Sunday, December 30, 2012

today on board the ship, on the way to Mexico.

Today was an on board day.  Tomorrow is another.  I had an absolutely lovely day, full of wonderful conversations with fascinating people, interesting lectures, and another class I loved teaching.
The day began with meditation with Bhante Sujatha for a few minutes before I had to leave to set up to teach.  I taught Zendoodles II today.  The students have loved learning how to do the different patterns for Zendoodles.  I seem to be known as the Zendoodle lady on board.  When people see me, they show me the designs they’ve done or ask me to teach them new ones.  I enjoy teaching so much and having something to offer others that it makes me very happy when they ask.  It’s especially fun to see people’s joy in their proficiency. 
After my class, I stayed in the classroom to take a writing workshop about Creative Nonfiction for kids.  I’m not overly interested in writing books for kids, but I wanted to hear the lecturer, Rosie McCormick, and hear what she had to say about writing for kids.  She’s a lovely lady, so that was pleasant.
Next was another writing-based lecture, this one with Ying Chang Compenstine.  She was born and raised in China, moved here when she was 23, is married with a 19 year old son, and has published 20 books with two more in the works.  She and her son just finished a book this past summer.  She’s a fascinating woman with many stories to tell about her homeland and about food – she describes herself as obsessed with food and in love with China, so she combines both in her books.  She writes children books, cook books, and memoirs, all three.  It’s been interesting hearing about her life.  She wrote one book that particularly interests me called Revolution is not a Dinner Party about her childhood growing up in China during the cultural revolution. 
Lunch was a lovely affair with Gerlinde and Jim and Adrienne, a couple from CA with whom we traveled to Leon the other day.  Jim has a very funny sense of humor and loves to tease me.  Adrienne is quieter but equally delightful to be around.  I hung out with them a lot to day and enjoyed them thoroughly.  Extremely nice people with hearts of gold and funny to boot.  What a treat!
I sat in the sun way too long and ended up with my first sunburn.  Maybe some of it will be left when I get back to VA and folks will be able to tell that I was in sunny lands for a time. 
Doug Mack, the travel writer,, was on at 2, so we went to hear him talk about the history of tourism since Roman times.  Doug brought up a lot of points I hadn’t considered or hadn’t had a clue about – like that spreading American tourism was part of the Marshall Plan, promoted to help Europe’s economy after WWII.  And Lyndon Johnson decided to tax American travel to discourage people from traveling to Europe in the 60’s b/c we were having economic difficulties and he wanted to encourage tourists to “see America first.”  By that time, though, apparently, Americans felt like travel was their birthright so they ignored his injunction.  Arthur Frommer’s guidebook, Europe on $5 a Day changed the face of travel because it made travel accessible to a whole new group of people – young people living on a tight budget.  Doug’s book is all about traveling in Europe using his mother’s copy of that book from 1969 just to see what is still there from those days and what it would be like to use it.  I look forward to getting a copy of his book when I get home.  He had many sent to the boat, but they never made it aboard, so I’ll have to be satisfied with knowing the author but not having my copy of the book signed by him.  I’ve enjoyed hearing Doug talk about travel-writing-related things – it’s certainly a topic I hadn’t considered before, but it’s been fun to hear!
At 3:15, Jonathan Murray spoke.  He’s the man who invented Reality TV.  And I listened to him speak, you might ask?!  The woman whose TV doesn’t get any reception and who has never seen a reality TV show??  Yes, the very same!  Gerlinde and I sat with him at dinner the other night, and I completely enjoyed our conversation.  He was a terrific conversationalist and I enjoyed hearing his take on reality TV.  Today he showed part of the Road Rules show which was done onboard the Semester at Sea ship in 1998 (?).  It was interesting seeing what that was like.  They had 6 students they followed as they went to South Africa where they had a black student stay with a family who had been pro-apartheid, and another black student stay in the township to see what that was like.  It was interesting seeing how they put the show together.  I guess I’d watch it now if it were still on.  Jonathan said they’d never be able to do another show like that now b/c reality TV has changed so much- this show was done in the gentler, milder days before people got kicked off shows, etc. – and he said the premise just wouldn’t fly anymore.
This afternoon I planned to go to Bob Atkinson’s writing workshop for the first time since he started the series over, but when I went up to the dining room where his classroom is, I saw his wife Cynthia sitting with Julian Bond and his wife.  I’d been trying to get up my nerve to talk to him the entire trip, so I asked if I could join them.  They were talking about birth order and favoritism and asked me which child I was (the first) and if I was my parents’ favorite.  I told them what I thought, but I won’t share it here in case my siblings read this and have a different opinion or would rather not hear mine!  It’s a tricky topic!
I told Julian about One Billion Rising and asked him if he had any advice for me.  He sounded interested in it and asked how we would know if we get one billion people rising.  Good question.  I hate it when the very first question I get stumps me already – it makes me feel so ignorant or unprepared.  The conversation went on to talking about his experiences in Civil Rights.  It was thrilling talking to him about his life and the activism he was involved in.  I would love to interview him for hours or days and to learn all about his life from start to finish.  I have heard some of that in his lectures on board, but there is certainly much, much more to learn.  He’s had a long and active life.  I felt very glad to have had the opportunity to talk to him and his wife, who is also fascinating.  I’m blown away by the quality of people on this voyage.  Tonight, for instance, there was a passenger talent show.  I wouldn’t say that anyone blew my socks off with his/her talents, though many were good, including an 8 year old girl who has been a professional actress for 2 years and did a monologue from Macbeth!  But one of the men was a fighter pilot during the Bay of Pigs and was an ambassador after his time in the service.  William Webster, the former head of the CIA and FBI was here for a time.  People like that.  It’s pretty darn cool!
I stayed out on the deck all afternoon because the weather was splendid and shady enough.  Around sundown, I went to my cabin and got my pastels so I could draw the sunset.  It was a pretty day and I wanted to record my surroundings.  I also would love to be able to sell some artwork before I leave and wanted to have more options available for folks.  I’d only done 8 before today when I did another 4. I had never drawn the sunset as it was happening.  It happened so quickly, I had to keep switching paper to do a new picture.  It was fun trying to keep up with it.  Several people were watching me draw and were photographing me or videoing me as I was doing it.  Thankfully I didn’t have time to consider that b/c I was so caught up in what I was doing. 
It’s interesting, I’m so used to being around artists when I’m in Richmond, and darn good ones too, that being the on ship and being the only artist I’m aware of, is a strange feeling.  People think of being an artist as something quite strange and special and unusual.  While that might be true (!), I don’t think of artists that way because almost everyone I know is an artist.  Being here where almost no one considers him/herself artistic, has really brought home to me just how blessed I am to have such creative people around me at home. 
After drawing for a while, I joined a couple of men for dinner, Earnest and Zandy (Xandy?).  I’d eaten with them before and enjoyed hearing about their travels and plans for life and love.  Another young man joined us, but I don’t think I’ll be able to remember his name.  He attends Morehouse College and is in his Senior Year.  When the other two left, this man and I stayed and talked for over an hour.  He has applied to join the Peace Corps after graduation and would like to start a non-profit after that to help kids in an after school program or something like that.  I believe he’ll manage to do it.  He is an extraordinary young man.  I got a lot of pleasure out of speaking with him.  He told me when he went to college he had to figure out how to do a lot for himself like fill out the FAFSA (financial aid form for students) and banking stuff, etc.  He said she wants to figure out about mortgages and credit cards, etc.  I told him I’d tell him and proceeded to give him a long lesson in how to buy a house and what’s a good way to use a credit card, etc.  I felt glad to be able to offer him such practical advice.  It’s hard stuff to figure out on ones own.  I was kind of thrilled that he asked. 
SO many fascinating people here!  One after another after another after another…
This evening there was a passenger talent show after a costume parade.  The costume parade was painfully silly – I am just not built to take part in something like that.  I can’t even bring myself to dress up for Halloween.  I just feel so awkward when I try.  It was fascinating seeing these folks taking themselves seriously and dressing like witches and clowns and cows and Crocodile Dundee, etc.  These were adults, not the kids.  I don’t know what motivates a person to dress up in a costume for a costume parade on a cruise.  I really don’t.  It’s not that I find it bad or silly or weird or anything like that – quite – it’s more that it is so foreign to me, I just don’t know what to think about it.  If you’re a person who does dress up for things like this, you’d be doing me a huge favor to help me understand.  It’s an aspect of human behavior which leaves me feeling baffled.
The talent show had some high spots, including a young man from Jamaica who did a beautiful dance and a 9 or 10 year old boy who played the guitar and sang quite well.  A friend of mind, Lynn, did a comedy routine which was very fun to hear.  She told me afterwards that, though she was in my class, she couldn’t make fun of it because it was just too good to find anything to joke about about it.  Flattery will get her everywhere!  It was fun to hear her tell stories and make up jokes about our time together on board.
Speaking of jokes – this afternoon during Doug’s talk, a woman raised her hand to ask a question/tell a story.  She asked if she could tell a joke.  Doug felt a little bit alarmed but when she said it was one her mother told her, he reluctantly agree.  His first instinct was correct.  The woman told a joke about a couple of Japanese tourists in NYC some time after WWII.  They stopped someone on the street to ask where the Brooklyn Bridge was.  The New Yorker looked at them and said, “You can’t find the Brooklyn Bridge, but Pearl Harbor you can find?”
The awkward silence in the room after that was palpable.  It brought home to me the pain people must have felt after Pearl Harbor that such a joke had existed.  It was a fascinating, if horribly awkward, insight into life in the late 40’s.  Doug handled it well, but I think we all felt sorry for the woman who still hurt so much she had to tell the joke.
Well, that’s it for today.  I have to get myself in bed so I can teach again tomorrow.  We’ll be drawing form using fruit.  I had to ask the Field Office to get me some fruit b/c we’re not allowed to smuggle such things out of the dining room!

Good night!

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - pushy salesmen

Today the ship was in Guatemala, in Puerto Quetzal.  I can’t say that I saw much of the country.  We got up fairly late, at 8 or so, had a gentle breakfast with several lovely conversations, then, finally, got ourselves ready to go.  We caught the red and white shuttle bus from the ship to the visitors’ center.  That was a tall round building with a grass hut-style roof.  In it were 2 xylophones, a couple of tourist destination desks, and a post office counter – something very, very welcome for American tourists!  It’s been very difficult to find post offices.  Our friend Roxana took us to a private post office in Lima where it cost us over $2 each to mail post cards.  We weren’t able to buy stamps because they didn’t have them in that particular post office – we would have had to have gone to the airport to actually buy stamps!  In other countries, we haven’t even been able to find the post office, so we considered ourselves very lucky just to find one in Lima! 
Anyway, past the tourist office building, we happened into the glare of strong sunlight and 100’s of artisan’s booths.  It was high season for tourists with 3 ships docked in port today, and morning was the best time.  All the artisans were ready and waiting for us.  Frequently heard phrases: “What you want, Madam?”  “Special price.  Just for you.”  “Jade.  Necklace.  Earrings.  Bracelet.”  “Me make just for you.”  “Bolsa.  Bag.  T Shirt.  Mask from jade.  Jewelry for you, Madam.”  “Special price.”  “Just for you.”  “You want table runner?  Placemats, napkins?”  “Me make, me and my family, many things.  For you.”
They were more aggressive than in any other port we went to.  There were many beautiful items, particularly the woven cloth which is as colorful and beautiful as it appears in pictures I have in my mind of Guatemala.  Interestingly, the items were only 14” or so wide.  I could only find 2-3 tablecloths that were woven.  Primarily they sold table runners which were either woven or embroidered.  I should have taken some pictures, but I think if I had, I would have been accosted even more than I was.  I couldn’t walk past a booth without 1-2 people coming up to me to ask me what I wanted and to show me things.  I didn't want to be rude and ignore them, but I found it really bothersome to be accosted like that. 
Bargaining was de rigueur.  $40 for a table runner turned into an offer of $20 when I turned away from the price.  I would have bought it but I completely ran out of money today.  I brought about $400 in cash with me on the journey, thinking I’d be able to use my Visa card most of the time, but, in fact, I haven’t been able to use it at all, and today that $400 ran out completely.  Well, no, that’s not quite true – I have $2 in cash.  The small merchants and artisans from whom I’ve been buying souvenirs simply don’t take Visa.  I could have gotten money from an ATM machine today, but I didn't know how much I’d want, and I didn’t particularly want any Guatemalan money left over, so I chose to simply run out.  My suitcases will be glad that they won’t be even more crammed with stuff!
When I get to the port in San Diego, I’ll have to find an ATM machine so I have some money to pay the taxi driver so I can get to the airport.  In the meantime, I’ll have to entertain myself for free!
Beautiful things I saw today:  the handwoven material was nice, not extremely well-made, but the colors were beautiful.  I saw a woman doing the weaving.  It was very interesting learning how it’s done, and I understand why the items are narrow – the looms are portable.  She had hers tied around a tree then around her waist.  She was sitting on the ground on her knees with her bottom on her feet – I don’t know if that description makes sense or not.  It didn’t look comfortable to me, but I think she’d been doing it a long time.  She had a pattern she was using which was cross stiched on a piece of white cloth.  She would refer to it each time she did a new line.  I need to take a weaving class one of these days so I can actually learn how weaving works – I sort of understand it but don’t really get it. 
There was a lot of jade jewelry to be found.  Jade used to be quite rare, but a couple of decades ago, an American woman whose name I don’t remember, went on a search to find the Mayan treasure trove of jade.  She eventually found the mother lode and now jade seems to be ubiquitous.  Mostly there were shades of green, but they also had lavender, black, and almost white.  White is the purest.  Green shows there is copper mixed in.  The more transparent it is, the better quality it is.  I didn’t see any that was particularly good quality. 
There was also a lot of silver jewelry, with stones or not.  The coins used to be out of pure silver.  One artisan had used the coins for their silver.  I bought a necklace from him which is quite beautiful and unique.  He told me it was $20.  At that point, I only had $7 total to my name.  He talked himself into selling it to me for $7.  Heavy silver, 100’s of links chained together so it spirals around.  It’s wonderfully made.  I felt bad spending only $7 on it, but that’s truly all I had.
There was also a lot of turquoise and coral.  I wanted to buy a heavy, beautiful turquoise and coral necklace for my mother, but I didn’t have the money, and the guy didn’t take Visa.  Sorry, Mom!  It was a handsome piece.
There were jade masks as well.  They were copies of funeral masks found in Mayan tombs.  They were interesting historically but not anything I would enjoy looking at on a daily basis.
It was interesting watching my cravings come and go as I explored the different stalls.  Many of the items were quite wonderful.  And the aggressive salesmanship was very distasteful.  I guess I should be thankful for the balance, or I would have had to have bought another suitcase too!
I have enjoyed looking at art in the different countries, but unfortunately I haven’t found any which I consider very skillfully done.  Most of it is kitchy, along the lines of Bob Ross, or a certain style of abstraction of the draped figure which I sort of like, but which just isn’t well done.  I wasn’t able to find any galleries to see art done by practicing artists with a style that goes beyond the touristic.  That’s a bit disappointing.  I also haven’t done much art myself.  I look forward to getting home and taking the time to work up some pieces there.  I have done some seascapes and plan to do more tomorrow.  While I’m living on the ocean, I certainly want to take advantage of it and paint it!
This afternoon I came back to the ship in time for lunch since I didn’t have money to get it out among the stalls.  I thought about going back out and taking advantage of the wifi offered in various places but instead got enthralled in a conversation with a lovely man from Sacramento who has a warm and wonderful twinkle in his eye and peace emanating from his heart.  I learned today that he does Tai Chi and Qi Jong every morning.  That doesn’t surprise me.  He has a beautiful energy.  It’s been so special learning about different people on board.  There are 100’s of fascinating stories.  I wish I could have heard each and every one.
Gerlinde and I realized today that it’s starting to feel like the trip is coming to an end.  This was our next to last foreign port.  The “lasts” are starting to happen with alarming frequency.  Part of me is looking forward to getting home and seeing Chris and spending time with the kids before they head off for China and Germany again.  And part of me wants to stop time so I can treasure each moment I’m underway.  It’s good practice for living in the moment.
This evening the staff is doing a talent show.  I’m going to get myself ready now to go to it and see what these kind, wonderful, generous folks have to offer.  I can’t imagine what talents they have to offer, but it will be fun to find out!  I’ve been moved by the kindness and good humor of the people who take care of us.  Don, our Steward, smiles broadly every single time I see him.  He makes out beds and cleans our bathrooms each day, giving us fresh towels.  He also straightens our stacks of books and papers each day.  Then, in the evening, he pulls down our covers and gets the beds ready for the night.  It’s the greatest kindness I can imagine.  When I was ill and in isolation, Don brought me my meals, always thoughtfully chosen and arranged.  It was lovely seeing his smiling face several times a day and did much to help me get well quickly. 
The waiters in the dining room are also extraordinary.  They smile and sing and bring us water or juice and silverware.  They ask how we’re doing.  They offer us kindnesses.  Most of them are from the Philippines and work about 8 months at a stretch before getting to see their families again.  Last year Semester at Sea was supposed to dock in the Philippines for a visit, but there was some sort of State Department injunction against it, so, at the last minute, they didn’t.  I can’t imagine how disappointed the crew members much have been to not be able to see their wives and children after so many months away.  And still they smile and are kind.  I’ve learned much about service from Don and these other wonderful men and women.  Kindness is such a gift.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Corinto, Nicaragua and the volcano that just keeps spewing

I´m in Corinto, Nicaragua right now, sitting in an internet ¨cafe´¨ at the end of the row of 5 computers with a fan blowing on me periodically, but it isn´t beginning to make a dent in the 110 degree heat and 90% humidity. We went to Leon today to see that city. The most interesting sight by far was the volcano, San Cristobal, spouting off ashes about 10 km off the road. I´ll post pictures later. They don´t know if it´ll blow its top today or tomorrow or not. People aren't leaving their homes because they don´t want them to get looted like they did the last time this happened. It was a bit distracting to have it billowing serious clouds of ashes all day to the east. We leave this evening for Guatemala tomorrow.

The one hour ride to Leon provided a lot of opportunities to gain insight into the lives of the Nicaraguans.  Along the side of the road we saw horses and cows grazing, untethered, wandering freely, enjoying the grass and other foliage growing there.  We also saw many, many people – men and boys almost exclusively – riding skinny horses.  It seemed to be one of the primary forms of transportation.  Sometimes the horse was pulling a cart, but more often it was just being ridden by a single person. 
Many of the semis, perhaps all, were guarded by an armed guard who rode on the back of the truck, standing up, holding his semi-automatic gun as the truck barreled down the highway.  Apparently there is enough robbery of trucked goods to make that a necessary accoutrement to goods transportation.
We saw a lot of agriculture along the road – sugar cane and peanuts are the two I remember best.  There was one plantation which continued for quite some time – perhaps ½ mile.  Out guide, Reggie, said it belongs to one of the richest men in Nicaragua.  On our ride back, I saw a young boy squatting on his fence looking through his mail lot, trying to get a look at what was behind it.  I wonder about the disparity between rich and poor which seems to be as extreme in Nicaragua as in other countries we’ve visited.
We saw the home of a baseball player who has earned his riches in the US.  Reggie said it’s a shame that he has such a huge house down here but is hardly ever here to enjoy it.  He seemed to worry more about that disparity than the others he pointed out.

Reggie had lived in Nicaragua as a baby until 1979 when he was 4 and his mother took him to the US where his father was already living.  Reggie doesn’t remember the war in Nicaragua but said that boys of 13 or so would be stolen from schools if they looked big enough to be able to fight.  His parents moved because of the war.  He lived in the US until a few years ago.  Apparently he got into some kind of trouble – a car wreck which he said wasn’t his fault or something like that.  He was offered the option of going to jail for 10 years for it or being deported.  He chose deportation.  He has made a life for himself here and said that if you work hard, you can make a living but that most people choose not to work hard.  He and his wife buy hogs, slaughter them, then make tamales and other food to sell from them.  He also does the occasional tour guide stint, but boats only come into Corinto 1-2 times/month, so he can’t rely on that, even though he and the driver made $150 for the day yesterday.  It doesn’t feed the family sufficiently.  He also does construction work though he says that people are offered one month’s work now rather than 6-7 months’ work as in the past – signs of the slower economy.  But he’s not unhappy or unsatisfied.  He seems Ok with being back in Nicaragua even though he didn’t come back voluntarily.
On the way to Leon, we stopped by some Hot Pits – I think that’s what they were called.  One of the many, many volcanoes (did he say 67, or which 22 are active?) has run its tendrils through the land to an area where it is bubbling up to the surface and is causing the mud to literally boil.  There are various colors of mud in this several hundred square yard area – brown, black, red, white.  Some of the earth is dried out and cracked.  Some of it has crackled white granules of sulfur dried on the ground.  In other places, there is steam arising – I made a video I’ll post later because I wanted to record the sound of it, eerie and uncanny as it was.  The dirt is boiling in those areas.  The kids who took us through the area told me about the different colors.  They collected the mud in plastic bags for us and gave it to us as gifts, telling us we could use it on our faces as a beauty regimen.  They also made little animals and candle holders out of the mud into which they incised patterns and designs.  They used their childish wiles to get us to purchase them.  One little girl walked with Gerlinde the whole way then cast her eyes down as Gerlinde told her she was pretty and sweet and Gerlinde had to go.  The kids stood by our minivan waiting for us to give them our dollars as we left.  The whole scenario made me quite uncomfortable.  I didn’t see adults anywhere except at the entrance where we paid our $2 entry fee, and standing at the table where they tried to sell us supposedly pre-Colombian pottery shards which they’d found in the hot pits.  They looked surprisingly much like the things the kids were making.  It was difficult for me to be confronted with the level of poverty which would bring the kids there to hang out with us and to try to get us to purchase things from them and to give them money just because they are cute.  I understand their need to do it.  I hate it that the world is made so that people have to work so hard, especially as children, to make a go of it.  I felt very uncomfortable being confronted with their reality.  And I don’t have any idea what to do about it.  My $3-4 won’t make a difference for their lives really.  And I don’t have a clue what sort of real offerings I could extend that would help them get out of their poverty.  Education, of course, could help.  But would it make them happier?  Are they already happy?  I don’t have any idea.

Another interesting sight we saw along the way to Leon were trees which had painted trunks.  Some were painted red and black, others red and white.  The red and black ones indicated supporters of Daniel Ortega – yes, the same Daniel Ortega from the 70’s.  He’s back in power, but apparently his politics are quite different than they used to be.  The red and white tree trucks indicated support for the liberals. 
Leon was an interesting city.  It’s very crowded in the area around the cathedral which is where we headed.  The cathedral was built in the early 1800´s and took 150 years to build, so it doesn´t have the age on it that so many we´ve seen do.  It was mildly interesting.

What was much more interesting was the indoor market our guide took us to.  Oh my goodness.  I´ll post pictures when I have a chance - they´ll be worth checking back for.  First we walked through the fruit and vegetable part.  It was interesting seeing the different kinds of things available here that we don´t have in the US.  They were laid out on ancient tables throughout the hall.  We saw things like packs of banana leaves being sold for wrapping tamales and other purposes.  Freshly squeezed juices are sold in plastic bags which are tied up to hold them safely.  At least two vendors sold piggy banks of differing sizes made out of red clay.  

Then we went into the hall where meat was sold.  Wow.  The US health department would have some issues there.  Serious issues.  Meat was cut and spread out on filthy counters with no hint of refrigeration.  Pig´s feet, cow´s hooves, iguanas tied up, bound and gagged, but not yet dead.  Seafood in bowls with flies having a feast on their decomposing bodies.  Children sleeping in cradles next to their mothers who were doing the selling.  Women selling their goods, dressed in frilly white aprons, surprisingly pristine for the most part, staring me down when I dared to take pictures.  I definitely dared to take pictures.  It was a festival for the eyes even if my stomach was complaining about what I was seeing.

We chose to eat at a restaurant near the cathedral which we´d learned about during our Pre Port talk.  Almost all the people there were from the ship.  I didn´t want to take a chance to eat somewhere else given the conditions of the meat for sale.  I don´t know that it was different there at the restaurant, but at least I know that other folks with bodies and microbes in their bodies similar to mine have eaten there before.  I don´t like to be picky or all that careful with where I eat usually - I figure if the inhabitants eat there, it´s probably fine, but that market made me feel otherwise for at least this city.  Yikes!  I don´t think my vegan daughter would have had any pleasure there whatsoever.  I said prayers for the animals and went on through.  AND I realize that these animals are just as dead as the ones I eat - it certainly doesn´t make any difference to them, so my distaste is a bit absurd for their sake, but so it is...

Around the cathedral where we went to the market, there were 100´s of merchants selling other goods as well.  Most were apparently for the inhabitants of the city and appeared to have come straight from China.  Cheap plastic toys, Barbie doll rip offs, plastic cars and trucks, 1000´s upon 1000´s of bras of all colors and patterns, zillions of pairs of women´s panties all in the same style, but of many different colors.  Mixed in were a few craftspeople plying their wares for tourists.  One young man with plaintive eyes came up to us at least 5 different times to try to sell us some ceramic pieces which were actually quite lovely and inexpensive, but I just can´t bring myself to get something like that to bring back to the States.  My bags have already reached their weight and size limit!  Exceeded it, more likely.  I just hope I won´t have to pay for two extra bags for the flight back.

OK - time to get going - I have to be back to the ship fairly soon.  I’m looking forward to a nice shower.  I´m sitting here dripping all over my pretty white overblouse, the lightest loosest thing I own.  I´ll have to wash it tonight so I can wear it again tomorrow.  I assume it´ll be just as hot in Guatemala tomorrow.
I hope you all are having a wonderful week between Christmas and New Years.  It´s been bizarre knowing intellectually that the holidays are happening but having very little external indication of it.  Strange!

boy at the hot pit

boy at the hot pits making a clay animal

Leon the lion in Leon the city in front of the cathedral

fruit at the market

hoofs at the market

Iguanas, not quite dead, bound and gagged, for sale at the market

seafood for sale

bags of ?? for sale

cheese for sale

Learn Spanish and Salsa

Manikins in wigs and fancy children's dresses

blanket on display

Christmas pinatas

San Cristobal volcano

the volcano - and me, happy that it isn't spewing lava at me!

Our crew

horse and cart on the highway


common conveyance in Nicaragua


more color