Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Waaaay before Ukraine came Nicaragua, the land of lakes and volcanoes. I went to Nicaragua in 2002 because I was too scared to visit Columbia solo, and Nicaragua sounded far enough off the beaten track.

Back then there was a Spanish school for foreigners that let you transfer your studies between different cities. My first school was in the northwest city of León Santiago de los Caballeros, where you could sandboard down a volcano and hang out with university students. The second school was in a quiet beach town in the south, San Juan del Sur.

After a month in San Juan del Sur, I wanted to build a little casita and live there forever.

And ever.

But that didn't happen. Instead I went back to the US to work and go to school, trying to get back to Nicaragua every couple of years. These pictures are probably from 2005, when I got my first digital camera.

San Juan del Sur was a fun place to be. There were all kinds of people passing through: surfers, millionaires, retirees, workers in search of a break. The old man who went on a passionate one-man crusade against Taca airlines after they lost his luggage. The girl who got drunk and made out with her Spanish teacher in the back of the minibus. An engineer who wanted to help build wells in the countryside. Medical students who volunteered at a local clinic and went dancing on weeknights. 

Pelican Eyes, a hillside resort. The view's the same but now the price is almost $200/night!

On this trip I did a homestay with a family who had a front room filled with rocking chairs and a shack for cooking out back. The home was always filled with kids :)

It was a short walk every morning to the school, where each student's teacher would be waiting to start the lesson. I remember mornings spent in endless verb conjugations and asking teachers to explain the lyrics to Mexican rock songs. The school was across the street from the port, a distracting backdrop of palm trees and fishing boats.

In the afternoons, the school would usually organize an outing: a local beach, a cooking lesson, a dance class, a trip to another city, something fun to counteract a morning of sitting.

L- Lake Nicaragua and Ometepe Island. R- Church in Rivas, I think?
Beach along the Pacific Ocean
Someone's monkey and a boat named "monkey".

 One afternoon we even bought a piñata and took it to a local orphanage.

What was really cool about the students is that everyone wanted to help. There wasn't a huge party infrastructure around at that time, so the people who came were people who cared more about Nicaragua than barhopping. Maybe it's the same nowadays, I hope. There are more charitable organizations than ever in the country and lots of chances to do something good.

That year I met an Alaskan who had taken the plunge and bought a farm near the coast. She invited me and another student out for a birthday party one hot afternoon.

Her farm was MASSIVE. She saddled up horses for us and we rode to the highest point on her land, a piece of land so high that we could see all the way out to Lake Ometepe and its resident volcanoes on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

That's all I remember of 2005 San Juan del Sur. Say what you want about social networks, but it's sure a lot easier to keep in touch with people and save memories. It'd be cool to know what happened to the Alaskan farmer, if any of the medical students ever returned, what the teachers decided to do after the school closed, how my homestay family has fared. It was a good, exciting time, though and maybe I'll find out some of those answers on this upcoming trip!

What do you think about Nicaragua?
Have you been? Would you go?
Would you try a language school abroad for your language of choice?


  1. Beautiful pictures! When will you be in Nicaragua? We'll be there during our September Central America trip :)

    1. Hola Chelsea! :) I'll be there only at the very beginning of the month. Will you be in Central America by then or still traveling elsewhere?

    2. Oh what a pity! We're not headed to Central America until the middle of September :( Can't wait to read your stories though!