I headed to Nicaragua with the school program on October 22. Before we went we learned alot of Nicaragua's history, I'll give a brief overview:
Settled in 1524, independent in 1821. Since the independence they had a group of liberals from Leon and Conservatives in Granada that feuded this led to civil war in 1840s and 50s. Where William Walker(from southern US) was invited to help the liberals in 1855 and then made himself president in 1856, which US President Pierce recognized as a legitimate governmate of Nicaragua. However, Walker ws very disliked and this led to a national campaign that drove him out in 1857. US occupied Nicaragua from 1912-1933 and supported the conservates in the continuing feud. The support was mainly because US didnt like the liberal president, Zelaya cause he restriced Nicaragua's natural resources and US wanted control of a proposed canal in Nicaragua. Thus in 1914 there was Bryan-Chamorro treaty signed that would allow the US control of the proposed canal. Then there was a guerilla war (1927-1933) against the conservatives and US marines led by Sandino. Sandino was killed in 1934 by Somoza and thus began Somoza era(1933-1979). There was a Sandista Revolution in 1979 and they took control. The US under Reagan suspended there aid to Nicaragua in 1981 and supported the Contra(group against Sandistas). This led to the Contra-Iran scandal where the US profits from selling weapons to Iran were being diverted to the Contras in 1986 which was after the ban on military aid in 1985.The support from the US continued until 1990 when the Costa Rica president Sanches dissolved the situation by a Peace Plane.
Thus they have a pretty rocky history that still divides the country and you can see the influence the US has had, ie baseball being the most popular/played sport there...
So when we arrived we headed to Ometepe Island situated in Lake Nicaragua and stayed at Hacienda Merida, which was right on the lake. The next day we visited an organic coffee farm and say how labor intesive it is and how the process works. Further down the property lies Petrogliphs that were from indigenous tribes that lived from 300bc to 800ad. Which were pretty amazing to be in the presence of that and try to decipher the language of the people. We left to go to a natural spring, Ojo de Agua, which was incredible. The next day, sautrday, is when we did our Tropical Ecology Fex at our hostel in Herida Magdalena. We originally were trying to assess the native(mostly chiclids) verse non native (tilapia) species of fish however there is a certain type of net that is needed to catch the non-native species and we were unaware of that. So we had to fishermen the night before catch fish one close to shore(littoral zone) and the other far from shore(pelagic zone). The fishermen then brought us the fish and we identified and weighed them. These fish was something the fishermen were going to use to sell later but I still had a hard time stomaching the process. The fish were failing around still alive and looked like they were suffering, a stayed and did my part then cried for an hour(haha im a sissy). Just not down with the hurting of animals for science sake even if they still were going to die anyway. Anyway later that day we went to a San Ramon Biological Station and hiked the Montane Forest of Volcan Maderas.
We then packed up to leave the island and left for Granada stopping in Rivas on the way. Granada was very similar to Sevilla, Spain. Granada had originally been destroyed and they have been rebuilding it to resemble what it once was in colonial times. It has very bright colors and has a street where they have restaurants where the seats are right on the road. This is where I encountered the poverty of Nicaragua. Half of Nicaragua's population live on less the a dollar a day. They are highly illiterate. Most of the kids I saw beg for your food or money and some result to other tactics. (An Argentenian artisan was beat up and had all his jewlery stolen right infront of our hotel and midnight). We volunteered at a place called Carita Felices where they meet three times a week and provide the kids with a meal. They also perform a talent show which we were able to participate(my friends and I sung In the Jungle from Lion King). It was really sad to see that there were nearly 400 kids there. And that is the fastest I have ever seen kids eat. Later we recognized some of them from the street that will come up to you at restaurants and not leave you alone till you give them food or money. I become attached to the girls there, they all wanted to try taking a picture with my camera. It was actually funny one of the times I was out at a restaurant and brought my own food(humus that I had packed from costa rica) and a kid was begging for food so I just gave it to him and he tried it right there and gave it right back. I guess he couldnt be that hungry.
We visited Managua which was where we saw the Historical Center(Palacio Nacional, Presedential House, and Old Catedral) It was weird cause they were all very spread out and it didnt feel much like a city cause alot of it was destroyed by the wars.
Tuesday the 27th we went to Volcan Mombacho which we could see four craters and little islets in Lake Nicaragua and supposedly you can see Costa Rica from up there too. It is 1345 meters(4,412 feet) above sea level. They hired and trained young people who live in the surrounding areas of the Mombacho volcano, thus, giving them the chance for learning how to protect their natural neighborhood. This hike lasted three hours and was pretty intense, everyone passed out when we got back to the station. Wednesday we went to Leon to do surveys to assess people knowledge/opinions on climate change. I wish we had more time there, Leon was somewhat of a univerity town and seemed like it had a lot to see and do and was cheaper than Granada. Thursday we headed to Masaya, first to the artisan market there, and then to the Volcan Masaya National Park. Where we saw the main Santiago crater and toured lava tube caves that were used by indegenous people for ceremonies. Then we returned home Friday the 30th. Nicaragua was a really good experience and it was the first time I felt like a travelled to a country that was unsafe. Which makes me intrigued for my further travels cause I feel like it will open up my eyes to things I have never seen or experience in a good way and inspire me to give back and appreciate the things we have.