I am reading, ´´Dark Star Safari´´ at the moment, during which the author, Paul Theroux, discusses at length the differences between various people and cultures of Africa. His writing is stellar and vivid. It has made my journal writing on this trip more vibrant. Thinking like Theroux, I´ve spent a bit of time considering what Nicaraguans may be known for.
Is their jungle beautiful? Absolutely. It is some of the greenest, most lush land I have ever visited. Today we climbed high in the Datanli-Diablo Jungle Preserve, hoping at each step to see one of the many monkeys or jaguars that roam the park. Alas, Nicaragua cannot be known for its ecological wonders because of their trash policies. Better yet, their lack of trash policies. They jokingly tell foreigners they live ´´like pigs´´ and don´t care that they throw all their trash just outside of their homes. Occasionally, they burn this trash, leaving a heavy plastic putrid smell in the air, matched only by the leaded gasoline busses clugging by.
Is their cuisine noteworthy? Yes. They have fresh fruit and vegetables and items I have never seen before. Their markets overflow with produce in every shade of the rainbow, in every size and shape. They have some of the best beef I¬¥ve ever eaten –cows without hormones are skinny vacas– and they grill chicken and pork to perfection. Even the tortillas are heavy and wonderful. Yet, they lack what makes Mexican food my favorite –spice. The food here is plentiful and delicious, but without spunk.
No, I¬¥ve decided Nicaraguans should be known for their mouths. They are by far the most talkative people I have ever met. They constantly tell jokes, talk about their political history, talk about their families, the lack of rain, the upcoming elections. It doesn¬¥t matter what the topic is, a Nicaraguan can talk it to death. I listened patiently as possible today as one man nearly ruined my jungle hike by pulling my arm every few feet to describe each plant in detail. Before my time ran out I learned a half dozen uses for several types of local wood. I was so wishing he would just go away that I considered my own uses for this precious export — bow and arrow, wooden mouth guard, planks on which to run back to my hotel…
There is something to the rainforest. Everything about it was exotic. The leaves on the pathway through the mountain were a thousand shades of brown, yellow and green. The birds calling to each other high from the canopy above sounded like a Mayan CD you´d hear in Starbucks. I kept shaking my head realizing this wasn´t a soundtrack. Climbing high above Lake Apanas, we finally reached the summit and watched the sun break through the clouds, sending golden beams down to the green forest floor. It was nothing short of enchanting. When we returned to our cars, the forest warden´s wife and daughter had just finished roasting fresh coffee and offered us each a small cup, boiled with sugar. This sweet, syrupy coffee hit the spot and could give Gatorade a run for its money.
Nicargua is a beautiful country. I am happy to be making friendships here and look forward to returning.