Monday, April 27, 2009

Hammocks and Rip Tides

So I was with my 2 favorite people and we were in tourist mode. The night before we were up all night, and I think there was a meteor shower going on that night because I saw a ton of shooting stars, which was awesome, and I´m pretty much set for wishes for the next decade. As a side note, you can see the constellations of both the southern and northern hemispheres here, and there´s not a lot of light pollution and just trillions of stars, so just picture that. So we rode the ferry and the bus to Playa Carmen, which is one of the many great places to surf in Costa Rica. There was a ton of tan, blonde people (I could almost be one of them at this point since I haven´t been able to dye my hair in so long and my roots are as blonde as can be) from all over the world there. There are not a whole lot of specific stories to write about the week since each day was pretty much the same. I´ll just sum it up. In the mornings, the surfers would wake up at 5:30 to go surf and we´d sleep for hours and hours after that and then leisurely wake up and go swimming in the ocean for a few hours. Then we´d eat at a soda for lunch. The afternoons had more variety. Sometimes we´d lay in a hammock for a while and then go swimming, and sometimes we´d go swimming and then lay in a hammock. Sometimes it was tough to decide so we´d have to discuss it from the hammocks. Each evening, a bunch of people from the hostel would all head down to the beach together to watch the sunset, and then the evening we filled with sitting around and talking and laughing and playing cards. It´s like we´re living in a Jack Johnson song. The panty-rippers (coconut rum and pineapple juice) were prevalent during each stage of the day, along with smoking carrots and other social fun. There is definitely something to be said for that lifestyle. The last night was one of the guys´ birthdays, and Laura (being an avid baker and much nicer person than I would ever be) made him a "cake" of pancakes with mango sauce in between (there was no oven) and there was an extra-fun evening around that. That night was also some sort of jungle crab migration because there were these orange and purple crabs EVERYWHERE and little crabby, claw-scratchy sounds everywhere once the lights were out. Ugh.

The next day, we had to head back to San Jose for Laura to fly out (which was actually good because although the surfer kids were cool the whole time we were there and it was really great while it lasted, Laura had gotten pretty upset with these meatheads that were abusing the crabs and it was just time to go.)
Traveling day came, and I was feeling sick, and it only got worse from there. I was sick as a dog for 3 days, and I'm not talking one of the well-fed American dogs with a warm nose. I'm talking a mangey, flea-bitten, bag-of-bones, Nicaraguan street dog kind of sick, and it hurt to move, so I mostly didn't. We stayed at Galileo, our favorite place in San Jose, after dropping off Laura to fly back home.

When I was up for moving again on Sunday, we headed for the Carribean side of Costa Rica (which as you may know, is so exotic that the rice and beans has coconut milk in it) to Puerto Viejo. The first day we mostly just hung out and tried to go swimming toward the end of the day but every beach we saw had coral reefs in it, so we sat in this little tidepool area and watched the sunset.

The next day, we almost died. We had rented bikes and were having a lovely little ride through a mangrove forest next to the beach. We decided we'd just stop at the first place the beach didn't have coral, and when we did, it was beautiful. Unfortunately, we stopped about 200 meters short and, not having come from the road but from a path, we missed all the signs that warned about rip tides. We hadn't even started to fully panic yet, since we didn't fully realize what was happening. The lifeguard, however, did, so he rescued us, and it's a very good thing, because we were really getting nowhere closer to shore before he showed up. So that was an experience. The last morning in Puerto Viejo, we went snorkeling at the coral reef, and it was pretty cool, but not as bright or colorful as the ones on TV. We also kept being pulled hard out ot sea by the current and after yesterday were pretty freaked out by that, so we stopped after only an hour or so.

The best part about Puerto Viejo, aside from the general vibe of the place, was that there was this guy at the hotel that did chiropractic adjustments and massages for really cheap. I'd apparently done quite a bit of damage, both emotional and physical with that bungee jump (I knew it!), so I got that all worked out. Then on the bus I met a guy that is helping locals sell their handicrafts to raise money for their villages, for bridges or other stuff, so we're keeping in touch because that will apply to my rural economic development. So that's good!

Alas, this is my last night in Central America, and after a wonderful and adventurous sojourn, I guess I'm going to have to say goodbye. The tentative plan is now a couple weeks in Ohio, a few days in Virginia, and a few days in Atlanta before the Peace Corps! My phone will work in May, so call me and see me before I go...seriously! I'll probably be coming back a whole different person so get a load of the me I am now while you can!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No me gusta saltar de bungee

I know, I´s been a while since my last post, but sometimes I have to actually be doing the things so I can then tell stories about them; and sometimes the free internet at the hotel is slower than turtles making babies (which is incredibly slow and this conversation topic has actually come up several times in the last few days. I happen to be a wealth of information about it because one time at the zoo Grace and I saw it happening - my friend Danielle actually has a picture of it- (ask me if interested)). Anyway, the point is that it´s really slow so now is the first time I could write.
Here´s a bit of information that will GREATLY help you if you ever come across this situation: The equatorial sun at noon can burn right through abundantly applied SPF 45 sunblock. So Christian and I got burnt to a crisp our last day in Bluefields because we went out to Rama Cay, which is this little island just a short panga ride from Bluefields that looks like a scene out of Mad Max. We walked across the island from the panga on this weedy, overgrown road, to get to the beach. There were people along the side of the road under these little thatch-roofed, bamboo lean-tos who were breaking up rocks into gravel. Yes, it´s true. Don´t ask me why, by apparently a job there is to break up medium-sized rocks into small rocks. So then we went to the beach and swam in this really warm, perfect Carribean ocean for a few hours to celebrate our last day in Bluefields. We´d had to move out of the BlueEnergy house that morning because it was filling back up with the people that are supposed to be staying there (fair enough). We spent a rough night in the nastiest hotel we´ve stayed in yet (it´s one of those situations where you have to be there to see how nasty it is), and Christian had a little run-in with a prostitute, but we escaped with our lives and belongings and got the boat the next morning at 5:30am. We were supposed to make it back to San Jose in 1 day, but ended up staying the night in Managua because of buses not running. The place was like paradise! I took a shower with (cold) water coming from a real pipe over my head! No more bucket baths for us, guys! We´re high on the hog these days! Also there was this restaurant that had whole meals without either rice or beans! That is the first one the whole trip! So after a luxurious night with 2 fans and tv in English with Spanish subtitles, we had recovered our sensibilities and headed to San Jose. It is amazing how much healthier everything is here compared to Nicaragua. The people, the animals, the landscape, everything. It´s just very obvious how much more money this economy has than apparently the rest of Central America.
After a cushy busride in a giant tourbus where our knees actually fit behind the seats and a rude reminder that we weren´t in Nicaragua anyomre when we tried to get a lunch and it was $8 each, which is appalling, we arrived in San Jose. We stayed at the Hostel Galileo. Everyone working there was awesome (although I´m not afraid to say they had some of the worst cases of hostel feet I´ve seen on our trip...hostel feet are feet so completely filthy on the bottom you can´t really see the skin. It´s from walking around barefoot at a hostel, and around there it might be a badge of honor) and we had many fascinating conversations including internet look-ups to support theories (did you know there is a guy who used silver cadmium to cure a skin condition and now all the skin on his whole body is blue for the rest of his life? It´s true. There are also wolfmen with hair over their entire bodies and a woman with 6, 050 piercings over her whole body). We also learned about the application of the whole "Pura Vida" philosophy which is the motto of Costa Rica. You might think it means Pure Life or something equally as inspiring, but from the point of view of a business owner (specifically the 24yr old American couple that owns the hostel where we stayed), it means that when you have a plumbing issue the plumber will come 12 hours late and then make the problem worse by busting a pipe, thus dumping shitty water between your first and second floors, but "oh well, pura vida". It´s a fantastic place, though, when you´re not tring to get anything done. Now it´s like a joke to them and every time someone begs for money they apparently scream Pura Vida! at them.
But I digress. We came back to Costa Rica to get Laura, who is visiting for a week and is without a doubt one of my favorite people in the world. We agreed to give up our Viajero (traveler) status for a week and become tourists with her. We picked her up from the airport on Friday and, not having a plan from there, we set about waiting for a great plan to inspire us about where we should go. We didn´t have to wait long because there were 2 people, Matt and Dilia, stopping through the hotel who were renting a car the next day to go to a "rave" in Puntarenas the next night. Puntarenas, you may recall from an earlier post, is the little port town that smells like pee and has the ferry to the Nicoya Penninsula. We also realized that the days of raves are long over, but maybe they were still big in Central America, right? Anyway, what else were we going to do?
After a 6 hour delay (Pura Vida, right?), we were off like a herd of turtles to a "rave". So on the way to Puntarenas, Matt was saying how there was bungee jumping that we were going to pass right by. He´d taken Dilia the day before, and we could go if we wanted. We debated for about 2 seconds and decided that of course we wanted to jump off a 265ft bridge (apparently the biggest in Central America) into a canyon with a rock-filled river at the bottom. So Christian went first and gracefully just fell into oblivion with no problems. I was supposed to go next but after looking down, and crying, I decided Laura should go next. She held the guy´s hands and fell backwards, and of course loved it. I´m getting progressively more scared the whole time, and I will not even pretend I was tough because the whole scene is probably on the DVD that they gave me. I cried the whole time: I cried before I went, I cried on the platform, I held the guy´s hands and fell backwards into nothing with only a rubber rope tied to my feet and crying the whole way. I cried when they were pulling me back up, and I cried quietly in the car for at least the next hour, not talking to anyone. I do not like bungee jumping. I do not like it, not one little bit. Í am apparently the only one anyone has ever met that doesn´t, but I make no apologies.
So by the time we got to Puntarenas I had recovered my mood and senses and we ended up going swimming in this wonderful, warm pool, then went to this party where we were the only gringos, but everyone was cool and we had a great time. We ended the night by skinny dipping in the ocean and then went to bed right at dawn. After breakfast the next morning we said tearful goodbyes to Matt and Dilia, and Christian, Laura and I went on our way.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Panty Water Addendum

I´ve thought of some other things about Bluefields that I wanted to add:

Some other things about the culture of Bluefields you might be interested in include: There is a strong presence of Obeah (like Voodoo) around here, different versions for the Muskito, Carribean, and Rama cultures. The guard that is now posted at the house 24 hrs a day, Raul, is a Mestizo and his Granny was a healer. We´ve learned quite a bit.
Gentlemen! Worried about the size of your little buddy. Do you wish it was bigger? Well worry no more! Simply cut it and let the blood run onto a casava, then bury the casava under a full moon. As the casava grows, so will your penis. But make sure to dig it up once it gets to your desired size; let´s not go overboard with it! And ladies! Can´t get that perfect man to pay attention to you? No problem at all! Simply offer to cook for him and include in the recipe some of your most recent panty water (that´s menstrual blood for you gringoes) and he´ll be your forever!
Other advice: if you hire a prostitute, be careful because when you go to the bathroom she´ll probably steal all your money. Also, fights here are pretty common, oftentimes drunken and with machetes. We haven´t seen all that many missing limbs but everyone has crazy scars from one thing or another.
Raul, by the way, while bored and standing guard (in a hammock) out front, shot a little banana bird (blue, and about the size of a parakeet) with a slingshot he´d made from a forked stick with condom ties. He said he was going to eat it and nobody really believed him until he had completely skinned in in about 2 seconds, and then indeed he fried it up and ate it. A lot of people play cards around here and we´ve been playing with Raul quite a bit. They call clubs puppy feet and spades blackhearts and the jack, queen and king are 11,12, and 13. We taught them how to play Bullshit and they LOVE it, so if I come back in ten years I bet it will be everywhere.
We see a lot about the general population at the park. The teenage girls are slim and pretty but at about 18 they start really gaining weight. There is lots of sugar or salt in EVERYTHING here. Christian is convinced he would never ever want to be single here because it´s pretty slim-pickins once you´re out of high school. Our host, Casey, picked up a girl the other night and described the experience. "You know how when you go to Christmas at your relatives´ house, and you´re excited to go because you know you´re going to get...something. And then you unwrap it, and it´s not what you really expected or wanted, but you have to pretend that you like it...because you can´t take it back? That was last night." That may be the best metaphor ever.
Christian never really got to watch kids before and has been totally enchanted by all the cute little kids running around - kids are old news to me so it´s not all that exciting. Country music, oddly enough, is really popular here. It apparently came with baseball in the 50´s and has been big ever since. So the music here is a mix of reggae, latino pop, reggaeton, country, and rap. Other pictures from the park: A lot of people carry around umbrellas during the hottest part of the day to block the sun. They don´t have icecream trucks but men walk around pushing carts that have icecream or slushies and ringing a bell. Kids walk up to (white) people and hold up their first finger and that means ¨Give me 1 Cordoba¨(about 5 cents).
It is the style in all of Nicaragua to have your front teeth lined in gold or silver (it´s also possible that people have teeth that bad, but I think it´s a bit of both), so almost everyone in the country has at least one, but usually more gold or silver teeth.
We´ve met a few other characters in our time in Bluefields. One is Donovan, who is this 24 year old who came up to us when we were at the porch at Doña Coco´s wanting to interview us for this "tourism project" he´s working on. This meant writing down our information in a school notebook (asking how to spell every word, like "name" and "age" - I have my doubts about the educational system in Bluefields). He was very nice and friendly and wasn´t asking for any money, which was a nice change of pace, but he spoke the strongest Creole we´d ever heard and we literally could not understand a word he was saying. It was a lot of frozen smiles and nodding on our part, and at a couple points I even tried switching to Spanish because I thought that might be easier to understand, but he got mad and said very clearly, "naw, man, I speak English!" which was the only part we understood. We saw him in the park a couple days later and he sat with us for an hour and then walked with us for a while, talking the whole time. I wish I could tell you Donovan´s story, but the only part that I understood out of the total of 2 hours that we talked to him was that he has a daughter that doesn´t live with him and he´s been to Norway and someday wants to go back, but it´s really cold there.
Another guy we met, this time at this club called 4 Brothers, which is this dirty, little, dark, reggae club and by far the coolest place in town, was Preston. Preston´s story: He´d been selling drugs since he was 16 and he used to work on a cruise ship and smuggle drugs on it until he got caught and sent to prison for a year and a half after his lawyer (who was also at the club) couldn´t convince the judge that he had all 20 lbs for his personal use. While he was in jail, he paid off a female guard by promising her another 3000 cordobas a month (which is 150 dollars and doubles her monthly salary), and between that guard and the prostitute that came for conjugal visits with drugs stuffed in a condom in her vagina, and the prisoner that cleaned the conjugal visit room who removed that condom from the trash and put it in a different condom up his butt, he managed to sneak in massive amounts of drugs to the prison. Once he had it, he would hide it in his room by very carefully unwrapping the roll of toilet paper and rewrapping it perfectly lined up with the drugs inside and regluing it. The prison chief knew he was up to something but was never able to prove it. He had a good thing going and then he realized that he could get out. He would smoke a little weed (he hadn´t been using anything this whole time, just selling it) and then his lawyer requested a drug test. When it came up positive, the lawyer told the judge that it was proof he was a drug user but there was never proof he´d sold it, and they let him out. Since then, he´s been living clean, working on a fishing boat (sometimes pirating when the fishing gets tough) that is out at sea for 45 days at a time and only comes in for one day and one night, and we just happened to catch him on that night. This story is a little sketchy for a couple reasons, but even if it is a lie, it´s quite a character study, nonetheless.
We went to the casino one night, which isn´t as sad as most casinos just because it´s no little old ladies spending their life savings one nickel at a time in the slot machines. All the people in there looked to have enough money to spend. We were high rolling with a 5 dollar each limit, but we got free drinks the whole time (i´m not sure why because that´s not actually a policy here, but we didn´t argue)so it was well worth it. I´ve been downing Flor de Caña Rum and Rojita (another spanish term that would be offensive in English- there´s a little indian girl with braids on the front and Rojita means Little Red Girl. Still, I find it less offensive than the La Negrita scrubber sponges that are all over the place here) which is kind of like cream soda. We´ve kept it pretty low key around here, with long lazy days of reading and lots of very interesting (to say the least) conversations. The beach is tomorrow and then more traveling...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Stolen Safes and Contra Fighters

Man, I love this place! I´ll have to start at the beginning because it´s been a long week. We were staying in the little Hospedaje run by Doña Coco, this lady that seems like she´d be really sweet except that she yells everything (which may be because she thinks it´ll help us understand the Spanish, but comes across as abrasive) for the first few days we were here. We have spent almost every afternoon in the park here, which is beautiful and a center of activity when it´s not siesta time, and a good shady place to sit and read when it is siesta time because the whole town is shut down. Our Couchsurfing host, Casey, arrived back home and we met him Monday for lunch and then moved in. His house is actually a group living situation for all the volunteers in the area working with Blue Energy Group, which is working around here setting up wind turbines and water purifiers. There are normally a lot of people here, but most are gone for semana santa, so we have our own room and bed. These kids are really cool, from America, France, Australia, and England, and each night we sit around talking, joking and drinking after dinner. They normally have Kitchen Mamas who cook and clean for all of them, but they´re gone this week (one of them had her 2 brothers kidnapped by the Sandinistas and so joined the Contras and lived in the bush for 4 years, constantly worried that she might be killing her own little baby brothers), and we´ve been cooking for ourselves. On Tuesday we were awakened by Casey knocking on the door because the 2 safes they keep in the office (and nothing else, including all the computer equipment) were stolen by someone who knew about them and had a key. It was like NYPD Bluefields and there was big drama because cops were swarming all over the place (if this had happened in Atlanta we´d get one bored looking cop and a "we´ll let you know") and we all gave fingerprints and statements and there´s now black fingerprint dust all over the office. It doesn´t look that hopeful that they´ll be found, but the thieves also will probably not be able to open the safes, so at least nobody wins.
Within minutes of getting to Bluefields, we were greeted by Charlie, the local Rastafarian welcome wagon/drug dealer, and since then we have seen him and/or hung out with him every day. Charlie´s story: he fled to Costa Rica as a refugee when the war was going on so he would not have to fight (he was 13 at the time), was told that if he came back and cleared 1 sq Km of land and defended it with the help of the supplies the American planes were dropping including food and AK47s, he could keep it. It was attacked by the Sandinistas and he ended up fighting for the Contras, fled back to Costa Rica and since then has lived the charmed life of traveling all over Central America and Europe, several times funded by pounds of drugs he found washed up on the shore, fathered 2 children in Europe, and has girlfriends now all over the world. He´s also a bit of an opportunist, I think, and has shacked up with a few older gentlemen as well. He may have his problems, but all in all, he´s a good guy and we like him.
One day when we were in the park we saw this guy playing with the largest 2 year old on the planet (Christian thought he was like 5 and maybe retarded) and we started talking to him. His name is Franklin and we have hung out with him every day. Franklin´s story: He was kidnapped as a child by the Sandinistas (which we have found out was a very common practice here) and sent to Cuba where they taught him how to fly fighter jets, but when he found out his sister was pregnant back home he decided to escape, and made it to Bluefields, but the Sandinistas were after him so he SWAM like 30 miles north up the coast to join the Contras, and spent the next few years in the jungle (or the Bush, as they say around here). At one point he had infections in his feet and an infected bullet wound in his upper thigh and couldn´t take another step, but said that if there was a God, then please save him. He woke up in a hospital and had had a dream of walking through the jungle but no way of knowing how he got there, and ever since has been very strongly Christian but anti- religion (he says the Pope is the Anti-Christ). After the war he was back in Bluefields and had a girlfriend for 5 years who was the love of his life and who died when the bus she was in went over a cliff on the way to Managua (having been in those buses, it´s true), and hasn´t dated since. Then he worked on a cruise ship and went literally all over the world for years, and then was back in Bluefields a few years, and while he was in the hospital one day a Ukranian lady was there who had given birth 2 months early and needed blood. He donated his blood to her and they became friends after that. A year later, she had an emergency back in the Ukraine and had to leave her 2 sons here for a year, and that is JoJo (now 7) and Joseph (the giant 2 year old). Franklin has been taking care of them for a year, with the help of his father and the income from their cockfighting business) and she´ll be back next week to get them. There´s also a sweet little girl named Stacy (also 7) who is enamored with me and gives my flowers and seashells every time I see her. Her mom will be back next week as well. Also, he helps with a ´gym´ that contains only a boxing ring and couple punching bags in the pee-stained cement shell of an old movie theater, and where he meets about 12 teenage boys every morning from 4 to 6am to work out and show them that there is more to life than drugs (even more tempting in an economy where the only really lucrative businesses are cruise ships and drug dealing). Franklin is an amazing guy. He has taken us to see Pool Rock, which is this gigantic rock perched on top of a smaller rock on a huge hill overlooking Bluefields and all the islands around it, and which has a hole underneath that they say goes to the center of the earth but that´s been filled in by dirt because they also say there´s pirate treasure in there and people were coming to dig for it (if you saw how precarious this rock looked you´d see why they filled it in rather than have people digging out the support around it). He also took us to a lagoon near the airport where Christian and I went swimming today and he and Charlie just watched (they were told as kids that if you swam on Good Friday you turned into a fish, and if you climbed a tree you became a monkey, but I think they just didn´t want to get wet). There were a bunch of kids swimming and a few couples, one of which was adorably in love and very affectionate, and it turned out that all of the 10 boys swimming were theirs, so they are clearly doing something right. It´s really great to really get into a place like this and see how the culture and the history affects the people. I don´t know how often that happens because everyone we meet assumes that we´re going to the Corn islands or El Bluff (which are the local tourist attractions and about the last place we want to be during Semana Santa). I love it here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cultura and Lionel Richie

We have pictures online! Putting them on the blog made it ridiculously slow but Christian has a lot of them on his flickr account, so you can go to and put in his name ctkucera to view all of them.
So we left Ocotal Wednesday morning, heading back to Ciudad Dario to pick up our boots. We made it there by late afternoon, and Christian is thrilled with his boots, but mine were not even close to fitting (maybe it took too much leather to cover my fat feet?), so I didn´t buy them. Oh well -it was worth a shot. So we spent another evening in Ciudad Dario watching 80´s rock love ballads in the restaurant where we ate dinner. 80´s rock love ballads are EVERYWHERE and I´ve definitely heard Lionel Richie´s " it me you´re looking for?" more times in the last month here than in the last 2 decades in the US, and it´s prompted all sorts of discussions where Christian insisted he was Nicole Richie´s dad (it was a draw because he adopted her).
So now we´ll have a Nicaraguan culture lesson: The week before Easter is Semana Santa (Saint´s week) and everyone in Central America heads for the beach, so it´s very difficult to travel and we´re holing up in Bluefields in the hope it will be relatively tourist-free. Some other images from the Western side of the country include: most of the houses are cement block, with stucco over it, or maybe just on the front. In places where they care, it´s painted bright colors, with tin roofs. Tile is in a lot of places, including sidewalks, walls, courtyards, etc, and it will often be in really pretty designs. All the kids wear uniforms for school with navy blue pants or skirts, white knee socks and white shirts. The little kids go to school in the morning and the older kids in the afternoon since it´s usually just one room. There´s no grass anywhere and the yards are packed dirt, usually with pretty flowering plants just spread out over the whole yard. There´s almost always laundry hanging out on the line. People are outside way more than in the US and there are cheap plastic chairs and rocking chairs on all the porches so that people can sit and watch what´s happening (we are a big happening) when they need a break. The other day we actually heard, "Gringoes...woooowwww," (this was in Ciudad Dario where they don´t get many outsiders). There are fruit trees everywhere and now in the dry season a lot of them will be completely bare of leaves but have big fruits hanging from dry, brittle branches. Almost everyone litters and thinks nothing of it, so there´s trash along the sides of the roads, and the way it´s kept in check is by people burning it, so during the day there are lots of trash fires around. Everywhere there are vendedores, which are people selling everything from foods of all sorts to plastic toys. The food sellers attack the bus at each stop, going up and down the aisles yelling whatever they´re selling, ¨aguaaguaaguaagua¨ or ¨gaseosasgaseosasgaseosasgaseosas¨(soda) or whatever. This is usually handy on long busrides because then you can eat without losing your spot and having to stand. They just sell until the next stop and get off so they can get on the next bus (and I imagine tap the next guy´s hand like a relay race because then another guy comes on). They also carry what they´re selling in big tubs on the top of their heads, which is a good way to carry heavy things all day. Water is intermittent in most places, so most people have buckets of water in their bathroom for flushing or rinsing. Public bathrooms are appalling, and they usually cost money, have no toilet seats because no one would sit down on them anyway, and are so small that you better head in backwards (if wearing a backpack) because there´s not enough room to turn around. The cemeteries are beautiful because all the gravestones are painted all different pretty colors and there are tons of fake flowers in them everywhere. Also, people are SO nice and in any public place, even if we already know where we´re going, they´ll help us do whatever we´re trying do or give directions. We don´t even have to ask most times, they just offer. Also, it´s not socially unacceptable to pick one´s nose in public and people do it all the time. A few times they´ve been helpfully giving instrucutions with fingers up their noses.
So we left Ciudad Dario the next morning, since we´d just come for the boots, and spent the next 8 hours on buses, watching terrible latino music videos (think middle aged men, not too good for a mullet or two, with young girls in bathing suits dancing with ass and crotch close-ups AND American celebrity news - Did you know Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon are dating? I KNOW!). We went to El Rama, which is the port town on the Rio Escondito where we had to stop for the night before catching a boat to Bluefields the next day.
The next morning, we got up at 5 to be at the dock for the boats leaving, and were packed like sardines, 5 rows of 4 people and the luggage in the prow, to take the 2 hour speedboat trip to Bluefields. It was incredible. The mist on the water that early in the morning looked like a fountain show, and as it cleared we´re going down this river with coconut and date palms lining the shores, passing houses that are either made of boards and on stilts with tin roofs, or huts made of bamboo with thatched roofs. This town is totally different from the rest of Nicaragua. It was settled by Afro-Carribeans, so there is a lovely mix of black and brown people and a lot of people speak Creole, which we thought was like English but can hardly understand a word of it. The Spanish here is a lot clearer than Northern Nicaragua, and thank God because I´d almost accepted the fact that I didn´t actually speak much Spanish at all since I hadn´t understood most Spanish conversations for the last 3 weeks. Also, the people are generally taller so now I only stick out for being white. We have a nice little room for a few days (without water though, so we´re making due) and are waiting until our couch-surfing host gets back into town. I´ll let you know what happens from here.


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.