Feliz Año Nuevo!

After Marissa left (sniff, sniff), I headed up to León, another pretty colonial town. Supposedly, it’s the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas. Or maybe that was Granada. Anyway, there are an amazing number of beautiful churches, which look gorgeous in the light here. I don’t know why, but Nicaragua has fantastic sunsets every night. Were I to put these on stage, no one would believe me.

During the ´79 revolution, León was a Sandinista stronghold, due to the presence of so many universities (you know how students can be – always fomenting for change). The town saw a lot of street fighting and atrocious acts by the Contras. As a result, there are a lot of monuments to the Sandinistas.
Which is ironic, because since coming back into power, they have completely betrayed so many of their ideals they once stood for. Daniel Ortega, their legendary leader you will remember from the 80’s when the CIA all but assasinated him, particularly makes my blood boil. For one, he is known to have sexually abused his stepdaughter for nine years. Politically, he once stood for the common person, and in fact made a lot of positive reforms when he was in power in the 80’s – literacy and education went up, poverty went down, in short, the FSLN (Sandinistas) had integrity. Since coming back into power a few years ago, however, they have made a travesty of themselves. They now oppose abortion, even in cases endangering the mother’s life; have instituted widespread censorship, including intimidating journalists; employ totalitarian scare tactics to keep the opposition weak; are inexplicably kicking out non-partisan NGO’s like Oxfam; and even stole the national election two months ago. What happened to the revolutionary hero? Why is he perpetrating the same crimes as were done against him 20 years ago? Is it simply a case of power inherently corrupting?

To give you another glimpse into the concerns here, the headline in the Nica Times today proclaims “Nica aims to be landmine free by ´09“. Several European countries are providing support for the painstaking task of slowly “sapping” (a new term to me) the countryside for mines (mainly near the Honduran border), so that farmers can get their fields back. They’ve disarmed tens of thousands of these things in the last few years alone.

Anyway, back to León. It feels safe here, even at night. Although a bit dead at the moment, since all the students are away on summer break. It is very hot and dry – I need to remember to drink enough water. I’m staying at Lazy Bones, the sister hostel to the one Rissie and I stayed at in Granada. It’s nice – pool, computers with internet, coffee and tea, hammocks, billiards – all included in cheap price. Although I spent one night in a place for half the price that has the most amazing coffee and breakfast (which I keep going back for). They put cinnamon in their coffee which I always love, as well as a pinch of salt – the proprieter says you don’t taste it (true), and it cuts the acidity on the tongue. The walls in the hostel don’t go all the way to the ceiling, so you can hear every whisper and snore of fellow travelers. I’ve overheard some interesting conversations.

On New Year’s Eve, I went to see a band that one of the hostel workers plays in. They were great – mostly local music, with some covers that I knew thrown in. Female vocals, spanish guitar, bass, and bongos. Ended up hanging out with a couple of fellow travelers at the bar, both of whom lived up to their respective country’s stereotypes, I’m sorry to say. The Englishman was loud, obnoxious and drunk, and the Swiss man was friendly but uptight. For the actual stroke of midnight, Swiss and I went down to the Parque Central where most of the town was, for an anti-climactic non-countdown. Nothing… happened. There were a lot of fireworks being confiscated by the police. It was neat, though, to see all the families hanging out, snacking from the vendors, strolling.

I spent a long time beforehand considering what to do with our gift this year, the leap second. In the end, I decided to donate it to charity. What did you do with yours?

On New Year’s Day, the entire town was closed, so I headed to the beach. Another typically overcrowded crazy chicken bus ride for an hour or so. So that’s where the whole town went!. A chaotic scene of vendors grilling meats and everything else for sale, all packed together into one area. I walked a ways down the road and found a more secluded spot. Don’t worry, not too secluded – I know enough to swim near other people, the riptides here can be dangerous. It was perfect surf – just strong enough to have fun getting tossed around by, but not too strong. The water was blissfully warm and surprisingly clean, as was the beach. I had hidden my bag in the courtyard of a closed hotel, and only taken my sandals and sunglasses down to the water. Which some punk kid tried to steal! He saw me see him, and took off running before I could open a can of whoop ass on him.
When I tried to catch the bus back into town, there was a line hundreds of people long. Seriously, it was a mob scene. I’m ashamed to admit that I bucked the line and fudged my way onto the next bus. It was dog eat dog. But kinda cool to experience.
That night back in the town square, I found thousands of people reverently watching some old dudes in white robes blathering on and on.. for 5 hours. Evidently the bishops were giving the town a pep talk for the coming year.

I visited a couple of museums in the last few days, and similar to ones I saw in Honduras, I was the only visitor. The guard would walk ahead of me, turning on lights or the videos, then come along behind me and shut them off as I exited a gallery. The museums, like the chicken buses, are amazingly cheap.

Addresses are given like directions. Instead of “4734 3rd Avenue North”, the addresss would be “3rd Ave North, 100m East of Church Marita, 50m South of Market Zingel, San Jacinto neighborhood.” That’s actually what you write on a letter if you want it to get there.

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1 Comment »

  • Marissa says:

    Word to the creepiness of that VM puppet. I hope you didn’t get too close. Or on the other hand, that you got close enough to put it on and act out some sort of Punch and Judy thing with a moisture-wicking sock.

    Glad that you made it to those pretty beaches . . .

    Also, you are the only person in my life that would know about the leap second. Which is cool, and I am glad that I am now better informed. I am saving my leap second for my birthday. Good idea, right?


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