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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Earth Angels III

Now, for the next installment provided by our generous contributor, David. He’s in Nicaragua, engaging in a (self-motivated) youth art-education undertaking that he calls The Angel Art Project.

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“The Birthday Party,” by David Chatowsky

Yesterday, March 15th, I took the bus from Nagarote to La Paz Centro. There, I was met by good ol’ Jairo, his 6 year old son Alexander, and Jesus, a friend of Jairo. We went up the main street of La Paz Centro to the hotel where our friend Erica was staying, and sat down in the shade. Sitting in the shade, talking and eating while the wind cools you is a big Sunday past time. So there we sat, waiting for Erica to come out of the hotel and join us under a little canopy. Erica soon came outside to let us know she was feeling a little under the weather. “I think it was something I ate,” were her exact words. Jesus said she was hung over.

So we sat there for awhile talking about the local happenings. Then Erica said she was going to a birthday party for her uncle’s daughter, who had just turned one. “The Mayor of La Paz Centro will be there and you could meet her,” Erica said. I wanted to go and meet the Mayor, so off we went.

The Birthday party was a sight to behold. Never had I seen a bigger one. It took place in the shade of 300 mango trees. The trees belong to Erica´s grandmother and have been providing Erica´s family with Mangos for over three generations. They told me how that week alone they had collected over 12,000 mangos and were expecting at least 12,000 more in what the locals call a “charge,” when the fruit is all ready to be harvested. The trees have mutiple charges in a fruiting season, while the mangos are no bigger than the palm of my hand.

March is mango season in Nicaragua, and the ripe fruit is everywhere. At least two or three times a day I see someone eating a mango.

There were at least 60 adults at this birthday party and 50 children, give or take, all sitting around white plastic tables under the mango trees. Erica found our table, which Jairo and I picked up and moved closer to the trunk a mango tree. They wanted to be in the deepest part of the shade. “We are bored of the sun,” Jairo said. So there we sat under the mango tree, near a tent that housed the birthday cake, and an old trailor filled with gifts, and a stereo system blairing local music. In front of us lay all the people sitting around their own white tables.

Soon a liter of Coca-Cola was brought to the table along with a bowl of ice. Then a plate of food, beef in a chutney sauce with a small salad, and a piece of bread. All the cooking was done over a wood fire in a small building on the edge of the grove. The food and drink were brought to the tables by local women.

A clown appeared and performed tricks and games for the children, a large pinata, which looked like a Strawberry Shortcake doll, was lowered from a mango tree, and while the children were beating Strawberry Shortcake a band showed up in a white pick up truck. Just as Shortcake was giving up her ghost, the band started to blare and the children shouted with glee. “The Mayor is here,” Erica told me. I looked up and saw a tall women who was dressed in a muticolor blouse. After awhile Erica said, “Now is a good time to talk with her, because later she will be busy.” So talk to her we did. Well, actually, it was Jairo and Erica who did all the talking. They told her about my Angel Art Program, and how I wanted to help out the poorest schools in La Paz Centro. The mayor said she was interested in the program, and that we would meet later to discuss at what schools I could help out.

After we met the mayor, but before we left the mango farm, I did some video recording of the party, and then we went on our way. I recorded Jairo explaining about a few other native fruit trees. We got into a taxi and went back to the hotel in La Paz Centro. What a lovely, tasty, beautiful, productive party that was.

Find all of David’s reports from Nicaragua here at the index.

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Earth Angels II

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Report from David Chatowsky:

My First Five Minutes in Nicaragua

I arrived in Sandino International Airport in Managua, Nicaragua, at 1:15 pm on Saturday the 14th. I went through Customs fine and was soon in the lobby talking to my good friend and interpreter, Jairo Cortez. Waiting with Jairo was Erica, a beautiful Nicaraguan women who wants to be involved in my Angel Art Program. After the usual shaking of hands and exchanging of greetings, we headed to a waiting taxi. On the way, Jairo and I started talking about the time he stayed up much too late at a house I was staying at during a fiesta.

It happened like this: After the festivities were over, Jairo told me in a very serious and “bravado” way that he was going to go out into the night to catch a ride back to his hometown. I told him it was too late and he should stay with me, but he laughed and said, “you don’t tell me to stay. I am a Nicaraguan and I can flag down a friend at any hour of the night!” Well, after saying this, he swaggered out into the night only to return a half hour later with his hat in hand. In my mind’s eye, I can still see him sleeping off the fiesta on my tile floor with a small piece of concrete as a pillow.

We were laughing over this story when we came to our taxi waiting in the airport parking lot. I thought I had a good suggestion. “I’d better sit in the back, because if the cops see me they might flag down the taxi and get their share of the gringo factor.” The gringo factor is a common problem in Central America. As you can imagine, the locals raise their prices to take advantage of the gringo.

“No,” Jairo said. “Sit in the front, and if we get into any trouble I will talk our way out of it.”

Here we go. As he is saying these very words, he opens the taxi door with a loud bang and scratches the truck parked next to it. Just then, a desperate-looking Nicaraguan man eating a piece of fruit walks by & hears the bang & sees the scratches & spies the gringo sitting in the taxi & starts yelling for the police. Sure enough, the police soon arrive and a large investigation is started.

The parking lot is filled with “witnesses,” and the policemen start writing diligently in a notebook. They look up only to offer a hard glance at our group. At this point, I start to pray a simple prayer to protect the minds of the police from the greed that may try to creep in. Erica, the young woman who had come to meet me, speaks to the police.

“I am very nervous,” Erica says to them, “I have never been involved with the police. Now, please tell me how much you want for the scratch and we will be on our way.”

“Two-hundred cordobas,” said the truck’s owner.

Erica pays the man and we take off for the town of Nagarote, with me in the back of the taxi… where I should have been stashed in the first place. On the way to Nagarote, Jairo says, “Two-hundred cordobas is equal to ten dollars and I thought it was cheap, so I didn’t say a word.” I thought that had been a good idea, as he had contributed enough to the episode already.

We soon made it to Nagarote, where I was greeted by a sea of smiling faces. The next day, I took the bus to La Paz Central. It is Jairo’s hometown. Once here, I met the Mayor at a birthday party held in the shade of three-hundred mango trees.

But that story is for next time.

Photograph above is of President Clinton arriving in Managua, March 8, 1999. How much “gringo factor” he received and/or dished out is not known. Find all of David’s reports from Nicaragua here at the index; when he and I met is here.

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