“The moon was up, painting the world silver, making things look just a little more alive.”
~N.D. Wilson ~
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.
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.
That said, street art has since caught my attention, and this building has a lot of it.
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.
With a mix of posters with photos on them, political messages, and random kids’ graffiti, it has a bit of everything.
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.
Anyway, just wanted to show off a little love from a small corner of Nicaragua. Art, mountains, and photography – you can’t go wrong!
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.
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.
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:
Waldo soaking up some semi-cloudy rays of sunshine and getting salty on a rural beach.
Posing on the zipline company vehicle in San Rafael del Norte.
Post-ziplining hang out time with our guides.
Roadtrip pit-stop for french fries in Managua on the way to Matagalpa.
Chilling in the hotel in Matagalpa.
Enjoying a mocha and light reading in Matagalpa city.
Exploring Selva Negra in Matagalpa.
Flirting with an indigenous woman…tsk, tsk, Waldo.
Checking out the art at Selva Negra.
Learning to make black ceramic pottery in the mountains of Jinotega.
Enjoying a cocktail in Granada.
Cheese, chai and fresh bread in Esteli.
Chilling in the cacti in a mini-botanical garden in Esteli.
Waldo goes green.
Checking out cigar boxes in Esteli.
Woah there, Waldo, lay off the cigars will ya?
Catching a good night’s sleep in a sweet historical hotel in Granada.
Taking in the view of the cloud-covered volcano from our hotel room in Granada.
Enjoying the cathedral from our hotel balcony the last night in Granada.
Well played, Waldo, well played.
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:
Oh sweet girls, thank you. Your sweet and sassy spirits and beautiful faces did my heart a world of good.
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:
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.
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:
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.
Thanks Don Felix and fam for allowing me this privilege. Just such a joy!
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!
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.
¿Quién causa tanta alegría?
¡La Concepción de María!
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.
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.
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:
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.