January 2, 2013
Hi there! Sorry it’s been so long since my last blog. My J-term internship has been occupying most of my time lately. Allow me to back track and tell you about my unique holiday experience! This Christmas, we decided to travel instead of doing presents. Oddly enough, there were unbelievably cheap flights to Nicaragua this December, and my family was crazy enough to spring for a Christmas in the tropics! Sure, many heads turned every time I tried to explain what I was doing over break. “Nicaragua? Do people GO there? What is there to do there? Isn’t there a lot of poverty? Isn’t it unsafe?” Interestingly, upon returning from the country, we found a New York Times article entitled “46 Places to See in 2013” and Nicaragua came in 3rd! We proudly flashed the article in front of friends when we got back, but the truth is, despite all our research, nothing we read could have prepared us for this trip. My family travels a lot, but we’ve never experienced any place this different; this culture-shocking. On our way back from an excursion on the last day, my mom asked, “How on earth are we ever going to describe this place to people when we get back?” All I could come up with in response was, “You’re right. Photos and stories can only go so far. You can’t really wrap your mind around this place until you’ve seen it yourself.” But here’s the best summary I can come up with:
The city of Granada (where we stayed) surprised us with its fascinating history, hundreds of volcanoes, islands, its pristine rainforests, colonial architecture and rather blatant poverty. Nicaragua has been inexplicably targeted by countless dictators. First, the Spanish conquistadores entered, colonializing most of Nicaragua, as is evident all throughout Granada - decked out in columns and grand stair-cases. Next, American mad men like the power-hungry William Walker marched in and burnt down several cities. But somehow the sturdy adobe homes were able to withstand the flames. Today, the city’s configuration remains almost identical to the way it was in the 1500s. Horse and carriages still roam the streets and many old homes appear untouched.
Poverty was blatantly obvious as many children approached us for money and thin, sickly dogs followed us home hoping that we’d drop a piece of food. Watching tese hardships along struggling to understand the word-swallowing dialect certainly didn’t make for an EASY trip, but it absolutely made the experience more eye-opening. My mom and I grappled for the reason for Nicaragua’s lack of development…As we became more familiar with its history, it occurred to us that these people were simply puppets of the Spanish conquistadores and American dictatators for centuries. It’s a wonder they don’t hate us! Nevertheless, once those bad guys were out of there, Nicaraguans could finally stand up on their own. They are continuing to find their own identity, but for those of you who have steered away from Nicaragua as a vacation spot, consider it again! As another article remarked, “Nicaragua is ready for its close up!” So come check it out.
To sign out, I’ll leave you with a list of things that we did there:
-visit 3 volcanoes (and sand-boarded down one of them!)
-carriage tour of Granada
-walked thru several markets with raw meat lying over wood spokes and fruit/vegetables/sweets we'd never seen before
-laguna de apoyo (a gorgeous lake where we spent the entire day)
-visit the 3 pueblos blancos (one of the cities is famous for its pottery-makers: we stepped into one of the family's shacks and got to watch them enact the entire pottery making process - which hasn't changed since their tribal ancestors made them - and they let me make one too!)
-visit las isletas - the little islands off of lake Granada
-hang out at our beautiful hotel!