feliz año nuevo compadres!
here i am back in LA, but still inhaling the essence of nicaragua.
as the poet gioconda belli writes in an ode to her beloved land,
What are you—
a little triangle of earth
lost in the middle of the world?
What are you—
Singing of leaves in gigantic trees
Green, tangled and filled with doves?
i have a story to tell you. about the house manager at casa romantica where i stayed. julio. the exact opposite of the type of person i was hoping would pick me up from the airport and guide me around various places in and around granada.
for one thing he didn’t stop talking.
for another he was kinda full of shite. i mean that in the nicest way of course.
he was like the nicaraguan casanova. only married with 4 kids and a lovely wife.
he arrived for each adventure in a scented cloud. clean shaven – face & legs. new footwear each day. ray bans. ready for action!
if you are familiar with jane the virgin and her father, rogelio de la vega, the soap star, you are halfway to getting the picture i am trying to plant in your mind. except now you have to lose some of rogelio’s softness and add a certain street bite.
got it? okay save that visual for later, you’re gonna need it.
let’s get on with our trip to the mirador in catarina which overlooks this deep blue volcanic lagoon.
there is granada shining like a jewel in between laguna de apoyo and lake nicaragua.
here we are pulling into catarina, a small pueblo about 10 miles outside of granada. known for her vast nursery plants, nicaraguans come from all over the country to purchase plants here in catarina. picture this in your mind, i was too busy listening to one of julio’s stories to pull out my camera and actually capture a photo of the streets of catarina.
by the way in between story time there was mandatory spanish lessons.
i know you cans do it mareeee moss. you are latin!
i’m gonna talk sloooooooow and you’s going to understand. everything! estas listos?
the entire village is laid out across the hillside of a collapsed volcano.
by the way, when you think of nicaragua i want you to always keep 2 things in the forefront of your mind: lakes & volcanoes.
catarina is like a lush tropical garden with colorful blossoms and decorative plants. everywhere you look small family nurseries line the road with their pots of ornamental plants
nigaraguans flock to the village for her plants, but also for the astonishing mirador from which you can see the deep waters of laguna de apoyo. and beyond the lagoon, land, and then more water.
nicaragua will crush you with her beauty.
so here we are driving into catarina and i see a reclining statue of a woman… i happen to have a visual of this for you!
she was kind of hard to miss due to her size. “STOP THE CAR!” i cried out in my most demanding voice.
julio stopped and reversed until we were right in front of the roadside craft stall where my glittering green polished toenail goddess lay surveying her world.
julio told me to keep quiet and then in his inimitable rapid fire bargaining voice wherein he declared i was his mother. yes, His Mother. he secured the queen in her skintight pink leotard for a paltry sum of $6.
off we drove with my precious carefully wrapped package on the backseat. i laughed all the way to our next stop. the idea that i was julio’s mama was so preposterous, so hilarious, all i could do was… laugh.
for the rest of my stay in granada i was no longer marreeeeeee moss, but mama, mami, madre.
each time julio said it i erupted into laughter.
but, you see, it’s not just the acquisition of the statue that made me change my mind about julio. not just the pride that beamed from his face when he could see that i was enjoying all the sights he was showing me, not just the song he sang about his nicaragua in the car on the way back from somewhere, not just the photo of his little son santiago, or the introduction of his beautiful wife, or his cousin marvin that he brought to the house one day. it was everything. all of it.
good connections good talks. good stories. good lovable julio.
i couldn’t have imagined on day 1 of my trip i would be writing this, but i am. oh look he just texted me.
i hope your are good mama.
OK. happy new year.
my best trips always have a person that goes along with the travel journal and the photos to make it a special journey. for this solo christmas venture to nicaragua that person was julio.
as we were leaving the mirador after a couple of beers we looked up into the black sky. sheer white clouds were drifting over the lagoon. i saw a glittering silver jupiter winking at us through the mist of clouds.
me: LOOK! (my screaming voice again) that’s jupiter!
julio: jupiter? no. is a plane i think.
me: really? let’s wait and see if it moves.
5 min. later
me: see! it’s jupiter! it’s the clouds that are moving, not the star. i mean not jupiter.
all of the nicaragüenses in the parking lot now have their heads craned up looking to see what we’re discussing so excitedly.
we get in the car. the old parking attendant shuffles over to guide us out of the packed lot.
me: please tell him that’s jupiter, not just a star.
julio: mira esa estrella?
parking attendant: Que no es una estrella, es un planeta! es júpiter!
me: oh. he already knows. (deflated at not being able to spread any of my vast knowledge of the cosmos to a new person)
thusly we drove down the mountain headed back to granada. it was night now and i kept my eyes out for the dogs and horses along the roadside as we sped along. julio didn’t miss a beat humoring me with tales the entire way back of other trips he’d taken with other extranjeros.
one in particular, a german man who needed to be transported across the whole of nicaragua at night from managua and asked that julio please not speak to him. surely the longest most painful journey for which he’d ever had the misfortune to provide transport.
oh i laughed long and hard at that one. imagining the torture this must have caused dear julio. forbidden to speak!
well kids, i’m off to work in my travel journal. i did way more writing than making pictures so i have some catching up to do! i hope you’re ringing in this fresh new year with hope.
here’s what i hope for all of us for 2017:
more travel to faraway lands
unexpected connections with unlikely people you meet along the way
new ways to open ourselves to the world
continued creative expression
and lots and lots of big-hearted extranjeros for julio to ferry back and forth across his beloved country. lighting their way with stories, magnificent vistas and goodness.