jueves, 19 de enero de 2012

Jan 11 2012: Moved into Quetzaltrekkers!

Hammocks, swaying palm fronds, light breeze, cool ice tea. These things I am used to by now. But here’s the catch: I’m on the Pacific Ocean! I finally made it to the beach! In front of me, the sea roars and heaves with tremendous waves, and currents too irregular for most to surf on. The sun is just low enough in the sky that the glare has rendered the sea a bright white, punctuated by the texture of waves. Every once in a while a bathing suit clad silhouette ambles by, or in through the crude wooden back gate of the Quetzal Playa hostel.


The back gate? front gate? of the beach hostel.

 Yes, Quetzaltrekkers has a beach hostel, and I’m on Beach duty. It’s really hard work. The first thing I did when we arrived was go on a beach run. My goal was a big rock formation in the distance with a monstrous white cross posed on top, dramatized by the white surf crashing against the cliff. The rock is igneous, porous and hard, and a ton of fun to scramble on until it gets wet. A bit further along, I came across a calm inlet leading inland and surrounded by thatched roof houses. A herd of cows stood about, probably wondering how they were supposed to graze on sand. 

The inside of the beach hostel- it's a mansion of a rich Nica family which Quetzaltrekkers rents.

On the way back I was shouted at by a group of Nica teens from up on a viewpoint. I climbed up and we hung out for a while; they turned out to be really cool kids. Jonatan and Bryan were the most talkative. Jonatan sported long, luscious black locks, feminine sunglasses, and several sparkly flower bracelets on each hand. He spoke with a noticeable lisp. Bryan wore a Nica beanie and Tivas. They were like their own breed of Nica hipsters, a different culture form my friends in Apompoa. They shared their mandarins and I invited them to the trivia night Quetzaltrekkers is putting on at Via Via tonight.

I’m here with Julia and Annika. Annika, a veteran volunteer, came to show me and Julia how to get here from Leon: First you walk to the corner and wave and shout when you see a camioneta pass by- a covered truck with people stuffed and spilling out of its open back. Since there is no schedule, you just have to cross your fingers that one passes by quickly. The camioneta drops you off at El Mercadito, where you catch the bus that runs to the beach. This is the Nica bus, the chicken bus, a fleet of yellow school busses donated by the U.S. because they were considered too old and unsafe to be used as school busses anymore. 

On the way over from the bus stop.

Julia is new as well; actually, she arrived at the EXACT same time as me. As I knew Quetzaltrekkers was expecting new arrivals around my start time, and I was in Leon early, I figured I’d move my stuff in on Friday morning. I was swept up in Maria’s history lesson though, and wasn’t able to escape until the afternoon. I walked through the doors of the QT office loaded down with my luggage and there, 5 paces ahead of me, was Julia arriving and claiming the last bedroom in the house.

Fortunately, there is a loft which has occasionally been used as a bedroom. There are no walls, wimpy curtains from the waist down, an impressively rickety ladder which I honestly didn’t think would hold my weight the first time (it also isn’t attached to anything and has the potential of falling over if weighted the wrong way), no outlets, dressers, or shelves, and dusty piles of random things such as broken fans and pipes. BUT, here’s the catch- It’s half price! I was all in. Home sweet home! 

Ladder up to my loft.

My loft.


I spent Saturday morning moving in and organizing. I actually managed to get the loft looking somewhat put together- with a newly bought fan, my clothes draped over hangers and hung on a pipe, underwear in my backpack’s rain cover converted into a hanging sack (hopefully it doesn’t rain), and an volcano board on a couple of logs as a makeshift nightstand.

On Saturday I shadowed my first office shift, which only involves sitting in the front office, greeting potential clients, selling upcoming hikes, and signing them up. The after shift work includes book keeping and counting money, and entering expenses into a computer system. It’s all straightforward and makes sense. What makes Quetzaltrekkers such a great organization is that 100% of the profits go to street kids, so the volunteers are very careful and frugal about the way things are run: Every cent saved on buying hiking supplies, food, etc., is a cent given to a kid in need. I haven’t been asked to do anything I don’t think I can handle yet, and the directors, Rebecca and Andrew, are really helpful and understanding.

Feeding myself is a whole different issue. This is the first time I’ve actually had to do my own cooking (which the rest of the volunteers find "hilarious" and “really cute”) and that’s been by far the biggest challenge for me so far. There’s a good change I will starve to death out of pure laziness.

 I started out with a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly, hoping to last on that for as long as possible, but yesterday I had a little freak out when it really hit me that nobody was going to cook me meals. I did a lot of panicky shopping and came back with tortillas, a bag of mushed beans, cheese, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Over the course of the day I made myself toast, a tomato salad, and a quesadilla. It was excruciating. I have never cooked so much in my life. How will I survive?! Luckily, eating out is actually cheaper than buying yourself groceries, at around 2 dollars for a huge plate. The downside is that being typical Nicaraguan cuisine, it isn’t healthy.

I have not been on a hike yet, and it’s killing me- I can’t wait to get out on a volcano!!

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