Getting here was an adventure in and of itself. I was given instructions on which bus to take and from what station, but nothing more. But then, why wouldn't that be enough? When I got to the bus station, I started to ask around for this place, Lagartillo. For several minutes, I followed a trail of extended index fingers leading me from bus to bus. I could tell that some of the drivers hadn't even heard of it. I took note of that. Finally, one driver said, aqui." I asked him how long the ride was so that I would have an idea about when I needed to get off, and so that he would know to stop for me, should he remember and feel so inclined. "Dos horas y media," he said.
The bus was pretty nice, for a school bus. My knees only dug into the seat in front of me a little bit. This was a big improvement over some of the other central american public buses. The guy who designed those things must have just quit his job canning sardines.
Our first turn out of Estelí was onto a dirt road. That was promising. The ride ended up lasting only about two hours. It was bumpy, but entertaining. The bus filled up gradually along the way. There was a guy on the roof to help people load their bags of vegetables and bushels of hay and chickens up there. I was liking it more and more. Something about mustached Nicaraguans in cowboy hats puts a smile on my face.
At the "intersection" to Lagartillo, the driver signaled to me that it was my stop. I grabbed my things and shuffled to the front to get off. As the bus drove off, I thought, "hmmm." It felt a little like I had been dropped into the scene of an old western flick. I just stood there for a minute and looked around. I reached for my hip half expecting to find a six-shooter there. Meanwhile, there was a miniature pep rally going on in my head. It was effective. I got pretty excited to see what was going to happen next. I didn't have plans to meet anyone and there was really only way to go, so I started to walk that way. An old wooden sign with hand-painted yellow lettering indicating the name of the community and all of the sub-communities within it. Lagartillo was one of them. I thought, "that's a good *sign*," and laughed to myself.
Fifteen minutes or so down the road, I reached this sign:
I about pooped my pants. "Hijos del Maiz Spanish School." Sons of the Corn Spanish School. Basically, Children of the Corn Spanish School. What could possibly go wrong?
Shortly after that, a bearded man walked out of his house to stop me. "Sacha?" he said. It took a second for me to snap out of the scene playing out in my head and realize someone was talking to me. "No problems getting here I see,' he continued. The guy's name was Luis and he was in charge of communications with incoming students. He was the one who had responded so quickly to my email. I'm still not sure how, since there is very little power here, much less internet.
He hopped on a three-wheeled bicycle with a small child in the rear basket and led me down the community's main drag. He showed me to the house where I would be staying for the next couple weeks and very briefly introduced me to Tina, the friendly older lady that lived there. Then, he disappeared as suddenly as he appeared. It was all Spanish from there on out. Tina gave me a short tour of the property and left me to get settled in the room she had for me. I wasn't much, but I loved it.
For the next couple days until I started to figure out the schedule, she would come find me for every meal. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner generally consisted of some variation of gallopinto and a homemade tortilla, but it never got old. Mi profesora the first week was named Rosa. She was friendly and funny in her own own way. She fit the profile of many Nicaraguan women her age: single mother. We had "class" for two hours twice a day. Except for the afternoon she canceled because she was sick. We mostly went over verb tenses and didn't get into a whole lot of actual conversation. It was a helpful refresher and a good place to start but it made me remember why I hate school.
For the twelve waking hours a day that I wasn't in class, I'm not really sure what I did. It was very hot and dry, which didn't inspire much motivation. I wandered around, and I wrote a bit. I didn't study much. I got into drawing sketches of things. I thought of all the times when I was little that people asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I used to say, "I want to be an artist." I guess I got my wish at some level.
On my third or fourth day, I discovered these homemade Otter-Pop-in-a-sandwich-bag thinggies that sell here. Posicles. That about made my life. Blended fruit, frozen, some with milk. Yes, please. Plus, they went for two cordobas each. That comes out to about $0.08. I ate at least four cada dia. It was the perfect remedy for the heat.
The second week was a little more up my alley. I got a different "profesor." I guess they like to switch things up for their students to make it more interesting. Success! It was a guy about my age named Yomar. The first morning of class, all we did was talk so that he could get a feel for my level. That same afternoon, he had "obligations" with the kid's baseball team so he asked if I wanted to join them for that afternoon's "class." He didn't have to twist my arm.
The game was in a neighbouring community about an hour walk away through dry prairies spotted with mango trees. It was on the walk there that I realized that picking iguanas off of trees with rocks is an international pass time. Kids in Thailand found it just as amusing. These kids though, with their baseball background, were incredibly accurate. One kid knocked the iguana off a branch from about 30 feet out on his first try, and two others got within a foot of it as it ran away.
It was a great time, and interesting to learn all the Spanish baseball jargon. Some of those little guys were actually really good. It turns out baseball is the national sport in Nicaragua. Who knew? It seems like everyone is in some league or another. I found it amusing seeing guys ride in on horses in their uniforms.
After the game, Yomar and I split off from the group and he led me off to a small community about the same size of Lagartillo. We got to a house-like structure and he went inside. A moment later, he came out with a couple beers, handed me one, and said, "bienvenido a mi classe!"
And that's about how the rest of week went with him. We spent our two morning hours of class reviewing grammar in the cabaña, and our two afternoon hours hiking or discussing pictures or wandering around. Our conversation time really helped a lot. I think by the end of it all, I had at least doubled my vocabulary. Unfortunately, that's not saying a lot but it's been fun picking up on more and more.
As for the "home" life, that was by far my favorite part of the experience. The minimalist lifestyle there is the closest thing to what I thought I was going to find everywhere when I left home seven months ago. There were always kids playing everywhere, mom's yelling after them, folks on horses, a real sense of community, no need for windows, farm animals running free, guitars playing, water concerns, no internet, no running water, and all that simple life goodness.
And of course, the little things. Like the bat that flew into my room every night right as I turned off the lights. He'd fly around a bit and then his claws would scratch slightly against the tin roof where he found a place to hang out (hang out!). Then there was the fly situation in the outhouse in the late morning, early afternoon. It was best to avoid it at those times. Yeah. And then the rooster uprising several times per morning before the break of day. And the attention starved kitty who would jump up and cling with his claws to my pocket (thigh). And the mamma chicken who would literally run at me with her 10 little chicks every time I came around. (That one was probably my bad; I snuck some tortilla out to them after nearly every meal. Whoops!)
|Come on, try to tell me you wouldn't have done the same.|