BOOM. A volcano erupting? That was the first thought that went through my head as I lay in bed, reading. It was probably around midnight. The deep rumble from overhead shook my bed and rattled the pages of my light paperback. I´m Reading ¨Kook¨- it´s a surfing novel- part adventure story, part just plain informative about the sport, history, and culture of surfing. When I first picked it up I was drawn in by the cover: Bright yellow and orange stylized sunbeams, silhouette of a sexy surfer dude dead center. Did not expect the author of this seemingly light summer read to be a genius craftsman of words. I was pleasantly surprised- Peter Heller is a well respected journalist of the adventure travel sort, and has written for National Geographic AND Outside Magazine (¡!). Reading a book about surfing, I can mentally delve into the seductive realms of the surfing world, catch rad waves and sweeping barrels in my head, and imagine myself with a brightly toned surfboard under my arm, so in the scene, striding confidently across sea swept sands into the rolling ocean.
Of course, this is pure fantasy. My Big Project- to learn to surf while in Nicaragua- has failed miserably. With only a couple days left in Niclandia, my time is spent. I haven´t had the time nor the money to partake in regular 20 dollar surf lessons; after one of those it was clear that surfing isn´t a sport that you can pick up after a couple times. It´s hard core. Requires dedication. When you surf, you surrender yourself to the capricious beast of the sea- The ocean becomes the master. The conductor of waves like music, waves that can move your body softly like a sweet melody, or thrash you, catapult you, smother you at the ocean´s slightest fancy. Vast, powerful, Godlike she reigns.
Surfing is not like rock climbing, my other Project for the year, one that has actually been working out so far. Climbing was instant ecstasy for me; it´s a sport which can be enjoyed regardless of skill level or experience. If I want to really learn how to surf, I´ll need several months on the beach, just surfing. To learn how to really read the ocean. Sadly, that probably won´t happen this year.
So I was lying there reading, and I heard another rolling roar, followed by another. Maybe it´s not a volcano. If it´s something serious someone will come get me, right? Then all of a sudden, a steady stream of white noise. My fan must have gone wild! Or is someone frying something on the stove? Then a knock on my door. ¨Emma!¨ It was Raf. ¨It´s raining!¨
No friggin way. I leapt out of bed in just my tanktop and underwear, and stepped outside to face the open courtyard which the bedrooms encircle. Raf wasn´t lying- it was POURING! Great torrents of water, bursting from the stormy sky and turning our courtyard into a lake. Waterfalls gushed from the inlets of the corrugated tin roof. Puddles seeped onto the walkway and threatened to creep into my room.
I was ecstatic! We were ecstatic! The whole family present at the time- Mom (Rebecca), dad (Andrew), me, Raf, Jules and Mike- gathered to witness this unbelievable phenomenon. It hadn´t rained a drop in Leon for the entire three months of my stay. Even stranger- we´re in the utter depths of the dry season right now. The sky should be a desert, devoid of any hint of moisture; the air should be crackling with static. I mean, it just was. But now it was RAINING. Can you say unseasonal?
Raf, Jules and I leapt onto the stone washbasin to be as close to the heavens as possible, and screamed and screamed. We turned our faces to the clouds which tumbled and boiled across the sky, first black and then white as blurred lighting cracked behind their nearly opaque fortress. We were drenched in seconds. It was as if we had been bewitched into a child like state of insanity- We yelled and whooped and ran about the house near nude, pure glee.
The next morning, it was as if it had never happened. I was sure it was a one time gift; maybe a wet goodbye kiss to Jules who left that day. But then that night, it happened again. I was at the payphone chatting with Alia when I heard the sound I now recognize as a thing called thunder. I walked home at 9 under awnings spilling with rainwater, ran across roads turned to rivers, and quickened my pace through the stormy suddenly unfamiliar streets to the safety of home.
We have no idea what´s going on. This really shouldn´t be happening. Theories range from this being a freak incident to this being the rainy season come two months early. I think it´s global warming. Whatever the case, I love it. Everything smells wonderful; wafts of rain soaked concrete remind me of Seattle. I can run under overcast skies and not come home feeling like I´ve been stranded waterless in the desert for a week. The rain is revitalizing- it´s the long awaited deep drink that we´ve been holding out for. It´s filling our parched skin and parched souls like breathing life into a bag of dehydrated camping food.
For Nicaraguans, this unexpected mana from the sky must be a disappointment. It´s Semana Santa- the holiest and most important week of the year here- from April 1 to April 8 (Easter Sunday). This means one of two things for Nicaraguans: Either you´re religious, in which case you stay in the city to participate in daily activities and nightly precessions, or you´re not religious, so you go to the beach. Semana Santa also means no school for the kids, so families really make a vacation of it. Beaches up and down the coast are packed with sunbathers, partiers and picnickers for 8 days straight- it´s the Spring Break scene gone wild. So I assume that the rain will not be a welcome addition to their festivities.
Semana Santa is chock full of holy days- Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, Ester Sunday. I guess the Catholics decided everything would be easier if they could just concentrate all the holiness and celebration into a single week- get it all over with in one go. Leon is famous for its Semana Santa processions. Here, the devout create art on the streets to celebrate holy week- detailed depictions of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Leon´s cathedrals, out of colored sawdust. At night the parades pass through the ¨carpets¨, as they call them- fleeting reminder of the transience of beauty- and scatter the sawdust. Unless the rain gets there first. I´m not sure if the precessions will be happening if this continues.
Procession on Easter Sunday.
This has been a strange week in many ways. The rain, Semana Santa… everything is closed, so it´s like Sunday on crack for a week straight- it´s also my last week here, and perhaps strangest of all, I haven´t been hiking.
Not that that was my choice. Quetzaltrekkers has been booming with business for months, and in the space of a day, we hit low season like running into a brick wall. All of a sudden, hikes stopped going. We´d get one or two clients signed up for Volcano Boarding, zero for El Hoyo. It´s been incredibly strange.
To be honest, I´m not complaining. I have thought about how nice it would be to have a week extra in Leon without working, to finish up last minute business and just plain relax and enjoy the city. Be here without being stressed out. So I got my wish in a way. It´s been really good for me, and I´ve been relaxed and getting enough sleep.
A sudden halt in hiking does not mean our trivia and raffle events stopped happening though. Trivia nights are hosted by Quetzaltrekkers and occur every other Monday at Via Via restaurant. They´re quiz nights that have little to do with Quetzaltrekkers except to raise awareness of our existence and sneak in some tidbit of information between slides. The raffle is a rarer event- it´s strategically scheduled for the Friday before every full moon, to publicize the Full Moon Hike (an all night hike up Telica).
I am Events Manager, which means I coordinate the preparation and execution of Trivia and Raffle nights. Rebecca creates the actual trivia questions, while I make copies of answer sheets, set up sound equipment, count money, delegate responsibilities (putting up the projector and screen, grading, being in control of the nightly activity, and shouting out the questions in English and Spanish, in case the people can´t read what´s clearly written on the projector’s screen.)
Trivia nights are mostly a blast- they create a fun, chaotic atmosphere, a full house of Leon residents and tourists just stopping by, shouting, drinking, catching up and meeting people. It can get VERY competitive. I love that; I think it´s hilarious. The longer I´ve been in Leon, the more and more people I know or at least recognize coming back to trivia nights every other week. Lately, we´ve been combining trivia and raffle, so the raffle tickets are sold throughout the night and the winner is chosen at the end. Of course, all the proceeds go to the same pot as our hiking income does, to the street kids.
A few days ago my very last trivia and raffle came and went. When ¨lasts¨ start to crop up more and more, it´s hard to keep ignoring that I´m leaving very soon…