s to the start of the Christmas season. My little strand of Christmas lights have been hung, I’m starting to buy a few gifts to send back home, Dad comes to visit soon. It will definitely be a different holiday season with not returning to the States, but a beautiful one nonetheless.

 

Thankful.

I sit here in my hammock, already sweating at 8am, enjoying a cup of stovetop-brewed coffee that still has some of the grains in it because they can’t ever be completely strained out. The street outside my house is loud, kids heading to classes, people to work, the occasional cowboy riding by on his horse. Dogs bark, fireworks go off, and life goes on. Today is not a holiday in here.

Amidst the heat, noise, and unstrained coffee, I find myself thankful.

Really, really thankful.

Thankful that this morning I could wake up and ‘aprovechar’ the wifi of my neighbors to post this.

Thankful that I now live in a house where my things no longer mold just from being inside the building.

Thankful that I have a house.

Thankful that after struggling for years with gray/cloudy skies, I am living out a two-year respite of sunshine and blue skies.

Thankful that when I went to clean out my mini-fridge yesterday, I came to realize that over half of what was inside was deliciousness I had been given by six different families. Love.

Thankful that I have a mini-fridge to clean out.

Thankful for the hospitality, love and patience of my Nicaraguan community.

Thankful I have not gotten Dengue.

Thankful that my self-care afternoon this week included spending three hours at a rural beach swimming and splashing around a natural, crystal-clear swimming pool that forms when the tide is out with local kids.

Thankful that later this afternoon I will get to be swimming in a pool and enjoying turkey, gluten-free stuffing, and no-bake cookies with some dear friends and PC staff.

Thankful that I have met some pretty incredible people over the last few weeks who have changed my views about the future, careers, and loving the job you have.

Thankful that I get to see my dad in t-minus three weeks.

Thankful that regardless of parasites, thefts, and the hard days, I get to live out this dream of spending a couple years abroad.

Thankful for my incredible friends and family back in the States who I know are rooting for me and love me.

Lastly, thankful that I have no shame in posting this early-morning, puffy-face selfie for you all to enjoy. See Mom? I’m alive and happy 🙂

Quick Randoms 027 (800x533)

Love you all dearly. Happy turkey day!