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Published: April 6th 2018
It's Sunday, it's Easter and we're in the Central American country of Nicaragua. No alarm this morning. We don't have to report for our excursion until 10:10am and it's only 7:30. Karen likes these mornings where we can take our time, not rushing for anything. Besides, she's not much of a "rusher". We get our stuff together; water bottle, cameras, ID, hats and some cash and by 8:30 we are eating breakfast, reading the paper and visiting with our table mates. 10am comes quickly and we hurry down to the theater and wait to be called for our tour. We wait for a good half hour before finally released to our bus, #14. It's a small rig, holding about 20 passengers. Our guide is Pedro and our driver, Manuel. Our destination, the Finca Emma banana plantation for a look at the growing, harvesting and packaging of bananas in Nicaragua. It's the largest industry in the country and my favorite fruit.
We leave the port of Corinto and pass through the city streets on our way to the plantation, about an hours drive. Pedro informs us that Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Americas, just behind Haiti, and it's
evident from the homes and businesses along our route. While concrete and corrugated metal are materials of choice for those most fortunate, many residents find refuse in poorly constructed huts of plywood, cardboard and plastic tarps. These aren't temporary dwellings but permanent shelters, at least until something better comes along. It's common to find four generations living together in one home. Pedro explains that most people earn the average wage of $180 USD per month working 8 hours a day, 6 days a week with Sundays off. Such is the plight of these people. They have been vctims of dictatorship and civil unrest through the 20th century and the stories he tells are most interesting. Pedro is Peruvian by birth, raised in Canada as a child and settled in Nicaragua as a young man. Married to a woman from Guatemala, he has hopes of raising a family and makes tortillas with his wife. Additionally, he works as a tour guide, usually twice a month.
We arrive at the banana plantation and after a bathroom break, a plantation worker explains in Spanish with Pedro translating, how seedlings are purchases from laboratories and raised under protective coverings for 4 weeks before
they are planted as trees. They have 70,000 there right now. A tree can produce one bunch of bananas in just a few months but no more bananas come from that tree stalk. The tree produces another tree growing off the side of it that produces another bunch of bananas. This process repeats itself up to 15 times before the tree is plowed under and new seedlings planted. We tour the plants where the bunches are cut, sorted, measured, weighed, cleaned and packed for sale all over the world. Today's shipment is headed for Hamburg, Germany. Karen got to stick the stickers on the bananas, just like the "Chiquita Banana" stickers we see sometimes on bananas at home.
Now the bus makes a five minute drive over to the hacienda where we have a snack, some live music and dancing and the most amazing part, a souvenir gift shop. We have banana chips and fried bananas with pico de gallo. Mom buys a Nicaragua hat for $5, mainly because she needed change to tip our guide and driver when we return.
On our one hour return trip to the ship, Pedro tells us more of Nicaragua and his
personal life. He says that where he lives in Leon, a brand new 3 bedroom, 2 bath home in a gated community hosting a community park and pool sells for $60k USD but he needs $15k down so he says he will have to wait. We arrive back at the pier, our ship waiting patiently for our return. It seems most guests join us in showing their gratitude to our guide and driver with American dollars and we bid Nicaragua farewell, boarding the Westerdam once again.
Note: We'll, for some reason I never finished this entry. I thought it was complete. I'm just reading it now and four days have passed. I have absolutely no idea what happened after 3pm so I'm just going to leave it at that. I guess it wasn't all that. Sorry about this.
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