lunes, 16 de enero de 2012

Jan 1: My mom and I travel from Granada to Apompoa, a small village near Rivas and Lake Nicaragua. I spent 2 months there volunteering with Amigos de las Americas during the summer of 2009. I lived with the Rojas Leal family and grew to really love them. We’re staying with them for the next 3 days.

Apompoa. Out of the bustling and touristy, although admittedly beautiful, city. Into this village that feels  out of a fairytale to me, out of a faraway Garcia-Marquez story, hidden from the western eye behind thick luscious palm fronds. 

Here the wind blows only in diciembre. The much appreciated tropical breeze sways strange trees like out of a primitivist painting, thickly adorned with round clusters of leaves. It seems to swirl the thick swath of stars into a soup, dancing and spiraling at us as we walk the dirt roads. It’s 9 o’clock but it feels like midnight- there isn’t a soul in sight but Yimmy lounging on the street corner and playing a song on his cellphone.

It’s impossible for the locals to see the fantasy of their town in contrast to the U.S., and that only enforces its magic spell. Like out of a dream, these jungle cottages are from another world to me, yet to all eyes but mine, they are the everything and the only, they life and home. 

Not many locals leave Apompoa. The minority travels the 20 minutes to Rivas for university, but then eventually return.  Most spend their entire lives here. Even those who leave for work seem to come back. My hostsister Maria Auxiliadora worked for months in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, in a tienda. But now shes going to find something to do here. Joel, our sweet gregarious friend, is at university in Managua to be a journalist. He’d like to write books, but no one reads books in Nicaragua he says. But he laughs, he’s going to be a Spanish teacher, here in Apompoa. 

 Almost like treading on never been explored land, visiting places like this feels like intruding on a hidden universe. My mom and I have been trying to get there all day. We slept in late- the fireworks in Granada lasted about 6 hours, from 8-2 am, the climax being around 1 when the entire sky seemed to be set aflame and bombs seemed to be ricocheting off the maze of tile roofs below our hotel window. I tried to sleep through it, frustrated by the extensive demonstration, and couldn’t. Finally just as I started digging through my bag for my earplugs, mama told me to just check out the display. It was beautiful and I instantly forgot my pettish frustration. 

 Our breakfast table in the hotel.

There are no busses on Sundays here. There are definitely no busses on New Year’s day. Besides that, absolutely no one is working today. Of course we find this out only after walking about 10 blocks with all our bags, to the bus stop. Heat, sweat, 60 pounds on my back… colors of the market popping in front of the majestic Volcan Mombacho swathed in a low lying cloud. Mama bought socks from a sock vender while I uncomfortably snapped some photos, feeling like THAT tourist.

Granada- street outside our hotel.

 The outside of our hotel.

So we caught a taxi. My friends Ezequiel, Elvis and Joel from Apompoa wanted to know how much it cost us. When I told them 40 American dollars, they sucked in their breath in disbelief. But we’re here now, and soon after we arrived, I wondered why we didn’t just come directly from Managua, especially to spend New Year’s Eve in Apompoa where they set giant dolls on fire in the streets and the kids run around naked with mini “fuego artificial”. We even missed everyone going to the beach because we arrived late, which is a real shame.
“Tu español es mas peor, y estas mas delgada.” That’s what I’m hearing here. I can’t really explain that I didn’t exactly spend the last 2 years eating heaping plates of deep fried food and sitting around all day in lawnchair chatting in español like I did here. Apompoa itself hasn’t changed much. Rosemary and Maria Luisa have married and are gone, and Flor may have another silver tooth, but our benches are still in the school, and me, Ariel and Simoa’s names are still painted big and bold on the side of the house. (Ariel and Simoa were my Amigos partners). As our taxi crawled into town over potholes and cobblestones, I smiled at the same old man, two and a half years older, still sleeping on the same set of steps on the same corner as he always has. I even have a photo of him from 2009, exactly as he is now, down to the last button on his surprisingly crisp white shirt.


My bedroom in my host family's house.

The kitchen.

The "posso", or well, in the courtyard.

 My hostnephew Raulito, drawing trucks on the paper we brought him.


The courtyard.

Simoa, Ariel and I- this is a framed picture in the bedroom!

With some chaballitos at the stadium.

The Rojas Leal family didn’t get back from la playa until evening, arriving in style in the neighbor family’s newly purchased camioneta. We have already gotten our fair share of plastic-chair-in-the-road-chat time-culture. I have visited pretty much all the family and friends I have here, and had an hour or so of lawnchair chat time with each. Elvis, Ezequiel, Joel and I had a lengthy chat about marriage, sex and boyfriends across cultures. Here, sex is considered very unacceptable not before marriage but before a couple has moved in together, which is apparently done before marriage in some cases. And this can be as young as 14 or 15. Ezequiel and Elvis think this is loco. I asked my host-sister-in-law Yoryina about it later- she moved in with Yimmy and the Rojas Leals at age 15- and she shrugged; she only moved two doors down from her family.

All the kids get around on bikes, and most of the time they are about a foot too short for the bikes they have. A lot of them ride on the bar rather than the seat.

Everyone asks and asks if I like their country. “Te gusta aqui???” I tell them what I love most about Nicaragua is how much the people love each other and how everyone is so close with their neighbors-and the whole town for that matter- and how everyone helps each other out… I searched desperately for the right words in Spanish. “Somos mas unidos,” Maria offered. That’s right.  “Eso!”

An irrigation stream out in the Campo.

My mom with some chabalitas.

The Campo- they grow primarily plantains, sugar cane, and corn.

Red beans left out in the sun to dry.

Pigs everywhere!

Kids are not exactly expected to be clothed, and have the freedom to run about the entire community at their pleasure. Apompoa is extremely safe and everyone knows each other. People walk into each other's houses unannounced at any time of the day. There is little privacy- only curtains separate rooms- and I was often changing in my room when a random kid off the street ran in to say hello.

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