By Conor Sanchez
As most Americans welcome the first few signs of spring, here in Nicaragua, we are heading into the dog days of summer, which means things are about to get real hot.
Fortunately, Semana Santa arrives just in time for folks to get some respite from rising temperatures by granting them time off to head to nearby beaches and rivers. Michaela and I were very happy to have the week off from school, which we used to explore our community by accompanying friends to their farms and water escapes.
First, we headed to Michaela’s counterpart’s farm, which is about an hour and a half outside Nueva Guinea. After a hot and very bumpy ride in the back of a pick-up truck, we finally made it to the grounds, where the family has a facility that includes a pool, a kitchen, and a cabanas for shade. We rode horses, spotted monkeys in the trees, and lounged by the pool, which they fill using water from a nearby river.
We also learned to make hornadas (baked goods) like rosquillas, abuelitas, and torta de leche. I watched how cuajada ahumada (a traditional type of cheese eaten with just about every plate of gallopinto) is dried out and smoked above a fireplace as it hangs from a contraption called a tapesco. Some people prefer the cheese unsmoked, which makes it cuajada fresca.
The following day we went to a river in Rio Plata with another counterpart teacher and her family. Fortunately we arrived early in the morning before the crowds got there and were able to lazily float down the tranquilo river on inner-tubes. Later in the week we joined our neighbors and went to Salto Esperanza, a popular waterfall about 15 kilometers outside Nueva Guinea, where we were barely able to find a spot to picnic amongst the hundreds of families that had flocked there earlier in the day. Using the face of our old air-fan, we grilled some chicken and pork and heated up yuca to go along with it. We bypassed the chinamo where a much rowdier bunch spent the afternoon dancing under a fairly rickety canopy.
The rest of the week was spent catching up on work and passing time with our neighbors, who are pretty much a host-family to us. We went to a quinceñera of a friend’s daughter, which was very fun. It’s always interesting to see how different these celebrations can be from one another. Overall, it was a nice break before we head back to work tomorrow.
Two great things that came out of this week: first, we now know a few more places where we can keep cool this summer (especially in April when this place turns into a furnace) and second, I now have a posed picture of me riding a mule. See below as I scratch this one off my before-I-turn-30 list.