al Cazar el Carpincho Azul

Musings on my move to Nicaragua in search of the elusive Carpincho Azul.



The Cultural Center in Batahola Norte where I am currently the General Coordinator, is full of beautiful murals (as you can see here to the left). The first murals were painted in 1985, when two international volunteers from Australia (Ben and Michelle) came to share their talents with the community. They taught painting to the kids at the Center and together they began using the Center walls to tell stories.
Those original kids, who started painting murals by filling in outlines and practically painting "by number" became muralists in their own right--two are now Painting and Drawing instructors here, teaching yet another generation. So the first murals were painted from 1985-87, but there are many, many others that were created throughout the 1990s.

After the change of government in 1990, when the Sandinistas were voted out and the first of a succession of neo-liberal presidents (and other public officials) took office, many (if not all) public murals were painted over. I've been told that when Arnoldo Alemán was Mayor of Managua--he went on to become president in 1996 and is currently serving time for major corruption--he came to the Cultural Center with the intention of painting over our murals. Sister Margarita held firm, and thanks to her resolve the murals are still here today.


More Pictures--Updates of la Colinita

Paulo has been working really hard at reforesting and regreening our property, in preparation for the cultural cafe he'd like to open in the near future. These pictures, while clearly showing significant improvement since 2004, don't nearly do it justice, especially since they were taken at the start of the 2005 rainy season (July), and we're now at the beginning of summer. Try to imagine these same pictures after 4 more months of rain and you'll start to get the idea.

BTW, all these pictures were taken by my dad during his July visit. During the trip he took nearly 700 photos on his digital camera!


Here's a picture of me and Paulo with my Mom from last July, when Paulo and I got married in a simple civil ceremony at our home on the hill. My folks came down from Maine to share this special event with us.

July 19 was a lovely day; the ceremony was conducted by our friend Wolfgang, who is a judge here (in Tola, near the Pacific coast). July 19 is a day of celebration in Nicaragua, being the date of the successful insurrection in 1979, and is widely celebrated. This means that as long as we live in Nicaragua, we will always have our anniversary as a day off! But the date is also significant in my family, being the birthday of my Aunt Margaret (QEPD) and (I found out later from my Uncle Charles), the wedding anniversary of my grandparents.

The "rock" behind us is actually a petrified tree, brought down (with much effort) from San Juan de Limay (near Esteli, up north) by our friend Fidel many years back. It is much coveted, especially by a local rich guy who comes by periodically to see if we're willing to sell yet. Coincidentally, this rich guy is someone I am in periodic contact with about funding for projects at the Cultural Center, leading to some interesting interactions.

Back in touch--New Year 2006

Well, that's about as long as any blogger should go without a post. Sorry to any and all who've checked in over the past year to see how I'm doing, and who left wondering if I hadn't actually moved to the remote jungle instead of the bustling metropolis of Managua.

Anyway, it's a new year, and even if that's just a social construct, it provides a convenient marking place for trying out new attitudes, goals, etc. So let's see if I post any more frequently in 2006 than in 2005.


Happy New Year 2005

End of year festivities in Managua have been both low-key (on our part) and loud (everyone else).

As is true in many parts of Latin America, fireworks and firecrackers are an integral part of celebrations here. Starting way back at the beginning of December, we have been treated to almost daily cracks and pops: for Purísima (Immaculate Conception, Dec. 7), Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve and day. Many are just noise makers or show a little color, but some are quite sophisticated. The best show yet was about 2 weeks ago, when they closed off Carretera a Masaya and put on a 45 minute show with fireworks rivalling any I've seen for July 4. New Year's Eve was a another good show (though not *quite* as good) put on by neighbors. One of the many advantages of living on a hill is the 360 degree view of the city, so we were basically surrounded by colorful lights to welcome the new year.

Christmas Eve, Paulo and I spent with our friend Aracely and others, sharing good food and wine. On New Year's Eve we hosted a small gathering, which didn't really get started until about 2 a.m. Paulo grilled an enormous fish and made his famous lentil soup and guacamole--delicious! We stayed up until 5:30 (Jenn) / 8:30 (Fidel) / 10:30 (Paulo & Carlos Molina). New Year's Day we spent in a marathon domino game.

Best wishes to friends, family & others for peace & justice in the new year!


Central American Idol

Saturday night Paulo and I went to see the Third Annual Festival of Youth Songs, which was dedicated to Salvador Cardenal (of Duo Guardabarranco). Actually, we thought it would just be a concert of his music and music of his friends; however, it turned out to be more like American Idol.

The concert was televised live on Canal 12, local to Managua. Miss Nicaragua was one of the emcee's--a slender woman with an odd lisp and practically no recognizably Nicaraguan features. She came out wearing a very bizarre tiara. It must have been at least 10 in. tall at its highest point.

The Festival part of the show was a competition among 14 young people from around Nicaragua. They each sang one selection, and there was a range of musical styles and themes, from Ranchero to love ballads. There was even one rockero, dressed in a long black leather coat with black leather pants. His legs seemed to be made of wood, especially when he danced in a strange, pogo-stick fashion.

Happily, the judges agreed with Paulo and my judgment on who were the best performers. First place went to a young woman from Matagalpa and the composer of her selection, another woman. The song was about Nicaragua (as were many others), and had a lovely lilting quality with a typical melodic style reminiscent of Nicaraguan folk music. Second place was taken by a trio from Estelí, also in a typically folkloric style, but one that more approached ranchero style. The trio was composed of a guitarrón (giant guitar), accordion, and regular guitar. They had written the song themselves, about environmental destruction and each person's responsability for protecting our surroundings. It was very good.

The part that was dedicated to Salvador was ok, but the musical arrangement of his songs was not very good. Our friend Osiris participated in a quartet of singers performing a medly of Guardabarranco songs. The arranger totally deformed the music. Also performing (as soloists) were Alejandro Filio (of Mexico) and Luis Pastor (related to the Mejía Godoy family of Nicaragua). Filio was pretty good, nice guitar work and folksy songs.

Overall an enjoyable evening, even though not quite what we had expected. Osiris gave us tickets in the orchestra section, 4th row, so we had a good view of everything. We're going back to the theatre tonight. I'm sure our seats won't be quite as good.


One week in Managua

Today we left my Mom at the airport for her return to the States. It's been a full time, juggling tourism with getting settled in my new home.

Since last Saturday, we have:

- gone to la Isla de Ometepe, where we spent 2 nights at the Villa Paraiso Hotel (our favorite spot on the islands)
- watched a few members of a Zarzuela troupe from Spain, who performed at the Casa de los Tres Mundos in Granada
- saw our first procession of the Purísima (Immaculate Conception), which is a big deal here
- hosted a party at our house with some of our musician and other friends
- visited the Reserva Natural Chocoyero, a nature reserve that protects the nesting area of local parrots, as well as a large number of other wild animals--we saw a family of monkeys and guardabarranco del monte (Nicaragua's national bird)
- went to see a concert of Duo Guardabarranco, and were lucky enough to hear them play my favorite song, el Colibrí. You can find the words to many of their best known songs on the site; I've copied here the lyrics to Colibrí:

COLIBRI (Salvador Cardenal)
En el jardin de Dios creció una flor
que un colibrí sintio
voló sobre la tierra
campos de paz y guerra
pero no encontro su flor

El colibri volo sin ver atras
hacia el jardin de Dios
la flor del arcoiris no era la que buscaba
ni la de mas noble olor
ni la de increible olor

El colibri lloró detrás del sol
por su adorada flor
pero habitaba adentro
de su corazoncito y no la podia ver, no
y no la podia ver
la del nectar del amor

After Mom passed through security at the airport, Paulo & I went over to the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte to see their end of year graduation. In addition to the awarding of graduation certificates to the students, the theatre, music and dance groups gave presentations. For theatre they presented the Grasshopper and the Ant, the old fable about the importance of work. The kids did a great job, especially the girl playing the Grasshopper. Quite the actress!

Tonight we'll see another concert related to Guardabarranco, with multiple performers honoring Salvador Cardenal. With any luck we'll get to the film festival tomorrow, showcasing Nicaraguan short films produced over the past 10 years.


3 days in Managua, 3 hours with luggage

We arrived in Managua on Tuesday (3 days ago), but my luggage didn't arrive until today. Although it was annoying not have anything from the 4 giant suitcases I packed, I actually survived ok. The only things I really missed were clean pants and my sunscreen. And sunscreen I was able to borrow from my mom.

The rabbits seem to have survived the travel ok. If anyone knows how to get good hay in this part of the world, or names for equivalent hays from the USA, feel free to leave them in comments. This isn't my only effort and identifying a new source, but it's best not to leave any stone unturned, right? Anyway, Joan and Frida are settling in, and the zoo on the hill is intensely curious to know about these new "cats".

We're off to Ometepe for the weekend. I'll try to find a link to post here so you can see what that's like. There are some pictures from my last trip there, in on of the previous posts.

Otherwise, the past three days have been mostly about settling in to the house, visiting various markets, and eating. We also visited the Cultural Center which had a nice survey of Nicaraguan history and art. The tour guide was a friend of Paulo's that he knew from Chelsea; now he's the bilingual guide at the Center.


Photo album

I've got more pictures from Nicaragua here.