jueves, 19 de enero de 2012

January 6 2012: Still in Leon with la Mama.

I am finally getting geared up to start this new adventure! I spent the better part of the morning searching for a gym- the streets here are so crowded and crazy I couldn’t imagine running in them. After a couple of duds I found an excellent gym with beautiful treadmills from the U.S. Obviously reserved for wealthier Nicaraguans, the gym is organized around a courtyard garden, kept immaculately clean, and offers aerobics, spinning and running classes. I was really excited about this and immediately reserved an hour for the next morning.

The most exciting thing about today was visiting Quetzaltrekkers! I was given a very short, unofficial tour, but I really liked what I saw. The front office is airy with a high ceiling and walls plastered with beautiful photographs and posters of volcanoes and Nicaraguan naturaleza. Further in, there is an open air spot where a jungle like tree coils itself up and over the wall, Christmas lights draped around its trunk and colorful old shoes hanging from its branches. Backpacks and tents hang from ceilings and walls; volcano boards litter a work bench. A hammock is strung from a pillar. There is a spacious kitchen complete with a fridge, oven and toaster, and old fan cages strung up by twine to be used as baskets for miscellaneous food items. A heavy carved wooden table sits in the center area, and the rest is a ramshackle assortment of rooms: people’s bedrooms, “la bodega”, where backpacks are stored, two bathrooms, and another roofless area where laundry is done. Dappled sunlight dances everywhere because of the area open to the sky. The place has character; it’s funky, gritty, but has this artistic flow to it. It seems to mirror the constant flow of volunteers passing through and calling the house home for only 3 months. Half-finished projects sit in the garden and crude murals coat many walls.

The kitchen/diningroom of Quetzaltrekkers.

Random fountain and mural; the loft.

QT office.

The outside of the office.

The office.

Doors leading into the workshop/living area.

Tents hanging up to dry.

Last night was a flurry of last minute activities, including a surprise attach from a little old woman named Maria. She snuck on my mom and I as we were staring in confusion at Leon’s most famous mural, which supposedly depicts the history of Nicaragua. (Leon is famous for murals. During the revolution, the people painted murals everywhere despite the risk, for Sandinista pride and to educate.) To us it looked like a desert with an assortment of random artifacts scattered about in the dirt, a disturbingly mutilated animal of some sort lying on the ground, or at least its rear half, and at the far right a pair of kids holding hands and prancing into a volcano. 

“Would you like to hear the history of Nicaragua?” she says to us in Spanish. “Um, yes?” We spent the next hour or so being led through a step by step storyline of the Nicaraguan revolution, beginning with the native tribes and ending with the re-inauguration of Ortega, scheduled for the coming week. 

The artifacts at the beginning of the mural are first from the indigenous population of Nicaragua, and then of the Spaniards: the onslaught of weapons and fighting, and the introduction of horses. There are a couple symbols of the missionaries who also brought violence to Nicaragua. Then comes the 1930´s and Sandino,the creator of the Sandinista rebel party, who fought the U.S. Marines from the hills until he was killed at a dinner party.  (This event was immaculately described by Maria).

A Sandinista stomping on Uncle Sam.

Kids skipping to a volcano!

My mom and Maria in front of the mural.

The next part of the mural honors Rodrigo Lopez Perez, a famous poet of Nicaragua, originally from Leon. He murdered the first Somoza, symbolizing the impermanence of seemingly omnipotent dictators. The weird animal turned out to be a broken statue of the third Somoza on a horse that had been destroyed when Somoza was overthrown by the FSLN in 1979. The FSLN (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, the official Sandinista political party), was created by a group of college students including Carlos Fonseca, now a famous figure in Nicaragua. The children skipping off into the distance symbolizes Nicaragua´s hope for a bright future.

I´m beginning to see that Leon really was and still is a hotbed of left wing activists, and the only city where Sandinista sentiment is very prominent.  Much of the fighting during the revolutionary war occured on these streets. Maria described how she had been serving dinner when a bomb hit her house and the plates of food spilled all over the floor; she was thrown against the wall. She was twenty at the time. 

 I had to run off to Quetzaltrekkers to drop off my luggage and on my return, Maria, my mom’s new best friend, had invited us to her personal street corner where her daughter sells chicken. We camped out on lawn chairs and I tried my best to understand Maria’s stories over the cacophony of the street noises, the loudest of which being the Giant-Barbie-Procession: Every day a group of young boys armed with obnoxious snare drums and no sense of rhythm march through the streets with a gigantic, 10 foot, pink clad mannequin akin to a Barbie. She bobs and spins far above their heads in awkward, stiff lurches and stares down at you with a creepy blank stare. She is supposed to ward off ghosts. She’s definitely scary enough to make me want to scram; hopefully any vengeful spirits of Leon feel the same.

We had dinner on a lofty perch overlooking the city at a Mexican restaurant called El Alamo. I was really psyched to get veggie quesadillas with cheese that wasn’t literally a hunk of salt! We picked a good night; it is Epiphany and we got to watch an entire parade- a moving nativity scene complete with kids on floats as Jesus and Mary, gigantic King puppets, and a live marching band. 

Long after the parade passed the city pulsed with glowing lights and 10 different genres of loud music coming at you from different directions. The reguetton from the bar below made the floorboards vibrate and kids shouted from the basketball cancha next door. Tomorrow my mom leaves and I move into mi Nuevo hogar!

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