Making Friends, Street Art, & More Games

Apparently we’ve been too busy for me to update the blog, but really I’ve just been enjoying vacation mode. While there are plenty of matches to watch, neighborhoods to explore, and Portuguese to butcher, we have also been relaxing and reading books.

One of the really amazing things about the World Cup is how friendly everyone is! There is something unifying about being here to watch the beautiful game. It is incredibly easy to strike up a conversation with the people next to you (on the subway or by sharing a table in a crowded pub) and we have met people from all over the world.

On our Metro ride back from the Spain v. Chile game, we met two wonderful locals, Flavio and Andrezza. We hit it off and these generous Brazilians offered to show us some of the best views in Rio. We met up with them a few days later and Flavio drove us all over the city and into the national park. It was a real treat and we saw parts of Rio we never would have seen otherwise. Thanks Flavio and Andrezza, we look forward to seeing you in San Francisco one day!

Chinese View, Flavio’s favorite:

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There is some pretty fun stenciled street art all over Rio. Here are a few of our favorites. ‘Super Kitty’ is a reoccurring character around the city.

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We’ve discovered that absolutely all bars and restaurants in Rio have TVs, no matter how tiny or upscale. I assume this is because it is the World Cup, but don’t know for sure. We found a good place to watch the Brazil v. Cameroon game in Ipanema, complete with Antartica cervejas.

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Sorry for the delay in posts, more to come!

– A N I –

The Fall of Spain, Rain, & Museums

We saw Spain lose to Chile at the Maracanã (have I mentioned that Chilean fans are nuts?), then had a very rainy few days in Rio, which made us decide not to go to Paraty, and instead opted for some indoor activities in Rio instead. Here are a few photo highlights.

We were so thrilled to have tickets to see Spain, which is G’s favorite team, but watching them lose to Chile was like watching the fall of Rome. After winning 2 Euros and a World Cup in the span of 6 years, no one thought they would be out at the group stage.
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Cloudy at the Maracanã.

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Nonetheless, we had a great time and met some friendly locals on the Metro ride home.

Today we explored Centro and went to the Museu Histórico Nacional (National History Museum) and the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM Rio).

Centro street art.

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Here is a 19th century crest of Brazil. Note the similarities to Brazil’s current flag.

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We liked what this guy had to say about social rights.

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G and a part of the fort built in the 1780s.

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Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro has a really interesting modernist building built in 1955 with a promenade that continues under the building.

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Here is a great piece by Brazilian artist Lygia Clark. We are so glad G’s mom recommended that we keep an eye out for her work! This sculpture in particular was originally meant to be touched and modified by the viewer, but after 50+ years of wear, they no longer allow people to play with it.

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Here is a video I found about her foldable sculptures that I think is pretty cool.

Thanks for all the wonderful comments and messages! We’re having a wonderful time!

– A N I –

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Beautiful Rio, Stunning Maracanã

After traveling for 24 hours with very little sleep, we arrived in beautiful Rio de Janeiro at 6am on Sunday. Running on adrenaline, we found a cab and made it to our AirBnb in Ipanema, just a block from the beach. Even from the cab, our first glimpses of Rio were spectacular with the early morning light shining on the water, buildings, and Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). We slept for a few hours before getting moving to grab lunch and make our way to the Maracanã for our first game: Argentina v. Bosnia.

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It took about an hour to get from Ipanema to the Maracanã on a bus, but there wasn’t nearly as much traffic as I thought there would be. Of course, once we made it to the outside of the stadium, it probably took us another 45 minutes to walk around to our correct gate, go through security, and find our seats. We arrived at the very end of the warmup and sat at the end line where Messi and Aguero were shooting. I am still shocked by how good our seats were! The Maracanã is absolutely stunning and I can’t imagine there is a bad seat in the house.

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Can you spot Messi?

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As my best friend Lex said, seeing Messi score live was historic. It certainly felt that way. Most of the stadium was filled with Argentina fans who went nuts each time he touched the ball anyway. But when he scored, oh man, it just erupted. Gordo, coming back from the restroom, got caught in a crazy celebrating mob of Argentines. He was wearing an Argentina jersey, so they embraced him (literally) as one of their own.

We’ve had other adventures since: meeting up with my old USF teammate Jamie, realizing just how impossible it is to pronounce (let alone speak) Portuguese, a beach day surrounded by gorgeously tan Brazilians, surviving FIFA’s World Cup Fan Fest (tens of thousands of people watching the Brazil v. Mexico game on Praia de Copacabana), and drinking caipirinhas whenever possible. Here are a few more photos…

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Thanks to everyone who has commented and sent us good wishes!

– A N I –

Brazil here we come!

Welcome back to Travels With Ani! This blog has tragically been on a 4 year hiatus, but that is all about to change when Gordo (AKA Gordon, G, GCWW, Duke, etc.) and I head down to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup!

FIFA World Cup 2014

We’ll be staying in Rio near Ipanema Beach for most of the trip and have tickets to 5 games at the famous Estádio Maracanã, which hosted the 1950 World Cup final where Uruguay beat the shocked Brazilians 2-1. If you watch any of the following games, keep an eye out for us in the stands!

June 15th: Argentina v. Bosnia & Herzegovina (Group F)

June 18th: Spain v. Chile (Group B)

June 22nd: Belgium v. Russia (Group H)

June 25th: Ecuador v. France (Group E)

June 28th: Winner of Group C v. Runner Up of Group D (Round of 16)

If you haven’t seen the 2014 World Cup ads from Nike, they’re worth a few minutes.

Going to the World Cup is one of my lifelong dreams and this will be particularly special because it is in Brazil, where futebol is a religion.

Thanks for reading and please leave comments!

– A N I –

Carasque, MARTE, and conclusion…

Hello all,

This will be the last entry for my Central America trip. Yes, as many of you know I have been back in the states for a few weeks now and have been too busy/distracted to write my final entry. In truth, there may be a part of me that doesn’t want to complete it. As if, despite the fact that I am no longer traveling, I could stay in that mind-set as long as this blog is open-ended. Oh well, all things come to an end sometime.

Anyway, during our last week in El Salvador Lex and I trekked out to Carasque (a tiny rural town near the Honduran border) to stay with the family who hosted Lex for a week when she studied abroad down there. Merely getting to Carasque from San Salvador is an adventure in itself lasting 6+ hours on 3 buses. First we took the 42A in San Salvador the to Oriental Bus Station, then bus 125 for 3 hours out to Chalatanango (the closest town to anywhere in that northern region of the mountains), and then one last packed 3 hour bus ride on a winding mostly dirt road out to Carasque, where we were then dropped off in what to me looked like the middle of a beautiful nowhere. Thank god Eduardo had met us in Chalatanango to help us find our way to his house.

Eduardo, his mother Lydia, and their family were unbelievably kind, hospitable, and patient with my broken Spanish.We played soccer on their local field until the sun went down. It was absolutely the most picturesque soccer field I have ever played on. A large, but simple dirt and grass field next to a school, tucked among the mountains of northern El Salvador near the Honduran border.

Our view on the hike up to the house – beautiful!

Lex learning how they make canye. It smells delicious everywhere around their house.

On our last day in San Salvador we went to MARTE, Museo de Arte de El Salvador. I could not believe I was paying a mere $3 admission for their national art museum! They have a very impressive permanent collection of classical and modern art as well as an exhibit on Salvadoran art through the ages. It was a great day doing one of my favorite things, wandering through a museum, followed by an overpriced pseudo-Italian lunch at a nearby cafe.

MARTE. The Monument of the Revolution is on the left.

The Monument of Liberty. Looks a lot like some statues I’ve seen in Eastern Europe…

My favorite piece in the museum. Cesar Menendez, “Estudio 1”

Then on the evening of Thursday, March 25th, we boarded a plane and headed back to San Francisco, California.

I’m not sure what else to say other than it was a spectacular trip and exactly what I needed. I’m not going to say I found what I was looking for, because I’m still not sure what exactly that is. But the people I met, the sights I saw, things I felt, and the trip as a whole, were exactly what I needed.

When in Monteverde, I came across four words carved into the cement of the patio outside our hostel: travel saved my life.

Thanks to everyone for your love, support, and comments during my travels. I will continue to blog, though much more randomly (both in time and topic, just a warning!), at Webstertons. Maybe I will have a reason to write another travel blog in the future, but in the meantime free to follow me as I embark on my next adventure…employment in SF!

Love love love,

– A N I –

St. Patty´s, Mosaics, TicaBus Hotel, Romero March XXX, Futbol

Hola todos y todas!

I apologize for the lack of updates this past week – it was full of long bus rides and exciting events!

Unfortunately, I don´t have a ton of time to blog about all the things I want to get to (see title of this post), so here is the reader´s digest version and I will add to it later on…

  • Found Guinness in Granada, Nicaragua on St. Patty´s day and celebrated with some real Irish gents.

Guinness in Granada

  • Attended a lovely mosaic art class and made some sweet pieces (mine was a bird and Lex made a woman with a basket).

Hard at work

Of course I made a bird. Typical.

  • Stayed at the prison-like TicaBus Hotel in Managua…but was able to see UW beat Marquette!! Go Dawgs! (So random that we saw that, I haven´t watched TV in weeks).
  • Went to the 30th Oscar Romero March in San Salvador. Amazing, once in a lifetime experience…and we saw President Funes speak!

Kristal, Krissy, Tomas, and Lex before the Romero March

President Funes

XXX

Mass at El Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador

  • Went out to Cedro to run a soccer clinic with some kids Lex used to work with. So fun! And I also learned the true meaning of playing crossbar: you see, it changes things when the bamboo crossbar actually falls down when you hit it. Great day!

choco bananas!

Lex was so happy to be back in Cedro with her niños!

Tomorrow we´re going out to the campo to stay with a family that Lex and Annie know for a night. Should be a cool experience. Then hopefully a few art/museum-filled days in San Salvador before we fly out Thursday night.

Much love to everyone! Hope all is well state side!

– A N I –

Coffee, Tarantulas, Salsa, and ZIPLINING!

Hola todas  y todos!

Lex and I are still in wonderfully cool Monteverde – tonight will be our fourth night. Just as Lex said she may stay behind in Samara, you may be able to find me here if I am missing in the future. I love the lush green rainforest everywhere, the cool temperatures, mist, multitude of coffee shops, and friendly people. We really lucked out when we decided to stay at Pension Santa Elena. We are in one of their newly built rooms with two double beds (one lofted WAY too high) for only $10 a person. What makes this hostel so great is the staff who are incredibly helpful (you can book anything in Monteverde from the front desk), friendly, and from all over (Italy, Costa Rica, Austin…). Oh, and there is free coffee all day.

On Saturday, our first full day here, we ate some left-over cinnamon pan for breakfast, drank coffee, and did some desperately needed laundry. After we walked about a mile or so (kilometers still confuse me) up the winding hills of Monteverde/Santa Elena to some great galleries of local artists (I may have to go back today to buy a small wood carving that hasn´t left my mind since).

I like Santa Elena

On the way back we stopped at The Common Cup because of a sign we saw for daily coffee roasting classes at 1pm. Terry Steig, this post is for you!

The Common Cup is a non-profit run by Ken Lander (a former trial attorney and real estate developer from Atlanta) and his family. Ken LOOOOOVES coffee. He loves to drink it, roast it, grow it, you name it. Dad, I was reminded of you the entire time we were there…maybe you should think about growing a small coffee plant in the back yard, I learned some tips. They serve FREE (yes, FREE) espressos and americanos all day and sell bags of their own wonderful coffee, grown and roasted right there.

Enjoying Ken´s dark roast

Ken walked us through how to roast his light and dark roast on his beautiful machine. Dad, try not to drool…

Made in Idaho, he bought it here in CR

smelling the roasted beans

Lex and the ¨hermanos¨coffee plant

the roasting process…

We learned all about the time/heat/air details it takes to make the perfect cup. Dad, I have a whole new respect for what you do!

The best thing about The Common Cup, other than Ken and his sweet family, is that all proceeds go directly back to the farmers (Ken owns a share too), and anything extra is put towards local programs for kids and education. It is beyond free trade, it is beyond fair trade. Ken even pays his coffee pickers by the hour, not by the bag (very rare anywhere) so that they have a steady income and he gets the most quality out of his plants. I´m tempted to come back when Ken sets up his internship program 🙂 Dad, if you get an email from Ken, it’s because I gave him your address. Feel free to email him about roasting or if you want to order some beans (he said he´d find a way to throw in a few bags of raw beans…).

Okay, so on to tarantulas…

I guess I´ve faced a lot of fears in the last few days. Everyone knows I´m not a fan of spiders or heights for that matter. Well, lucky for me, Costa Rica is somewhat known for both tarantulas and crazy canopy tours. The same day as our roasting class we went on a Night Tour of the wilderness around Finca Santa Maria (a family farm that decided about 10 years ago to cut their farming in half in order to be more sustainable and create a private reserve on the remainder of their property). Our guide, Arturo, looked and acted like he has spent his entire life calling animals in their native tongue at night. As we started our walk, I realized that I was not really prepared – mentally or otherwise. I did not bring a flashlight with which to navigate the nocturnal jungle…and I did not like the idea of being in a place where everything could see me, but I could see nothing. It ended up being an amazing 2 hours. Our lucky group saw 3 sloths (2 towed, not 3), 2 red-kneed tarantulas (one with an enormous butt!), 3 snakes, 2 sleeping birds, lizards, a cool little beetle with glowing headlight-looking things (found by yours truly), among other things.

Finca Santa Maria

Finca Santa Maria

It´s dead, but Lex wanted me to tell you it was real.

I’m not excited about ziplining.

Love love love and pura vida!

– A N I –

P.S. I´d like to give a shout out to everyone who has read this blog, but most of all to you wonderful COMMENTERS!! Big thanks for the support to Monica, Michela, Ray, Lucy, Mom, Dad, Dana, Tracey, Peter, Pops & Grams, Nichole Marie, Abby, Aunt Chrissy, Andrea Grace, Patty, and Meggie. You are all amazing and make this a much more enjoyable process. Sorry that I have not had time to respond to all of you – my internet time is crucial down here. Please keep commenting! 🙂

Montezuma? Barranca? Nope, we are going to San Jose!

Hola todos!

We left lovely Samara yesterday with the best of intentions to go to Montezuma. It was only just down the peninsula from us, we figured it might take a bus or two…maybe a boat. Apparently, the coastal roads to Montezuma are pretty much impossible without a 4×4 rental car, no buses run there, and if we really wanted to make the trek it would take 2-3 buses inland and then a taxi and a ferry and another bus. Since we had heard such wonderful things about the place, we decided to go for it with the knowledge that we would have to stay the night in Puntarenas and get to Montezuma the next day.

So we took an hour bus back to Nicoya (what was once a pre-colonial hub of commerce, now has two small bus stations as its shining glory) and waited another hour and a half for the bus headed to San Jose, which we were told would drop us in Barranca, a tiny town not far from Puntarenas where we would spend the night. We told the driver and the other guy working on the bus that we were going to Barranca, he even saw it on our tickets and wrote it on our luggage tags…

Three hours later we think it should be coming up, but have not seen a sign or anything relating to Barranca (though I did see a sign pointing to Puntarenas a while back and figured it was just another route on these twisty Central American roads). The bus stops for a break at a truck stop and we ask the driver if we are in Barranca. He responds something unintelligible and waves us off the bus. We soon figure out that we are not in Barranca, but that it must be coming up soon. After twenty more minutes on the bus as it begins to climb tiny mountain roads crammed with large semi trucks that look like they have absolutely no business trying to make these turns, we ask people around us in Spanish where the heck is Barranca?! One guy is not from around there and has no idea, anther couple tells us that yes, we have in fact past it and the bus did not even pretend to slow down or stop. So then we realize that whether we want to or not, we are going to San Jose and will arrive after the sun has set.

Thank god for good guidebooks, we found some good options for hostels close by in safe areas and helpful locals too. We stayed last night at Hostel Pangea (I picked it due to the name and internet access), which is absolutely filled with Americans ages 17-26 on spring-break-like excursions. Needless to say, it is very different from the other places we have been staying. We are tired, I am battling a gnarly kyaking-induced sunburn, and they have internet, a bar, and restaurant. Score.

Despite our best efforts to wake up at 5:30 AM, we missed the early bus (thank god) and are now planning on taking the 2:30 PM bus straight to Monteverde/Santa Elena in the mountains. We have given up on seeing Montezuma on this trip, it was obviously not meant to be. Monteverde should be beautiful and filled with wildlife, night hikes, canopy tours (AKA ziplining – yiikes!), and cooler weather. Anyone ever been there?

I am past the half-way point in my trip and it is a strange feeling. Going to work in the Columbia tower seems like a lifetime ago, not just three weeks. I want the adventurous spirit I have found on this trip to continue, though I am also really excited to return to SF and start my life there. Oh well, in the mean time I guess I will just go trek through the jungle. Wish me luck!

Much love to all those back home! I called my family yesterday morning before we left Samara, but my Mom, Dad, and sister are just busy little bees and could not pick up. I might try again today 🙂 I was able to speak with Pops and Grams, which was a great treat!

Love love love and pura vida!

– A N I –

Ometepe, Tamarindo, y Samara

Hola todos y todas!

Sorry for the lack of updates, we´ve be in very rustic areas as well as very touristy areas that only have wireless (frustrating!).

Last Thursday we left beautiful Granada, Nicaragua (after a semi-American breakfast at Kathy´s Waffle house. I´m pretty sure Lex will never return due to sheer awkwardness, but you´ll have to ask her about that one) and boarded a fantastically decorated local bus reminding us: Dio es Amor.

Kathy´s Waffle House. Why export only?!

We arrived in Rivas and took a short cab ride (with doors that did not open) to San Jorge where the ferry leaves for Isla de Ometepe.

Ferry to Ometepe

I don´t remember who, but someone mentioned that the ferries they use to cross the turbulent Lago de Nicaragua (an absolutely massive lake that would take over 12 hours to cross) are the ones that are illegal in the EU because they tend to capsize. So I´m thinking whatever, I can see Ometepe from here, it can´t be that far or that rough of waters. Turns out Lago de Nicaragua feels like open water and I was holding on to the ferry and everything I own. Now Lex will tell you that it wasn´t that bad, that I´m overreacting, but trust me, that ferry was one rogue wave from capsizing.

We stayed at the picturesque Hotel Finca Venecia (complete with random pictures of Venice on the walls).

A new friend at Finca Venecia

It was cheap, had a restaurant, and was on the beach so we were excited. Apparently cheap in rural areas also means random power outages. This would not have been a problem during the day, but at night it is as black as the dark side of the moon and we felt pretty helpless. It made for some amazing star gazing…and thats about it. We ended up eating at the hotel instead of wandering around a pitch black road we had never seen in daylight.

The next day we ate breakfast at a random roadside tienda with an overly formal waiter and thought it would be a brilliant idea to rent bikes that we could then take all over the island. All the locals had them, great idea right? Wrong. Turns out riding bikes on a volcano with only one paved road is HARD. Very hard. And up hill both ways. Despite the hilarious challenge of our decrepid mountain bikes, we had a great day exploring Altagracia, Playa Santo Domingo, and Ojo de Agua – a lovely natural spring that is said to heal all illnesses and relieve all pains. The funny thing is that it takes 6 km of dusty/hilly road to get there so at that point anything feels good. Amazing, exhausting day. So happy to be there…though Lex says she wouldn´t go back.

Playa Santo Domingo

Travel tips for Ometepe: there is only one ATM on the entire 2 islands (which does NOT take MasterCard) and under no circumstances should you rent bikes. Just don´t do it.

Then we were off to Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Has anyone else ever walked across a border before? Very strange experience. We almost didn´t even get our stamps on the CR side, though we did almost get hit by a few semi trucks.

Don´t ask why we went to Tamarindo, we just did. We knew it would be a touristy surfer town, but seriously, it looks like it was transplanted from San Diego. TamaGRINGO dude!

Lex in TamaGRINGO

In any case, we met some nice locals and stayed in a cute little hotel/hostel (minus the scorpions…I freaked out). I went to my first Central American discoteque and it was all that I thought it could be. I felt like I was 17 and on MTV Spring Break woohoo! Fortunately, we got a good tip to take a day trip out to Playa Conchal (literally, Shell Beach), with its millions on tiny crushed shells instead of sand. It was clean and less-populated, though we did hear some great Jay-Z thanks to some Brazilian chicas. For the first time in my life I really enjoyed swimming in the ocean (VERY different from rocky NW beaches) and I also had my first major wipe out…just trying to wade in…it was apparently hilarious.

Playa Conchal

Today, we left Tamarindo pretty early and took a bus to Santa Cruz, then a bus to Nicoya, then another bus to Samara. A couple people we met in Tamarindo, who were coincidentally from the Bay Area, were astonished that we´ve been taking buses, as if we were SO brave. In reality, we´re just cheap. Even some 3 hour bus trips are 50 cents to a dollar. We also have come to appreciate seeing a more authentic view of these small towns. We are on buses with kids going to school, people bringing large bags of rice home, women selling pan and frescas of all kinds. Lex and I stand out a little bit, but it’s always been safe and everyone has been really nice – if only because we´re there sweating along with the rest of them 🙂

We arrived in Samara this afternoon and Lex immediately fell in love with it. If for some reason Lex is not with me when I return to SF, look for her in Samara. It is a small, super tranquilo beach town, with the amenities of Tamarindo, but with a sweet attitude where everyone says hello whether they know you or not. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset with some Imperial beers, which I have learned are mandatory in CR.

View from the hotel in Samara

We are staying at the perfect little hotel/hostel – Casa Valeria. It’s slightly off the main street, hidden by trees, and if we had judged it by its sign we never would have gone it. We are in a private room with a bathroom, fan, tiled porch, beach side, with common kitchen, and outdoor ocean shower…all for $30 a night. Not bad, especially considering we can cook most of our meals in the full kitchen. Tonight we had some left-over pasta that Lex had made in Tamarindo. Perfect really.

I heart Samara.

We´re planning on staying in Samara for at least 2 nights, maybe longer :), before heading further south to Montezuma, CR. Anyone ever been there? We´ve heard great things.

Hope all is well stateside! Pura vida!

– A N I –

Crazy vans, Granada y Laguna de Apoyo

Hola todos!

We arrived in Granada, Nicaragua yesterday and I have pretty much fallen in love with it already. But first I must tell you about our last experience in Managua.

We were sad to leave our JVI friends behind in Barrio La Luz, but looking forward to moving on to a place where we had more freedom and sights to see. Leaving the city was an interesting experience. We were told that if we took a bus (which, by the way, are the most gloriously decorated things on the road) or cab to the UCA it would be obvious to us which vans or buses were headed to Granada. Little did we know just how obvious it would be. Before our cab even came to a full stop a man yanked open a rear door to the cab (where I was sitting with all our luggage/all we had in the world) barely asked if we were headed to Granada, and grabbed all our belongings before I could even blink. I jumped out of the car after him, hoping to god that we were not becoming just another story of gringas getting ripped off in Managua. I was instantly surrounded by other men all trying to get me into their van to Granada and I see the man with our luggage literally sprinting away. Keep in mind, these packs are about 30 pounds each and take a considerable amount of effort to get on our backs. This guy had both in one hand and was using the other to Heisman his way through the crowd. In a split second I was torn between staying with Lex, my best friend and best translator, and following our backpacks. I chose the packs and ran after them like a crazy person. They were immediately thrown into a van that I had no choice but to get into as well, which already held 7 other people. Lex joined me a few seconds later and with a lot of shouting by the luggage wrangler, we were off!

Now, the drivers and roads in Central America are like nothing I have ever seen. Horns are a necessity, lanes are more like general guidelines, and anyone age 4 to 70 could attempt to cross the highway at any moment. As we gained speed in the van we were almost completely sure would take us to Granada, the luggage guy was halfway outside the open sliding door, yelling at people to get in at any point along the street or highway. In the 45 minute ride to Granada, we picked up 4 additional men, 3 women, 2 old ladies and 4 kids under the age of 4. This simple mini-van (which reminded me of the one the Lewis´ once had) became a magical clown car with more space that I ever thought possible. Turns out, with a proper dose of Dramamine, this is the most convenient and economical way to travel in Nicaragua. I highly recommend it.

Now on to lovely Granada.

View of the cathedral from La Merced

It is a relatively small city, grown from one of the oldest colonial towns in Central America and looks the part. Reminiscent of Antigua (according to Lex) its buildings were all either built in the 1500s or 1850s. They are beautiful and colorful and worn. It is walkable and touristy, but locals still greatly outnumber the backpackers and cruisers. Yesterday, we walked around the central square, found a cute ¨sandwicheria,¨ read/napped in hammocks, climbed the bell tower of La Merced at sunset, had a great outdoor dinner of fajitas, and swam in the wonderfully cool pool of our hostel at night. I am definitely on vacation and not ashamed to say it.

Today we headed out to Laguna de Apoyo, a lake that reminded me of Tahoe, about an hour outside of Granada.

Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

Along with about 8 other travelers from Israel, Holland, and Australia, we spent the day swimming, lounging in inner tubes, and reading in hammocs. Alright, I admit it, I did most of the inner tube lounging and Lex decided to swim over a mile (don´t ask me why). The lake is remarkably clear and warm. I saw a few horses, too many dogs, an infinite amount of insects that I´d rather forget, about a dozen lizards, and a humming bird.

This evening, after a refreshing dip in the pool and some time in the hammocks, we had a simple dinner of pupusas and burritos (I´m in heaven). Not a bad day at all 🙂

We are planning on moving on from Granada on Thursday, but it is so adorable and I´m aware that this is probably the most relaxing (and cheap!) our trip is going to get…I´m contemplating convincing Lex that we should stay another few days.

I am aware how obnoxiously enthusiastic this entry is and I assure you it is just the sun talking. My goal today was to no longer be the palest person in Central America. But with all this relaxation is also coming a good deal of perspective. I have not relaxed like this in months (years maybe?), but we are also surrounded by poverty like I have never seen before. Shoeless children, burning garbage everywhere, polluted air, women begging with children in their arms – it is almost too much to take. The stark contrasts between the natural beauty of rural Nicaragua and its poor city centers is staggering. Most of my journal entries have been reflections on this and I´m sure they will make it into a blog entry soon. I´m just trying to digest it all first. Thank you for your patience.

I have absolutely loved all the comments and emails from everyone – it is nice to know someone is reading this. Thanks so much! Hope all is well stateside! Please feel free to email me (anika.steig@gmail.com) and give me an update on what is going on in your world. The amazing Hostel Oasis here in Granada has free internet 🙂

– A N I –