I have collected so many stories along this trip. Right now I’m seating in 32C waiting for the plane to take off for the final leg of our trip…we’re heading home. We’ve been in USA soil for about 2 ½ hours and as I was eating lunch waiting for our next flight I was longing to take a flight but not to my USA home. Quietly, I was wishing that the next flight would take a ‘wrong’ turn and would take us back to Nicaragua. Oh wishful thinking!
Usually, when we make long trips I’m ready to get home after 10 days or so. This time was different. The hubby and I were talking and realized how much we truly enjoyed Nicaragua and were surprised by it. We both wondered if it was because Nicaragua was so much more than we had expected or what we thought it would be.
It may be that when many hear someone mention Nicaragua they may immediately think of or imagine this poor little country in Central America. And yes, there are so many parts of Nicaragua where you see signs and remnants of the poor conditions in which many live but there was something unique there…all that was surrounded by tremendous beauty. All kinds of beauty to be exact.
The night we got to Nicaragua we were greeted by strangers, Hector and his girlfriend Jaqueline. Hector is a cousin I had never personally met but who was willing to drive 1 ½ hours to come get us at the airport and then make the trip back. There, right off the bat, we were introduced to Nicaragua’s beauty #1: It’s people.
Whether family or strangers, day after day, encounter after encounter, we were bombarded with this beauty. Alex mentioned to me 2 days after we got there, “I’m taken by how welcoming and loving Nicaraguan people are.”
Our 1 ½ hour drive from the airport to Matagalpa took us to our first stop, my aunt’s house, Tia Zenelia. A woman who survived the lowest points in the Nicaraguan government and economy. A woman who in the 70s, before the gerrillas took over, was wealthy, very wealthy, and who I now found in a humble, humble home; the place she calls her ‘Palacio’ (her palace). We were immediately offered food and something to drink and then after the hugs and the smiles we were taken to our room. “It’s not much but it’s your home” she sweetly said.
She kept apologizing because there was no running water at the moment. The city periodically cuts the water at random times and this happened to be one of them. Oh, and by ‘periodically’ I mean, like just about every day. “You can still use the bathroom, just don’t flush the toilet, simply put the lid down. We’ll flush it when the water comes back on.”
Later on, I found out what Tia Zenelia does when water is cut before going to bed. She periodically wakes up in the middle of the night so she can turn on the faucet. If water is running, she will then head to the patio, grab 10 gallon paint buckets, and begins to fill them all up. Something that came in handy the next day when water was cut off again and we had to take showers from such buckets. Aahhh…and there, in the midst of lacking running water we found Nicaragua’s beauty #2: Resilience.
When the communists overthrew the government in the 70s the country began a tough journey. Food was rationed, if you opposed the communists your life could be in danger, young boys and girls were ordered to join the guerillas, if they didn’t go willingly, then the guerrillas would go into the homes to take them, the communists took possessions of any home they wanted or would just burn them down for the heck of it. That’s what happened to my Tia Zenelia. She lost everything. A woman who previously lived in abundance was left with nothing. She began from zero. And she survived. Her story is not the only one out there. She is not the only one who rolled up her sleeves and took charge of the task ahead. She may not had wanted it nor asked for it but what else do you do when the only thing you have left is breath?
Tia Zenelia made it through, like many many other Nicaraguans. Years and years later, there, in Matagalpa, surrounded by beautiful mountains, she found herself, still with her sleeves rolled up because things are better but they are still tough. A woman now in her late 70s, still cooking Canelones at home so she can sell them for a bit of extra money. Such pliability we found in Nicaragua’s people. Something to be truly admired!
Day number 2 in Nicaragua was full. We ate...A TON! We got up early to go get a cell phone plan. I was told we were going to be quick (yeah, it wasn't quick) so I didn't even take a shower and then while out and about I realized I was in such a hurry to get out of the house that I had forgotten to brush my teeth!!! Oh dear! So what is a girl to do? Confiscate the hubby’s gum and pretty much place the whole package in her mouth, of course! So...we were introduced to more cousins I’d never met, we were taken to church to meet the pastor, we were taken to see my cousin’s Hector’s beautiful home where we ate one of our first traditional Nicaraguan meals, Nacatamales. And then, after showers and stops and brushing of teeth we went to a place called Selva Negra (Black Jungle). A hotel that sits at the top of the mountain; a pretty awesome place surrounded by acres and acres of trees and gardens and trails and coffee plantations. And there, at a view point, we were introduced to Nicaragua’s beauty #3: its scenery.
I can’t even count how many times my breath was taken away by all the beautiful scenery. The pictures below don’t do them any justice (and pardon because I only had my cell phone). We stood on top of mountaintops to see entire cities and saw miles upon miles of beauty. We walked on trails on volcanoes, we sunk our feet in soft black sand, dipped our feet in warm sea water, we bathed in lakes with volcanoes as backdrops, we admired mountains, the 365 islands in Lake Nicaragua, we saw fumerals and yet we didn't even get to see the whole country.
The beauty found in Nicaragua among all it's volcanoes and lakes is breath taking. The people, its resilience and scenery are but a mere few of the many things that are beautiful in Nicaragua but what we did get to experience stole our hearts. I only hope I get to go back to see more of its beauty and...
...now that I'm back to my life in the USA I hope I don't forget what I saw and I hope that I will constantly be reminded of how beauty can be preserve even in the midst of wars, oppression, poverty and trials.
These are some of the shots from Day 2 in Nicaragua around Selva Negra and Matagalpa.