Boat in front of Concepción volcano on Ometepe island in Nicaragua

Ometepe / Nicaragua · 2014   snoozing volcano

  

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   Nicaragua was love whichever what way you looked at it. First sight, last sight, every angle angled directly at my heart, my gut, my memories. Met a lot of people there, and some of them would stick against all geographical and temporal odds.

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a glimpse

 
Fumes at Masaya volcano in Nicaragua

glimpse: THIN CRUST | Making for but one skinny percent of our planet’s mass, the crust we walk on is a fine layer in every sense of the word. All life we know happens on this flimsy stage that separates us from an unknown underworld we have never seen or touched. Masaya volcano in Nicaragua is a portal to that all-consuming furnace beneath our feet and beyond our shallow conceptualization of the orb we live on. A vent for earth’s hot breath, Masaya constantly exhales sour sulfur dioxide that fuses seamlessly with the sweet clouds above – heaven and hell in lukewarm embrace.

nature painting with neon colors
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Ometepe / Nicaragua · 2014   green king

Green lizzard sitting on a stone in Nicaragua
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Granada / Nicaragua · 2014   flirtacious architecture

 

Concepción, Ometepe / Nicaragua · 2014   green fringe

 

 

 

 

 

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places / stories

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Granada / Another Heart Lost

Rooftops with shingles in Granada, Nicaragua

 
Granada / Nicaragua · 2014   terracotta tricks



 

I’d already lost my heart and mind to one Granada, so I wonder how it could happen again, when I had never recuperated any of it. This here Granada was a few centuries younger, a few colors richer, a few degrees more flirtatious. There was no way around making it a home for a few hundred moments.

It had been a moment since I’d last worked with a nonprofit on the ground, and so I signed up as a volunteer with
La Esperanza Granada. The night I arrived from Costa Rica, only two of my roommates were home, snug and coupled on the couch. I would see Nora again about a year later in Ankara, and Joel pretty much every year since, from the Philippines to Tokyo to South Africa to Montreal and Portland. We hit it off like two firecrackers in a pot.

I met the other volunteers over the next weeks, little by little, trickle, trickle, and I could never really tell how many there were because some would come at you all at once like ants and others would stick to their niches like roly-polies, and there were different volunteer houses and frequent relocations. I made quite a few friends and half-friends and such things.




 

Woman looking at Granada in Nicaragua from a lookout point

 
Granada / Nicaragua · 2014   her here, then



 

Poverty had a pretty firm grip in and around Granada, and La Esperanza sent volunteers into local schools as classroom-assistants. They were directed by ayudantes, local university students who got scholarships through the organization. It was definitely more of a community-based inside-out approach and less of an agenda-based outside-in setup, and there were other indicators for the healthiness of La Esperanza’s non-invasive efforts: they were organized and structured and executed with breadth and foresight. As always, I had some favorites among the kids – which you are not supposed to say out loud, so I write it here – but we never got too close to them, not necessarily by design, but by the part-time nature of our role.



 

A colorful house with patio in Granada, Nicaragua

 
Granada / Nicaragua · 2014   colorful compound



 

The remainder of the time I spent on my freelance nonsense, and, mostly, on living. Daytrips, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, rice and beans out of banana leaves, shaved ice cream, warm strolls through picturesque nights, deep conversations and deeper parties. Days to remember.



 

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Laguna de Apoyo / Sweet Water

Two women in front of Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua

 
Laguna de Apoyo / Nicaragua · 2014   lagoonists



 

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To be sure, the swim was formidable. And maybe no other has left as many ripples on my brain fluid. But when you are in it, the water is just water, not lagoon water. When you’re in it, it could be any body of water that you’re in. I have to insist, this lagoon is sweeter still from afar.
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Laguna de Apoyo / Nicaragua · 2014   blue crater

I know you see it too.
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Laguna de Apoyo / Nicaragua · 2014   one, with nature

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Masaya Volcano / Pacha Mama Talking and Accidental Hitchhiking

A rainy road leading towards Masaya volcano in Nicaragua

 
Masaya Volcano / Nicaragua · 2014   road rain



 

Fumes coming out of Masaya volcano in Nicaragua

 
Masaya Volcano / Nicaragua · 2014   sky terrain



 

I bet if you heard Pacha Mama talk for the first time you’d be surprised. Her voice is a lot deeper than most think. At Masaya volcano you could hear it, that sexy, smoky hoarseness with the tangy sulfur twist.



 

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Masaya Volcano / Nicaragua · 2014   sulfur throat



 

 
Masaya Volcano / Nicaragua · 2014   on top of a tiny piece of world



 

On the way back I accidently hitchhiked. I was trying to flag down a bus, but the car in front misread my finger and pulled onto the shoulder. Free ride, good ride. Nice car too. An SUV that glided across the highway like a pillow going downhill on angel downs. Turned out to be some high ranking ambassy employee. He was mighty nice and mighty important. Generously nice, bloatedly nice. Said I could call anytime. Meant it too, perhaps, but knew for a fact that this was as much first encounter as it was last. Ah, well, thank you good sir.


 

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Ometepe / 8

A waterfall on Ometepe island in Nicaragua

O-me-te-pe. Even the name sounded like an 8. It was an unusual shape for an island, but it made perfect sense when you saw these twin volcanoes climbing out of the lake in tandem, one slightly more corpulent than the other. The whole thing was doused in green, even the lizards. It had a primeval element that was somewhat cozy.

 
Ometepe / Nicaragua · 2014   waterwall



 

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Ometepe / Nicaragua · 2014   horizon exit



 

 
Ometepe / Nicaragua · 2014   dormant colossus



 

Nicaragua has been calling me back ever since and I always reply: “You don’t have to shout, I hear you. On my way, someday.”

 

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related

reads | travel

What You Perceive & What It Is: Volunteering Outlook vs. Actual Impact

 

subjective vs. objective evaluations of volunteering results

...it could be a little step on a very individual level, like a kid having an aha moment while learning simple math; or it could be the large scale implementation of a project that brings about systemic and sustainable empowerment of a community... read more

reads | travel

How to Find Free Volunteering Opportunities around the World

avoiding costly and ethically precarious voluntourism agencies

...rev the search engine, skip over the voluntourism industry and dig all the way down to the grassrootss... read more

photos | landscapes

Americas

wilderness heart

The glaciers looked like petrified tsunamis, and the psychedelic lagoons like glitches, and that altitude canyon like an abyss in the sky. see more

photos | urban

Central America

rusty realms on tomorrow's verge

yesterday’s heritage decaying gracefully while the future is arriving see more

 

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elsewhere

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in Central America