Sorry for not posting, it's been a busy few days!
After a long day, I went on the last airport run with Ian and we picked up my bag along with the last five volunteers. We went home, settled in, and spent a little time just talking and getting to know each other before going to sleep. For future reference, the names of the other volunteers are Courtney, Alexandria, Kaylee, Molly, Jessica, Kira, Sean, Adam, and Paul. The last vol, Rich, flew in on Saturday while we were in León.
So around 8:30, Adam (the PD, not the vol) drove us to the Managua bus terminal so that we could find a bus to León. Finding a bus here essentially means getting in a random, privately-owned microbus and haggling a price with the owner/driver. Rather sketchy, and I definitely wouldn't recommend trying it unless you speak Spanish really well (which I don't). We got to León a little over an hour later and checked into the hostel we were staying in, one called Bigfoot. After putting some deposits down for locks and putting up our stuff, we walked across the road to a bar called Via Via and got a table to eat and watch the US-England World Cup match. I have to say, despite a poor showing in the first 10 or 15 minutes, I was impressed with the Americans' performance. Not a bad showing at all. When Green let the ball through to allow the American goal, we all went insane, jumping up and screaming and running around. The Nicaraguans were amused. After the match finished 1-1, we wrapped up lunch (mediocre food, not surprising) and set out to walk around the city. We saw some cool churches (one was built in 1784 which is really old for here) and then walked through some tourist-y shops and stands in the main city square. I resisted the urge to spend money on useless crap. We headed back to the hostel and got cleaned up for dinner. While hanging in the lobby, we saw a couple people playing a jumbo-sized game of Jenga (the blocks were huge and they played in the middle of the floor) and got talked into joining in. We ended up making friends with Marcus, and Englishman from outside Nottingham, and his two friends from New Zealand whose names I never quite caught. Without any real destination for dinner, we walked out to find a place and ended up at this Italian/Mediterranean kind of place. I played it safe (although mostly I was just trying to play it inexpensive) and got a nice little pizza margherita after me and Molly split some papas fritas belges (their fries down here are great: all Belgian-style, thick and hand-cut). We then headed back to the hostel and grabbed some drinks in the bar. After a drink or two Marcus convinced me to go across the street to Via Via with him, the two New Zealanders, and another English girl named Rose. Of course (for those of you who know me well), my accent was out in full force, which they found terribly amusing. We stayed at Via Via talking, laughing, and drinking until last call (which was at midnight, sadly) at which time they went out to go dancing and I went back to the hostel and promptly passed out.
So after a somewhat slow wakeup, we grabbed a quick breakfast and hopped on a bus to drive out to Cerro Negro, the world's most active cinder cone volcano. Bigfoot hostel hosts these trips to go out to Cerro Negro and go "volcano boarding," which is essentially throwing yourself down the side of an active volcano on a piece of plywood. We drove out to the volcano, accompanied by a nice Canadian couple and two of our other English friends from the hostel named George and the notorious Tom (who was affectionately nicknamed "sex on a stick" by the girls...see the pictures and you'll know why). After a 45 minute hike up the mountain carrying all of our gear (a jumpsuit and a "volcano board"), we stood on the summit and looked down over the run. It was absolutely terrifying...the first half of the run was at like a 50 degree angle, and the second half was around a 41 degree grade. From the top, you couldn't even see the second half, it just lipped off so that it looked like a cliff. I ended up getting in line to go third with Kelly (they sent us two at a time to set up a little race). I got going pretty fast at first but then about halfway down the first part of the run I couldn't get my board to go fast anymore and it kept going crooked on me. Once I (finally) got to the bottom of the run, I looked underneath the board and figured out that I broke the plastic sheet on the bottom of the board that made it go. Bummer. Fortunately, the guides had a cooler of fresh cold beers waiting for us to drown my sorrows. After the ride back to the hostel, we got some mojitos at the bar and packed our stuff. The ride back went fast seeing as how I passed out for most of it. Sunday night was spent relaxing and eating grilled cheese with everyone at the house. After some good man time bonding in the yoga room, we hit the sack.
The morning started around 9 when we got up and had breakfast, then all got together for our Monday morning meeting, which is a weekly thing at the Manna house. We met Amira, the Nicaragua Director for Manna, and went over how programs work. After a quick tour of the city, we (me, Paul, Alexandria, Courtney, and Kira) drove out to the Land, a huge complex owned by Holly and Kathy August, to do our homework help hour. I saw Diana, a girl I met last time I was down here, and we spent most of the time playing games because she didn't have any homework. After that, we watched Leah and Jan Margaret teach their elementary English class. I tried my best, but I definitely am not cut out to play any role in primary education. I don't have the patience for it. After programs, we came home for dinner. We went on an Onion run (the grocery store is called La Unión = the Onion) for snacks and drinks around 9 and then spent the rest of the night in the poolhouse playing guitar, listening to music, and bonding. Good times.
Today we woke up at 8 and ate breakfast before me, Sean, Rich, Adam, Paul, and Ian went to La Chureca, the community inside the Managua city dump (which is the largest open air dump in Central America). We walked around the community a bit before going to Colegio Christiano la Esperanza, the local school where we know the Assistant Director, Norman, from NicAyuda (the nonprofit that UGA Manna worked with on Spring Break). Norman said that last year they had 30 students go to secondary school, which is good progress since anyone who goes to secondary from Chureca has to have a scholarship to do it. Then we went back to the clinic, Casa Base de Salud, and Juntos Contigo, another nonprofit that Manna works with in Chureca. We joined in a quick impromptu soccer match outside of Juntos, and then piled back in the micro to go home and eat lunch. After some food, we had downtime until about 5, when we left to observe two of the beginning and intermediate classes. They were fun, but it's very difficult for me to teach when I don't speak Spanish. I'm excited to go back to the advanced English class on Thursday, because that's where I feel like I can make the best contribution. All in all, I'm really exciting for this month; I'm hoping to specialize in advanced English, boy's soccer, and also help out with NicAyuda when I can. Stay tuned for more updates!