Archive | October, 2011

La Isla de Ometepe

27 Oct

Setting foot on flat ground for the first time in almost 10 hours, Nicole’s eyes mirrored the rabid glare of a street dog looking for his first meal of the week.  One soggy egg sandwich in the misty crater of Volcán Maderas hadn’t sufficed the growing pain in her stomach, and although we had food waiting for us a brisk 30 min walk away, Nicole did want can only be described as a “desperate hobble-sprint” to the first house we came across in search of anything edible.

Cultural note: don’t worry, that’s not weird.  In rural places around the world, people open a restaurant by carving their creative take on the word ‘food’ into a wooden board and nailing it to the side of their house.  Restaurant open.

We were met by a nice typical Nicaraguan mom and her family enjoying the soothing sound of rain hitting their tin roof.  Nicole viewed them a little differently: this 30 year old mother of two was the sole obstacle between her and the screaming stomach that directed her current crazed state.

“Do you have any food?” begged Nicole desperately.

The women offered us a corn cob concoction that Nicole immediately rejected with a whisk of her hand.

“Anything I can eat right now?  Bread, crackers, literally anything edible!”  The woman lit up her flashlight and the first thing it brought to life would normally be defined as bread, but I doubt anyone’s ever been met bread with the level of excitement that radiated from Nicole’s exhausted body.

Pointing hysterically, “THAT! The bread.  Please, please, please. . . Pleeaassse!”  Handing over the equivalent of 50 cents, we devoured the immense bag of delicious sustenance in literally 2 minutes.

Five minutes later we were eating another loaf in what can only be described as love at first taste.  If you’ve never been in love before, I’m genuinely sorry for you, but it is all it’s hyped up to be.  You want to spend all your time together, your best memories are made together, and you’ll do anything for each other.  For the rest of our time on the amazingly beautiful Isla de Ometepe this specific type of “pan dulce” dominated conversation that fed our bread addiction.  We haven’t chosen a wedding date yet, but we’re aiming for early March.  Yes, I know this is soon, but with a love like this, you can’t really fight it.  I’ve been gone so long can someone help me out.  Will a lawyer wed me and my Nicaraguan loaf of bread?

Nicole one day later.  The hunger still lives…

The next day, we spent a chunk of the day guarding the hammocks of our hostel.  Through all this, by far the most fulfilling part of our 4 day adventure to this island of humble and charming people was the half day walk we took to a few villages of the island.  You see, people come from around the world to experience the natural beauty and biodiversity of Ometepe, but for me, the humility and kindness of the Nicaraguan fishers and farmers who call Ometepe home made my the most impressionable memory.  We talked with farmers bare-backing horses with machetes, a cute 21 yr old pregnant with her second baby, and when darkness set in and we started our trek back fate, God, smell, whatever you want to call it brought us to the Panadería (bread shop).  On an island over 25 communities, this is one hell of a coincidence.   The hobble-sprint made a special second appearance and darkness be damned, Nicole and I were determined to meet the incredible bread artists responsible for the bread that stole our hearts.

La Isla de Ometepe: two volcanoes forming an island that can only be described as something that would result if Disney had power over the Earth.

We were met by a charming old lady named Doña Maritsa who invited us in from the rain to try a traditional corn drink that I couldn’t pronounce.  As she began to chat us up about the cooperative of 8 women she led running the Panadería, I unconsciously made my way to the edge of my chair, utterly awestruck.  In a culture where Machismo still plays a huge role and the opportunities open to women sometimes are laughable, Doña Maritsa, at around 65 yrs, created a cooperative of women bringing in money for the education of their kids, capitalizing on the strengths of their women, and doing it all out of the concrete block of a house furnished with a bed & table that she called home.  Alone, these women dug the massive pit necessary to mount a bread oven that puts any oven I’ve ever seen to shame and are distributing bread to the entirety of the communities surrounding Volcán Maderas’ side of the island.  Only one of the women is computer literate.  Throughout the whole conversation, Nicole asked questions like a little kid at NASA.  Coming from someone who spent the last 3 years of her life immersed in the manifestations and parades of the women’s equality movement in Costa Rica and studying Women & Gender Equality at our university, Nicole was in heaven.  Her version of superwoman–a living, breathing example of someone fighting for the rights of women worthy to be mentioned along side any number of the women that dominated Nicole’s classes– just offered us more corn cocktail.

Luck’s a wonderful thing, right?

When we landed on la isla I looked at the two volcanoes and thought, “I bet one’s climbable”.  When on an island with volcanoes,  it’s your duty to climb at least one, right?  Dominoes fall and we’re now in a ravenous state of hunger that introduces us to Pan Dulce, our love, which leads us to an inspiring woman that Nicole might even work with for the Costa Rican equivalent of her “senior thesis”.  It’s brilliant how the stars line up.  Doña Maritsa even came to our hostel later that night to give Nicole some papers describing woman’s fight for rights in Nicaragua through a new law they’re trying to pass and talk the night away.

Personally, I’m not a believer in luck; this is one story of many.  We jumped out of our comfort zones a half dozen times in this script in order to find our way to a relationship with an incredibly inspiring woman that had an impact on me and might grow into a key part of Nicole’s next few years.

On the other side of the story, we semi-officially renamed the Costa Rica-Nicaraguan border the border from hell.  Circumstances land us in interesting situations sometimes, and this whole adventure began when we stupidly arrived at the border after 1am because of rains and a down bridge that doubled our lovely 5 hr bus ride.  Luckily (again…?), we hitched a ride with a nice family who was in the same situation, saving us from a lovely night with backpack pillows on a street corner of the border from hell.  Four days later the fun continued when the passport lady on the Costa Rican side tried to deny me entrance into Costa Rica!   We ended up talking our way through the situation and passing into our own country as if we were fugitives laughing the entire way.  Both priceless experiences.

So, I’d say it’s not luck, but the willingness of people to jump outside their comfort zones, be present to what’s around them, and say yes that makes the real difference.  This, along with an attitude that laughs at the bad and enables the good, but these opinions only come from what I’ve been fortunate enough to live the past few months. When so many people use luck as a crutch or as a means for hope the real question is:

What does luck mean to you?

Doña Maritsa

Ometepe

COWS AHEAD!

Abrazos,

Kevin

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¡Costa Rica!

20 Oct

The feeling of screaming, “COSTA RICA!!!!!” at the top of your lungs from a mountain simply isn’t replicable.  The biodiversity here makes me question what rock I’ve been living under for the past 20 years, the people and culture are lovingly brilliant, my friends here are studs who enjoy deep conversation, and if I shared some of the last 2 month’s adventures–that’s really the only word I can think of that would do them justice– on video the ab workout would kick P90x’s ass.  Laughing’s deadly you know.

Did I mention that Costa Rica is blowing my mind?  Don’t have any doubts in your mind.

Where have I been?  Climbing Cerro Chirripo the highest peak in Costa Rica laid siege by constant waves of clouds that gifts successful summiters a liberating view spanning from the Pacific to the Caribbean; exploring tropical rain forests in the wee hours of the night; salsa-ing the night away; taking fulfilling classes like Entrepreneurship & Human Rights at la U; reading Foucault’s thoughts on racism en Español; courting my love the Spanish language, although right now she’s playing hard to get; and living life.

Don’t ask me what prompted this long pausa (break) … I guess I’m on Tico time now.  There are a million stories, observations, thoughts, and other awesomeness waiting to be told, and I feel like with an opportunity like this, it’s my duty to share as much of the insights I stumble across here as possible.

Note: If you ever climb a mountain with a bamboo stick you should know that upon reaching the summit odd things happen.  In a hysterical fit of joy you might try and combine the intense years of martial arts training you had from ages 6-9 with all the body contorting and gravity defining moves from badly dubbed movies a white man who can barely touch his toes should never attempt to replicate.  Complete this mental picture with the priceless confused faces European tourists make when, in their exhausted post-Chirripo state, they start to question whether the crazy screaming white man swinging around a bamboo stick is actually real or a figment of their utterly exhausted imaginations.

I’m committed to share some insights through stories each week.  If you have any thought provoking questions, please send them my way and we can start some inter-hemisphere discussion.

PS: It’s hard to write en Inglés.

Abrazos,

Kevin