Forgive my subdued tone – I had to travel into town to visit the bank, and while I’m here I knew I should take advantage of an internet hub (also only available in town), but I’m still feeling somewhat numb from the news I received on Saturday of Jamie’s death.

Alisha and I flew into Managua on Friday, August 9th:

View of the Caribbean from my plane, during my Miami -> Managua flight.

We had to move up north to El Lagartillo by Sunday, so we spent a night in Managua, took the bus up to Esteli, spent a night there, and then took the morning bus to El Lagartillo.

There was a street fair going on in Managua, during which a HUGE circus truck paraded down the street, towing 5 tigers, including a white one, each in its own cage-car.
2 niñas I met in a church in Esteli, who had just come from a quinceañera.

I was immediately impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone around us. We’d be looking lost, then some guy would come out of the woodwork, point us in the right direction, and go on his way. No hitting on us, no asking for money to compensate him, just a smile and a kind push in the right direction.

I’m unfortunately still very wary and suspicious of men. Thank you, Iraq, for doing that to me. So it’s been difficult to pass men in the village and say hello, which is only the polite thing to do since this country is SO friendly; I have to repress the urge to push away men who touch me on the incredibly crowded bus, even though it’s innocent and there is literally no room to go which is why our hips are touching; and it’s been especially difficult at social gatherings when dancing is involved.

But my family in Lagartillo is wonderful. I have 4 siblings – Eneida (15), Marito (13), Carolina (7), and Daniella (2) – one mama – Deysi (33), and one papa – Mario, (41). They’ve made me feel so utterly comfortable in their home, and I’m best friends with Carolina, their 7-year old. She always wants to sit on my lap when I’m reading or eating, and wants piggy-back rides around the village, in which I’m supposed to be the horse and she’s the vaquera.

This week I’ve asked Deysi to teach me how to make corn tortillas from scratch, and she smiled really big and said of course. Mario also invited me to milk the cows with him in the mornings. I’m very relieve that Mario is such a good man – my hesitation around men lessens around him because he so obviously and genuinely wants to make his home a welcome place.

Deysi and Mario have hosted 35 students over the 9 years the Hijos Del Maiz Spanish school has been open.

*As an aside – I told my teacher that the school name needs to be changed – it LITERALLY translates to “Children of the Corn” – because Alisha and I were a little terrified to come to the middle of nowhere. We were relieved when we were picked up at the crossroads to El Lagartillo by Luis, a middle-aged man who was so obviously over the age of 19, but I have to wonder how many potential students have been scared away by the school’s name. *

I generally have 2 hours of Spanish class in the morning, and 2 hours in the afternoon. The lessons are very flexible, and the flexibility takes some getting used to; homework is optional and generally consists of writing a story or a handful of sentences (which makes sense given that outside the class our homework really is SPEAKING SPANISH since we’re totally immersed in it), and I can request day trips or a different lesson arrangement. None of the teachers speak English; neither do our families.

There’s not much to do in the village at first glance. Everyone’s up at dawn, around 5am or 5:30am, and everyone’s in bed by 8pm or 9pm. But I often go on runs in the morning, then take a bucket bath (COLD), then eat, then it’s time for lessons. Then I’ll take a nap (because the GD rooster wakes me up every morning at 4am) or read or so homework, eat, chat, and have another lesson. Then it’s 4pm or 5pm, and I’ll play volleyball or chat. It gets dark by 6pm, I’ll eat dinner, then it’s 8pm and time to sleep.

There was also a feria (festival) in El Lagartillo yesterday. It was very fun, all the people from the surrounding villages came to join in the carnival-like entertainment.

Oh, and it’s my birthday today. I kind of forgot. But now I’m 23, and once again I get an entire new country as a birthday present to myself.


A store in Achuapa, a nearby village. I asked the owner why she had a star of David above her door, and she told me it was there when she bought the building.
Horse-shoes for sale in a shop in Achuapa.
Men sifting the rubbish out of a batch of harvested sesame seeds in a agricultural cooperative in Achuapa.
A typically outfitted horse in Achuapa.
A woman on her way back from the market in Achuapa. When I asked if I could take her picture, she giggled and immediately struck a pose.
A woman in Achuapa toting a typical double-layered parasol/umbrella. It’s strikingly hot in the mornings, with torrential downpours in the afternoon, so a parasol/umbrella is incredibly useful.
Lots of bike shops in Achuapa. As I snapped a picture, this guy automatically flashed signs. Um, ok.
A stop sign in Achuapa. Not sure why it says “Alto” instead of “Para.”
Chicas on their way to school in Achuapa.
Horse in Achuapa.
Oxen pulling a cart in Achuapa.


Each afternoon (around 4) it pours in El Lagartillo, my village.
Una vaca.
Rosa, a family friend, making atole: a sweet pudding-mush made from corn and sugar.
My room in El Lagartillo. It’s quite nice, actually – I have my own light, my own door to the outside, my own mosquito net, and my own room. In a culture where privacy isn’t a priority, I feel very privileged.


A team of men trying to climb the pole to get to the money on top.

Setting up the “jousting” race, where the riders have to put a sharpened stick about the size of a pencil through a tiny rig hanging on the rope. At the end, the man with the most rings wins, and the lady who accepts his proffered ring becomes “La Reina de la Fiesta” and rides with him on his horse through the fiesta.

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Children watching the horse jousting.
Carrera de sacos (Sack races)
A horse masquerade.
Roulette. I won a bag of buñuelos (doughnuts)
Lots of footraces.
Carne asada, tortilla de maiz, lechuga, y limo.

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