Nica Picnic in El Almendro

By Conor Sanchez

A few weeks ago a fellow teacher invited me and my counterpart teacher to his home in a nearby town called El Almendro (The Almond in English). He promised good food, a tour of the town, and a waterfall.

I was sold. Anytime a waterfall is mentioned, I’m pretty much always down.

On a Saturday, my counterpart and I got on a bus at 9:30 am and reached El Almendro about an hour later. Our friend met us in the park and walked us to his house down the street. He introduced us to his two sons and his wife before taking us to his school where he teaches during the week. On weekends he teaches at two universities in Nueva Guinea, which is how we know each other.

After touring the park, we returned to his house where we picked up a cooler full of Arroz a La Valenciana, soda, and orange juice. I love this about Nicaraguans. When going on a trip or a picnic, people often just fill a cooler up with food and scoop it out by the spoonful when they want a bite. When I went on a field trip in May with students from the university, my students filled a cooler that fed all 10 of them three meals in one day. If it’s Arroz a La Valenciana, one of my favorites, I don’t actually mind that.

We then hopped in a taxi and headed out to the waterfall, El Salto Zapotal, which is about 5 km West of town. For a solid three hours we took turns jumping from a tree into one of the deeper parts of the river. We sat watching as two “expert jumpers” around 7 or 8 years old took some amazing leaps from the side of a cliff into the water.

It was a great way to spend a Saturday. It was also a great chance to hang out with teachers outside of the classroom. The school year is coming to an end and most of our time together has been spent either in workshops, co-planning for lessons, or teaching. I got to meet my friend’s family, which showed me a whole different side to him. I also enjoyed getting to know El Almendro, a fourth the size of Nueva Guinea but very similar in terms of agriculture, cattle raising, and climate.

It’s funny how something like this, which many Americans would describe as a typical Saturday especially in the summer, is so rare. Unless it’s Semana Santa (Holy Week) or New Years Day, I don’t often hear from friends and neighbors going to a beach or a river to hang out for a day.

In fact, I am often surprised to hear from people in my town who have never even visited the waterfall a few kilometers West. So when I am invited to go explore a new place, I always try to go. It makes it that much better knowing people who can be your guide.

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