Archives for posts with tag: Nicaragua

I hopped off the bus, and was only interested in one thing. Toilet. We had been on the bus for 3 or 4 hours, but the last hour just felt like forever, thanks to my bladder!

I look around and see a rudimentary structure that appears to be a shop and a house. There is nothing else around, just barren desert. I feel a sense of pride at my Spanish and rush towards the lady, asking for the baño. But she says there isn’t one, and tries to sell me a Coke.  I felt so devastated that she would lie to me like this. Because obviously, the family living there must have a toilet, right?

Wrong. This is Nicaragua.  A small, poor country in central America.  For me, it was the land of volcanoes, surf, rocking chairs and parties.  For the people living there, it is a different story all together.  The daily grind of putting rice and beans on the table to feed their kids is hard enough.

In Nica, the conscientious people burn rubbish (mainly plastics) outside while their children play and inhale the fumes. The majority of people just throw the rubbish wherever they are at the time when it is produced.

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Just another stream behind a township in Nicaragua

Can you imagine building a toilet as well? What’s the point? Over a billion people still practice open defecation today…. Which would be ok if they are healthy and happy.  But there are so many water borne diseases we know about, and I feel like I can make a difference. In fact, it is a social responsibility for me.

This is my motivation for going to Vanuatu with Engineers without Borders.  I’ll be there a whole year, to increase awareness in the sanitation area. Whether this be educational programmes at schools, up skilling labourers, or both, I am not sure yet.  I know no one in Vanuatu, in fact, when I saw the placement, I had to google where it was! This will be a different kind of adventure to my usual and will be what I make of it.  I am scared and excited all at the same time.

Because remember, what you see as a tourist is not reality.

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Beauty queen parading around beach

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Cute kids by the beach.  Is that plastic on top of the roof to stop the rain? yes it is.

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When I left Jiquillio I did a mini tour of Nicaragua.  After visiting Leon, Granada, Masaya and even the scary capital Managua I was yearning for the sea.

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Sunset from Treehouse hostel, outside Granada

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Granada Street Art

IMG_2201  Sunset over Central Cathedral, Granada

I quickly made my way to San Juan Del Sur, the surfing, sun and party mecca.  I arrived thinking I needed to settle down, get a job, a purpose in life, or something like that.

IMG_2394San Juan Del Sur Bay, with Jesus in the distance

IMG_2296Playa Maderas

The bay at SJDS has little to no surf, but it is a short  taxi or pick up truck ride away from many good beach breaks North and South.  The effect of lake Nicaragua close by guarantees perfect off shore wind all day more than 330 days a year.  This combined with abundance of cheap booze and drugs plus Nicaragua’s newly “safe” status tempts surfers from all over the world to play here.  Well Australians and Americans anyways.

After navigating some beach breaks I found my surf beach, complete with a surfing buddy from El Tunco.   I quickly scored a “job” painting a surf store front mural.  The decision was made for me… with free accommodation and beach shuttles I got to stay and feed my surfing obsession, as well as develop my arty side.

This was the first real responsibility aside from my laundry I had had in six months and I couldn’t have been happier.  I figured it couldn’t be that hard to paint a mural, but I emailed home for advice.  My best friends quickly gave their encouragement and suggested to start off with primer and a good set of underwear.

I watched the store workers sanding the shop for a couple of days in between surf sessions, and then I got to work on the priming.  I still had no idea what I was going to paint on the store yet, aside from a sun and a wave.  I had a few false starts and started to worry a little, but  powered on.

At night I would rebel against the responsibility and drink the local brews: Toña or Flor de Caña, beer or rum respectively.  I discovered ladies night with free drinks 4 days a week, and street, pool or dinner parties galore.  No matter how tired I was, the FOMO [fear of missing out] always took over, I couldn’t just sit in my room by myself all night!

IMG_2272 Politics: A good reason to ride your bike looking cool

IMG_2263Politics: A good reason to cancel bus services for the day

IMG_2342Politics: A good reson to Surf

The Nicaraguans were also performing demonstrations almost everyday.  There were women focused ones, party focused ones and sport focused ones.  It was all leading up to the local elections which appeared to be rigged towards the Sandinistas.  Nicaragua is a socialist state with current ties to Russia and Cuba, but they still run elections like a democracy.  The people are very poor, but they still get free education, healthcare and a welfare system.  You see people living very basic lives, but you don’t see any slums in Nicaragua.

After 4 weeks of surfing, painting, and party I started to get tired. I realised I was eating out a lot because the free kitchen I got was so so dirty.  The waves got small and the wind changed for the worse.  The rain set in and splattered my mural.  The parties blurred into one another and all became one.  My friends moved on to panama or costa rica.  My body was suffering.  I started to detox a little, not really drinking but I still needed to get away….. In all honesty, I found it too hard to moderate myself.

Realising the mural was taking too long due to my surf focused work ethic, I finished it, moved hostels and plotted my next move. I knew I felt like gardening, nature, yoga as well as a new country .  Costa Rica was the obvious choice.  More about that later.  Here are some photos of my work in SJDS; a special place in my journey.

Xx Sof

IMG_2321Fishing boat

IMG_2464 Gilbert, who repaired my board and taught me how to shade waves

IMG_2463 Claudio, always full of helpful advice, like how to thin paint, use a roller or get to the post shop!

IMG_2376The finished product (ish – minus the good times sign)

IMG_2456Another day, another job….

Dozens of masked Salvadorenian men run down the street towards us. The smell of gas and burning lingers in the air.  A guy stumbles into me and I fall.  The heat from his body is overwhelming. I panic when I realise his head  is on fire, and my plastic rain poncho starts to singe. The paramedics take him  away.

An hour later, shit gets real. Flaming balls of fire are haphazardly thrown into the crowd taking out whoever is in their way. A tree full of children catches on fire.  After a few close calls I cop a rebound on the leg, but come out on top.

We are at the annual Nejapa bolas de fuego festival.

Earlier, when we asked our guide how many people die from the annual event, he changed the subject. I can now see why.  The festival started more than 100 years ago and replicates the Volcano El Playon eruption, but it looked more like a riot to me!

Photo credits to Aidan; http://seasnsky.tumblr.com/

San Cristobal volcano erupted early september.  To celebrate, Aidan and I decide to climb the closest volcano to it… Telica. There we saw lava and San Cristobal up close, smoking peacefully.

 
San Cristobal Erupting 8th September (obviously not my photo)

The hike up to telika 9th September

At the top…

San Critobal Smoking peacefully