Friday, February 18, 2011

Nicaragua!!! Day 9

The phone alarm went off the next morning, and there we were in the Best Western Hotel for our final hours in Nicaragua.  I have to admit, I cried a little as we packed everything up.  It had been the most perfect trip of my life.  I really did love every second of it!  So we went and ate breakfast (gallo pinto- divine!) and walked around a bit, soaking up the sun.

Then we checked out and took a taxi to the airport.  Fanny (the girl from Matagalpa that wasn't there when we were) called and wanted to meet us at the airport because she was in Managua!  So we were very excited and after we checked our bags we went and met her in the front area of the airport.  She was such a sweetheart!  Brock said she was one of his most solid converts.  Even though her family didn't want her to get baptized, she put her foot down, told them she knew it was true, and that she was joining the church.  I could see that strong headed spirit she had when we met her.  I liked her a lot!

As we said bye to her and were about to go through security, I remembered something I had forgotten: my travel pillow!  Brock bought me one of those nice Brookstone U-shaped pillows for the plane rides to help with motion sickness and help me sleep on the plane.  It worked wonders on the way there, and I carried it all over that country just so I could have it on the way home!  And then in the very last hour I left it!!!  Luckily, the Best Western is directly across the street from the airport, and their taxi was just pulling up dropping other people off at the airport.  So after I convinced Brock that I really really wanted my pillow, he went over to the taxi guy and asked if he'd take us back.  Since he was heading there anyway he didn't even charge us.  We went back and talked to the hotel guy who said that Housekeeping was in our room right now!

So we rushed over there and the room was already clean.  But the housekeeping lady was in the next room!  So Brock asked her if she had seen a blue U-shaped pillow while she was cleaning (I was really hoping she had otherwise I would have been WAY embarrassed).  She smiled and pulled out a plastic bag where she had put my pillow!  Yay!!!  I thanked her graciously and we were off!  (Good thing we got to the airport way early...  again!).  Since our bags were already checked at the airport, we decided to be daring and just book it across the Managua Highway.  I was pretty much terrified but trusting Brock.  We waited for a break and then ran!  Haha that was an adrenaline rush!  If I haven't explained it before, the Nicaragua streets are CRAZY!  There are almost no traffic laws and people (even buses) are constantly weaving in and out around each other.  It's intense.  There were a few times on our trip that I was legitimately afraid for our lives!  Haha, but we survived :)

And there we were, back at the airport!  We went through security and had about an hour and a half to spare before boarding our flight.  The only food place on the gate side of the airport was Subway!  So that's what we got.  And the lady working there spoke English!  Okay so here is embarrassing story number two of the day.  I ordered, and then Brock ordered in Spanish.  As he was about to pay, I was like, "Oh wait!  Ask her if I can have a water!"  She looked at me all weird, and handed me a water bottle.  Duh!  I had already forgotten she spoke English!  I was so used to having Brock translate everything for me that it was just second nature to do it again!  I apologized, trying to explain that to her...  really hoping she didn't take offense!  Hahaha it was embarrassing :)

Anyway, then we ate our Subway (not quite as good as in the US but not bad!) and explored the airport a little bit.  They had all this crazy expensive stuff there!  It was so weird after seeing everything on the streets so cheap haha I guess they can always charge more at the airport!  Anyway, finally it was time to board.  I took my dramamine, took one last look at the beautiful Nicaragua, and then got on the plane.  As we took off Brock was pointing out to me all the lakes and volcanoes.  It was so cool to look at them and see how much we traveled all over that country!  Brock said that in 9 days we saw more of Nicaragua than most Nicaraguans ever see.  We really did go everywhere!  It was a lot of walking and driving, but so worth every bit of it!

And then, before we knew it, we were home.  Back in the freezing winter of Utah.  It was a very bitter sweet moment as we walked into our little apartment.  Finally home, and not really able to decide if I wanted to be or not.  I could have stayed in Nicaragua forever- the friendly laid back atmosphere, the warm sunshine, the delicious food, the humidity, the beautiful plants...  It was the perfect adventure and so worth every second of it!  It really did give me some new perspectives on life and I will never forget what I learned there.  Nicaragua was a huge piece of Brock's life and I am so happy that I finally got to share it with him.  Maybe one day we'll be able to go back again, and maybe not.  But if not, we will treasure the memories of those 9 days forever.

Nicaragua!!! Day 8

Our last full day in the beautiful Nicaragua.  We woke up around 8:30 and packed everything up.  We had just run out of Bug Spray.  My shoes (brand new air walks bought specifically for the trip) were in terrible condition and definitely needed to be thrown away.  We were both a little solemn in packing up because we knew it meant we ending our amazing trip that we've been looking forward to since the day he left on his mission.  So we checked out of the hotel, walked over to the bus terminal and got on the first bus back to Managua.

A little over two hours later, we pulled into Managua and got a taxi back to the Best Western Hotel.  We checked in and it all kind of felt like a dream!  It was the same guy that was there when we very first arrived in Nicaragua.  It was like so much had happened in that short amount of time, but then there we were back at the beginning!  I was definitely better able to communicate than I was when I first got there though!

So we got settled in our room, then went out to explore the hotel grounds.  Brock pointed out to me all the different plants and trees that made the country so green and lovely.  Then we found the coconut trees!  There were a bunch of them out by the swimming pool!  I have never seen a real coconut fresh off a tree.  It was so cool!  So Brock went over to the maintenance man and asked him if he could cut one down for us because I'd never had coconut juice before!  The man smiled, got out his big long metal stick, and walked over to the coconut trees.  He got one down, and then said that wasn't big enough for me so he found an even bigger one and cut it down for us!  Then he whipped out his machete and sliced it open for me!  It was so cool!  He handed it to me and Brock told me to drink it.

I was nervous at first, not even really knowing how to drink out of the small hole in the middle of this giant coconut!  So I put my mouth over it and drank.  I was totally surprised by the taste and apparently I made a face about it too because they both laughed at me!  It was really good though!  If you've never had real coconut juice, it's very interesting.  It had a little bit of sweetness, but it was quite tart too.  Obviously it didn't have any artificial sweeteners or anything in it, so it was just plain fruit juice!  It was good though!  And I couldn't believe how much was in there!  Brock and I shared it and I wanted to keep the coconut forever!  Haha but of course I couldn't bring it home, so I threw it away, thankful for that memorable moment!

Haha so then we went and got our swimsuits on and headed out to the pool!  We were the only ones in there the whole time we were swimming!  It was so fun!  That's right folks- January 4th, swimming outside and basking in the hot sun next to coconut trees!  That's not something I've ever done before!  It was a blast!  And then we laid out for a while- my hopeless attempt to get a tan- relaxed, and then went back and changed.  We wanted to go grocery shopping so that we could bring Galletas Chiky home to our family and friends!  Those cookies are AMAZING!  They're kind of like graham crackers with chocolate on the bottom, but thicker.  Probably my favorite thing ever.

So the hotel taxi man agreed to take us to the store, wait for us, and then take us back to the hotel.  It was so nice of him!  So we went and bought fruit drinks, frutini candies, bon bon lollipops, some coconut cookies, and lots and lots of galletas chiky!  We went back to the hotel fully stocked with all things tasty from Nicaragua :)

Then we ate dinner at the hotel (they have a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner).  It was really good!  They were a very Americanized hotel (obviously- haha they're the Best Western!) and they cooked like it!  We got an Italian style meal, but got Nicaraguan fried plantanes (kind of like potato chips) to eat with it.  It cost about the same as an American restaurant would, too, but it was really tasty!  So then we went back to the room and relaxed, watching TV.  They had channels in English!  It was a miracle!  Haha so we watched "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader" it was really funny!

Then we decided to take one last walk around the hotel grounds to soak up as much Nicaragua warmth as we could before we had to go back to reality and winter.  We walked around exploring for a while, then sat outside gazing at the beautiful Nicaragua stars, chatting about how amazing our trip was.  It was very relaxing and peaceful.

Nicaragua!!! Day 7

So we got up the next morning (Monday) around 7:30, feelin good besides our itchy bug bites.  We went downstairs and had a delicious breakfast with eggs, rice and beans, toast, and fresh fruit.  I was so excited to try papaya for the first time!....  and it was gross.  Nope.  Don't recommend it.  But they did have bananas and pineapple which were both very delicious :)

Anyway, then we went out into the city to do some shopping!  It was so fun to see all the different stores.  Matagalpa is one of the more ritzy places in Nicaragua and you could tell by what the people wore and how the stores were.  However, Brock knew about a particular tie shop that he wanted to visit.  So we walked over there and he was right- they had AMAZING deals on ties!  Good quality ties.  We bought 15 ties for 30 bucks! Woot!!!  Fabulous.  Then we went to a souvenir shop and I got some T-shirts and a cool Nicaragua thing to hang on our wall at home.  It was way fun!  Then we headed back to finish packing and check out of the hotel.

So we did just that, and called a taxi to meet us at the hotel so we wouldn't have to drag our luggage all the way down the hill.  He came and then we went to the bus terminal to prepare for our longest travel day of all!  We caught an Express bus to take us from Matagalpa to Managua- a 2 1/2 hour drive.  However, there were not enough seats for everyone on the bus...  So they got out buckets!  And we all sat on buckets in the aisle for the whole trip!  It was so funny!  I got to sit by a cute couple who had just bought a new puppy- and man was that puppy adorable!  They had it in a little box and he was just as happy as can be.  I melted, and now I want a puppy :)

Haha so anyway, we had to get off a little bit early because our connecting route went by about half an hour outside of Managua so it would save us quite a bit of time by not having to go all the way to Managua and back track.  So we got off, but the guys had tied our bags really tight to the top of the bus and it took them FOREVER to get them down!  It was funny, the bus driver kept almost driving away because he thought they were done but they weren't.  So when we finally got our bags we had to run across the busy street (that was so scary) and wait on the other side for the connecting bus to take us out to Juigalpa (which would be another 2 hour drive).  So we waited for probably ten minutes in the hot sun, having no idea when the bus was going to come!  I just kept reminding myself that it was still saving us time even though we were waiting :)  And then it came and stopped for us and once again was the hurried yelling directions at us of what to do and I was just frazzled as can be!  But we got on okay and man was that bus crowded!  Apparently that's the worst time of day to travel because it's by far the busiest.  Haha, I believe it.  We were standing and totally packed up next to each other like Sardines!

And off we went, on the long hot and squishy bus ride.  Brock laughed in my ear and said that I am now getting the REAL Nicaragua experience!  Haha it was fun :)  There was a little girl standing in front of me and just staring...  It was so cute.  By this point in our trip I was used to everyone staring at me because I'm white with blonde hair and blue eyes.  Not very many people have seen someone like me, especially in some of these smaller poorer cities.  It was funny because the adults would know to look away when I caught them staring, but the little kids didn't.  They just kept looking at me in awe hahaha it was so cute!  So I said "Hola!" and she smiled shyly and said "hola" back.  It was adorable :)

So the bus ride kept going and I was doing fine, until we stopped and a bunch of sales people got on.  Then it was just annoying.  They literally were pushing through the bus when it was already impossible to take a single step!  Selling bread and drinks and random things.  I was getting pushed on to this woman with a sleeping child in her arms and I had zero control over it!  It was so annoying!  And it happened like three times!  I was like, seriously people!  I don't mind when they do it on a not crowded bus, but when we already can't move and they just push through us, it was irksome.  Haha but apparently that's also part of the culture so no one else really seemed to mind at all!  It was so interesting!

Anyway, towards the end, we finally got a seat as more people got off, so I was finally able to relax a bit.  Man, that was a long trip :)  But I'm totally glad it happened because, like Brock said, I got the full Nicaraguan experience!  And after a long, stressful, and sweaty trip we made it to Juigalpa!  We got off at the stop and took a taxi to the Hotel La Quinta.

Now that was more like a Nicaragua style hotel!  The other ones we stayed in were more Americanized, clean and well-kept.  This one, well, was less that way.  The bed was hard.  The floor was not clean (I think I even found some old gum smashed into it), and the shower was something I decided to avoid for that night :)  But it did still have a flushing toilet, clean sheets, and running water!  That's all ya need right?  Haha and it had a TV too!  It was old and fuzzy and the channel buttons only went one direction, but it worked :)  Once again- full Nicaragua experience!  Most people in that country have even less than that so I didn't even think to complain at all.  Plus- it was only $15.00 for the night!  Woohoo!

Anyway, so we brought our stuff in and then wanted to head out to Santo Tomas (even more driving).  Santo Tomas was Brock's very first area.  He never actually served in Juigalpa, but we just stayed there because there's not hotels in Santo Tomas.  So we convinced a taxi guy to drive us out there because the next bus was going to be way too late.

One thing I loved about that area of the country is how country-like it was!  There were cowboys on horses herding cows and sheep all over the place.  It was definitely a small town feel with super friendly people.  I told Brock it was like the Logan, UT of Nicaragua.  Still had city things, but definitely a country feel (and smell).  I liked it!

So when we got to Santo Tomas we had our Taxi driver take us to the LDS Church.  When he dropped us off, Brock was way confused.  Apparently they had made a new church building since he was last here!  Haha so we walked around searching for a while til he figured out where we were and then we headed over to the home of la familia Orozco Plata!  This family was Brock's 3rd baptism ever!  They were all still super active in the church and so happy to see him!

We sat there visiting with them for a while and then they made us a delicious meal called Nacatamales!  It was AMAZING!  I guess that's what their family does for a business...  sell home made nacatamales.  It's like, a burrito type thing with pork, cheese, and delicious sauces!  I can't even describe it.  But it was delicious.  And they were all worried I wasn't gonna like it!  But holy cow I downed that thing!  And they were all so happy- it was cute :)

And then it started to rain!  I don't know if I've described Nicaraguan houses yet.  They are all connected like in one big building and each individual home has a front and back door and it's just kind of a long hallway.  All the roofs are made of tin and they don't completely enclose the home.  They cover it all and the way they're slanted keeps the rain outside but there's openings above the walls.  It's really interesting!  So when the rain started to come it was really loud on those tin roofs!  We were there like a month after the rainy season ended so this was not a bad storm at all.  Compared to Utah it was a pretty good sized rain storm but compared to Nicaragua I guess it was just some light sprinkles haha.  It was really cool to see though!  And it didn't last very long.  So when it was over we thanked that wonderful family and set out to go see Edwin!

Edwin was Brock's very first baptism.  It happened on November 26th, 2006 (the one year anniversary of our first kiss!  I know, I know, so cheesy ;) ), a week after he had gotten to Nicaragua.  We knocked on their door and the family welcomed us in.  We sat and visited for a while, and the mom sent her daughter to go buy crackers and soda pop for us!  What?  I was blown away!  But once again, that is their culture!  You come to their house, they welcome you and feed you.  It was so nice of them!  We couldn't stay long with them though because it was starting to get dark and we still had to get back to Juigalpa.

So we said bye and then started hurrying to the bus stop.  Oh no- it was ahead of us!  So we took off running as fast as we could go but we weren't going to make it!  A taxi driver pulled up laughing at us and told us to let him take us to the bus.  Phew!  That saved us!  We caught the bus just in time!  And then it was dark, and we rode back to Juigalpa to go to sleep.  It had been a long day of lots of traveling but it was so worth it to see those cities and meet those people!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nicaragua!!! Day 6

So, 3:30 AM rolls around and the alarm goes off.  We nudge each other a bit trying to wake each other up before we finally both crawled out of bed sleepily.  Yup.  We had a 4:30 AM bus to catch to take us on a 3 hour drive to Matagalpa!  So we got up and finished packing and headed out, when we ran into a very odd problem.  We were locked inside the hotel.  The only exit was through the lobby (yes, we wandered around to see if that was true), and that door was locked.  We had told the guys that we were going to be leaving at this time, so what was up?!  So I started knocking....  and voila!  A sleepy eyed man came to the door.  Pretty sure he was sleeping in there hahaha :)  But he let us into the lobby and checked us out of our room.  Then the security guard helped us find a taxi to the bus terminal; that hotel was pretty nice and they had really good service.  I was grateful!

So anyway, we got to the bus terminal and there was one big old fashioned school bus waiting for us!  We had to go so early for a couple of reasons.  One, this was the only route that went straight from Leon to Matagalpa.  The other ones all stopped in Managua which would have added another 2 hours to our trip.  Two, we wanted to make it to church in Matagalpa and that started at 9 AM.  So it was early, but it was worth it!  And the bus ride was actually really beautiful!  Brock let me sit by the window and it was so cool to look up at all the stars!  There's no inversion there like we have in Logan so the sky was beautifully clear and the stars were so bright!  And then we got to see the sun rise!  Matagalpa is in the mountains so it made that even prettier.  So I actually didn't mind the drive at all!  And when we got there a little before 8 the sun was already high in the sky.

We took a taxi to our hotel, which was way up high in the mountains, and kind of secluded from the rest of the city.  It was so pretty!  There were flowers and plants EVERYWHERE and you could just look out over the beautiful city of Matagalpa and see the mountains and trees and cathedrals and buildings and, I just loved it!  So we checked in (awesome that they'd let us check in at 8 AM, haha, that doesn't happen in the US!) and had just enough time to get ready and head to church.

We walked down the long rocky hill to the city and headed over to the church (it actually only ended up being like a 15 minute walk).  It was a really nice church building too!  So we sat down in the chapel and Brock was greeted by a bunch of different people who were thrilled to see him.  He just made a big difference everywhere in that country!  Seriously there were people everywhere who just loved him!  It was really fun to meet them all!

Anyway, so it was fast and testimony meeting and even though I couldn't understand what people were saying I definitely still felt the spirit.  My favorite part was the hymns, though.  They didn't have a pianist so they just had the leader get up there and sing really loud (REALLY loud) and everyone else just followed and sang with her.  It was really cool!  Haha you could tell when there were some less-known hymns....  because they all sang it all wrong and it was so funny!  Haha but they sang with heart and I loved it.

Then it was time for Sunday School, and there I met a really sweet girl that speaks English!  Hallelujah!  So after the lesson I asked if I could sit by her in Relief Society.  She of course said yes and throughout the whole thing she was translating what was going on.  It was so sweet of her!  And there was another couple there that day that were also visiting from the states.  I guess they had met in Guatemala and he's from Seattle and she's from Nicaragua.  So they were visiting her family for the holidays.  We talked with them for a while and they invited us to eat lunch with their family!  So we all took a taxi over to the house and sat and visited while the mom prepared the food.  The kid from Seattle broke out his guitar and he and Brock took turns playing songs- it was way fun!  And the food was delicious!  We had chicken and vegetables and bread and an incredible fruit drink!  (Have I mentioned the Nicaraguan fruit drinks yet?  They are to DIE for!  So amazing!)

So we thanked them and then went out to visit other families.  I remembered Brock had told me that his legs had gotten rock solid when he was in Matagalpa.... and I quickly understood why.  There were SO many hills!  Everywhere!  And they were super steep!  I was dying!  Haha with the sun beating down and climbing all these crazy hills I was just exhausted!  But we visited with a family that Brock had baptized that had now also been through the temple.  They are super solid in the church and it was so neat to hear them talk about their experiences and see how much the church has blessed their lives.  It was worth the death climb up to their house :)

Then we went back to the hotel to rest for a bit before we set out to visit some more people.  Only then did I realize what I had forgotten that morning.  Bug spray.  Oi.  And so had Brock.  And I had three ginormous bites on my arm, and two on my leg, and another little one on my other arm.  But I was luckier than Brock...  He not only got mosquito bites, but he got a flea!  Yup.  Miserable.  That's what Nicaragua will do to you if you go 3 hours without insect repellent.  Be warned.

Anyway, so we sprayed ourselves with spray, and some anti-itch stuff that totally didn't work, and relaxed a bit.  Then we got a phone call from Fanny's mom!  (Brock baptized Fanny and her brother; the rest of their family aren't members but they still became really good friends with Brock and his companion).  Fanny was in Managua going to school, but her mom still wanted us to come see her so we set out back down the hill.  We caught a taxi up to the top of another giant hill and then went on a little hike to get to the house.  When we got there she had clothes hung up to dry on clothes lines - it once again reminded me how blessed we are here!  I complain ruthlessly about doing laundry here, but these people wash their clothes in rivers and hang them to dry.  Humbling, definitely.

Anyway, so Fanny's mom walked out and shook our hands, very excited to see us.  She welcomed us into her home where she showed us pictures of her family and the things they'd been up to the past couple of years.  Then she made us delicious fresh squeezed orange juice (once again, the most amazing fruit drink I have ever had!).  It was really fun to visit with her.  She was another one who understood that I can't speak and so she took time to speak slower to me, which was much appreciated!

So then we went back down the hill and had to stop by a store and get some bread for dinner.  Then it got dark so we took a taxi back to the hotel and relaxed, flipping through channels on the TV.  We found Harry Potter again!  Still in Spanish, of course, but I'm pretty sure I know those movies well enough that I knew exactly what was being said anyway :)  (embarrassing confession of my love for Harry Potter!)

Then Brock took me over to one of the balconies of the hotel and we looked over the city.  He put his arm around me and asked if I remembered when he called me from Nicaragua when his parents were there to pick him up.  Hello- of course I remembered!  It was like THE most exciting moment ever.  Anyway, in that phone call he said that he was looking over the beautiful city of Matagalpa and that he wanted to take me there some day.  And there we were, finally together in Nicaragua and looking at the beautiful night sky in the mountainous Matagalpa.  It was a wonderful moment that I won't forget :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nicaragua!!! Day 5

The next morning we got up around 7:30 AM to head to the beach!  We took a taxi out to what's called Poneloya.  Oh my gosh that beach was amazing.  We got there early so we were almost the only ones there.  Bet you can't say you've spent January 1st on a hot and sunny beach!  Hahaha, it was amazing.  I felt like I was in a dream.  The ocean water was warm and beautiful, and there was nothing but soft sand for miles along it.  There was no seaweed or rocks to get all over your feet.  Just sand.  And I laid out in the sun, basking in the beautiful humid warmth and listening to the huge waves.  It was an amazing morning.  We went for a walk, collected some sea shells, played in the ocean and....  my flip flop broke.  Yup.  The Nicaraguan Ocean broke my flip flop.  Don't you hate that?

So as we were heading back I felt so silly...  Trying to walk when your flip flop isn't attached is virtually impossible.  And as if I didn't get enough stares as it is!  Hahaha but the people were friendly and just smiled at me as I walked.... really really slowly....  with my broken shoe :)  It was pretty funny.  Our ride home was pretty funny too.  Have you ever seen those big trucks that just have open backs with a tarp covering it?  Well in Nicaragua, they pack those full of people and give them rides for cheap prices.  So we got to ride in one!  Luckily it was pretty early in the morning still so we were pretty much the only ones riding it back from the Beach.  It was a windy ride!  But fun.  And I was so happy after that beautiful beach day :)

So then we went back and showered and got ready to head out to Chinandega!  We took a taxi to the bus terminal (isn't it funny that they call it a terminal?) and caught a bus to Chinandega.  As we got off at our destination, Brock pointed out to me a place called "On the Run."  He said he loved this place for two reasons.  One- it had Americanized food that was pretty tasty.  Two- it was very well air-conditioned, and Chinandega is the very hottest city in the country!

I quickly realized that, too!  We were there at the coldest time of the year (but the temperature only fluctuates about 10-15 degrees year round) and it was SO hot there!  Walking around in that hot sun was very draining.  I felt for the poor missionaries who had to do that all day every day :)  But off we went!  We walked over to Patricia's house.  We had told her we were coming and she told us she was soooo excited!  She was going to have a delicious lunch ready for us and everything!  But when we got to her house, sadly, no one was there!  And as we were waiting at the door (it's so funny- instead of knocking on the doors people just yell "Buenas!" and they come answer!  I love it and so badly want to do that here some time!) after knocking and yelling "Buenas," we saw missionaries walking up the street!  How fun- our third set of missionaries we got to see!  And I got to speak English to them!

I guess they were supposed to be eating lunch with us at Patricia's.  But she was definitely not home.  So we walked with the Elders over to another house around the corner- this was the place they were supposed to go for lunch if their other appointments bailed.  So we went and greeted the family (Brock knew them too) and there was like 8 missionaries in there!  So we sat and visited with them for a while, and found out that Patricia had had a family emergency and had to leave town.  I was bummed I didn't get to meet her!

So we said bye to that family and the missionaries, and went back to On the Run to eat lunch.  As we were standing in line, I told Brock I wanted to order our food.  Yup, I finally got up the courage!  So when we got to the cashier, I started talking and the girl started laughing at me!  Rude!!!  Haha so I laughed too and sheepishly finished my order then made Brock do everything else.  I was embarrassed.  Hahaha oh well, I guess I probably did sound pretty funny.  I was proud of me though!

Anyway, so we bought chicken sandwiches and I bought us each a Snicker's bar too (Nicaragua doesn't really have chocolate so it was very exciting to find american candy!).  Then we ate, and it was delicious.  Then Brock called Wilbur, the other person we were planning on visiting in Chinandega.  They decided we should meet at the church, so off we went!

We walked to the church (did I mention how hot it was there?!) and Wilbur let us in.  He works for maintenance for the church so he had keys.  He was there with his cute wife and adorable little boy.  We sat and chatted in the chapel for a while and it was so fun!  They are an adorable family!  Brock and Wilbur had a nice long conversation and I was sitting next to Carla... trying to have a conversation :)  I actually didn't do too bad!  We had a very basic conversation telling each other about where we're from and how many people are in our family, etc.  That's about all I knew how to say, but it was good practice!  She was very sweet and understanding and she spoke very slowly and clearly to me.  Most of them didn't understand the concept of talking slow and they would always think they were slowing down but to me it was still super fast and sloppy hahaha.  So it was refreshing talking to Carla :)  She was very sweet.

Anyway, so then we decided to just go back to Leon and relax the rest of the evening.  We caught a bus and headed back!  We walked around down town, and I bought new flip flops to replace my broken ones!  Then Brock bought some gallo pinto from the street (they wrapped it in banana leaves- how cool is that?) and I decided to just eat some cereal from the store for dinner.  So we headed back to the hotel with our dinner and ate and watched Harry Potter in Spanish.  Brock went out to go buy more minutes for the cell phone and I just went to sleep.  It had been a wonderful day, and we had a very early morning ahead!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nicaragua!!! Day 4

So the next morning we got up early and checked out of the hotel.  Happy New Year's Eve!  We took a taxi to the bus terminal and headed back to Managua.  From there, we had to catch another bus to Leon.  And man were those lines long!  Apparently downtown Leon is like a huge party town and they have a crazy celebration on New Years so everyone was heading out there.  We stood in line FOREVER.  I did buy cute sunglasses from a guy on the street though!  They're white, and I like them :)  Haha and we made some friends with the other people in line.  In fact, at one point one girl was sick of standing in line.  She went over to one of the Jinotepe buses who had no customers (because everyone was going to Leon) and offered him a deal.  She asked him, if she were able to find enough people to fill their bus and pay a little extra money, if they would change their route for the day and take us to Leon.  They got excited and agreed.  They had been sitting there all morning with no one to take to Jinotepe.

So she came back over to us (we were holding her place in line) and told us the deal.  She counted out 15 people out of the middle of the line, and we all dashed over to the Jinotepe bus.  It was all very confusing to me because I couldn't understand anything they were saying!  She put me in the front middle seat right next to the driver (who wasn't in the bus yet)...  And Brock had to sit in the back.  It was pretty funny.  The driver opened the door and starting yelling at me for something...  No idea what he was saying so I started pointing stupidly at different things, trying to figure out what he wanted.  Finally, after frustrating him significantly, I figured out he wanted the little seat cushion he had on his seat.  He was probably thinking, "that stupid annoying gringa"  hahaha.  I was embarrassed :) 

Then, we had been sitting there packed in the little Express Bus for a few minutes and were just about to leave, when all of a sudden everyone got disappointed and started getting off the bus.  They ushered to me to do the same and I was just so confused.  Brock finally explained to me that the police were gonna take away the bus driver's license if he took a Jinotepe Bus to Leon.  Dangit!!!  Hahaha, it was a fun adventure though :)  And a clever idea by that girl standing next to us!

So anyway, we got BACK in line for the bus to Leon, and eventually got on the bus.  I hated getting on and off public transportation...  Everyone was always so rushed and yelling and crazy and I had no idea what was going on!  I got on the bus and was standing there all uncertain when I finally realized one of the guys was talking to me!  And then he said in broken English, "Sit down, Please!"  Hahaha I just smiled hugely and thanked him!  It was really funny.  Brock said, "Well, you're definitely getting the whole Nicaragua experience!"  Hahaha.  Yeah, I told you already that the people are way laid back and chill, but the streets are not.  They are CRAZY!  It was so funny!

Anyway, so then we had another 1 1/2 hour bus ride to Leon, and took a taxi to "Hotel Austria," which is right next to Downtown.  It was a beautiful hotel!  Definitely my favorite one.  And it had air conditioning :)  Hallelujah!  Hahaha.  And the bathroom was pretty clean (which is definitely a bonus)!  So we put our stuff down there, turned the A/C on full blast, and headed out into the city.

Leon is one of the most well-known cities in Nicaragua, and it is definitely touristy.  There were white people there!  It was so weird!  Haha a lot of them were from Germany though, so a lot of them still didn't speak English.  It was still exciting to not be the obvious most tall and white person around (well, next to Brock of course).  So we walked around, took pictures, and had fun.  Downtown is built around this GIANT cathedral, the biggest in Central America in fact.  It is huge!  They have cathedrals all over the country, but this one is especially significant.  And they have Mass there all the time; like multiple times a day.  We walked in and saw one and it was really cool!

So we went shopping a bit then headed back to the hotel to call Brock's friends.  We got a hold of Yasser, who was the ward mission leader when Brock was there.  It turns out he was working at a shoe store right next to where we had been walking around!  So we went back out there and visited with him for a while.  He was super cool!  Then we took a taxi to another neighborhood farther away from downtown Leon.  We walked down a dirt road, and I was a little nervous about the dogs everywhere, but once again survived them ;)  Haha and we got to the home of La Familia Palma.  When we first got there their mom wasn't home; it was just the cute kids and their pets:  A parrot, a rabbit, and two dogs!  We visited with them for a while and gave them Starbursts (Nicaraguans love American candy hahaha).  It was so funny because they fed the Starburst to the Parrot and he loved it!  Haha so we sat and laughed with them.

Then I met their older sister, who greeted me with a kiss on the cheek.  That is another Nicaraguan custom that I think is so cool!  Except half the time I didn't expect it so people would try to do it to me but I'd forget to lean in and then it was just awkward because I would laugh and apologize but not be able to explain that I'm not used to that so I forgot, and, anyway.  That's just a side note that's funny because it created awkward situations for me :)  They're all chill and understanding though so nobody cared.  Anyway, then I found out that that girl was leaving to go be with her fiancee!  They were planning to travel to Guatemala to get sealed in the temple.  How exciting!  And then their mom got home so we sat and chatted for a long time.  She is such a sweet lady!

Let me tell you a story about this family...  And I hope I tell it right because it's amazing.  Brock met them when not all of them were members of the church, and none of them were active.  After he and his companion worked with them a lot, eventually they all joined the church and gained very strong testimonies.  However, their dad was very sick.  He had a brain cancer that was just getting worse all the time.  Brock had a hard time leaving them because they got really close and he didn't know what would happen to their dad.  Well, when Brock and I went back, we found out that their dad had passed away last year.  But we also found out that they saved up every penny they had to go to the temple and get sealed before that happened.  And they did it.  So now they have their Sealing certificate framed on their wall, and because of the Gospel in their lives they get to be together again with their entire family.  It was a wonderful experience to be there and listen to her tell us that story.  Even though I couldn't directly understand very much of it, I could see the twinkle in her eye and her strong testimony just shining through.  I am so grateful I got to meet them and really see how much missionary work changes lives.  It was a wonderful experience.

So after that we headed back to Leon to find some dinner.  On our way back we ran into some more missionaries!  Yes!!  I got to speak English again :)  They were super nice and we chatted for a while with them.  They told us the best places to go eat, so that's where we went.  They have this place in Nicaragua called Pollo Tip-Top!  It's pretty much just like KFC; very Americanized, and it was delicious!  We got it "to go" and went back to our hotel to eat and relax.  Lots of walking = really tired.  It was a really nice evening.

Around 8:00 PM we decided to go out and see the party in Leon.  We walked around, bought some cute jewelry, got some delicious ice cream, and took some pictures.  I have to tell you about this funny New Years tradition that Nicaraguans have.  Everyone builds a dummy of an old man.  A stuffed dummy.  And at midnight, they burn him.  It symbolizes the dying of an old year and welcoming in the new one.  It is so funny!  But everyone everyone everyone had old man dummies sitting out ready to burn!  I was laughing so hard.  It was an awesome night.

Nicaragua!!! Day 3

And we did just that. We got up early the next day, and headed over to Diriamba to see Lester! He actually wasn't home, but we called him and he was like, "Stay there I'm gonna come right now!" Haha, he was super excited to see us :) So while we were waiting for him to get off work we went and visited another beautiful family in Diriamba. They were super nice! And one girl had a brand new 17 day old baby.... She let me hold it and I melted! Haha, even though I couldn't participate in the conversation much, I was very content just holding that little girl! She was so beautiful!

Anyway, so we took a picture with that family, then took a molto (a cool little 3-wheeled contraption... kind of like what Nacho Libre drives when he's going into the city :) ) back to Lester's house and visited with him for a while. He's actually learning English! And speaks really well! So I was able to communicate which was very refreshing! Haha then we went back to Masatepe to eat lunch with the Castellons again. Seriously, they fed us 3 delicious meals. It was so sweet of them! Then one of Brock's companions from Nicaragua, Elder Mendoza, came over! We dropped Kelly off at a babysitter's and headed for the Volcano!!!!

Did I mention yet that Nicaragua is like called the land of many lakes and volcanoes? They have them EVERYWHERE! But the most famous one is the Masaya volcano. It is still active, but very calm. They actually have a Visitor's Center/Museum halfway up it, and a parking lot at the top of it! It's the only active volcano in the world that you can just drive all the way up to the top. But we decided to hike! Haha so we took a bus to the base and began our trek! The scenery was beautiful and there were tons of random patches of huge volcanic rock! It was so cool!

So forever later, we made it to the Visitor's Center. We walked around, took pictures, bought post cards, bought water bottles, etc. So then I thought we were almost there. So we left again. And we walked. And walked. And walked.... and walked..... And then Norman said we're about halfway! And we were all like WHAT?! And terribly exhausted! Hahaha so, we did the next logical thing to do. Hitchhike! I was like, uh... what? So this truck drove by and they all stuck out their thumbs. He pulled over and yes, we climbed into the bed of the truck and rode the rest of the way up the mountaint to the mouth of the giant volcano. It was crazy!

So we got to the top and looked down inside. You could smell the sulfur, feel the heat, hear the rumbling, see the steam..... Looking into an active volcano! The whole time I was like, "Okay, don't think of Dante's Peak. DON'T think of Dante's Peak." Hahaha it was kinda scary! But there were quite a few tourists up there so I felt pretty safe. We took a million pictures and it was so cool! Not to mention the view out over Nicaragua- that was pretty too! From the top of a volcano! Hahaha :) So after spending like 45 minutes or so at the top of the volcano, that same truck driver let us ride all the way back down too. He was super nice!

So then Mendoza went home, but we still wanted to go see a beautiful crater lake called Catarina. It took us a while to find some buses and by the time we made it out there it was pretty dark. But we finally got there and got to look over the beautiful lake. In my opinion, there are not very many things in life more beautiful than a calm lake on a summery night just reflecting the moon and stars. It was breathtaking. I could have sat there staring at it forever! But we did have to get back :) So we headed back and got a taxi. Saying bye to the Castellons was really hard- they were some of Brock's very closest friends in Nicaragua. Who knows if we'll see them again? Hopefully. They really are wonderful people that I will definitely never forget!

So then the taxi took us back to Jinotepe and we realized we were super hungry! So we walked over to a little Pizza place that was across from our Hotel. K, funniest thing ever! Apparently, no one outside the US knows how to eat pizza. Every single person in the restaurant was using a fork and knife! What? Hahaha it was so funny to watch. At least they have pizza though. And it was pretty good too! Nothing like Papa John's, but definitely tasty! We ordered big ham and cheese calzones. Delicious :)

Then we went back to the hotel and crashed. Instantly asleep! Haha it had been a long and tiring day, but also a wonderful one!

Nicaragua!!! Day 2

We got up early and ate a delicious breakfast! Gallo Pinto is a wonderful thing. It is essentially rice and beans, but they make it so well! And the Best Western had this delicious cream stuff to put with it... YUM! They also had cereal, which is basically one of my main food groups. I was overjoyed to see it! So I had a bowl of that to top off my gallo pinto, and then we were off!

We took a hotel taxi to the Bus terminal. Man was that an adventure! The minute we stepped out of the car we were flocked by Nicaraguans yelling strange words at me.... "Jinotepe Jinotepe Jinotepe! Leon Leon Leon! Masatepe! Juigalpa!" Aaaah! Little did I know these were bus drivers and they were wondering where we were headed and letting us know which routes they drove. I was completely frazzled and I just looked around at Brock and pointed at him... ready to dive back into the car and hide. He told them to go away and turned and saw someone he knew! So I was half hiding behind him as he started talking with his old friend who happened to be a bus driver on the route to Jinotepe! Brock took my hand because I had NO idea what was going on and led me onto one of many old-fashioned buses. I was hesitant to let the men take my bag because I had no idea who anyone was. But they took good care of it at the front of the bus :)
As we waited for it to leave, I observed many different people walking around to all the buses and standing at the windows trying to sell snacks, drinks, and jewelry. And some people were just begging for money. It turns out this behavior is extremely common and totally normal in this country. I was fascinated! So then the bus left and we had about an hour and a half drive to where our hotel was in Jinotepe; it was called "Hotel Casa Mateo." We checked in and hauled our luggage up the stairs to our room. It was kind of a cool hotel! We had a balcony, and the main area was outside. They had a bunch of pet parrots that were super loud... at least they were pretty! Haha it was fun :)

So then we went and walked around the city of Jinotepe for a bit, got Nicaraguan money out of an ATM, went grocery shopping, and bought a cell phone. The streets in Nicaragua are always just packed with people selling different things.  No one needs a business license there so they just make stuff and sell it.  It was cool to see!  I bought a cute Orange and White purse for 4 dollars :)  Love it!  Then we took stuff back to the hotel and caught a bus out to Masatepe where we would start visiting people!

The first family we visited was the Castellons: Norman, Sabrina, and their adorable little daughter, Kelly. We sat and visited for a while, (well, they did. I sat playing with Kelly and trying to practice the tiny amount of Spanish I knew!) and then they fed us an amazing lunch! Then we went to visit a bunch of other families all around Masatepe.  Walking around the country that first couple of days was interesting.  I will admit it, I was kind of terrified.  Haha, I loved it and it was incredible, and by the third and fourth days I was WAY more comfortable there, but those first two days I was clinging to Brock's hand constantly.  And I was a total mute.  Speaking a little Spanish here and there in the States does not go very far in a Spanish-speaking country!  Haha and there were wild dogs all over the place that I was just terrified of!  I would jump every time I saw one!  But then I realized that they usually just mind their own business and leave people alone if they don't feel threatened.  It is just a very different culture and atmosphere there and I was uncomfortable at first just because I wasn't used to it.  But it didn't take me very long to realize how wonderful it is and to really love all the people there!

One thing I quickly learned about the people in Nicaragua is that they are not nearly as stressed and fast paced as we are here. Everyone was home, relaxing on chairs just chatting away! Everyone we visited had as much time for us as we had for them, and were very happy to have us in their home. I wish we were more like that here. Whenever someone comes over unexpected in Utah, it's like, okay stand in the doorway and talk for a second. Then you're done and you say Bye. But it wasn't that way at all! I think a more relaxed life style is healthy! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, even though I could hardly communicate with them at all!

Another thing I noticed about them is that they really know what's important. They don't have a whole lot of luxuries. Most of them don't have cars, there's only sometimes running water, and their homes are small. But they are so happy. They have food, they have their family, and they have the gospel. And they are completely content with just that! It makes you rethink your priorities when you see such a wonderfully happy people who have so little. I was definitely humbled.

Anyway, so after walking around Masatepe visiting people we headed back to Norman's house. On our way there we saw some missionaries! Haha they were kind of weirded out when we called out to them and wanted to talk to them, but then Brock told them he used to be a missionary, they were excited. It was fun to see them! We actually saw missionaries in almost all of the areas we went to; it was really cool!

So then we went back to Norman's and they fed us a delicious dinner! I was blown away with how nice they were and excited to have us. They were so sweet. We brought Kelly some hand-me-down clothes from my little sister, and she LOVED them! We gave her a little Cinderella dress and some cute purple PJ's. She tried them on and was posing for pictures.... it was so adorable!

After dinner we went back to Jinotepe to the hotel. The sun pretty consistently rises around 6 and sets around 6 every day, and the streets are not very well lit at night. So since we're two tall white people walking around, we decided we kinda stick out a little much and it was safest to not be out much after dark. So we were in the hotel pretty early every night, which was good because we got plenty of sleep even though we were getting up really early every morning!

Nicaragua!!! Day 1

When I started this post, I had no idea how long it would be!  So uh, I decided to break it into pieces because it's currently 15 pages long and I'm about half done....  Oops!  Haha have fun reading!

So, on December 28th, 2010, my mom drove Brock and me to the Salt Lake airport where we would begin our journey on the most amazing trip I've ever been on! We got there around 11:00 so we could be 2 hours early, and it's a good thing; because, since there was a layover, we were given two boarding passes. I, being the space case that I am, looked at the gate for our flight out of Texas. Not the one out of Salt Lake. We walked FOREVER to the farthest corner of the airport to Gate E, exploring as we went and talking about how we'd never been in this part of the airport before! So I turned to Brock and asked, "Letter E, which number?" So he checked, and responded, "Gate B!!!"

Hahaha. Yeah. That's what started our trip. Good thing he was the one guiding our directions the rest of the time! So we walked all the way back, through that cool part of the airport that we had never seen before. Ate some lunch, and boarded our flight! Dramamine saved my life. I was sleepy for the whole flight, but the turbulence didn't bother me at all! Thank you modern medicine!

So then we had a short layover in Texas; enough time to eat dinner at Subway and board our flight.  The Texas airport is hilarious!  There's all these carts driving around giving people rides and the drivers are so funny!  There was this one big black guy that had an especially loud voice: "Excuse the cart Please!"  Over and over and over- sounded almost like a drill sargeant!  And then another guy just kept yelling "Cart!" over and over.  It was so funny to watch!  Brock and I were laughing our heads off.  They were aggressive too!  I almost got hit by one!  Haha it was funny :)  Anyway, as we were boarding, some kid turned to me and said, "Hey, are you from Logan?" I was wearing my Aggie shirt. Gotta represent, right? So I told him yes and he got excited- "So am I!" Then the kid he was with turned his head and so did Brock and they both said "whoa!"

Haha, yeah it was a kid that served in Nicaragua with Brock. How crazy is that?! We were on the same flight as another Elder from Utah, both going back to visit the mission! It's a pretty small world! So we got on the flight and took off. The airplane showed us the movie "Salt." That show is so intense!! They better make a sequel for that cliff hanger. Anyway, they also fed us cheeseburgers.... I don't recommend airplane food. Good call on eating before we left :)

Anyway, as our plane was landing Brock pointed out to me all the different city lights as we passed over Mexico and Honduras and into Nicaragua. It was amazing! And I just got so excited! We landed just before midnight (one hour time difference- felt like 1 AM) in the beautiful Nicaragua! We got off, went through customs (tedious) and there we were! We were actually lucky to see Brock's friend because he had arranged for a member to come and pick them up from the airport! So he gave us a ride as well so that we didn't have to find a taxi! That was nice. We stayed at a Best Western Hotel just across the street from the airport.

Even late at night, I could tell how beautiful that country is. It was so humid and green and I definitely noticed what Brock calls "the Nicaraguan smell." Slight hint of burning, but also filled with lots of different trees and plants. It felt welcoming.

So anyway, we checked in to the hotel and the man spoke English! Thank goodness! I quickly learned that that is rare in Nicaragua... and my Spanish is nothing to be proud of! But with Brock as my translater, I got by just fine! When we got into our room Brock explained the key important things to be aware of in this country: don't walk around bare foot, wear flip flops in the shower, spray bug spray right away, and don't drink the tap water. Good things to never forget if you ever go to Nicaragua!