Ah! So much has happened, so many things I wanna blog about.
Where to begin? Quick life update, I moved to Colorado and I am LOVING it. When I came back to the States and started the super fun process of job searching I had no idea I would end up here! Shout out to Courtney and Mike for trailblazing the Baltimore – Fort Collins route. Courtney who along with being one of my closest friends was also my fellow Study Abroad Advisor at Towson. Courtney and Mike decided to make a incredibly well thought out and daring decision to pack up their apartment in Baltimore and see what living in Colorado had to offer. Courtney is now working at Colorado State University in the Ed Abroad Office and when another position became available she suggested I apply. At first I thought I would get flown out and if nothing else get dinner with friends! In the end I was offered a position as an Education Abroad Coordinator responsible for incoming exchange students, international internships and alumni outreach.
Here are a photos of the first two week’s highlights: Bona reunion dinner in Denver, hiking in Colorado Springs, Charlie my new cat roomie, hiking up to the Horsetooth Resouvior which is essentially my new backyard.
So now that I’m caught upish it’s time for this blog to leave South America and journey north to Nicaragua. I love Central America. It’s rugged and friendly and full of treasures. I had quite a plan for my time in Nicaragua. Then I got off the plane and realized I wasn’t sure I could walk to the Customs booth without the help of a wheelchair. In that moment I knew that my plans would need to change. My sciatic nerve hurt BAD. Can’t really walk bad. Add a backpack that holds all your possession and now you’re in agony, bad. But something kicks in… you have no choice. You have to keep moving and so you do. I made it out of the airport, fought with a taxi driver but eventually arrived at the local bus terminal and wandered a bit Granada until I found my hostel.
I stayed at Oasis, a really nice hostel in the downtown area. I had actually stayed there back in 2006 when I was studying in Costa Rica and need to spend 48 out of the country in order to renew my student visa. The place had not changed a bit since then but was still pretty impressive. I was feeling crappy and a little sad so I decided to treat myself and splurge for 3 days in a private room – a whopping $13 a night. I know, big investment, right? It was essentially a closet with a bed but I was happy. The hostel allows you to make one 10 minute phone call to the USA per night that you stay there. In 2006 that was a HUGE luxury. When I wanted to call home from Costa Rica I had to walk to a pay phone that was in front of a bar which was 8 blocks away from my homestay. Now, with the wonders of technology anytime I had a half decent wifi connection I could call home for free. Still, it was free so I took advantage of it. The hostel also has computers, a small pool, unlimited pancake breakfast and dozens of hammocks. So I ate way too many pancakes and justified the lack of breakfast expense as a balance for the 4 extra dollars a night a private room cost.
While I was there I tried to see a chiropractor but no luck. In the end I found an AMAZING massage therapist who I went to 3 times in 9 days. $30 for a two hour deep tissue and acupuncture session felt expensive on a backpacker budget (and yet basically free in terms of US prices) but it was the only thing that helped and I happily paid the nice man. He encourage me to walk even if it hurt so each day I went out and did some exploring. Granada, Nicaragua is beautiful. Its definitely within the tourist zone of the country but it has maintained what feels like authentic charm. I wandered the streets, climbed to the top of the church tour and ate a lot of ice cream. I spent afternoons in “cafes” or lounging in the hammocks.
Nicaragua is a major place to visit on the gringo trail (backpacker route) and Central America is particularly popular for younger British & Australian backpackers. It’s beautiful, cheap, full of extreme sport places and you can always find a party. I don’t have anything against the Brits & Aussies but I was just not in the mood while I was there. I didn’t do a lot of socializing but I did end up making friends with a Spanish guy from Barcelona who didn’t speak any English. He was soooo excited to find another traveler to speak Spanish with. He was super patient with me and anytime I was would make a mistake/be at a loss for words he would kindly remind me that my Spanish was better then his English. Not gonna lie, that was a mood booster! Javi came to check on me every afternoon and see if I needed anything since I wasn’t super mobile – that’s the thing about backpacking solo, everyone looks after each other. Kinda sappy but true. It’s quite a community to be part of. After about a week Javi moved on and I decided it was time for me to move on too.
Next stop, another place I visited and loved in 2006 – Lago Apoyo. A crater lake of crystal clean water made from an ancient volcano eruption. It was beautiful and relaxing and they had Frank’s Red Hot to put on their homemade pizzas. Score! Little, unexpected tastes of home can mean so much when you’ve been away from a while. While I was there I meet some great people. Had conversations about 10 day silent retreats, Israeli politics, travel playlist must-haves, where to find the best textiles in Guatemala and what comes after a year of travel. Among the great company was an awesome couple from the States that have started a social entrepreneurship business selling fair trade items in back in States. Support education projects and find cool stuff at Life Out of the Box! It was very cool to meet people who have turned their passion for travel into a successful social business venture.
After the Lago Apoyo I circled back to Granada for a my third and final massage before heading on to Leon, Nicaragua. I had read so, so many good things about Leon but didn’t get much of a chance to explore. Again, it was a walking city and so incredibly hot that I just wasn’t up for it. I did eat so of the best food I had in a long time there. Simple and delicious. I was planning to stay a few days but end up only staying 2 days and 1 night because I was able to get on a shuttle to Antigua, Guatemala – where I would meet Megan and Rachel to start our #518inGuate adventure. I jumped at the opportunity and took the last seat in a 23 hour shuttle from Nicaragua, through El Salvador and finally arriving in Antigua. 4 Irish, 2 Brits and me packed like sardines in a shuttle van for 23 hours with no air conditioning . It amazing the positions you can contort yourself into in a desperate attempt to sleep. Why hello stranger… you are now my pillow/foot rest/cuddle mate and I am to you. By the end we were smelly, sweaty, dirty new friends covered in cheeto dust and sharing water bottles. Ahh.. that dirty backpacker life.
So, looking back I don’t think I can fully check Nicaragua off my bucket list. There is still so much more for me to explore – the cities, the beaches, the islands. Good thing it’s cheap and close so I will definitely get back in the future. Even with feeling a bit out of sorts and physically pretty uncomfortable I was able to meet great people and see beautiful places so in the grand scheme of things, not bad. Not bad at all.
Next up… Scotia comes to Guatemala and it was so, so, sooooooo good.