One of the reasons Rowan and I were excited to travel to Nicaragua was to practice our Spanish. She's in her second year at school, and my three high school years have been refreshed too infrequently by trips to Mexico and Peru. Little did we know that Spanish in Nicaragua is not like Spanish anywhere else.
I won't go into the intricacies of "tu es" versus "bos sos" (ask me later if you want me to, not that I know much), but we did have the chance to learn a few interesting Nica phrases. For instance, chunche is the local way of saying "thing," as in este chunche means "this thing." Dale pues (pronounced without the s if you really want to sound local) means "okay then." Overall, I noticed that the s at the end of a word was often dropped. Of course, as soon as I said "buena noche" instead of buenas noches the way I was taught, I was responded to in the "proper" way.
Okay, enough boring language lessons. Let me know if you want to know anything else. I'll get on with what we saw in Nicaragua.
I finally had my camera with me at breakfast the last morning we were on Ometepe (I love being able to sit outside for meals; someday I'm going to live in a place like that) and got a few shots of these fabulous birds which kept trying to steal our food. They're white-throated magpie-jays (Calocitta formosa). Aren't they beautiful?
I also finally got my first sighting of a howler monkey in a tree outside our hotel.
After too short a time, we had to leave Ometepe. First, however, we had a chance to explore Moyogalpa for a few minutes and I become more enamored of the colorful loveliness of Nicaragua. I have long wished Valdezeans would be brave and fight our perpetual gloom with bright, cheery colors like we saw on these houses and on the Moyogalpa Cathedral.
This time the ferry from Ometepe landed in San Jorge, although I couldn't have told you that until I looked at a map after I got back home. To my uneducated eyes, rushing from one place to another, I thought we were back in Rivas, the town we'd left from to go to Ometepe. Like in the U.S., there was a great deal of signage everywhere about the upcoming national elections, but we saw no evidence that anyone was running against the incumbent, Daniel Ortega. Murals like this one on the San Jorge Pier, as well as billboard with photos of Ortega and his wife, were common.
Equally common were graffiti-style black and red flags with FSLN 2 painted on walls and fences. Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN or Sandinista National Liberation Front) was the democratic socialist party which overthrew Samosa in 1979. There is one primary opposition party, the Constitutional Liberal Party, which held the government under Nicaragua's first female president, Violeta Barios de Chamorro from 1990 - 1997 and then another president until 2007. Ortega was elected and took office in 2007, and has been in power since. Although the FSLN seems to be still widely popular, our guide gave me the impression that Ortega thinks of Nicaragua as his personal fiefdom, and is becoming too much like Samosa in his willingness to squash opposition for the comfort of many. I suspect the politics of Nicaragua will remain interesting for some time to come. I did ask about the "2" on the FSLN 2 signs. According to Nohelia, FSLN is always party number two on ballots, so illiterate voters need only look for the 2 in order to vote for their party's candidates.
And that is the extent of my interest in Nicaraguan politics for the moment. I was far more fascinated by frequent sightings of these beautiful white birds. I first thought they were egrets, and then let myself be convinced they were white herons, but a smidgen of research makes me think I was right to begin with. I believe this is Ardea alba, aka great egret, common egret, large egret, or great white heron. Whatever you call them, they are beautiful. I caught this one fishing, but the photo isn't good enough to zoom in on much.
My infatuation with color continued when we made it to Granada. We didn't stay long in this Spanish-colonial city, just long enough to take a carriage ride for a city tour. Karen got a special carriage because it was her birthday. Those balloons she's carrying, the ones she didn't give to adorable children, decorated the streets of Granada.
In between ogling the wonderful buildings, we had the discomfort of the carriage driver. I really don't like conflict (although I'm sure my hubby would argue with that self-assessment), and get really uptight and uncomfortable when people are being loud and making a scene. Our carriage driver didn't speak much English - just enough to kind of tell us what buildings we were looking at - but Gilah, one of the other women in our group had already spent a week in Granada and was able to give us a pretty good tour. Traffic in the cities is a very mixed bag. You see the usual melee of cars, motorcycles, and bicycles with an odd assortment of dilapidated horse carts thrown in. Granada added these lovely carriages to the mix. With free-form traffic regulations and few street signs, it made for exciting travel.
For the most part, car drivers were pretty respectful of and patient with horse-drawn conveyances, but our carriage driver managed to piss off one car driver. The carriage driver was trying to stay with the other carriages in our group, and as a result blocked traffic a bit in one large intersection. When a car driver honked impatiently, the carriage driver stopped in the middle of the intersection, completely blocking traffic. He then proceeded to get in a shouting match with the car driver. I couldn't understand the words, but it was clear they were arguing about the rights of the carriage to be there. I'm sure the whole incident lasted no more than a minute, but it ruined the whole experience for both Rowan and I. She was very upset by the time we reconvened with our group and got on the road again. It's really unfortunate when people can't seem to behave professionally, not that this kind of behavior is limited to Latin America.
The other unfortunate part of the carriage ride was that it was so quick that it was hard to get any photos of the wonderful street scenes. I managed to capture a few colorful buildings and reminded myself that Rowan and I would be back later in our trip.
After Granada we continued on our journey to Laguna de Apoyo, a volcanic crater lake on Volcan Apoyo. We arrived shortly before dark, just in time for a refreshing dip in the rocky lake before dinner. Our room was in a three or four bedroom house at a small resort, and I could have taken up residence for a week.