Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ups and Downs

After a day of recovery from our volcano hike, including another 2 nights of sitting around and hanging out with awesome people doing interesting, world-changing sorts of things, and going to this amazing little natural pool called the Ojo de Agua, where we swam and hung out in the sun and talked to even more interesting people, we decided it was time to move on from Ometepe. Some of the things that have made it my very favorite place so far include: chickens, pigs and dogs hanging around our feet while we ate at a ¨restaurant¨, the bus breaking down EVERY SINGLE TIME we are on it, with the highlight being when we all had to get out and push it to get it started again (yes, seriously), the way everyone on the street says Hola and Adios as we walk by, how you see a tarantula at least once a day, how I seem to have gotten over my claustrophobia because it is just a fact of life that we will be crammed into every available piece of air everywhere we go and how apparently you can fit at least 4 times the stated capacity onto a bus (notwithstanding the breakdowns). So Christian, AnneSofie, Sidsel and I headed to Granada by bus and boat and we stayed in this hostel there that would have been really nice except that it was filled with spring-breakers that said awesome things like ¨Dude, do not ever eat turtle eggs. I just paid 7 bucks for a plate of them and they are NASTY¨ (well that is great, you stupid jerk, but that is also disregarding the fact that they are endangered and there are activists down here just to protect them and t-shirts everywhere that say ¨no como los huevos de tortugas¨ (I do not eat turtle eggs), but you should not eat them because they taste bad). I guess after being around so many cool people until then that my standards were skewed, and I did not sleep very well because of the club music thumping all night. Anyway, so we walked around Granada, which is beautiful, but all white people are constantly harrassed by beggars and it smells like pee everywhere, and the next day we took a day trip to Masaya, which has the biggest artisan market in Central America. That night the college kids were much quieter since one of them had malaria and we left out the next morning after a tearful goodbye to our little Danish girls, and headed to first to Sebaco, which has this huge vegetable market with the most ridiculously perfect looking fruits and veggies I have ever seen (we had huge salads for the next 2 days) and then Ciudad Dario. The guidebook said it was a charming little town full of cowboys, schoolkids in uniform, and nuns, but we did not see a single nun, and trust me, we looked. It was great though, because we got this great little room to ourselves for super cheap and the owner was this adorable little old lady that gave us slices of papaya and told us how attractive we were. There was also a shoemaker and we will go back through in a couple weeks to pick up the awesome, custom-made boots we both ordered (the bootmaker for some reason really made it a point to struggle through the language barrier to tell me I had fat feet, which I though was pretty unnecessary and Christian thought was very funny). When we had lunch, the lady there was telling us all about the town and the culture and showed us her pet parrots, bunnies and dog and was just above and beyond nice. Then we had plans to go from there to a tiny little town called Achuapa to Couchsurf with a Peace Corps guy there. He said he was pretty sure the bus left Esteli at Noon or 1, so we got on the noon bus labelled Achuapa and got half-way across the city before we found out it was not going there, then got back to the bus station at 2 where there was a bus to San Juan de Limay, which was a very closelittle town, so we figured we could catch another ride from there. We got there at 5, after 3 hours of rocky, dirt roads to find out there was no bus, no taxis, and perhaps even no road to Achuapa from there; oh, and that there was no bus back to Esteli until 5 the next morning. There was only one place in town to stay and the owner had been on the bus with us so knew we were stranded and way overcharged us (15 dollars, which is highway robbery for here), but we had no choice. We pouted and went to bed early and caught the bus out and then to Ocotal, where we are now staying with Heleen, another Couchsurfer who is from Belgium and whom we have decided is the nicest person ever. Last night we all made a curry dinner with Heleen, Chris (another Couchsurfer staying here), her roommate David, Jessie and Nikki (2 Peace Corps volunteers stationed here). Everyone here is working on some sort of humanitarian something similar to either mine or Christian´s projects, so we are definitely in a happy place, and I will let you know what happens from here. It might be a while because Heleen´s computer is Dutch and all the letters are in different places, so it is taking me forever to type and I might just hold off for a while.

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Chuchi - this is probably my new most popular word. It means snobby or fancy, but is used in the Peace Corps as anything nicer than dirt roads and shacks, or for a person, anyone who showers with hot water. Living in the city, I am super chuchi for here.

Fuerte - literally means strong, but because the culture is based on talking around everything, it´s when a person says anything they want in a direct way - it means asshole

Puede ser and otro dia - literally means "could be" or "another day", but because noone will directly blow someone off, both of them mean "never" and are the answer to a question of when something will happen

Deseas, en tus sueños, Que Arriba Perra/o and Es lo qué es - these are the terrible translations of American sayings that are not used here and don´t really translate, but we say them anyway. Literally they mean "you wish", "in your dreams", "What´s up bitch/dog?" and "it is what it is"

Qué guapa - this means "what a hard worker" and is used by Paraguayans every time I do ANYTHING manual, including carrying a dish to the sink or sweeping out my room. I don´t think they have high expectations for Americans and work.

Saludos - sending saludos by way of a mutual friend is how people tell each other they have a crush on them. The most serious kinds are given with a pinch on the arm and they mean business.

Thumbs up - this is done everywhere here and is a simple answer to pretty much any question. I will probably have carpal tunel in my thumbs when I leave here because I do this so much.

No se como comer esta - this is how one refuses food in Paraguay. Literally, it´s "I don´t know how to eat this" which creates an internal struggle for me each time it´s said because I want to be a smartass and explain that, just like any other food, you put in in your mouth and chew, but I don´t think that´s acceptable here.

No Más and Un poco - this is said after almost every phrase for no real reason other than to make everything sound like it´s not a big deal, even when it really is. Literally, it´s "No More" and "A Little", so the translations are something like "Sit down no more", "Come here a little", and "Do you want dinner no more?"

Cocido - this is a hot drink mixed by carmellizing sugar with a little yerba, adding just enough water to wet it, and then adding more sugar. It´s served by the thermos-full just before bed.

Mosto - this is to sugar what crack is to cocaine. It´s a "tradional" drink capable of putting even the sweetest tooth into a diabetic coma, and is served continuously at fun gatherings like funerals.

Ch-ch-ch-ch - this is the sound Paraguayans make to get each others´attention - like "Psst" . It´s especially used for catcalling, and they have nothing to follow it with - they just want you to look.