Thursday, May 20, 2010

Granada: Some time as tourists

We spent the afternoon in Granada yesterday. Granada, the oldest city in Nicaragua, is really the tourist capitol of the country, with charming colonial style architecture, and is often used as a jumping off point or home base for tourists exploring other parts of Nicaragua. We didn't have a whole lot of time, so we spent most of our time in and around the central plaza, a kind of town square in Granada. I could really tell how much more it catered to North American tourists, not only by the large number of pale faces compared to Managua, but many of the prices in shops were in dollars instead of cordobas, there were many signs in English, and many of the vendors spoke a bit of English. The prices of items in shops were quite a bit more than what we could get similar things (if not the exact item) at the market here in Managua.

First we went to a cigar factory. It was within someone's home and members of the family worked there rolling the cigars. Drew enjoyed watching the people work and I was impressed by how precise their work was.

We then went to the central plaza, where one of the main attractions is the Granada Cathedral. It was originally built in 1583, but was completely destroyed by William Walker (an American who declared himself president of Nicaragua) in 1856. It was eventually rebuilt and finished around 1915.

We took a look around inside and climbed the bell tower for a great look at the city.

The San Francisco Cathedral, visible in this picture, is the oldest church in the city, built in 1529, but it also was also destroyed in the 19th century and has been rebuilt. I took this picture from the top of the bell tower in the Granada Cathedral. You can see Lake Nicaragua in the distance, beyond the church.

A view of the central plaza from inside the bell tower.

After looking around in the church and talking with a very helpful guide (who studied at Rutgers and spoke English quite well), we went in search of some food. We found a place called Kiosko el Gordo, which made me laugh. They had "platos tipicos" (typical plates - it really says that on the menu) of Nicaraguan food, so we got some gallo pinto con cerdo y ensalada (rice and beans with pork and salad). Abbey and Drew both love gallo pinto. It was served quite nicely on a banana leaf. Presentation is the key!

While wandering around the plaza, our ears lead us to a religious parade. We're not totally sure the event or holiday, if any, that was being celebrated, but it was neat to see and hear. There was a large drum corps (about one city block long), that you can listen to and see in the video below. The sound was reverberating off the concrete buildings on either side of the street, so it was quite loud!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

El Farito: Comedor

Every Tuesday and Thursday, El Farito, the preschool, is also used for a feeding program known as comedor. We usually go a bit early, when the preschoolers eat, so that Drew can play and eat with them. Abbey is enjoying story time with the preschoolers, just before lunch.

About 50 or so kids from the Cedro Galan neighborhood come for lunch. Kathy has neighborhood women who take turns cooking the food for the kids. Drew loves going for lunch. It's always fun for him to try new Nicaraguan foods and he likes helping out too.

The kids line up outside, come in a few at a time to wash their hands, and then sit at the tables. They then sing their blessing song, "Gracias Señior." The words are:
Gracias Señior, por tu amor
Por tu fidelidad, por tu bondad. 2x
Gracias Señior 4x

Roughly translated, it means, "Thank you, Lord, for your love, for your faithfulness, for your goodness. Thank you, Lord."
The kids really do more shouting than singing, because the table that sings the "best" gets to go get their food first!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Good friends and good eats

Last night we went to a restaurant in the Ticomo barrio. We've gotten take out from there before, but it was a fun experience to go out and eat there. I hadn't been there before, but Nick had gone with Tomas once to get the food and bring it home. It is super tasty Nicaraguan food: gallo pinto (rice and beans) as well as fried chicked, or carne asada. They also have these fried platano chips that are terrific. Nick had an enchilada, which is much different here than what we think of as an enchilada. Here they are prepared not in a tortilla, but as corn flour dough with rice and meat inside and folded over like a pocket. It is then deep fried. In my opinion, almost nothing deep fried is bad... so of course I LOVE Nica-enchiladas. Halle and Kathy came home on Tuesday night and their son Brookes, who just graduated from Northwest University in Kirkland, came home with them for about a two week visit. So, the August, Vinther, and Gutierrez (Amanda y Tomas) families all piled into a van to go to this restaurant. It is in Tomas's old barrio, where much of his family still lives. He was pointing out the homes of family members as we drove by.

Brookes, Halle, Tomas, and Samanta. I think Brookes REALLY likes his dinner:

Drew eating some platano chips. The big round thing on his plate is a potato ball... fried (of course) with soft potato and queso on the inside. So good!

Nick standing at the counter where we order our food:

Today we went to Jessenia's house again for lunch. Drew loves going over to her house. The last time he went over to play, about a week ago, he spent the entire time holding a baby chick. He'd gone planning to play baseball with Juancito (their 10 year old son) but when he saw the 8 day old baby chicks, he just played with them and held one almost the entire time! He named it Chickito and calls it "mi amor." He has many grand plans for getting chickens and building a coop when we get home to the states, but I told him he'd have to take that up with his Grandma Sandy and Grandpa Rick! Today, he was barely interested in lunch, and again, just wanted to hold his Chickito the whole time. We had to force him to put Chickito down and eat the amazing enchiladas that Jessenia and her sister cooked for us.

Me and Sara, one of Jessenia's daughters:

Drew and his Chickito:

Abbey likes Chickito too!

Montelimar and Mother's Day

Last weekend, Abbey and I went on the women's retreat for our church. It was held at Montelimar, the premier all-inclusive resort in Nicaragua. It was gorgeous. It boasts the largest pool in Central America, and it was huge. By far the largest swimming pool I'd ever seen. We had a nice view of it from our room. We had a great speaker come down from the states along with her worship team. They were from a group called Pure Joy Ministries that runs retreats for missionary women in various countries. It was a really great time of relaxing and getting to know some of the other women in our church better. There was a lot of teaching about our God being a God of order and provision. I felt encouraged and refreshed after the weekend.

This was the view from our room:

We walked the beach at sunset one night... it was gorgeous. I took a TON of pictures that night!

Abbey is relaxing by the pool:

We returned home on mother's day to Drew handing me a sign that said, "Happy Mother's Day. I love you mom! From your beautiful son." It was great and made me smile. All four of us went out to the field later and took pictures of the flowers to send to our moms back in Washington. My mom loves plumeria, and it just happens to be the national flower here in Nicaragua. Halle has several trees blooming in the back field.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What a difference a week of rain makes!

Check out theses pictures of the field from before, taken about a month ago when Nick, Drew, and Halle were planting the garden:

And now, after a week of rain, it's SO GREEN! You can see the garden in the bottom left corner of the first picture. Drew is helping Jiro mow the grass in the second one.

On unrelated notes, we've had some sad and happy happenings recently.
First the sad; we had to bury a dog. One of the guard dogs, Tank, got suddenly and seriously ill and crawled under the van and died, all within about 16 hours. Nick and Jiro dug a hole by a tree and buried Tank there. It was a pretty sad day for all of us.

As for our happy news, Abbey Sunshine turned 1 on May 2nd! Our little baby is turning into a little girl. She's been asserting her toddlerhood attitude by being very persistent and vocal when she doesn't get what she wants. She's still not walking on her own yet, but I'm sure she will be soon. She likes holding onto our hands still and is insistent on leading the way. She waves bye-bye in two languages... it's really cute to see her wave when people say "adios!" Another of her favorite games currently is holding the cell phone to her head (not necessarily her ear) and saying "hola?"