Malawian Rice Vendor

Monday, 4 August 2008


Esteli is a nice little town in the Highlands of Nicaragua. At first sight it does not look like much. Sitting of one side of the Pan-American highway the town is laid out in quadrants. Unlike Granada the streets actually have names and so navigating is quite easy. We found a little cafe, owned by an English women, that serves a nice cup of Nicaraguan coffee and a tasty breakfast burrito. We had a chance to talk to her for quite a while while we waited for our food. She gave us some good recommendations to pass our time here. After breakfast we grabbed our small backpack and went to the local "Supermercado" to buy some water and snacks. She had told us about a nice hike up to a waterfall located in the nearby tropical forest. We caught a local bus to the dirt road that led up the small hillside. The walk itself, though quite long, turned out to be really beautiful. We ventured through numerous cornfields and cow pastures. The people we encountered along the way were extremely friendly as we needed to continuously make sure we were going in the correct direction. Luckily we had our snacks as the hike proved to be a little longer than we had been told. We probably walked well over six km´s before we finally entered the park zone. After paying a nominal fee to enter, which by  the way we hope actually goes for something, instead of the kids that manned the gate!! We wandered a few more minutes down to this beautiful waterfall surrounded by sharp cliffs. There were actually about 10 or 12 people there swimming in the cool waters. We could have done the same thing but we did not come prepared with our swimsuits and we dared not skinny dip with so many onlookers. We befriended a couple of Israeli girls and spent a while talking with them while enjoying the cool spray from the water above. We were also approached by a Nicaraguan who spoke very good English. Turns out he had lived in the states along with his sister for nearly 23 years befor e finally being deported about two years ago. Their story is truly tragic. They, along with their mother had escaped Nicaragua during the war. They were able to cross the border and find a place to live and eventually jobs. The mother had applied for political asylum only to be denied several times. This despite the fact that  it was too dangerous for them to return to their homeland. They ended up living in several places in the states having to move just to find work. To make a long story short, a "routine" traffic stop (even though the cop had no probable cause) turned into a criminal proceeding by the INS. They wound up both being deported several months apart with the sister having to leave her kids in the states with their grandmother. She has not been able to see them for over two years now. The INS gave her the opportunity to take the children back with her but since they were born in the states they were Americans and she did not want ot uproot them and take them to a foreign land with much less oppurtunity. So here the two sit in Esteli with very little oppurtunity for advancement. They are like fish out of water since they have spent much more time in the states than here. The amazing thing is neither one is bitter about the whole ordeal and both hope to return to the states one way or another.
We ended up all of us hitching a ride in the back of a pickup truck to the main road. Unfortunately just about then the skies parted and we got absolutely soaked by the tropical rain storm. The ride seemed to take forever as we were pelt ed by the slanting rain. We made it to the main road and found a bus back to town. The brother and sister invited us back to their house to drink a special Nicaraguan concoct ion to help warm us up. The special brew was made from roasted corn and cocoa mixed with warm milk and the obligatory sugar. We sat around, the six of us, sharing stories and Ideas trying to help these two lovely people brainstorm for id eas to make a living. Not that Erika or I are experts in this field at this particular moment. We all really had a wonderful time and we ended up spending several hours at their humble abode. Finally we were starting to get hungry and we said our goodbyes. We walked home and along the way we stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant of all things and we wandered in. As it turns out the food was fabulous, real authentic tacos and quesodillas. The whole ambiance was very authentic, the place even had a couple of stray dogs wandering the premise' looking for the odd scrap of food!!! Tommorow we are going to do some research on going up to the Miraflores Nature Reserve.  Hopefully we will be able to leave the following day for a couple of days journey into the cloud forests and the rustic villages of the surrounding area. Since there is no electricity or running water it should make of quite an adventure. We will let you know.

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