(I was hoping to get pictures up this week, but I can´t quite figure out the system in the hour of internet I have -- hopefully next week I´ll get some up here for you all!)
This week has been super busy all week, which has been great. On Saturday, after a morning of classes and finding decent pizza (most pizza here is made with ketchup... just doesn’t hit the same spot!) in Diriamba and getting my first actual sunburn (oops), my host family took me to Granada to visit my host mother’s sister. Unfortunately we went just as the sun was setting, so although we got a great view of the volcano Momotombo and the sunset on our way there, once we’d reached Granada it was dark, so most of my pictures didn’t turn out well, and our view of the lake was pretty much peering out into the blackness in the general direction of the lake.
Granada is quite a happening place after dark, though, especially this week -- it is the poetry capital of a nation in love with poets and poetry, and the city was getting ready for a weeklong poetry festival, so there were people everywhere.
Granada’s also known for a few other things, one of them being “la gigantona”, a traditional dance. There are two dancers, “la gigantóna”, who is an enormously tall puppet-woman, and “el cabezóna”, a short puppet-man with an enormous head, and usually a few drummers, and for a few cordobas they’ll dance for you. We saw a few dancing while we were out and about, making money off of the (many, many) tourists out enjoying the evening. Even without the festival, Granada is known for being a tourist destination and even a popular place for foreigners to move to; it was disconcerting to see so many non-Nicaraguans (and to hear English being spoken!) after a month of living in a rural town here.
Another thing Granada is famous for is a dish called ‘vigarón’; something I probably would never have touched in the States but have been looking forward to trying here. It’s yucca cooked with chicharón -- fried pork fat -- and sprinkled with salad (which is usually something like tomatoes and chopped cabbage and onions in a sort of cole slaw minus the sauce), and actually was pretty good. Probably not my favorite Nicaraguan dish so far, but definitely tasty.
Back on the home front, our fiestas patronales has been going strong all week, and it’s been lots of fun seeing everything set up and getting underway. We even have carnival rides: a ferris wheel and a merry-go-round.
The hípica was on Sunday -- that's basically a big parade of horses where people compete to win prizes for the fanciest prances. Sometimes it seems like people are more interested in making a spectacle rather than actually competing.
Every night there’s been music and shows with traditional dances put on by local kids -- Tuesday night I went to see some of the dances, which were full of the traditional flowing colorful dresses and so on, but were also mixed in with some definitely modern dances set to hopping reggaton beats! Most nights (and days, for that matter,) have also been full of “bulla” -- that's general hubbub and noise -- and bombas, which are basically homemade fireworks people set off wherever they want, even in the middle of a crowd. Very different from the US!
We’ve had our first charlas -- our first formal talks -- in the health center and with our youth group; all of them went really well, especially with our youth group. The charla we gave them had to do with healthy decision-making and strategies for living a healthy, positive life, especially in terms of sexual behavior; definitely a priority in a country where it’s not uncommon for 13 or 14 year olds to be having kids, or for 17 year olds to have two or three kids already.
(Another success: our technical trainer came to our youth group meeting and told us he couldn’t believe we were the lowest level language group -- apparently we’re progressing faster than anyone expected, hooray!)
This morning, one of the locals was kind enough to invite us to learn how to make rosquillas, a very typical Nicaraguan food, especially during fiestas. They’re small, Cheerio-shaped crunchy things made out of maize; I think I’ve talked about them before. You usually eat them with coffee, but I like to eat them any old time -- they're delicious!
Today we also found out about our volunteer visits -- starting on Sunday we travel out into Nicaragua to visit current Volunteers in their sites for three or four days, learning about their daily life, what they do, and how they do it. Exciting! I´ll be heading up into the mountains in the north of Nicaragua, to the department called Jinotega -- I am supposed to bring a sweater as it can be much chillier there.
That’s all I have for now; hopefully this weekend I will get to see the famous “macho ratón” dance before heading out on Sunday for my visit! Wish me luck!