Here you see two of the volunteers, Renaldo in the green hat, and Erikka with the red headband. This was a particularly intense game of soccer and I took a quick break on the pretense of taking photos. When I wasn't busy being the goalie I tried playing offense and had some pretty fierce competitors. The only reason we were able to keep up with them is because we had sneakers and they were all playing in sandals and flip flops (not ideal when you're playing on a combination of cement, barbed wire, rocks, and dog poop) the game ended tied 1-1 with the volunteers exhausted and the kids eager for more.

A major part of the trip was getting to go out on the bookmobile to see some of the communities that the library is able to serve. In addition to having the library in San Juan del Sur, they also serve over 30 communities through the bookmobile, bringing books to some pretty rural areas.
You never know what you might find on the drive, in addition to fording a river in the pick up truck we also saw some oxen (this of course led to many jokes about Oregon Trail and dying of dysentery) along with beautiful vistas of rolling hills and jungles.
This in a sense is the bookmobile, a pickup truck full of volunteers, and another truck with three bins of books, some paperwork, and some snacks.
At one of the schools a mama pig and her babies came to check out the book selection. They were interested in the book "Lodo, Lodo, Lodo" ("Mud, Mud, Mud") but since they didn't return their books they couldn't check out any new ones.
All the children were on vacation during our stay so school was out of session when we went out on the bookmobile. Kids still made their way out to the sites though with their books to return and eager if shy expressions on their faces. The SJDS employees had an awesome system for checking the books in and out, so as volunteers we mainly did crafts with the kids, played soccer or Frisbee, did read alouds, or got the kids to read to us (this was my personal favorite).

Just a brief interruption...

Not to distract from all the warmth and beauty of Nicaragua, but I'm afraid I do have to pull everyone back to cold and snowy New England to briefly describe what I've been working on lately. I've been knitting for six years, but its only the last two winters that I've really gotten into it and done more than one project before losing my needles in some remote corner. My specialty seems to be hats, not because I'm particularly gifted at them, but because they're easy, fast, and a rewarding project to work on (generally I can knit a hat a day but sometimes things like class or work delay the process).
Before anyone starts to worry about the hat extravaganza, or how many heads I may have that I would need this many hats, let me explain that I've been knitting for kids in a hospital in Maine. My sister let me know that there was a knitting collective so the kids could go out and play with hats on their heads rather than towels. This turned out to be the perfect project for me, since I love to knit hats but have run out of heads to knit them for, so ta-da, a whole new crop of heads needing hand knit hats!
So far I have knit nine hats (my roommate decided she needed one so I knit one up as an early birthday present for her). My latest is the above pink cable knit wonder. I was lucky enough to find out that one of my friends is a knitter extraordinaire and she shared the joys of cable knitting with me, this was my first cable knit project and I'm pretty amazed at how it turned out, figuring out how to do the shaping at the top without a pattern caused me to curse a lot and get a headache, but it has no major holes and is in fact hat shaped!

For anyone who wants to experience the joys of knitting a hat, I'll share the secret of my success. Years ago I googled "how to knit a hat" and this jewel of a website popped up. It has stood by me through many a hat now and you can either follow the pattern exactly or get a little creative by altering the ribbing, adding color, or throwing a pattern in there. So check it out and start your own little hat knitting factory (although I'll tell you that the hands do start to get pretty sore by day 13 of the hat-a-day project!)



We only had a couple of hours in Granda but it was enough time for an amazing meal and to see what I was most interested in: the cathedral, below, and the Iglesia de Guadalupe, above.
The cathedral was repainted recently and the yellow practically glowed.
Here it is with a view of the hills in the back. Granada sits next to Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, and the 21st largest lake in the world. Lake Nicaragua is home to species found nowhere else on the globe, such as a freshwater shark. The Lake is also home to two volcanic islands, Ometepe and Zapetera.

The square by the cathedral had a number of stands selling jewelry, pottery, and dried stuffed frogs. This boy was taking a nap with his parrot until the opportunity of sales perked him up.
Here our chef for our amazing lunch poses besides his grill. Think juicy beef, amazing fresh fish, fried plantains, and great sauces full of fresh flavor. This was definitely one of the best meals we had the whole trip and I left feeling quite full and ready for a little walk.



On our way from Managua to Granada we stopped at a small library in Tipitapa. This ended up being our favorite site visit by far and an amazing story. A mother and daughter in the community saw a need for a library, and so they donated half of their house to this cause and now run the library out of one room.
It's clear that they do a wonderful job with community outreach when you see how confident these children are and how comfortable they were in the library. I sat to read them one book and soon had many more piled on my lap. They were very patient with my slow pronunciation although I did elicit more than a few giggles.
In addition to story time there were lots of kids making calendars and I had fun passing them glue and buttons and watching their very careful selection of macaroni. This site visit was even hotter than the last and even though it was hard to tear ourselves away from all the hugs and laughter the air-conditioned van was once again a big relief.



The next morning we had an hour or so to walk around Chinendega and take in the sites. It happened to be the Day of the Three Kings, and there was a performance of traditional folk dance that we were able to stumble upon.
The costumes were beautiful in motion and created fantastic patterns as the dancers spun and twirled.
The dance performance ended up being the highlight of our brief walking tour, and after being hounded by street children trying to sell us gum we made our way back to the hotel.

From the hotel we packed up and then made our way to a nearby library for another site visit. There were very few children here and the visit had a much more subdued feeling, drinking juice boxes and speaking with the director. Even with the laid back visit, the heat soon had us all exhausted and ready for an air-conditioned van ride back to Managua for the night.



Our trip officially began (to me) when we arrived at a little school in a town outside of Chinendega. Anxiously awaiting our arrival were approximately 160 children, several mothers and teachers, a couple hungry dogs, and one very creepy clown. The sight of so many children waiting for us made me a little nervous and anxious to get out of the van. I had fears of being swarmed by children who I could not communicate with, afterall to call my Spanish skills dismal would be high praise, however these fears were soon proven to be baseless. The children were so sweet and earnest, scouching their little plastic chairs closer to you inches at a time, or just flinging themselves at your mid-section for a fantastic bear hug.

Throughout the course of the trip we began referring to adorable children as either "nibblets" or "snatchers" (as in "that child is so adorable I would like to run away with them, they are a snatcher") and this little girl is the perfect illustration.

As soon as we had arrived, the deejay started the games, there was musical chairs, wheelbarrow races, sack races, egg on spoon races, and lots of prizes for all. When it was time for a group of Simmons students to partake in the egg on spoon races we had a brief debate about whether or not to put the spoons in our mouths before quickly deciding against this, we pretended not to understand as the children admonished us for using our hands.
Please note the creepy clown who presided over the days events!

After lots of games, a raffle drawing, and several read alouds, we passed out chocolate milk and nutra-grain bars to the kids. I paused at one point to practice arithmetic with some boys on their newly won calculator, and with prizes and food in hand they soon started to wander off, some having a long walk home.


Field Trip

The morning after we arrived we drove to Chinandega where we were going to be visiting a library and school. We crammed all nine of us in a van, along with the driver, and two staff members from the library and drove north of Managua.
The view was beautiful with great sites of Lake Managua, crazy painted buses, and volcanoes. While I thought this drive offered more than it's fair share of lovely sites, it was not until later in our trip when we saw more of the forest and rolling hills that I felt I had a sense of how truly spectacular the Nicaraguan country side is.


Welcome to Nicaragua!

"Hello, come on in, make yourself at home. You wouldn't happen to have a cracker handy? Eh?"

Starting on January 14th I was in Nicaragua with a group of fellow Library Science students to volunteer at the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Publica y Movil. The trip went very well, and was one of my best travel experiences so far. For the next week or so I'll be covering the trip, all the great sites and food, and some of my thoughts. Let's start off with the welcoming committee...

"Hola, so nice to have you, let me preen for your photo"

I flew into Managua on the fourth, and we stayed at the Hotel Camino Reale that night. It was right next to the airport, has amazing breakfast, and is beautiful. As an added bonus they have parrots, deer, and a turkey. What better way to say "welcome to our country" than with cute and fuzzy animals. Although the deer appears to be a little cheeky, sticking it's tongue out for the camera!