----------------------------------------------- Google Site Map ----------------------------------------------- Cindy in ...: April 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nicaragua: A Dignified Way to Go

One day I stumbled upon a funeral in Granada. Whoever had died was being escorted to church to the accompaniment of a brass band, to the sound of tubas and trumpets and trombones. The procession, followed by mourners on foot, wound through town, up and down the street for what seemed like hours. I kept encountering the deceased and the entourage.

The coffin rested in the bed of a horse-drawn hearse. High up on his seat, the driver held the reins and maintained the slow, steady pace, dressed in tails and a top hat. It should have seemed odd, comical, but it didn't it seemed appropriate and right, a very dignified way to go.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nicaragua: Someone Who Wants to Learn

In Nicaragua, families with many children sometimes send one of them to live with another family, not as a guest or foster child, but to work, and work hard. It's not a good beginning.

Nadine has an employee who was one of those children. Grown up now, and back with relatives, in one month of a part time job, he saved enough to rent a room of his own. He used his first full time pay, which was for half a month, to enroll in a Sunday high school program. With his next pay, he talked to Tomas, a Canadian who runs an inexpensive English school, about getting a scholarship. Tomas runs the school using donations to provide scholarships for people who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise. Tomas told him he could sit in classes that weren't full for a while, until a scholarship became available.

A week later, I ordered a smoothie, numero quatro. "Four!" He doesn't usually wait on tables, but they were busy.

Anyway, I was very impressed. So impressed that I dug into my meager funds for a donation to sponsor him. Granada English College provides four weeks of two-hour classes M-Th for $30, and that is the premium program. Class materials for four months cost $11.

Anyway, I thought someone else might be interested in donating. If you do, and want your donation to go to this man in particular, I'll send you his name. Or you could just specify that it's for the guy from Mavericks. I've stuck a link over on the sidebar, and there are credit card and PayPal donation buttons on the site. I haven't used them yet, as I just gave my money to Nadine.

OK, that's it. I promise I won't do another post like this again. At least not for years.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Nicaragua: The Incongruity of It All

The bullock cart I sighted going down one of Altagracia's main streets seemed a little incongruous, since I was on my way to the internet cafe. In Charco Verde I made use of the free wifi at the Hotel Charco Verde, then walked past women doing laundry in the lake, using stones as scrubbing boards, and, of course, more bullock carts. Pigs and chickens in the streets, donkeys hauling bricks, and people piling their groceries into pony carts are not unusual here. It's all all a bit strange.

Think of the sci-fi movies and novels that portray intelligent aliens riding up to the spaceport on local domesticated animals. Think Star Wars. That doesn't seem quite as unrealistic as it once did. The other popular science fiction scenario, where everyone on a planet speaks the same language, has the same religious and/or cultural beliefs, and is at a similar state of development, now that seems unrealistic.

I first noticed this in Costa Rica. Monte Verde was settled by American Quakers in 1958. Most of them flew in, while their goods were hauled up on bullock carts that look like those in use on Omotepe today.

In Granada, Nicaragua, horse-drawn coaches line the central park, ready to take tourists for a ride. They are well-groomed and sleek, and have those canvas bags suspended between the horse and the carriage, so the streets won't be fouled with excrement. Not that it helps much, because once you leave the streets around the parque, you encounter the half-starved poorly-cared-for ponies that are used to bring goods in from the country and haul them around town. No diapers there.

In Catarina, the occaisional pig wanders the streets, along with the ubiquitous chickens. And still, there is internet.

An hour from Granada, Masaya still has what amounts to a horse-drawn bus, a cart with benches running on both sides. The carriages here are used for regular, not just tourist transport. Some still are in Granada, too.

And wherever you see them, you usually are only a block or two from an internet cafe where you can read your hometown paper back in Austria, use Skype to call your best friend in Hong Kong, and check on the latest rumblings in the Middle East. Then you can walk outside and hail a horse.

Oh, the incongruity of it all.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Nicaragua: Masaya Market

Masaya has two markets, one for handicrafts and the local market. The local market is at the bus station, so I thought I'd start there. I wandered around, checking out the various sections: eating, vegetables and fruits, meat, fish, household goods, shoe repair, furniture, pottery, and tourist items.

While outside for a short walk, I noticed that here, the horse-drawn carriages are just a common means of transportation, not a tourist attraction. I even found a horse-drawn bus.

Several hours later, with a stomach full of pollo asado, two pairs of sandals, a new wallet, a pocketbook, and a lot of pictures, I boarded a motorized bus to Granada, yet another converted school bus.

That's when I discovered that the dark red bag that I'd purchased was really a bright, bright red. Never buy colored things in covered markets without taking them into the sunlight. I knew that.

The bag is Guatemalan, as are most of the textiles sold in Central America. The majority of the remainder seem to come from India. You really have to look hard for anything local. Then, even if you get a local type weave, you are never sure they are made locally.

Nadine, my friend with the shop in Granada, only sells local goods, yet I was sure that some of her hammocks came from Ecuador. One day I heard her explain to someone that the Ecuadorian style became very popular in Nicaragua, so the weavers learned how to make them.

That reminds me of all the tours of ruins I've taken: We think they had their first contact with such-and-such group then, because that's about when such-and-such style elements were incorporated into their pottery. So in the future, will archaeologists date Nicaragua's first contact with Guatemala as early in the 21st century, based on fabric fragments from a few hammocks?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Nicaragua: San Juan del Oriente, The Crafts Town

San Juan del Oriente is literally a few hundred yards from Catarina. I walked there after strolling around Catarina for over an hour, so you know it's close.

San Juan del Oriente is a crafts town, one of those places where you can see workers in their workshops, and every building seems to be sprouting examples of whatever is made there. In this case it is pottery. The streets (two of them) are lined with shops and restaurants, porches crammed with pottery, windchimes hanging from the rafters, so one thinks that they are some sort of plant being raised there.

When looking at crafts, there is high quality and low quality. I always go for the low quality small item, so it costs little, is not so likely to break, and I won't care much if it does. So, after I spent my two dollars (it was going to be $1.50, but the salesperson didn't have change, so I took it in goods), I got on the bus for home. Well, for Granada. By then it was feeling like home.