Tuesday, April 28, 2015

There's absolutely no reason to go to Southern California.

Seriously, the Coachella Valley is disgusting. 

Look at this gross view of green, green grass and mountains in the background.

There's nothing to do or see and I can't understand why people live there. 

The Palm Springs Modern Art Museum had absolutely nothing exciting in it. (My dad's face says it all.)

And this Liza Minnelli impersonator at a drag bar was so boring.

And this musician played nothing good or moving in the middle of a street fair.

You'll only be disappointed by the thousands of unique restaurants, El Paseo shopping center, golf courses and tennis courts for miles, hiking paths and downtown centers, museums in Palm Springs and more spas than you could ever visit in a lifetime. So really, don't ever visit.

The golf courses are just okay.

The food is never delicious.

Ugly bunnies live on golf courses, completely ruining your game.

After last week, I never want to go back.**

**Except that I do, like, now. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Five Things

Seeing Mombacho Volcano on the drive back from Ometepe.
I had the weirdest dream last night. I dreamt that I went to Nicaragua for three months and made all these new friends from all over the world and had a great time. The internet was terrible and it was really hot, but we drank cold beer, smoothies, and icy Nica libres. My house was filled with lots of vegetarians, and no one ever knew the time. I sometimes felt like my mosquito net would strangle me. I met these adorable Nicaraguan kids and hoped that I could help them in some small way. 
Then I woke up, and it wasn't a dream. Now I'm back in Abilene feeling so grateful for the last three months, and wondering what it is that I'll do next.

Here are five things that made me happy during my last few days in Granada.

My name in Russian. Thanks Beth!

Refrigerator art.

A quiet, slow morning in Casa Libertad.

The most amazing chocolate banana pancakes from Garden Cafe. What a great last meal in Nicaragua! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Questionable Biking Skills on Ometepe

Watching from the ferry, I was already impressed with the island of Ometepe as it got closer and closer. A large island made of up of two volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas, Ometepe is in the southern part of Lake Nicaragua and just a half-day's journey from Granada. It's become a tourist destination not only for travelers, but also for Nicaraguans who want some beach time away from Managua or Leon or Granada.

Cristina and I arrived late afternoon last Thursday, and were looking forward to seeing the beautiful island and relaxing by the water. After the ferry docked, we took a tuc-tuc to our hostel, Finca Magdalena, almost on the other side of the island. That night, we ate a very typical Nicaraguan meal at the hostel and shared a liter of Tona. Cristina was climbing the Maderas volcano the next morning, so it was an early and quiet night.

La lancha, or small ferry, across.

The two volcanoes of Ometepe.
The next day, I had a leisurely breakfast at the hostel and began to make my way to Ojo de Agua about 10am. Ojo de Agua is a natural spring in the middle of the island that they've made into a swimming pool-like attraction. Our plan was to meet up there that afternoon. I began to walk over toward Ojo de Agua and quickly realized that it was a hella far way away. I though I'd better rent a scooter or bike or something or else I'd never get there.

While I was thinking about that, I noticed the best view of Concepcion in the distance. Stopping to take a picture, I heard a motorcycle slow behind me. A man stopped and asked in Spanish if I wanted a ride somewhere. I told him I was looking for a place to rent bikes or scooters, and if he knew of one. He said he did and to hop on. I reluctantly got on, knowing that if I started to feel unsafe I could just jump off the scooter. We drove for about 5 minutes before passing a place, and since his questions started to feel a little personal and probing, I yelled "Aqui!!" and he stopped. I jumped off and threw a quick "gracias" in his direction, and began to look for the owner of the bike rental shop. Honestly, he was probably just a friendly guy giving me a ride on his island, but as a woman traveling alone one can never be too sure. I could write a whole blog post about that topic alone, so that's all I'll say for now.

These pretty, friendly birds were everywhere.
The view of Concepcion, right before the guy on the bike stopped.
A few minutes later, pedaling down the road on my pink and silver bike, I was the envy of my 10-year-old self on such a beautiful mode of transportation. The breeze refreshed my whole body, and it felt good to use some muscles that have been practically dormant for the past couple months. Then I decided to change the gears on my bike and everything went wrong. I heard the awful grinding and twisting of metal, and my right pedal stuck. It wouldn't make a revolution and I was too scared to break it even more if I forced it. I got off to see what the problem was, which I realize now is completely futile because I know next to nothing about bikes.

I looked up at a friendly-faced security guard a few yards away, hoping that he could help. He could, and after a few minutes he had the chain untangled and the bike working again. I offered him my towel to clean his oil-covered hands, but he refused, saying that they were too dirty. As he went to find his own towel, I noticed the nice, grand-looking hotel that he was meant to be guarding. With sweat soaking through my dress, it was time for a rest. I parked my bike and went in to the restaurant for lunch and a cappuccino. Checking my map, I found I was only about half-way to Ojo de Agua and it was already after midday. Too far for me to bike in one day (except for this one time last year). I decided to stay at the hotel's beachfront that afternoon and told Cristina to meet me there. So we relaxed by the beach the rest of the afternoon and would hit Ojo de Agua the next morning.

Finally relaxing at the beach.
At one point, I looked over and saw this herd of cattle drinking from the lake! I forgot that it is freshwater and they can do that without dying.
We rode back to the hostel on my bike in total Nica style with Cristina pedaling and me sitting side-saddle on the bar in front of her. Some of our friends from Esperanza had arrived at our hostel that afternoon, and we spent the evening playing cards on the deck and eating a delicious dinner while the sun set behind the volcano.

I mean.
We did go--by cab--to Ojo de Agua the next day before heading back to Granada. It was hot (what else is new?), so I swam in the cold, refreshing water as long as I could, and read on the side for the rest of it. Though we had to get back that night, I would have happily spent another day on the beach with my toes in the lake, or on a porch somewhere watching the sun set.

Ojo de tourists.

Cristina sneakily took this of me lounging in the water. I clearly didn't want to go.