Nicaragua - Until Next Time

snoozing in the sunshine

I know I've already said this loads, but Nicaragua is a country that I think I could learn to love pretty quickly. I really hope I get to go back.

These last few photos were taken in a place that seemed completely hidden from the rest of the city. We traveled down a dirt road as far as our van would take us on one punctured tire, and then we hopped in the back of a pickup truck to take us the rest of the way to a little farm house. Well, house is a little much, it was one room for twelve people.

The family who lived there were as poor as poor could be, without being destitute. And what stood out for me was that I couldn't hear any sound, no traffic, no electronics - not a phone or a light switch for miles. But I could hear non-stop laughter from the kids and the neighbours who had come to greet the visitors.

Theirs is incredibly hard life, not withstanding the active volcano and the vampire bats - but their laughter was contagious. Even now, it still makes me smile just a little.

Some More on Nicaragua

The only time I got really afraid on this trip was when I nearly got attacked by dogs while taking a picture of that chicken - just after explaining to a colleague who is afraid of dogs why she shouldn't worry about them. Silly me.

See those little black bits on this little kitten's nose? She was completely covered in fleas. It didn't stop us from cuddling her, but it did keep most of us scratching for the rest of the day. We didn't actually pick up any real fleas, but we did get what Kim calls psychological fleas: the kind that leave you thinking you've got them crawling all over.

Whenever I come back from a trip like this one to Nicaragua, people are often interested to know if I've seen all the sites, like the lakes or the volcano and such - and usually the answer is "no, I haven't." These trips are kind of like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, there's just no time! I often leave a city like Managua feeling like I haven't actually seen it at all, when of course I have really, I've just seen a different side of it.

Most of the time you can find me in the poorer neighbourhoods, the slums (isn't that a horrible word?) or as they call them in Managua, the Repartos. These are places that have sprung up out of need, without permission from the city, and with houses made of sheets of iron or plastic. Truthfully, I can sometimes find these places really scary - but it's all about who you're with and how you act. If you're with someone who knows the neighbourhood and knows the people, and if you act like you belong there, then you're fine. If you wander in alone and ignoring your instinct to run in the opposite direction, you walk out with pretty much nothing - one of our number found that out the hard way on this trip.

But it's amazing how quickly a shirtless man with cut-off shorts, a bandana, tattoos all over his chest and a pit bull can go from eyeing up your bag to joking around and jumping in front of your camera with his friends to have his picture taken. Acting just as excited about the whole thing as those kids up there.

I guess this is kind of an explanation of why I never have normal travel pictures like historical sites or yummy food photos when I come home and blog about an adventure, unless it's a holiday adventure. 

Home Again

The whole time I was in Nicaragua it seemed like I would be there forever. And then suddenly the day arrived where I had to pack my suitcase and I found I really didn't want to.

When I finally made it home I slept for almost two days only to wake up with a horrible cold. And now that I'm in bed and feeling sorry for myself, I can't quite believe that I was ever away. But I keep dreaming about it: the lovely hot weather, the kind people, the busy days spent outdoors, the thunderstorms, the unpredictability and variety of my schedule. Sometimes I think I'm really not meant for office work, but then who is?

All of these photos were taken at a farm where people had gathered to talk about their animals. Because my work doesn't often require me to talk, more observe, it leaves me free to hover in the background pretending to be invisible, snapping and filming away with my cameras and hanging out with others whose input also is not often required: like the kids and the animals.

I also gave some impromptu photography lessons - the top two pictures were taken by that little boy holding the camera - pretty good, don't you think?

Mummy-ing

This dog was trying to mummy these piglets so much, she kept on attempting to herd them and groom them and keep them away from other animals and people. You can see from her face that she looks so worried about them, I think she thought she was their mum - or she just wanted to eat them, one or the other...

I've gone a little overboard with animal cuddling and photographs on this trip (I promise next week I will blog about other things) - I'm afraid I may have fleas (joking! I hope). So far I have managed to cuddle with a kitten, a foal, a couple of pit bulls, about a million horses, a baby cow, and a swarm of children. The children were a surprise because usually kids avoid me, I think they can sense my fear, but today they were following me around asking for hugs. It was actually kind of nice, until they started asking me for money or one of my cameras, cheeky buggers.

Such a Kind Face

This man was hilarious. His son in law invited us to visit his home to have a look at how they keep their animals, and I of course made sure I got some quick snaps of the kids because they're just so cute - they love posing for you and then running over to see their own photo.

This old man saw me photographing them and wanted me to photograph him with his youngest grandchildren - I mean I think that's what he wanted, my Spanish is pretty rubbish. Anyway he walked off and came back with a baby and posed - I took the picture, he liked it, and then he walked off... and came back with another baby! Trust me when I say this man had a lot of grandchildren that needed to be photographed.

But the house was such a lovely family set-up. They had a plot of land with one or two houses on it, and about twelve people all living there together. Babies everywhere, puppies, pigs hanging out with the dogs and chickens stealing everyones food. I don't know how many generations were under one roof, but I like the idea of a big family living and laughing together every day. They seemed such a jolly bunch.

Loving It So Far

So far, I'm loving it here in Nicaragua. Food: good, people: lovely, coffee: AMAZING!

It's so warm here, and everyone is so friendly. And most exciting of all: from what I've seen so far, and it's only been one day I know, but people here love their animals. I'm pretty sure I can promise you that I won't be having a blog melt-down like I did the last time I went on a work trip.

We celebrated my birthday last night by going to a Peruvian restaurant, the food was so delicious and I had this little strawberry pudding/jelly thing that looked dubious but was actually delicious. 

Hooray for new countries and new puddings! So far so good.

Guess Where I Am

I may actually be in Nicaragua (thats a picture of inside my hotel). I still can't believe it myself. I went from London to Spain (Adam took me as a present, I'm a lucky girl) to London to Houston to Managua in two days and while I don't think I've ever been so tired with only five hours sleep, I've also never been so excited. This is my first time in this part of the world and I am beyond excited to have a look around.

For now I'm jet lagged to the point of breaking into spontaneous giggles, and waking up in the middle of the night not knowing where I am. Oh, and today is my birthday, how lucky am I to be celebrating (ok not really, I'll be working all day) it in Nicaragua?!

More tomorrow when I have pictures and a functioning brain to write a coherent post.