The Colin Chronicles II

Part two of Colin’s Nicaraguan adventures…unedited!

Hey its me again. I am writing yet another blog. I don’t know what to say about today. No actually today was a fun day. I got to spend the whole day at one of Kacies schools in Masachapa. There I got to talk to one of the profes there who taught English. Finally someone else who I can talk to. He wanted to know what I thought of the school. I said I noticed the kids don’t take notes which I had to do. He said that he tries to make the kids take notes but they never do. I told him that I was made to take notes in class. Also I gave him great teaching advice, coming from someone who has never taught in his life. I told him he could give a quiz right before the class ends on what he just taught for the day. He said if I could speak Spanish he would make me tell that to the class. Yeah Right! Even if I could speak Spanish I wouldn’t. After school I played soccer again. Its really fun. Also the host mom made us dinner tonight, which was really good. Before dinner, I was coming out of the apartment when my flashlight hit something that looked like a leaf than it moved its head. It turned out to be a frog. I freaked out, I screamed and jumped and scared the dog in the process. It was a small frog too but still it was scary, I thought I was going to die. Than Kacie came out and saw what I screamed about and laughed. What a great sister. Just laughs at her little brother.

That’s it for today.

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The Colin Chronicles I

As some of you may know, my little brother is visiting me for a week (an adventure in and of itself!). Here are his unedited views on his time thus far…enjoy!

Hi everyone, its Kacie’s little brother writing a blog for her because she can’t write anymore. My name is Colin if you didn’t know. I am spending a week down here with her. I came down here June 14 and am leaving on the 21st. The first 24 hours down here were very exciting. When we were boarding the bus in Managua Kacie got her personal passport stolen, so we had to stay at a hotel. Staying at the hotel was fine with me; it had air conditioning, internet, a T.V., and a shower that had hot water. That’s all in the first three hours we were here. The next day we went to a beach to meet another Peace Corps volunteer. There we went surfing, which was fun until we had to get out because there was a tsunami warning. Apparently there was a 6.4 earthquake that happened a couple miles south of us. So we had to evacuate to higher ground.

                Besides all that other stuff, being in Nicaragua has been quite interesting. It has opened my eyes to see that I am very fortunate to be where I am. (Mom, unfortunately you were right!) I have met Kacie’s English group. They are very nice and funny. I played soccer with one of them and some other people. Also I went to one of the schools that profe Kacie works at. I got to meet the students, and all the girls liked me. I mean who wouldn’t? They asked me if I like the girls down here. Profe Kacie told me to be careful on how I answer. They also asked me if I liked it down here. I like it, just not sitting in a classroom where I don’t need to be because I have already graduated.

                That pretty much wraps it for me. I might write another blog right before I go. But now I have to go watch a movie.

BYE BYE

A Slice of Heaven.

I got a little slice of heaven recently.

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It came in the form of my mom and dear friend Drea coming to visit me.

They came to see my life here and treat me to a mini-vacation.

Talk about being blessed!

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We started out the week in my site, where they got to observe some of the work I do, meet community members, and experience that ridiculous heat that never seems to end. They were such troopers, dealing with jet lag, culture shock and not understanding Spanish.

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My English Crew was so welcoming to my family – they even made a special dinner of repocheta to share during our weekly meeting. It was fun to have my dear friends from Seattle and my dear friends here in Nicaragua together in the same room. Talk about worlds colliding.

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I also took them to meet some other PCVs and my mother and Drea royally spoiled us with delicious food and coffee. My Nica PCV friends were pretty excited. It’s not often we get to have fun deliciousness bought for us!

Coffee + Mom + Dear Friends = Self-Care High

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After a few days in my site and a pit stop in Masaya for some shopping and lunch, we headed south to San Juan del Sur, a beachy tourist town in the very southwest side of Nicaragua.

Thanks to Drea’s amazing Groupon-scouting skills, they got us an incredible hotel up on the hill overlooking the bay. It was as if a white-washed hotel from the coastal hills of Greece had been transported to Nicaragua just for our enjoyment. I would be lying if I said we did much more than just hang out there, enjoying delicious cocktails, reading and watching the gorgeous sunsets.

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Drea wrote a beautiful post on her blog about her time here. I loved hearing her and my Mom’s perspectives on my life here and observations of the culture of Nicaragua. It is strange how fast my perceptions have changed and to see someone witnessing Nicaragua for the first time was a treat (and kind of hilarious at times!).

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I dropped them at the airport after only 7 short days.  Tears came and while it was so sad to say goodbye, I am so thankful for the time, money and energy that these two put into coming down here. I think sometimes we need our worlds to collide a bit to give us some fresh perspective and renewed energy, and that is what their trip did for me.

Love you, Mom and Drea!

Semana Santa.

“I’m part wood nymph. I require mountains and warm, dense patches of moss to thrive.”
Vera Farmiga

Holy Week (Semana Santa) acts as Nicaragua’s Spring Break, so I have had this week off of classes. Since everybody and their mother goes to the beach for Semana Santa and I live close to a beach that was soon to be invaded, I turned and headed to the mountains.

Coffee, hiking, rosquillas, and hot showers were calling.

After fighting crazy crowds at the bus station, getting asked by a news film crew to dance on national television with a towel to promote the beach, and many hours of travel, we were on our way.

In my ears this week: She Lit A Fire – Lord Huron. Check it out!

My friends and I started off our week out in Esteli, with a day trip up to do the full Somoto Canyon experience. This is an amazing combo of hiking, swimming, and cliff jumping in one the most northern parts of Nicaragua.

Sweet, sweet outdoors, you do my soul so much good.

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One of the cliffs in the canyon you can jump off! I’m doing a 25-footer in this picture, and just out of frame to the right is the 60-foot option.

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We continued being tourists (so strange after living in country for almost a year) by heading to do a cigar factory tour in Esteli. It was a fun glimpse into the local industry and the guys in our group thoroughly enjoyed themselves, as you can probably tell:

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The factory was an incredible mix of colors, smells and textures. Photographing was quite fun here.

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Post-cigar tour, my dear friend and fellow PCV Maija and I headed out for a coffee date and art walk around Esteli. Beautiful art in the midst of crumbling buildings and cobblestone streets? Count me in.

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Maija being my unintentional model and making art look even better.

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I loved this painting that was on a wall down the street from our hostel:

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After an outing to a hilarious karaoke club on our last night in Esteli, our PCV group and two new friends from Texas trekked it to the bus station and caught a ride to Matagalpa to disfrutar the mountains and cold air.

Our first stop in the Galps? Iced coffee, obviously!

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After enjoying some good food, amazing mojitos and lots of laughs, that group left the following morning, leaving me to make new friends and figure out what to do with 3 solo days in Matagalpa!

There ended up being some great folks staying at the same hostel and we took off for a mountaintop adventure the following morning. This is the view from the top of our hike to El Apente, looking down over Matagalpa. Instead of trekking down the normal way, we wove our way through back trails and down through local farms, ending up at a secret, beautiful, hilltop convent. It was bliss.

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I spent the rest of the week walking the empty city streets, soaking up the breeze and occasional rain, treating myself to some Chinese food, journaling, napping, and hanging out with fun new friends from around the world.

Here is the crew playing a very international game of Apples to Apples, or as we affectionately renamed it for our English friend, Scones to Scones.

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The Final Count:

Hostels Stayed In: 2

Buses Taken: 9

Taxi Rides: 6

Kilometers Hiked: 12ish

Cliffs Jumped Off: 4

Number of Countries New Friends Are From: 7

Cups of Coffee Drunken: Lost Count After The First Day!

As I head back to site and normal life, I am reminded how grateful I am for breaks.

I needed a rest. A chance to breathe. Some fun. New experiences.

And this week was all that and more.

So thank you Maija, Aaron, Henry, David, Clare, Sanin, Denis, Becky, Alex, Keenan, and Kevin – you guys made this week so fun!

Papayas & Crocodiles: A Day At The Reserve.

I got to indulge my love of photography the other day by accompanying my site-mate to her workplace – a beautiful nature reserve that is located just out of town – and take pictures that they can use for educational and promotional materials.

The reserve is owned by the local sugarcane business and the water from the lakes at the reserve is used to water the local sugarcane fields. Home to tons of different types of birds, crocodiles, hiking trails and a ‘vivero’ (nursery), the place is beautiful.

We spent the day getting stranded on our boat out in the middle of the lake (motor crashed), hiking around one of the lakes, hunting for a croc sighting (no such luck), and eating good food. I was also gifted some beautiful papaya, cut straight from the tree (see pics below).

Here are some pics from our day:

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A Dreamy Travel Day.

“Carpe the hell out of this diem.”

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Mt. Adams from above.

I got med-clearance to return to Nicaragua about noon on Friday, and was on a plane to Nicaragua by 10:30am Saturday morning. I was itching to get back, but it was so hard to say goodbye to my family and friends. After some tears, last-minute packing, happy hour with friends, and lots of hugs, I was off. Dad took me to the airport, and we made a not-so-quick detour to my favorite gluten-free bakery in Seattle where I got to consume my last US meal: a very early-morning gluten-free breakfast sandwhich, and spend some good time with my dad before heading to the airport. ¡Vale la pena!

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Hills and texture.

I have always loved traveling. That minute of stepping into the airport always fills me with excitement. These days it always fills me with tears, but I take that as a reason to be thankful – I have reasons to be sad to leave places because I have dear friends and community. Today was no different.

I got to the airport to find my flight had been delayed, destroying any chance of making my connecting flight in Houston. Bless the dear lady working at the United counter, she worked to get me a seat on a different airline’s flight. Then, that airline proceeded to let me check my bags for free based on Peace Corps service. Booyah!

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Half-frozen lake somewhere over Oregon.

I left Seattle in the midst of a dark and dreary morning, with a bit of a heavy heart and anxiousness about returning to Nicaragua. At about 2000 ft., we lifted out of the cloud cover to find the most spectacular views I have seen flying. I was blessed with a window seat and these photos are from my sky-high perch. Yes, I am that girl who lugs her DSLR onto the plane and keeps it at her feet in the hopes of snapping pictures from above. It was a sweet moment of remembering the sunshine.

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Mt. Adams in the foreground, Mt. St. Helens in the back.

I had just enough time in Houston to grab some food, a last glimpse of liquid heaven in the form of a Starbucks drink, and a little downtime at my gate. I sat down at the gate at the same time as another guy and we got chatting. Turns out he is from LA and the husband of a very famous Nicaraguan women’s author! Besides offering an incredibly insightful look into the experience of an expat in Nicaragua, he was very nice and engaging. Such a fun, random connection to make.

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Farm fields creating beautiful snow patterns.

I got onboard my plane to find that they had accidently upgraded me to a better seat – helllllooooo, extra legroom! I plugged in my headphones, popped out the journal, and made a somewhat lame attempt at processing what was going on that very moment in life. There is something about travel days that makes me want to document and record and remember, but the words don’t often come easily. Some things just stay in the heart and never make it onto the page.

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Sunset over my plane in Houston. Final glance at the USA.

I landed in Managua and immediately felt amazing. I was back. Later than expected, but back. I struggled through customs after not speaking Spanish for a month, lugged my huge bags through security, and waited around until a decent priced taxi showed up. Driving through Managua felt good. The warth, the cool breeze, the loud music. This is my new home and returning to it just reinforced that. And I love it.

Airport Reunion.

This was my first glimpse of the USA as we approached Texas. Such a surprisingly strange moment.

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I got teary-eyed flying into Seattle as the city lights appeared out the plane window.

I was sitting next to a fellow PCV from El Salvador who I met on the plane (and swapped stories for hours after realizing we were both Central America Peace Corps volunteers and knew a lot of Seattle folks in common – such a small world!) and we both had a moment… That “oh wow, we are going home and are not quite sure what to feel right now” moment. Such happiness and excitement, especially for the people who would be meeting us at the airport, but also a little apprehension. Switching cultures is hard.

But this? This was awesome:

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My dear friend Drea and her husband surprised me by coming to the airport. Hence the very unflattering, but very excited face below:

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And Dad brought me a Chipotle burrito bowl. To the airport. At 10:30pm. Yes please.

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