As I sit here and attempt to write this blog post after a prolonged absence,  sweat drips down my face from the heat and my body continues to be molested by mosquitos that have decided to harvest my blood. These two have become common themes in Central America, the third being ridiculously slow internet with the tendency to fail at critical moments. Words cannot describe the frustration that ensues after spending hours uploading photos only to have the computer crash or the power to fail: the two most common scenarios amongst an infinity of other disasters that are possible in countries with poor infastructure.  Each of these factors are tolerable in ordinary circumstances, but when one is being strangled by heat, mosquitos, and a poor connection all in the same moment while struggling to turn condensced thought into written word it can become a bit much. Plus, there is a group of young, American high schoolers running around my work station right now and only add further distraction. Their boisterous nature is a far cry from soothing, but is backed up by the comical lengths each one goes to impress the other. Efforts to recollect and compose my thoughts for this next posting are a bit diluted, as my main concern revolves around a lingering question: What the hell was I like at that age? The more bothersome aspect is the response: Probably worse. For now, I will leave that topic at rest and continue onward with my tale of exploration in Central America. My mission is for the next hour or so is to keep my mind far away from my immediate surroundings and the testosterone driven youths that are desperately trying to establish their coolness. I just wished those kiddies realized that life’s not a competition  and communication would be alot more effective if you didn’t use ¨like¨before you begin every one of your sentences. Two valuable lessons that will go a long way in terms of development, or at least somewhere to start. I hope my little sister, Elizabeth, is listening (there’s the ¨shout out on the blog¨ that she has so desperately wanted for the past three months).

Well the last time I made an effort on the computer was just after visiting the volcanic islands of Ometepe. With its beauty providing a lasting impression and a first taste of life in Nicaragua, Ometepe was more than I could have ever asked for: Undeveloped terrain begging to be explored, stuffed with passionate locals that are driven by a thirst for positivity and life in a world that is otherwise dry and serves only hardship or struggle to its inhabitants. This last description, I would say, can apply to all of Nicaragua and explains as to what makes it such a spectacular place. For those willing to brave difficulty and potential danger, they will find that lurking in the cracks of  unstable government and war-torn countryside lies a land of astounding possibility. The population is amicable and proud of their turbulent past, satisifying an intangible characteristic that guides most countries to the path of success and leads them out of the depths of despair. Hardworking yet careworn, they look forward with optimism and seek to learn from the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately, however, no matter how much effort is directed outwardly a large portion of their future success relies on a government that is  unstable at best and political parties who prefer warfare to diplomacy. Also having a tendency to placate the leader’s needs and wallets first, it may be a long time before we see Nicaragua land on it´s feet and become a safe, secure country in Central America. We can only hope that things will work out for the better, as millions of people’s livlihoods are at stake.

Intrinsically placed within the conundrum that is Nicaragua are a multitude of other factors, the most important for my purposes is its seemingly uninhabitated landscape. Being one of the largest countries in Central America, Nicaragua has a bulk of land but also the lowest population density – meaning that much of it remains unscathed by the detriments of urban development and increased pollution. Its various cities, each of which is a remnant of colonial expansion, have a touch of history and incredible architecture to compensate for the intrusion on otherwise naturally beautiful lands.  I have spent a bit of time in each, the city and the countryside, to gain a better feel for the place and can safely say after nearly two weeks it is one of the best countries I have visited to date. A perfect blend of rural and urban, Nicaragua provides one with a buffett of activities that will satiate the appetite of every sort of traveler: the sophisticated cosmopolitcan type, the rugged outdoorsman, and anything that lies betweeen. Care to sip fresh brewed organic coffee and read some of Central America’s finest poetry? Then you better head to Lèon (my present location), post up in a cafe and get lost in the works of Ruben Diario. Do you want some hard hikes and volcanoes to climb with active craters? Then the trails and network of paths around Cerro Blanco would be good for you, only a few hours outside of the city´s capital Managua and full of possibility. If surfing is your thing, then San Juan del Sur offers some of the best breaks around – an assortment to chose from with waves so large that even the innocent bystander can appreciate their quality. Or, for some pure relaxation, go to Laguna de Apoyo where the crystal clear water is good enough to scuba dive and various fishies that swim underneath the turquoise surface cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Better yet, if you want to find our where really loud, annoying high schoolers sent on community service missions like to linger in 3rd World Countries, then you should come visit me in the lobby of the hostel where I am currently staying (and will subsequently be leaving as early as possible tomorrow morning in search of a more tranquil abode). Although the latter may not appeal to you, one of the first few probably does and is reason enough for why you should come check this country out: It is phenomenal.

I spent the time after isolation on Ometepe relaxing surf side in San Juan del Sur. The vibe is mellow, low key and mirrors something you would encounter in Southern California rather than Southern Nicaragua. An ideal place for familiarizing oneself with the habits of society after a prolonged absense, the beach side village is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants for locals and foreigners alike. The Nica personality rises above, however, with the fishermen casting hand lines out into the surf and the bustling marketplace selling the freshest food relentlessly from sunrise to sunset. Hidden underneath the tin roofs, women with fruit, vegetables, baby chickens, and anything else imaginable force their goods onto those passing by in hopes of making a sale…aggresively. I’ve noticed that being a light skined foreigner of moderate height amongst dark skinned locals of diminuitive stature, I have the tendency to stand out in overly crowded market places. This is means two things: 1. The already aggressive saleswomen are more aggressive knowing I can spend more cash than others and give them an opportunity to overcharge, and 2. If anyone were looking for some one to mug or rob, it would be me. Those two characteristics all but guarentee that every time I enter a bustling  street or a group of vendors there hardly a dull moment. For example, the time two squat mothers trapped me between their stands until I purchased a pair of stalkings (?) or when a group of street kids followed me in a line for over an hour and a half making periodic attempts at snagging my wallet (not fun). The adventure never ends, whether out in the country or inside the city, with the only variable being the amount of excitement.

This last part reminds me: I encountered my first full on difficulty on the road. My sneakers got stolen. It’s a travesty and the initial devastation still has not subsided. Those babies had been with me for quite a while, traveling over many lands and assisting in many dangerous activities. The most common was running around in Buenos Aires and dodging traffic, an activity I would not recommend to anyone with a fear of angry, disgruntled cab drivers, while the more rare was stomping on a crocodile when searching for Anacondas in the Amazon Basin. Sure, my pair of Nike’s had some miles on them but they never, ever let me down. I hope their new possessor puts them to good use, in honor of all that they had done for me over the past 4 months. The fiasco that was filing a police report in Nicaragua has enough material for a seperate post. Let’s just say this: Unsurprisingly, it’s a very inefficient process even for one that can speak the language and has the an endless threshhold for time wasting after exposure to South and Central American culture for over a year. The fact that those officers, most of which were my age or younger, are the most qualified to enforce the law and wield AK 47s is beyond frightening.

From San Juan del Sur I headed north, spending a few days in Granada before resting on the cool, rocky shores of Laguna de Apoyo.  Granada is a cultural epicenter for the Nicaraguan people: It is the birthplace of many revolutionary ideas, thinkers, and political parties (the avantgarde, if you will) while also doubling as one of the eldest cities fortunate to survive from the original colonization period. The multicolored buildings, whose varying brightness and hues complete the entire color spectrum, exuberate a certain wholesomeness that leaves one feeling as though he is viewing a materpiece that blends vision and style perfectly. The people that fill the cityscape have personalities as vibrant as the colors of the houses where they live. Old and young alike wait outside either on the stoop or in a rocking chair, dying to engage  in conversation about the current political situation or the upcoming festivities for the weekend. You don’t have to look to hard in Granada to find it’s beauty: It’s sitting right in front of you everywhere you look, just keep your eyes open and you’ll see it soon enough.

The Laguna de Apoyo was a pretty incredible sight even after the majestic element that fills Granada. More remote, far away from any developed areas, the Laguna is an oasis hidden between the cities that fill the eastern coast of Nicaragua. I only spent a couple of nights, but I did manage to make the most of my time and explore a bit. Loads of howler monkeys, transparent lizards, and mosquitos greeted me as I made my way across the 4 mile wide crater on a kayak, setting foot on an entirely undeveloped area of the lakefront property to do as I please (certain rules regarding clothing may or may not have been temporarily suspended). I absorbed the sun and swam deep down to catch sight of a few of the fishes while the daylight lasted, then headed back to the hostel and relaxed in hammock for the rest of the evening. Two days well spent; relaxtion achieved.

Now I am in Leon. I think I may stay here for a week or passibly longer, which would mean it is the longest time I have remained in one place since my trip began. My body has been telling me recently that its bones are weary of travel and it may be time to rest before I push through till the end of my journey. I have just under two months left, meaning there’s still tons to see and do before I am finished with my work in Central America. Now, more than ever, may be the time to recuperate before one last push. More updates and photos to come this week. Abrazos.