All By Myself

If you are looking to get off the beaten path and live the life of the locals while in Nicaragua, I highly recommend Matagalpa as the place to do it.

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Matagalpa Cathedral

My week in this city gave me more culture shock than expected. I had already been in Central America for five weeks when I arrived here, but I had been around other English speakers and travelers the whole time. Then I arrived in Matagalpa I pretty much spoke NO English for the full week there. I saw almost no other tourists or travelers and the only place in town that catered to tourists was the Spanish School and Tour Company attached to the school. Mostly, Matagalpa was just a place where locals go about their daily lives and I was happy to become a part of that.

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Street Art

My days here consisted of four hours of Spanish class, meals at my house, activity of some sort in the afternoon, roaming around the city, and hanging out on my balcony at night.

I loved my Spanish classes here. I realized that I’m actually at a point where I can have a full conversation in Spanish. My teacher, Diana, and I spent the first two hours of class each day just talking. We talked about everything under the sun from travel to music to our high school experience. The second two hours were focused on grammar.

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Diana y yo!

Like I did in Antigua, Guatemala and Arequipa, Peru, in Matagalpa I started to develop a routine and find my favorite places. In Matagalpa it was Café Barista. I hung out at three different ones and loved the vibe. Another place I went daily was the grocery store, La Colonial, to grab a diet coke or snack. I always had the same young guy ring me up and even though he had a thick accent and I couldn’t understand much of what he said, it was nice to see his smile and have that kind of consistency each day.

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Barista

One of my favorite memories from my time in Matagalpa was going to an Italian restaurant to eat something other than rice and beans for one meal. While there I met a traveler from Sweden who spoke English. We started talking. It was my one time I could finally speak in English after a week of barely speaking a word. Instead of English though, we both decided to use the Spanish we’ve been practicing. We ended up chatting for over an hour completely in Spanish. It was one of those moments I realized just how far I had come using this language and could not only get by with it but could have a fun, friendly conversation now.

Oh, and the fashion! If you weren’t wearing Hollister, Abercrombie, or Arepostle you were not styling.

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Hollister Display

It was hard to meet so few travelers while here and be completely on my own, not speaking English at all, but it was also very character building. I learned I could stand on my own two feet, figuring out how to live in a foreign place and get by. It pushed me in a good way and helped me to feel more confident about traveling solo in the future. Traveling solo can be scary and being on your own can be hard, but I got through it and have absolutely no regrets.

“All by Myself” -Celine Dion

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You’re My Home

After a few days on my own in Granada, I headed north to Matagalpa. Up until this point I had mostly been with other people. I did a tour in Costa Rica, a photography workshop in Granada, and another tour through Nicaragua. And then I was in Matagalpa completely on my own.

It was always in my plan to go to Matagalpa for Spanish school, but looking back I can’t seem to remember how I made this decision. I think I stumbled upon reviews for the Matagalpa Spanish School on Tripadvisor and read great things. There are plenty of language schools in Granada and Leon, so I’m not sure how I found the one in Matagalpa, but I am glad I did. Even though it was a big city, it seemed way off the beaten tourist path.

This week was tough. It pushed and challenged me more than anything else during my six weeks in Central America. I was living with a family who spoke no English. In Guatemala I had done homestays, but there were always other travelers in the house with me. This time it was just me.

The house was nice, but pretty basic too. Cold showers only, a twin bed with an otherwise pretty bare room. They did have wifi which was a HUGE plus. My room was on the second floor and I had my own balcony, which actually was a saving grace. I loved sitting out there at night with the great view, watching “How I Met Your Mother” on my ipad just to hear a little bit of English. It was the only English I heard most days, and even the ipad was showing Spanish subtitles.

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My room

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View of the Cathedral from my balcony

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My balcony

The food was gallo pinto (rice and beans) and eggs….every single meal! There may have been some sort of meat mixed in once in a while, but mostly just gallo pinto. Even though it is what I expected it would be, by the third day I was ready to cry, and dreaming of anything else to eat!

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Gallo Pino

Living with the family was interesting. The mom, Mina, was so sweet. We ended up having some really interesting conversations in Spanish. One I remember specifically was about how hard, nearly impossible, it was for anyone in Nicaragua to visit the US, difficulty with the border, and why so many Nicaraguans were fleeing to Costa Rica. 

I didn’t talk to her husband, Mario, too much. His accent was so thick I could never understand a word he said, so I was pretty much limited to Buenos Dias! He taught driver’s ed out of one of the rooms in the house. Their daughter, Maria, worked at the tour company attached to my Spanish school so we walked there together everyday. She is in her early/mid 20s. We had some great conversations, many about traveling throughout Nicaragua. She works for a travel company and has been to many areas. If I had been there longer I could have seen us becoming actual friends.

The house was also full of animals. There were two dogs, although I never saw them off their leashes outside, three birds who woke me up everyday, and a cute guinea pig. I was just very thankful the guinea pig was a pet, and not a meal as it would be in Peru.

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One of the dogs

A few strange things about my meals in the house: Nobody else ate….EVER. Mina sat with me while I ate, but I never saw her put a thing in her mouth until she took me to a café and had a smoothie. She actually told me she rarely ate dinner. Another funny thing was the music. Each morning American pop music from the early 90’s through early 00’s blasted throughout the house. When “The Thong Song” and “Baby Got Back” came on I was cracking up. I don’t think they had a clue what was being sung.

Matagalpa was a great and interesting experience, and staying in this house was definitely part of it. After a week it started to feel like home.

 

 

 

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It’s a Really Old City

After returning to Granada I spent about a day in bed trying to fully recover from my bout with food poisoning. After the second night back all the friends from my tour had left, leaving me on my own in Granada for a few more days.

It was nice to be back in a place I was familiar with. I already knew the cheapest place to get my laundry done, the greatest place for coffee, and the best spots for wifi. Being back felt comfortable.

I did a few things I had not been able to do before. One of those things was finally going to the top of La Merced Cathedral, which had the best views of the city. I can’t believe I almost didn’t do this!

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Great view of the cathedral

I also did another walk down the streets, following a similar path as I did the first day with The Giving Lens. I focused a lot of energy on doors and windows this time. They are all so interesting and different here, not to mention colorful. Granada is the oldest city in North America and the colonial architecture is stunning.

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Door of Granada

Although I really grew to love Matagalpa, which I will discuss in future posts, I’m pretty sure Granada was my favorite city I visited through the entire trip.

Was it touristy? Yes. But I was okay with that. I also got to go outside the tourist bubble. In blogs I’ve read, a lot of people didn’t really like Granada. They thought it was too polished and too clean. One even said it was”a Disney World version of Nicaragua. They felt it catered too much to the tourists and lacked character and heart. They preferred the grittier, less touristy, more backpacker friendly city of Leon. While I enjoyed Leon and wished I could have seen more, the heat was just too much for me to take. As Disney-like as Granada may be, it was the city to win my heart.

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Colorful streets of Granada

I was okay with the fact that the Cathedral had a nice bright new yellow coat of paint and the buildings are being restored. While I didn’t always want to eat my meals on Calle Calzada, “the tourist street,” I enjoyed walking down it, seeing all the life going on. There were always street performers, people enjoying meals outside, and it just seemed to have a pulse. Maybe not an all local pulse, but a pulse none the less. Plus it had the best gelato place ever. On a hot night you just could not beat it!

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Street performers

Our hotel for my G tour was about a 20 minute walk from the main tourist area. When we’d go back to it at night, we would experience all the locals rocking in their chairs, deep in conversation with friends or family, out on their porches. They do this every night. It is a great way of life.

The market in Granada was one of the most exciting markets I’ve ever been to. I think it was even more interesting than Chichicastenango in Guatemala, which is know for its market. I can’t compare to the market in Leon because I didn’t make it there, but I can’t picture a place more chaotic, hectic, and fascinating.

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At the market

I also felt lucky to get out of the tourist areas and go to the barrios. Spending time there was for sure some of the greatest moments of my whole trip. And it for sure was NOT Disney.

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In the barrios

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In the barrios

In my two visits, I spent a combined two full weeks in this city. It’s the place I spent the longest on my whole trip, and don’t regret any of my time there. Not only is the city beautiful, but there are so many great day trips to take in the area including Masaya, San Juan del Oriete, Mombacho, and Laguna de Apoyo.

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Laguna de Apoyo

Antigua, Guatemala may still be my favorite city in Central America, but Granada, which reminders me a lot of Antigua, doesn’t fall too far behind. Granada, my heart is yours and I hope to return to you again someday.

 

“Chasing the Sun” – Sara Bareilles

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The Tide is High

I originally did not have a huge desire to go to San Juan del Sur. I had heard so many good things about Leon and Ometepe that I was a little disappointed our tour had the most time at this beach town instead of the other places. After visiting this popular backpack and expat town, I can see what all the hype is about. I ended up loving San Juan del Sur and was happy to spend three days roaming its streets and swimming in its beaches.

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Beach at San Juan del Sur

After leaving Ometepe we were all ready to be in a place with running water, a hot shower, and a comfy bed. Our hotel was super cute, had the best shower I’ve experienced on the whole trip, and was in a great location. I was happy.

Our first day in town we had lunch on a place with a beach view. In the late afternoon we made our way to the fanciest hotel/resort in town, Pelican Eyes. Not only did this place have amazing pools with amazing views, we also heard it was the hotel that the entire Survivor crew was staying at during filming. With many Survivor fans in my group, we were on the lookout for Jeff Probst! Unfortunately, there were no Jeff spottings, although we looked long and hard. Pelican Eyes did, however, provide us with an unbeatable view of the sunset from the infinity pool. Having tropical drinks in a refreshing and gorgeous pool while watching the sunset over the ocean? Well it just doesn’t get better than that.

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Sunset at Pelican a Eyes Resort

For dinner we ate at a restaurant on the beach, feet in the sand. I had a huge and delicious lobster dinner for a whopping $14 or so.

The next morning the whole crew headed to Maderas Beach for swimming, surfing, and relaxing. I, knowing it just would not be my thing, opted out of surf lessons, but enjoyed the day watching others, swimming in the ocean, and relaxing near the water.

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Madeiras Beach

The entire trip, my friend Monica and I were talking about how good pizza sounded. Every night we talked about eating pizza. That night we finally got most of the gang to go to a pizza place in town. I’m not sure if the pizza was even good but we had wanted it so badly that at that point it tasted absolutely delicious! Then it was off to a bar for some drinks back by the water. This was a Monday night and all the backpackers seemed to have left town Sunday because it was so quiet on the streets, but we still had a great time.

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Monica and I having Macuas, the national drink.

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Jessica and Jennifer having some too.

Our final day in town was spent walking around, browsing the shops, stopping for amazing gelato, taking a dip in the ocean, and of course trying to hunt down Jeff Probst, still with no luck.

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Shopping by the beach

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The streets of San Juan del Sur

While I had a blast in San Juan del Sur, my time there unfortunately ended on a bad note, waking up the morning we were going to leave with horrible food poisoning. We were supposed to take chicken buses back to Granada. While everyone else took the buses, I spent the day in bed, getting a ride back later in the day. Be careful of the shrimp ceviche.

Even with that not so great ending, I highly recommend San Juan del Sur as a place to visit and be a beach bum for a few days.

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Diacachimba!

“The Tide is High” Blondie

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La Isla Bonita

After leaving the heat of Leon, my group got on a ferry where we made our way to Moyogalpa, the first town you hit on Ometepe Island. Ometepe is an island that was formed from two gigantic volcanos that now sit smack dab in the center of the island.

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Volcano Concepcion as seen from the ferry

Our time on Ometepe involved a homestay with a family in the pueblo of Los Angeles. I was placed in a house with my tour guide, Estaban and another woman named Vesna.

Our lodging was…let’s just say basic. The water didn’t really work, my window was nailed shut, and the bed was not so clean. I survived and it was just two nights, but The Ritz it was not.

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My bedroom at my homestay.

The woman who lived in my house had two grandsons who lived next door. The older one, Kevin, had taught himself English. He wants to be a dentist and was a blast to talk to.

The second day of our time on the island the whole group went on what they call the “lazy tour” which is really just a tour of the island. It’s the lazy tour because we were all too lazy to climb one of the volcanos for nine plus hours in the blistering heat and filthy mud. I said give me lazy any day.

The trip included stops at Charo Verde, a beautiful nature reserve, the mysterious peteroglphys, a stop next to the beach for lunch, a stop to see some super freaky monkeys, and finished at the refreshing waters of Ojo de Agua, a pool made from natural spring waters of the volcano.

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Monarch butterflies at Charco Verde

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Scary monkey showing his teeth at me!

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The petroglyphs

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The refreshing waters of Ojo de Agua

In the evening we all had dinner at one of the families houses before heading to the village of Moyogalpa for their annual festival. This was similar to a street fest and happens one weekend per year. These is music and drinking, similar to what you may see at a street fest in the states, except there was also a running of the bulls type of activity. We missed most of it by the time we arrived.

Although the island itself was really beautiful, this festival was probably my favorite thing we did while on the island. Some locals from the families came with us and we all just had a blast hanging out.

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Kevin and Esteban at the festival

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At the Moyogalpa festival

Well, almost all of us. Unfortunately one member of our group (the anonymous one) was very unhappy and had a miserable time. She pretty much pouted and walked around with her arms crossed the whole night. None of us could really figure out why, but we didn’t let it stop our fun. If anything I think this night and our time on Ometepe brought the rest of us closer together.

I really liked Ometepe but wish I had a little more time to explore. Next time, though, I’d probably opt for a hotel.

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Made a new friend in Ometepe

“La Isla Bonita” -Madonna

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It Was So Hot Outside, You Could Fry an Egg

Oh Leon. I wanted to fall in love with you, I really did, but you are just too darn hot!

I had read so many amazing things about the city of Leon from several bloggers and people in my Go Girls group. People talked it up so much that I originally wanted to spend about five or six days in the city before moving on. Because I was on a tour, I was only given two days and that ended up being more than enough.

It’s not that the city didn’t interest me or there wasn’t a lot to do or see. It was just so damn hot I was depleted of all energy and could only focus on one thing: keeping cool.

Most people in my group decided to go volcano boarding the morning after climbing Telica. While it sounded like a very unique thing to do, climbing another volcano the morning after cutting the hell out of my legs on a volcano the night before just didn’t appeal. Instead I headed into Parque Central. It was really beautiful, but all the seats in the shade were taken. I did enjoy taking some photos of the park and cathedral though.

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Leon Cathedral

Instead of walking around much longer, I headed back to my hotel and spent a good portion of the day nice and cool in the pool. I don’t regret it for a moment!

Later in the afternoon some of us went on a city tour. My absolute favorite part of the tour, and possibly of all of Leon, was going to the top of the cathedral. It was gorgeous. Completely white (we couldn’t wear our shoes) and absolutely stunning views in all directions. The contrast of the bright blue sky against the stark white roof made for some beautiful photos. I could have stayed up there all day!

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On top of the cathedral

Leon, and all of Nicaragua, has a fascinating history. Leon was a very important location for the revolution. I learned a lot about the Sandinistas and the fight against the dictatorship, but I think I still may need to read a book or two to fully understand it all. We went to a museum where we were told not only the intense history of the revolution, but also many crazy Nicaraguan myths. They just kept getting weirder and weirder!

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A representation of a soldier in the revolution.

That night we had one of my favorite meals of the whole trip. Esteban took us to eat good at a place in the street. There was a big grill with all kinds of delicious food being cooked and big tables to sit at right smack dab in the middle of the street. A nice breeze had finally come along and we had a great time hanging out outside, right behind the cathedral. The little girl of the people cooking the food was celebrating her second birthday and we decided to celebrate right along with her, singing happy birthday and inviting her into pictures. She even shared her birthday cake with us.

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Delicious street food

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Felix Cumpleanos a Ti

After dinner we went out for a few drinks at a bar near the park. When morning came I was so relieved to get out of that crazy heat, but if it were just a little cooler I could easily have fallen in love with Leon.

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Roar!

“Wasting Time” -Dave  Matthews Band

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It’s Not a Hill, It’s a Mountain, As You Start Off The Climb

When my tour group arrived in the city of Leon, one of the girls really wanted to climb an active volcano called Telica. I’m not really sure how it happened but somehow the entire group decided to go. At this point I had had my fill of adventure activities. Canyoneering, ziplining, and some other hikes were enough for me. I didn’t want to go but also didn’t want to stay alone in a new city at night by myself. I probably asked ten times if the hike was an easy one. I was assured it was (it wasn’t!), and that I would be just fine (I also wasn’t)!

In order to get to the base of the volcano we took an hour and a half ride on the bumpiest roads/trails/rocks I have ever experienced. Plus we were squished in to the back of a truck which didn’t help. But the view from the bottom was pretty great.

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View from below

 

We got to the base of the volcano, feeling really carsick, and as I looked up all I could think is “no way”. In my mind there was no possibility I could climb that thing. At this point though I had no choice. Up and up and up I went. I’m not gonna lie. I hated every single minute of it. While climbing on these unsteady rocks trying desperately to catch my breath, and keep up (which at some point I just gave up) I vowed to never go hiking volcanos again. I really was miserable.

And then…I fell. I fell hard, scraping both legs like crazy with blood dripping down. I’m pretty sure the scars will be there forever to match one I got while canyoneering. Our hiking guide was way at the front and had no idea I fell. Luckily Esteban, my tour guide was by me and there to help.

And then…I cried. I was hot, tired, car sick, scraped, and overall just unhappy. Esteban asked if I wanted to go back down and said he would come with me, but I had made it this far and I was going to reach the top of this thing, even if it killed me.

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On my way up, looking back down.

I went slowly, especially since both legs were stinging, and gradually made my way up, taking breaks probably every three minutes. But up and up I went and finally I made it!

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Saying moo at the top.

It took me a few minutes to catch my breath again and realize I was at the top, but once I did and looked around I was able to focus on how absolutely beautiful it was. I mean stunning. Possibly the most spectacular view and surroundings I’ve had on the whole trip.

And that’s when the camera came out. I’m sure lugging my heavy camera and lenses did not help me one bit on my trudge up the volcano, but once I got to the top I was so thankful to have them with me.

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The crater

I spent a ton of time shooting up there, plus it was sunset which made it even better. From the top you can actually look into the crater of the volcano, with smoke flying everywhere. Unfortunately we couldn’t see much lava, but it was still quite a sight. There was no rail or anything in terms of safety. Yet another thing that would never be allowed in the US, but we were all careful. Just being up there really was quite an experience. The sunset up there was spectacular too.

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Sunset on Telica

And then it was time to go down. In the pitch black. On crazy steep rocks. There is no actual trail, just rocks, so getting down was tricky, but I did it. Then another 1.5 hour drive of carsickness, and finally safe and sound and very ready for a shower, back at the hotel.

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Another sunset shot

So this hike was definitely not my thing and I would never do it again, but in the end was it worth it? Yes, I actually think it was.

“I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” -U2

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You Can’t Keep a Spirit Down That Wants to Rise Up Again

Before my photography workshop ended, I started to get a little worried about traveling on my own in Nicaragua for two and a half weeks before starting Spanish school. I knew there were many places in Nicaragua I wanted too see but wasn’t sure about how to get to them. Though I am very independent, the thought of being totally on my own started to make me panic a bit.

I decided to look if G Adventures, the tour company I went to Costa Rica with, had any tours in Nicaragua. Not only did they have a tour, but they had one that started in Granada the day the photography workshop ended. It was perfect. I emailed and was able to get myself a spot on the tour. This 12 day tour would start in Granada and from there head to Leon, Ometepe Island, San Juan del Sur, and finally end back in Granada. They were all places I wanted to go.

This group had 9 people, a father and his 16 year old son from Austin, two women traveling separately from Canada, a woman from Seattle, one from Australia, a man from England, another woman from Chicago, and me. Plus we had our hardworking leader, Esteban from Costa Rica.

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The gang

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Our leader hard at work

 

To tell the truth, I wasn’t so sure about this group at first. One of the girls rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning, and I just wasn’t sure about the rest of them. My instincts about the one girl were correct and I had a very hard time dealing with her the whole trip. The rest of the group felt the same. (She won’t show up in any pictures because she refused to be in any; she will remain anonymous). The rest of them, however, I ended up absolutely adoring. We had such a blast together and I left the trip feeling as I have gained even more good friends.

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At dinner

Our first two days were spent in Granada. Even though I had already been in the city for a week, I still enjoyed my time. Together we went on a tour of many of the surrounding areas including Masaya volcano and market, Catarina, and San Juan del Oriente. I had been to all these places already, however at the end of the day we got taken to swim in Laguna de Apoyo, which up until this point I had only seen from above. It was so nice and refreshing to finally dive in! I was also excited to finally try some of the restaurants I had walked by many times since all of our food on the photography workshop was homemade.

Pottery at San Juan de Oriente

Pottery at San Juan de Oriente

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Laguna de Apoyo

I will be honest, when the tour first started I felt a little defeated. I had this big plan to come to Nicaragua and roam around totally on my own terms without a schedule or a plan. I had so much planned out in Peru and wanted more flexibility this time. I felt like joining a tour was a total copout and I wasn’t as brave as I thought. But then I started thinking about how many people I know who would pick up and go to Latin America for six weeks without knowing a soul (also for the forth time). Not many. Just the fact I am out here doing it, whether with a tour or not, is pushing me out of my comfort zone and allowing me to explore the world. If being in a group puts me at ease a bit, so what? I didn’t let my defeated feeling keep me down and ended up having an amazing time on this leg of my adventure.

As I go I am realizing what kind of traveler I am, and while I don’t think I would enjoy a big bus tour with forty people, traveling with a group smaller than 15, even if they are complete strangers, works well for me. G adventures is perfect for this. I don’t think I will ever travel the way bloggers I read and admire like Adventurous Kate or Nomadic Matt do; not knowing where they will stay the next night or what country they will be in next week. They have that total spontaneity in them. I do not, but again, that’s ok.

In the past, Spanish School has also worked well for me, giving me a routine and several opportunities to meet others. We’ll see if that is the case as well when I head to Matagalpa.

Part of traveling is learning, not just about the world, but about yourself, and I think I am doing just that.

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At Masaya Volcano

“Pendulum Swinger” -Indigo Girls

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Could You Take My Picture?

During the photography workshop we packed in photo shoots everyday. We were up and often at our destination by 5am most days, trying to get the best light and sometimes sunrise. We usually had a break in the middle of the day, which often included us hanging out in the amazing pool and getting coffee, then off to another shoot for the afternoon and evening. We went to so many locations, I can’t possibly talk about all of them, so I will focus on a handful of favorites.

The Barrios: Two times throughout the week we visited barrios, or neighborhoods in Granada. Many of the students we worked with lived in these barrios. Walking through the streets, witnessing all the life that was going on, made this my favorite destination to shoot and to experience. The people of this barrio were so incredibly warm and friendly. We always asked before taking pictures, but most people would smile and even pose, excited to have the camera pointed their way. They would want to see the photos taken, and the smiles got even bigger when their reflections smiled back at them on the screen. The people living here do not have a lot and live in conditions I couldn’t imagine. They are so incredibly hard working and they just amazed me. So many of them were truly people to admire and I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to capture their images.

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Lovely girls

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More beautiful children

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I was mesmerized by this boy

Santa Ana: Santa Ana is a farming community outside of Granada that Empowerment International serves. Here we got to milk cows, see plantains cut down, and watch daily life go on. My favorite part of the visit was watching a grandma and her grandchildren watering the crops. The two kids were having a blast playing in the water.

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Playing in the water

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Watering the crops

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Mooooo!

The Market: The market in Granada is hectic, lively, strange, and incredible. Everything is sold from toothpaste to fish to mango. It is crowded and loud and easy to get lost. The participants were paired with a kid who was familiar with the market so we could find our way. We asked all kinds of people in the market if we could take their photo and almost all were very willing participants. The market made for some great photography, but also a great way to experience the Nicaraguan culture.

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Woman in the market

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Sandia anyone?

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Sharing a moment

Masaya and Mombacho: These are two very different Volcanos. Masaya was visited first for a sunset shoot, where Varina really helped me understand how to get the smoke from this active volcano to look just right. Mombacho is only reached by special trucks that take you way up in the cloud forest. The vegetation is so dense and lush. Due to lighting, it was one of the most difficult places to shoot, but we all enjoyed the challenge and the chance to spend time in the cool air up there.

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Masaya at Sunset

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More smoke at Masaya

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The lush greens of Mombacho

The Isletas: The Isletas are a series of 365 islands that are found throughout Lake Nicaragua. They are all different, some housing private residences, others with restaurants and bars and even one with a hotel, and some with just wildlife including the famous “Monkey Island”. While on the boats we also captured many people rowing along in canoes, a few swimmers, and some fisherman ready for today’s catch.

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Gone fishin’

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Row your boat…

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Hey there monkey

Laguna de Apoyo: Laguna de Apoyo is a lake in the crater of a now extinct volcano. It is gorgeous with a great view of Mombacho volcano in the background. We visited two areas overlooking Laguna de Apoyo; Cueva de Tigre for sunset and Catarina for sunrise. We had a blast playing around with silhouettes during sunrise.

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Mombacho in the distance.

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Sunset

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Playing with silhouettes

These were only a few of the thousands of pictures I took throughout the week, but ones I am proud of.

“Take a Picture” -Filter

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We’re On Each Other’s Team

I think I’m still processing my week with The Giving Lens and Empowerment International. I feel it will be almost impossible to sum up the experience in a few blog posts, but I’m going to try my best.

The one week workshop in Granada was exhausting, eye opening, intense, difficult, but above all else, wonderful. The professional photographers that ran the workshop are Jay and Varina Patel. It was their third time coming to Nicaragua with The Giving Lens and it was immediately clear how passionate they are about being here. You could tell instantly how excited the kids they had worked with before were to see them. They are both outstanding photographers. You should definitely check out their work.

 

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Jay and Varina, our fearless leaders!

The participants making up the team were from all over the US, Canada, and one guy from Australia. The group got along really well and I met so many great people who share a passion for photography. I found this to be a very unique experience that people coming from many walks of life could share.

As I mentioned in my last post, the entire week the participants were working closely with the students side by side. We went to almost all the shoots together. From our first day walking around Granada to our last day having pizza together and wiping away tears while saying goodbye, we were truly a team.

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The whole team

I loved the kids that we worked with. They were funny, intelligent, hardworking, and patient. They often taught us way more than we taught them, about photography and life. They have so much potential and I truly feel they will do great things.

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Selfies with the kids!

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The girls ready to shoot.


The non profit we worked with, Empowerment International was also great. They do so much for the community and their efforts should not go unnoticed. Their staff was so accommodating and went above and beyond to make sure things ran smoothly. The staff was also full of amazing people we got to know well and had so much fun with. They added so much to the trip.

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Margarita and Pamela, two of the fabulous women of the Empowerment International staff

Not everything was perfect, but that is part of travel. Two of the girls had their money stolen from our first hotel, so after two days there was a lot of scrambling around in order to put us in a new hotel. The girl I met up with in Costa Rica, Justine, and I were left behind the very first day of the trip due to some miscommunication about where and when we were all meeting. There were some other hiccups along the way, but not everything can run perfectly in a trip that requires as much organization and planning as this one did. We all lived through it and made the most of it.

I went into this trip hoping to become a better photographer and have a good time. Those goals were met and surpassed. I learned so much about photography and shot in manual the entire week which was a big step for me. I now understand certain capabilities of my camera that I had no idea about before. In just one week the amount of knowledge I gained is unbelievable. A big thanks to Jay and Varina for all their help. In addition to the photography, I had an amazing time, feel I participated in and was part of a great non profit, met amazing people, and got a better understanding of life and the culture of Granada, Nicaragua. Overall, this trip was very successful and I am thankful for all the great memories it has given me.

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Me and Josseling

“Team” -Lorde

Categories: Nicaragua | Leave a comment

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