Salud, Dinero, Amor! .....Caballo!

Published: August 13th 2016
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Casa de GonzaloCasa de GonzaloCasa de Gonzalo

The cheerful red house on the left belongs to my home stay family.
A small puebla in the region of Masaya called San Juan de la Concepcion hosts the La Mariposa Escuela de Espanol. A teacher colleague, back in Oregon, recommended the school to me and the idea of taking some Spanish classes here. I spent four nights at Casa de Gonzalo with a beautiful home-stay family and four nights at the school which is also an Eco-hotel, rain reforest area, dog sanctuary, bird, horse and monkey rescue. The personnel at the school encouraged students to use the village as their access to language learning. In no time, my brain had switched from English to Spanish and the genuine people were kind and welcoming to a giant white woman from North America. Through the lense of my camera and speaking Spanish I befriended the puebla of San Juan de la Concepcion. Here are some small vignettes into my week, and as the Nicaraguenzas say, "Health, Money, Love!"

Leaving Dain

With all the travel rearranging, due to a heart illness, Dain and I ended up with only four days together in Nicaragua. It was a tearful goodbye, which I did not really expect. I had been dead set on making it to Nicaragua
San Juan de la ConcepcionSan Juan de la ConcepcionSan Juan de la Concepcion

I was practicing some Spanish with this seller. He said he gets 1200 cordobas for each piglet, ~ $40. Many families raise pigs and keep them tied to a tree in their yard for their lifetime.
and I was surprised that when he left, I felt really alone and scared. Looking back, it had been a whirlwind of hospital visits, the most dreadful year of my career, followed by an upsetting house fire just 50 feet from my home in Oregon. Then, I hadn't even seen my husband for three weeks and he was turning around to leave for another three weeks. It took me all morning to get my shit together before Oscar arrived with a speeding halt to pick me up, "Himay! Himay!" I waved at him, he grabbed my giant back pack and I swooshed into the next whirlwind!


When I arrived at the house of Gonzalo they showed me to my room made of cinder blocks and a bed with a thin feather filled pillow on top of a plank of plywood. A mosquito net is provided by the school and I was fortunate to have electricity and a flushing toilet. The toilet and shower, separated by a hanging sheet between the living room and bedroom, was shared by five people and me. The family was: mom, Miriam, who had been married to Gonzalo for 30 years and one
La Mariposa Escuela de EspanolLa Mariposa Escuela de EspanolLa Mariposa Escuela de Espanol

Spanish school, ecohotel, reforestation, education, animal rescue projects.
of her daughters, Ya-ya, with her son-in-law, Chip, and seven-year-old grandson, Eric. It was odd to see Miriam routinely sweep the dirt floor and, use an open fire to cook and all the laundry was vigorously scrubbed by hand. The corrugated metal roof was loud at night when the cats clambered around in a safe place and away from becoming street dog food. Miriam had to show me how wash my hands with the limited amount of clean water. They were poor and had nothing but the minimum needs required for survival. When I met Gonzalo, he explained, "Tu eres me hija." (You are my daughter). "Tu eres su hermana." (You are her sister). He welcomed me and assured me they were the long time friends with the owner of the school and continuously host students year round. We took our positions on the side of the house and do what Nicaraguenzas do best, sit and converse and yell, "Caballo," at any drivers as they pass by.

Stomach Bug

When I got sick, I just finished eating pinto gallo. I had been eating rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days. I politely told Miriam that I would not be eating rice and beans for breakfast, (she woke a 6 am to start cooking). Throughout the night, and for the next 24 hours I was never more than 20 minutes without need to use the toilet. Its hard being a foreigner and sick in some one else's house, but I never felt embarrassed or a burden. At times the language barrier made it difficult to understand what was being said, but it builds trust. For example, their small village did not have Pepto Bismo, so Miriam helped pick out some medicine, she has seen this happen many times with travelers. We walked to the little shop to get a gallon of water and crackers, I suffered with the heat and wall of humidity in the house all day. Getting sick in another country means all intake stops except a little water and nibble. The rest of the time I spent sleeping on my plywood plank or reading in the their (secured) hammock. I felt well enough for classes and activities after the stomach bug, but cautiously reintroduced food into my system. The school water came out of a blue, plastic jug (similar to that of
Palo Negro- San Juan de la ConcepcionPalo Negro- San Juan de la ConcepcionPalo Negro- San Juan de la Concepcion

The black stick was burned and slippery. For weekend entertainment, the village would gather in the field to watch teams stack feet upon shoulders to get to the top.
Deep Rock), but I'm doubtful that water was purified. It was probably treated with chemicals, which is what I blame for my stomach bug.

In The Jungle The Mighty Jungle

Every morning, the beautiful rain forest parrot would stare at me from his giant cage and watch as I brushed my teeth, near an outdoor faucet. "Hola," he would start. I would reply, "Hola," while brushing. "Hola." "Hola." Back and forth every morning. The stick hut where I stayed in the rain forest had electricity and a mosquito net. The sheets always felt wet because of the intense humidity. At night, I didn't leave the lights on, I just got in the mosquito net and convinced myself that every scurry, buzz, scratch, chirp and tap was on the other side of the net. As a wedding gift, we received a lightweight, nylon hammock. I set it up outside my room, on the mini deck and in between the two posts. It was a stretch because I didn't have the extension suspension accessory. I was tall enough to make it in, and leaned back cautiously to gaze at the green misty view. As I settled into a peaceful accomplishment
San Juan de la ConcepcionSan Juan de la ConcepcionSan Juan de la Concepcion

A group of men either hanging out or getting their shoes cleaned.
and feeling independence....thump! I had a burst of red hot pain on my sacrum as I lay on the brick pavers and rocking on my side in a silent scream. When my body finally allowed me to move again, I finished my tantrum of pain behind closed doors before anyone found me. I just had a secret hammock fall in the rain forest and I knew the set-up was user error, dammit! After that, I just stuck to the hammocks near the school.

Language Learning

Many families came to La Mariposa Escuela de Espanol to expose their children to another country, other well traveled high school kids came for the homestay and volunteer opportunities, there were several of us teacher types. Us teacher types decided to spend our summer break flying somewhere they can afford to learn a skill needed in their profession. Morning Spanish lessons were two hours of grammar lecture and two hours of conversation. I loved the conversation lessons where I could just work on fluency and stroll through the garden finding endless topics for vocab building. On the first day, my grammar teacher asked me if I wanted paper and pencil, I told her,
San Juan de la ConcepcionSan Juan de la ConcepcionSan Juan de la Concepcion

The soccer field I walked through every day between class and homestay. Here the soccer team shows off for the camera.
"No. No me gusta lectura." I wanted her to realize that two hours of lecture was not an effective format for language acquisition. Instead, I told her, "I don't like reading." Whoops.

La Boquita

The school organized afternoon activities to anywhere that was an hour's drive away. Some of the places they offered were places I had already visited, or was going on my own, like Granada and Leon. I attended other local spots like La Concepcion, Laguna Apollo and tours of the other projects associated with La Mariposa. One afternoon, we visited a small beach called La Boquita. There was a restaurant that let us take over the tables on the beach, there were waves and later food. There wasn't a stand up paddle board, body board or ANY rental place in existence. From other beaches you might remember the jet ski rides, the boats pulling hang gliders, the tours to nearby beaches, the shops and the vendors. Not here. There were a couple of groups of men and their skin and bone horses offering rides. I would never ride a skin and bone horse. Instead I bought sweets from a man selling homemade melazas, (molasses treats).
San Juan de la ConcepcionSan Juan de la ConcepcionSan Juan de la Concepcion

The busy road and the sidewalk were one. A father and his girls walking to the field stopped to chat with the foreigner and asked me to take a picture. I hope I can send this to my homestay and they might get a print.
He was selling two for 50 Cordobas ( ~ $1). I gave him 2 dollars and took his picture because this man who could barely walk was relentlessly trying to make a dollar. I offered the treats to my Mariposa friends and the rest I gave the dehydrated, hungry horses. From down on the beach I spied a frisbee. Secretly, I snuck up behind the father playing with his adult son. Behind his back, I motioned to the son where he should toss to me, and he gave a perfect pass. I snatched that disc from above his head and we both laughed. We shook hands and continued playing until the wind picked up, and I was ready for more rum!

Additional photos below
Photos: 65, Displayed: 28


La Mariposa -Happy, safe, pupLa Mariposa -Happy, safe, pup
La Mariposa -Happy, safe, pup

One of the many dogs rescued by La Mariposa project snoozes in contentment of his life off the streets of starvation.
La Mariposa- Exotic FlowersLa Mariposa- Exotic Flowers
La Mariposa- Exotic Flowers

Just walking along the path ways revealed so many curious plants, bugs, leaves. Something was always moving, the rain forest sounds so lively!
La Mariposa- Rescued MonkeyLa Mariposa- Rescued Monkey
La Mariposa- Rescued Monkey

The high school kids would tease the monkeys with bananas. In response this monkey would come to the chain link fence, position himself and piss through the links while looking at the laughing kids. so funny!
La Mariposa- Hola, HolaLa Mariposa- Hola, Hola
La Mariposa- Hola, Hola

My 6am alarm clock.
La Mariposa- Horse RescueLa Mariposa- Horse Rescue
La Mariposa- Horse Rescue

This guy spends his days grazing and snoozing in a sanctuary.
La Mariposa-   Vocun MasayaLa Mariposa-   Vocun Masaya
La Mariposa- Vocun Masaya

View from path behind my cabin, Nicaragua's youngest volcano.

A market in Masaya, just an hour from La Mariposa.
La Mariposa- Selling PigsLa Mariposa- Selling Pigs
La Mariposa- Selling Pigs

Door to door salesman!
San Juan de la Concepcion- PreschoolSan Juan de la Concepcion- Preschool
San Juan de la Concepcion- Preschool

One of the projects of La Mariposa is to provide childcare so more parents can work at the the school. This teacher displays the latch hook art work her students made. She will sell the art and use money to fund the school. (Meanwhile, in the US another 5 year old is soothed by a cell phone).
San Juan de la Concepcion-PreschoolSan Juan de la Concepcion-Preschool
San Juan de la Concepcion-Preschool

The patio is the classroom.
San Juan de la Concepcion-PreschoolSan Juan de la Concepcion-Preschool
San Juan de la Concepcion-Preschool

This is the playhouse with exposed wood, sharp nails and donated toys for pretend play.
San Juan de la Concepcion-PreschoolSan Juan de la Concepcion-Preschool
San Juan de la Concepcion-Preschool

Waiting for their coloring page that the kids must first trace onto newsprint from a coloring book before using broken crayon pieces to color.

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