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February 18th, 2009

I took this picture, unsuspectingly, last year at the high school. I saw it as an innocent and young gesture of budding love. I wanted to capture it with the cam. A perfect Valentine's Day picture.

February 17th, 2009

Nica Villages

Gioconda Belli- The Country Under My Skin

"The hamlets and villages of Nicaragua are sleep communities where time's passing is barely perceptible. Tiled-roofed houses, with high ceilings, and adobe construction, are packed tightly together and thickly planted parks, with large trees and the ever present old church. Only the center of town qualifies for paving, otherwise it's all dirt roads where pigs and chickens roam, bordered by houses built out of rough-hewn planks with outdoor kitchens, zinc roofs, and children running around barefoot and in rags."

February 13th, 2009


Mireyling was laughing when she told me that Lupe had a little crush on me and got jealous when she saw me walking down the street with Joanna.

Lupe happens to be my four year old neighbor that has funny stories to tell me and usually drops by the house unexpectedly looking for markers or crayons or we go and buy beans together. Lupe lives in the small store next to my house where I go to buy basically everything I need. She has a cute speech impediment so I have to ask her to repeat herself a lot of the time and I thank her for being so patient with me.

Lupe outside the venta.

Lupe on Independence Day

Party Time

¨Erik,¨Marta said softly. Cee Cee´s tail was wagging and I drifted out of my daze. Marta woke me up at 5:15 this morning so I could come out and see the pig dangling from the tree. He oddly enough didn´t make a noise getting killed and the cute old campesino man that did him in made me laugh. He had no shirt on and was using rope as a belt. I paid him 50 cords, he swung the axe (pig killing method) over his shoulder and swaggered off to start his work day fishing on the lake, just like that.

After washing down some coffee, helping to skin the pig, and minutes later eating some of the fried pork rinds, I was off to the country side by bike to help cut palm leaves with Erikson (the family farm hand), to wrap up the nacatamales.

Water service has been very irregular in town this month. We went three days without it last week and it´s been off every afternoon since. We have to fill up huge plastic barrels and resort to bucket baths at night, which are actually quite refreshing after you get over the initial dump on your head. I don´t think any of my neighbors saw me standing out by the lavendero taking a bath the day I took Cee Cee to Managua. It was still dark anyway.

The economy here is as always struggling. The government just announced that all ministries (aka government organizations) work from 7AM to 1PM as a cost saving measure because they can´t pay their utility bills. Prices keep rising, which is a never ending problem and conversation topic, while salaries stay the same or go down. Last year inflation in Nicaragua was a whopping 18%. I fear that it´s only going to get worse herewithout trying to sound too speculative.

Marta toasting corn to make pinolillo

Toasted cacao

Hanging in There

Had to take Cee Cee to Managua yesterday to get her spaed. She was such a good girl. Her first time on the ferry and first time in a car. Minus throwing up on the outbound ferry (didn´t know dogs got sea sick) she was very well behaved. We picked up my friend Kristel and her three legged dog, Ty, in Nandaime to go get checked out as well. It was a dog taxi all the way. I gave an extra 50 cords to Ivis, my friend and taxi driver, to get the dog hair vacuumed up.

I also take back former comments about all Nica police being honest and good. We got pulled over twice for no reason and they hassled Ivis just to nail him on any violation.

You know what hit the fan when they opened up the trunk and started going through our stuff without even asking, to ¨look for drugs¨. Yeah lady, I hid drugs in my Sbarro pizza bag. Kristel rose her voice out the window, ¨US Embassy...we work for the US Embassy.¨

The cop came closer and I wondered how she got around passing the physical exam. Too many rolls were popping out of places that they shouldn´t have and it looked like she slapped some makeup on in the middle of a dark room. The blue eye shade she poorly selected was not about to be matching her uniform.

You should have seen the look on the officers face when Kristel told her again we worked for the US Embassy. She understood that much in English. It´s not true, but we do carry these white diplomatic ID cards and Peace Corps is technically a part of the State Dept. She stared at us for a few seconds.........¨Vayanse (Go).¨

The second time wasn´t nearly as long of a delay but the cops backed off when Ivis told them he was with a couple friends from the US Embassy.

I´m not sure if what we did was snobby or presumptuous but I just can´t stand that type of corruption. No protocol or procedure in place just like the lawless west.

On to the good news though, I have bought a pig from a friend of mine!!! This is the same friend that invited me to lunch last week and fed me rabbit. Wasn´t to bad. He cost me roughly 1550 cords or $78! I´m having my going away party in two days and we are going to make typical Nica dishes like nacatamales and vigoron. I sat down with Marta on my bed and we made a list of all the things we´ll need to buy. This is the fun part. I will not however be killing the pig. Don Miguel is going to find me someone who can do it for us and we got stocked up on the fire wood we´ll need to do the job.

I´m going to get back to snuggling with Civila and cleaning up the house a bit. man the dust here is BAD right now.

Here is a nacatamal. A type of pie wrapped in palm leaves with meat, rice, dough, and vegetables. I´m thinking of opening up a nacatamal store in Lake Forest;)

February 6th, 2009


¡Clase papaya! (What a papaya!), when I saw the orange colored cylindrical shape sitting on top of the fridge. Minutes later, it was cut up and we were all enjoying it for breakfast, how the mouth seems to dissolve up the sunset colored flesh.

It still seems like I´m finding new fruits all the time in my backyard. Strange, odd, colorful, asymmetrical ones that can be eaten or made into some sort of juice. Noni, avocado, mandarin, sweet orange, sour orange (good for cooking rice), grapefruit, lemon, mango, star fruit, coconut, and papaya trees always give me something to look forward to in the morning. I was happy to see that lemon season is back when I noticed the round little green yellow balls hanging outside my window.

Days earlier I was recounting to Marta about how much I´d miss my tropical fruits, fruits that are going to cost me dollars by the pound in the US, and probably not taste nearly as good.

My eyes widened when I saw her coming around the corner holding a huge papaya by it´s stem, a few days short of being ripe. ¨Te la corté,¨she said giggling(I cut it down for you). It was a sweet gesture and in typical Marta fashion. She´s always watching out for me.

One has to slice the skin lightly with a knife so the milky substance it contains can dribble out. If not, it doesn´t taste as good supposedly.

Melocotón...star fruit

Noni...smells like bad cheese but makes a great juice when mized with lemon and sugar in the blender.




¡Clase payaya!

Ripening in the sun

February 5th, 2009

Island Life


A young face taking a look at his outside world.

New Ferry

Jona and I are in Granada enjoying some down time seeing I am no longer a Peace Corps volunteer and just regular old Erik. It has been windy as hell lately and just today it came out that one of the ferries almost crashed because its motor went out due to the high winds and waters.....don´t ask cuz I´m confused too. It was mayhem I guess.

The same ferry was tossing when we left on it yesterday and some people even had their life jackets on. Today she had finally had enough. One of my friends is a crew member on the ship so I´ll have to ask him what happened. Check out the photo all the way at the bottom. All those plantains....that would have been a big loss.

So, here are some photos of the ¨new¨ferry that Ometepe recently got. She´s a 1966 Dutch liner that is going out of the port of San Jose. By Nica standards, that´s young. There was a huge hubabaloo about it because the ferries that leave out of Moyogalpa now have less passengers and less money. Milton Arcia is already making enough money charging us 60 cords each just for the hour long voyage across the lake. Que barbaridad.

The new ferry ¨El Rey del Colcibolca¨

Victor eating a banana.

Nuevo Diario article

Fuertes vientos provocan estragos en Centroamérica
En Nicaragua un Ferry con 99 pasajeros y ocho tripulantes provenientes de la Isla de Ometepe en Rivas quedó a la deriva producto del oleaje
AFP - 12:30 - 05/02/2009

Cortes de energía eléctrica, caídas de árboles, crecidas de ríos, aldeas inundadas y al menos dos muertos ha dejado un frente frío que azota a Centroamérica, acompañado de lluvias y fuertes vientos que alcanzan velocidades de casi 100 kilómetros por hora. Los vientos son usuales en esta época del año en el istmo y llegan por fenómenos atmosféricos registrados en el Golfo de México y el mar Caribe, y el presente frente se debe a un sistema de alta presión polar que se encuentra en el mar entre Texas y Florida, afirman los servicios meteorológicos.

Ferry a la deriva en Nicaragua
En el lago Cocibolca, en el sur de Nicaragua, un 'Ferry' con 99 pasajeros y ocho tripulantes que zarpó desde la isla de Ometepe hacia San Jorge, tuvo que ser auxiliado tras quedar a la deriva por una falla mecánica causada por el fuerte viento, mencionó el portavoz de la Defensa Civil, teniente coronel Gilberto Narváez. El temor a ahogarse obligó a uno de los tripulantes a lanzarse al agua a 200 metros de distancia del muelle. Asimismo, una mujer nicaragüense resultó herida al caerle la rama de un árbol en el departamento norteño de Matagalpa, aseguró Narváez.

El capitán del transbordador aseguró que la carga transportada era superior a la establecida por las autoridades, lo que condujo a un total rompimiento de las cadenas que enlazaban los vehículos pesados (un camión con alrededor de 10.000 plátanos, un microbús y dos camionetas) que venían en el barco. Tanto las autoridades del Bemérito Cuerpo de Bomberos como la Cruz Roja se hicieron presentes al lugar para evitar cualquier peligro, Asimismo, Defensa Civil dio orden de suspender cualquier operación de traslado (entrada y salida) hacia la Isla de Ometepe.

Carazo y Chinandega sin electricidad
En Carazo, la población permanece sin electricidad después que cayera al suelo un poste de luz en el kilómetro 54 de la carretera Jinotepe hacia Nandaime, que se presume abastece de energía a todo el departamento. En Chinandega, las ráfagas de vientos despegaron láminas de zinc en varias viviendas del barrio “Roberto González” y Santa Rosa, así como rótulos y postes de tendido eléctrico, que han dejado a cientos de usuarios sin energía eléctrica y agua potable. Las cuadrillas de la Empresa Nicaragüense de Acueductos y Alcantarillado, Enacal, trabajan para reestablecer el servicio a los usuarios.

Según Luis Ramón Lindo, director departamental del Silais de Chinandega, han orientado a la población a proteger los alimentos para evitar enfermedades respiratorias causadas por las polvaredas. Mientras que, Gloria González, directora departamental del Mined en Chinandega, asegura que están pendientes ante cualquier orientación del Ministerio de Educación de suspender o no las clases. No obstante, indicó que son los padres de familias quienes deben valorar si es peligroso enviar a sus hijos a clases debido al mal tiempo.

Dos muertos en Costa Rica y Panamá
Una mujer panameña de 50 años murió al volcarse el bote en que navegaba por una crecida del Río Cañas, cerca de la frontera con Costa Rica, país donde a causa de un paro cardíaco murió el policía Rafael Castillo, de 61 años, quien fue arrastrado en su motocicleta por la crecida del río La Trinidad, en la zona atlántica. En el país vecino las crecidas de ocho ríos anegaron 15 aldeas del Caribe, mientras la Comisión Nacional de Emergencias mantenía una "alerta amarilla" en esa zona y en un cantón del centro del país. "Se están enviando botes, alimentos, espumas (colchones), cobijas y se están fortaleciendo las bodegas instaladas en la zona" atlántica, expresó la Comisión.

Incendio en El Salvador
En El Salvador el viento ayudó a que se propagara un incendio forestal, que ha consumido al menos 30 hectáreas de bosque. En el departamento guatemalteco de Jutiapa, fronterizo con El Salvador, las ráfagas de viento llevaron a suspender las clases en al menos 25 escuelas por temor a que causaran daños en las aulas, divulgaron radioemisoras. En la ciudad salvadoreña de Izalco, 65 kilómetros al oeste de la capital, la ventolera destruyó los techos de al menos 71 viviendas, pero la Dirección de Protección Civil no reportó víctimas. Pueblos de al menos cinco departamentos de Guatemala permanecían sin energía eléctrica desde anoche. Los meteorólogos prevén que el tiempo mejore a partir de este sábado.

El frente ha bajado las temperaturas a 13 grados Celsius en ciudades donde la media anual supera los 25 grados, lo que tiene entumecidos a millones de centroamericanos, mientras las autoridades movilizan a la Cruz Roja, Bomberos, Policía y Ejército para atender las emergencias.

(Con la colaboración de Tania Goussen)

January 23rd, 2009

Fun in Managua

I was leafing through an old picture book about Managua at Hispamer, Nicaragua's largest chain of bookstores, imagining myself walking those streets in the book. The glorious mansions, department stores, and unique architecture called for a very different Managua than the one today.

Lizzet, my old boss, invited me to stay at her house for a bit last week and took me on a tour of old Managua, the Managua that the famous earthquake of 72' didn't destroy. We went with her daughter Magda, son Adiac, husband, and a friend.

It wasn't anything like the work of Gaudi in Barcelona, but when you are used to one story cement housing, it's enough to raise an eyebrow. We even took a tour of the newly finished sea walk park on the edge of Lake Managua.

Hey, I also have a new look too. Is it chiq enough for Chicago?

The old cathedral

Lizzet, one of my Nica mothers, and great friends

Pig roast anyone?

Do ya like the new look?

Magda speaks perfect English. It was the first language she learned while Lizzet was studying in Arkansas.

Magda and I at the edges of Lake Managua

Social Security building

With architecture like this, Managua used to be a beautiful capital city.

January 22nd, 2009

Katie and Moises

Katie is a NICA 44 volunteer that I stay with at times when in Managua. She lives in a town right outside the city called Veracruz. Her boyfriend Moises is a class act guy who works on the Atlantic Coast part of the year and also has family in Chicago.

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