Category Archives: spanish immersion programs
Cerro Negro Volcano & the Laguna Asososca swim July 14 as well as Salinas Grande beach July 15
So today we had an early start at 7:30 we left with Eron our driver, Marginne my assistant down here, and Julie & I. Miller had to stay back with Carla our nanny here at Casa Leonesa.
We drove the short 45 minutes to Cerro Negro volcano, a HUGE black lava volcano that smolders as you drive up to the entrance. It’s all the black lava rock. It has an edge of being dangerous as it last erupted in 2007. When you arrive you have to pay $5 USD to get in. They have bathroom facilities and have some new “animal or wild things” are that are securely “gated up” this year it was iguanas and of all things gamish hens. Last time it was snakes.
Cerro Negro is famous for volcano boarding, which is where you sit on a board that resembles a snow toboggan. You climb about 1 hour up this bloody volcano, then you put on what amounts to a one piece “jumpsuit” or “coveralls,” some beer googles (I mean googles, oops) and some gloves. It will scare the living shit out of you as it is steep as all hell…plus…like 5 years ago this moron tried to break the land – speed record on a mountain bike and got going like 100 mph and then his bike flew apart and he almost broke every bone in his body. Yeah. Well on this board you get going about 50 MPH but there is good news. The lava is so light, it’s “almost” soft. You get to the bottom in about 45 seconds. The ride feels surprisingly long actually! My Julie did it in 2009 almost 2 months pregnant so it’s very do-able even for the biggest pussies.
Anyway, we will have pictures, video, and a blog about volcano boarding with Bigfoot Hostel, my man Phillip Southan is the ORIGINAL guy that had volcano boarding. Now there is like 100 knock offs.
By the way, I have to bitch a tad here. What is it about eco-tourism or green travel that attracts non profits and people that do not use deodorant nor shower? There is nothing “Green” about stinking or having BO. I’m so sick of this aspect of a business I’m in I could puke. There’s a bunch of bullshit tour operators here now in Nicaragua (Costa Rica REALLY takes the fuckin’ cake on these but now we are getting invaded) with these douches that have this “oh we leave no footprint” except you drove a mutherfuckin truck to get to your eco lodge and all “eco” usually means is they turn off the power at 12 midnight to 7 a.m. so you can’t read a book or you get to sweat your ass off as there is no AC.
That’s not “eco friendly” it’s ignorant. Where are the solar panels? The wind power? At least here in Nicaragua they have geo thermal power plants which is WAY ahead of good ol’ Uncle Sam’s coal plants and Japan’s nuclear disasters. What I’m saying here is let’s stop lying to people in “green” travel as tour operators and actually BE GREEN. I’m determined with NicaEco to do just that. Next year I want to import our first hybrid sport utility here to Nicaragua. I didn’t see one effin hybrid in Costa Rica when I was there. The costa rican travel model is one big lie on eco tourism and it pisses me off.
There’s now a new scam here. “Go do XYZ tour and ‘a portion of the profits go to help kids in Nicaragua.’ Yeah, what portion? 10%? Half? Who knows? It’s not regulated down here. Stay away from assholes that pretend they don’t want to make money. They scare me. They can hide behind their “non profit” if they hurt or kill you.
http://www.NicaEco.com – our Nicaragua study abroad division, as well as our parent http://www.inertiatours.com for alternative spring break trips to Nicaragua are S corporations in the US. That means you can sue our ass if we screw up. Yeah. If you are an American the reason you go with an American firm are:
1.) They mess up you sue them, even if they screw up in Nicaragua.
2.) They know about American customer service and expectations.
I love Nicaragua but the locals they still are 10 to 15 years away from getting what us yanks want in terms of service or handling our expectations.
I’m also finding a hell of a lot of more or less college kids or college professors that came to Nicaragua that now want to bring people here. They have no insurance. They have “years of experience” – yeah, in coming to Nicaragua themselves to party. That’s a far fucking cry from bringing in people as a tour operator. Don’t take such a stupid chance.
Ok, off my soap box of stinky people promoting eco tourism giving 1% of profits to “kids in Nicaragua” and pretending to care about the earth but hauling people’s asses around central America in old ass trucks. I saw one (I won’t mention any so called non profit’s name here) using old, old gas cargo trucks to move people that get 5 miles to a gallon with no emissions on the truck. I took a picture of their old ass truck so if they take issue with me they can eat butt. That’s a bunch of crap.
BACK TO OUR DAY.
So we drove to the base of Cerro Negro and took some pictures. Looked like the moon.
Then, Eron our driver took us more or less on some cow path road for about an hour and a half to the top of where the Laguna Asososca is (lagoon which is a lake in the mouth of this crater of a small volcano) We were about to die from the bumpiness of it but finally got there. WELL worth it!
Several videos up of not just us swimming but of the climb down to the lake and climb back up at www.youtube.com/nicaeco
The climb back up is a bitch if you are out of shape. No, I’m not. Eron our driver though he puked about 3 times on the way back up sitting down several times. Julie my wife kept saying when he got back in the landcruiser (she and marginne trudged way ahead so they didn’t know as I waited for him I was worried just a tad) anyway Julie kept saying “did you eat Eron?” Did you eat your sandwich? “Eron, did you eat?” I’m like yeah, he ate it. He’s not answering her and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and say look the dude not only ate it he puked it up and I know this as I saw the puke! So I just kept trying to change the subject and the poor guy got out and ralphed again. And then again. Yep, he ate his sandwich alright, but I bet he doesn’t have turkey, mustard, lettuce and tomate on his sandwich anytime soon though hahahaha J
Luckily it was only 45 minutes back to Leon. Once back we went to Jardin Secreto again our favorite pizza joint here and had pizza with roma tomatoes, jalapenos, and pepperoni on it. As I always recommend in Nicaragua when ordering, we got it “se puede cocinar buen?” Which sorta means can you cook that shit really good? I even make a joke and say “cerca de negro per no negro” with my mediocre Spanish so they know we REALLY want it cooked well done. This serves two purposes. 1.) It keeps you from getting sick from undercooked food and 2.) they tend to undercook everything you shouldn’t from bacon to cheese. Word of advice. I DO NOT get sick down here and I swear it’s from asking for it like this.
Once back we saw The Transporter with Jason Stratham on this Venezuelan MOVIE channel we get with CLARO satellite at casa leonesa. The TV programming is ULTRA random hahahaha!
In the morning, I had to get up as Miller was fussing at like 6:30 am and walk from our bedroom along the courtyard to the kitchen to get him a bottle as one he has it he usually settles down for another hour or so. My laptop is set up on this table by the pool and something told me to check it. When I did, there was an email from my mother in law Linda – she had missed her flight. If you haven’t ready my 2nd post on this Nicaragua trip, you should on this blog. It describes the Nazis at Continental. Seems Marxism is spreading in the airline industry as she as she was booked on Delta and guess what? If you are now even 1 minute late for an international flight they cancel your ticket. Sure, you can take the next flight for $400.
What the F. Suggestions airlines used to make have “overnight” became costly rules that passengers are 100% not aware of. They used to suggest being to the airport 2 hours prior for international flights. Now, be there 2 hours prior or get cancelled. What? This is fraud. Eventually foreign airlines will also overtake US airlines as they don’t pull this shit. Such a shame. And shame on these people at Delta & Continental as the thing is, eventually you screw over your own friends and family with such policies.
If airlines would STOP focusing on “operational efficiencies” and bullshit fees and START focusing on service things would change for them in terms of profits. None of this crap happens at Southwest. Guess what? Makin’ bacon as in makin’ money over at Southwest. Treat people like you’d treat your own Mother and your business will GROW IN LEAPS AND BOUNDS. Now with that said, I’m not going to be pushing tequila shots on my mom like I do on spring break hahahha – love you mom!!!
Jeez, the rants. First people with BO next airlines. Sorry!
So when we got up I was in a flurry of work to a.) get our hotel stay on Little Corn Island changed to Sunday instead of Saturday as my mother in laws flight had gotten moved to Friday b.) get our airline tickets on La Costena airlines (the national airline here that moves people from Managua to Big Corn Island – a BAD ASS airline by the way! You get to EMAIL this ONE GUY to get a ticket! Wow right???
Anyway, got all done – FREE. Try that the US once.
My wife was upset but I was like look toots, let’s go to Salinas Grande today and see the Bigfoot Surf School which is a day camp to learn to surf.
We left at 12:30 p.m. in pouring rain, drove the 1 hour there with Eron (easy drive, very interesting from Leon) and THIS IS THE BITCHIN’ BEACH I knew Nicaragua had….WOW is all I can say!!!
The Bigfoot Surf Camp is run by the Bigfoot Hostel, but this little old Nicaraguan dude owns the house on the beach they run the camp, or area they do lessons from, out of.
When you arrive, you get fresh watermelon and pineapple. Next, its to the long boards (semi long) for about 15 minutes of out of water instruction. Then they bring you in one at a time if you have never surfed so you feel really comfortable. The beach and the waves were SICK. Water temperature I’d say 82 or 83 degrees maybe 85, rolling sets sorta not perfect as it was high tide at 2 p.m. I went swimming and Robbie the instructor went out so I could get some video. I’m going down surfing soon it was just getting late in day and I wanted to get my video and photos done and head back. Man, I’ve ONLY seen one beach down by San Juan del Sur I could say was that perfect to learn to surf on as it was a sand break. Funny thing is, no bay either. Open ocean coming in really smooth and not too aggressive. The current was sorta strong but just by shore not out about 40 yards and beyond. Some DECENT shoulder height waves just not long breaks. Rides very short. It’s in the AM I guess you get HUGE lines rolling in. We shall see, blog & video coming soon.
Anyway, out by there is Isla Del Venado which is cut off the shore and is not much of an island but is a protected sea turtle sanctuary. What’s sad about Nicaragua is the Sandinistas haven’t figured out the way to turn this country around isn’t by oil from Venezula or propaganda or even giving two shits about the US – but protecting this place like Costa Rica has done. THAT will, in the future, overcome all of the problems inherent in Nicaragua like roads, electricity, non-USA standards on service, etc. Plus hurricanes and volcanoes, I mean seriously this is a pandoras box for sure.
The fishery here WILL COME BACK. They have zero laws on fishing, Make them. Enforce them. Enforce reef protection out on the Corn Islands like Belize does. The water is as clear as Belize but little fish as these guys have fished it out. Same with the beaches…protect HUGE swaths of land while you can. There are VERY few people living in this country and if they passed sweeping environmental laws they could REALLY bump tourism up here. Not tomorrow, but in years to come. They desperately want to model after Costa Rica but they just aren’t getting how to do it. There are far too many greedy people at the top here, much like before when Somoza was in power. The people here talk about that a lot.
Costa Rica is OLD news. Guatemala and El Salvador are still unsafe. Honduras as well. That’s half the battle. Now, protect this untouched habitat. Build MASSIVE wind farms and solar. They aren’t tied to the middle east like the US. Venezula, sure. But Venezula sells them oil at half the market price of OPEC. Thing is, that oil is then resold at a profit to the government to other places in central America instead of being used by the people. It’s a shame. But screw the oil. Go around it.
Tomorrow, Julie goes 1.5 hours from Leon to the capital of Managua to fetch her mom Linda. I will stay behind with Julie & work on optimizing my videos on youtube and such. Again, if you want a visual on what we are doing down here, go to www.youtube.com/nicaeco for daily video updates or feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org – or email@example.com. The thing is I DO NOT HIDE behind our corporate veil. You can still book a trip with me directly instead of using one of our Agents or our websites – but you can if you don’t want to do it with me over the phone or via email.
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Me, my wife & my son have been in Nicaragua almost a week which means 25% of our time here is already over L makes me quite / very sad!
Well today at 7 a.m. the real work began. I did my first tour of our Spanish Immersion school Dariana here in Leon. I was super impressed at their teaching methods.
I started off with a killer breakfast with my wife Julie & son Miller that our cook prepared of fried eggs, gallo pinto (rice & beans a Nica staple), fresh water, fresh fruit, toast, and bacon.
You see, I studied abroad in Mexico with the Tec de Monterrey that the University of Wisconsin set up for us through their “international programs” office. I had the time of my life – from it I took away a few things:
1.) You don’t have to know a lick of Spanish to study abroad
2.) The real way to learn Spanish is to live with a local family
3.) Sitting in a classroom all day isn’t what most people call fun (it’s what I did and it sucked)
At Dariana, their class schedule looks like this:
8 a.m. to 10 a.m. – one on one grammar with a professor (they must have a college degree)
10 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. – break
10:20 a.m.-12 noon – mix of one on one time and group time in conversation, stories, and game playing as well as movies
Here is a picture of Carlos one of the instructors:
Break until 3 p.m. At 3 p.m. you go back to the school for an educational outing almost always free of charge. You go to the cathedrals; you go to the market, you to the theatre, you might go to a museum of art or history. The outing is completely in Spanish and teaches you not only about Spanish, but about the history & culture of Nicaragua. Leon is the oldest city here, founded by Francisco Cordoba (who was a real A hole too and killed all the local indigenous people along with trying to rip off the Catholic church and the Spanish throne). Leon is Nicaragua’s 2nd largest city and the oldest city in Nicaragua.
Today for the outing we went to the biggest (main) cathedral which is the third largest in latin America after the ones in Mexico City, Mexico and Cusco, Peru (I’ve personally seen both).
Back to Dariana – they also hook you up with a family to stay with that includes room/board and 3 meals a day which all the student raved about as being super good. If you check out our youtube at www.youtube.com/nicaeco you can see some student testimonials as well.
With Nica Eco, we put this all together. We help you with airfare. Our study abroad program includes airport transfers. We have staff fluent in English. We monitor the quality of not just the school and instruction but also your homestay. We are an American Tour Operator so we know what students expect from the US and set proper expectations.
Here is what a typical homestay house looks like:
We also arrange all of your side trips so you can actually see the country, as well as social outings with our other students so you NEVER feel alone or lonely in Leon when studying for a summer session, semester abroad, or even a year. The real key with Nica Eco is we get your credits to transfer to your college so you earn your 3 credits. It is why we don’t hide what schools we use – as our program covers the correct curriculum so that your classes will transfer you credit. We also arrange an educational visa so that it doesn’t expire in 30 days like a tourist visa does with our government contacts.
What a typical “host family mom” looks like, this is Hilda:
Alfonso the Director of the School was a HUGE help. He also instructs the very advanced Spanish classes if you so fall into that category. There is a test on our website www.NicaEco.com which you take & the instructors make sure they put you in the right level of preparation.
According to the students, that’s the key. The students were adamant that if you come to Dariana with Nica Eco and study a full semester abroad and came in with like a level of 2 or 3 as high school Spanish classes you’d be more or less very very proficient to nearly fluent (fluent to US business standards anyway) with just a semester here in Leon. The key is the one on one instruction that catches errors and rapidly progresses you – plus you are staying with a family that speaks Spanish to assist you.
More on Dariana later, back to our day…
At 11 a.m. Julie & I handed off Miller to our nanny here and went the 45 minutes to the ruins of Viejo Leon from the modern day Leon. Founded in the 1520’s by Francisco Cordoba a Spanish explorer in search of Gold, they mass murdered the indigenous people or enslaved them.
Here is a picture of a statue of the serial killer himself Sr. Cordoba:
If they thought that there might be an uprising, they would have a bunch of the indigenous peoples literally fed to these wild dogs they had that would eat them alive. All of their houses and structures in old Leon (Viejo Leon means old leon) had these doors out the back as apparently the natives frequently DID rise up and kill the Spaniards from time to time as they were so brutal. The Spaniards justified this behavior as they believed the Indians had no souls to save. The Catholic church vehemently opposed this behavior, and the wonderful Spaniards rewarding them by withholding the required 10% tithe that any Catholic government at the time was required to pay (like a 10% tax). This didn’t go over well and Cordoba was put to death.
Here are some of the people-eating dogs that ate the Indians…here puppy puppy puppy….
I shot several interesting photos of the ruins.
The Ruins of Old Leon:
The place was abandoned after like 50 years as the remaining tribes become unmanageable and starting killing off the Spaniards for a bit of time. Another odd point that in the distance you could hear the Nicaraguan military blowing off some big ass frickin’ guns but they said it was miles away. I guess some show of strength but that’s mostly I think for the local people not foreign countries.
For lunch (here it is the biggest meal and you eat it at about 2 p.m. (pics below) we had superb grilled chicken, gallo pinto, papas (roasted potatoes) and some salad with a fresh mustard/vinaigrette salsa our cook made us.
Check out our Lunch – everyone loves Nica food!
It did start raining as is common in the tropics in the afternoon. Tonight, we went to this Chinese joint that wouldn’t take my $20 bill as a tiny tear was in it. All over Nica if you have a bill that is torn, missing a tiny piece, or has some ink on it…forget it. They won’t take it. They do take Visa everywhere anyway.
So, that’s my night. I’m off to shower and try to talk Julie out of a mojito at Big Foot as a.) it’s raining and b.) I’m dead tired and just want to lie down.
We had ALOT of major problems with Continental Airlines yesterday. It made me very sad that their service levels were that subpar.
In Austin, we had a counter agent named Tara. She was agitated like customers usually are – I was not. We had a 730 am flight but got there 2 hours in advance. Good thing.
To start, they had no skycabs to help with our luggage. We had 4 bags to check, two “exempt items” (ie baby stroller and play pen thingy) and 2 carry on’s. I had to do this all alone with my wife with our baby.
I paid for all upgrades (not first class we aren’t rich) like “more legroom” seats etc. I am also a Presidential Club member. The problem came with our luggage. I had one piece at 34 lbs. 1 right at 50. 2 at about 55. This rude agent literally barked at me “REPACK YOUR BAGS OR PAY” I said ma’am, what’s the fee? our bags are full, I have a crying baby, an agitated wife, we are very tired. She said “$200.00” That’s 200 for 10 lbs over weight.
Hold on. It wasn’t $200. It was $200 per bag. Yeah, 1 one way. This fraud. $400 when (actually) I was (net) 5 lbs underlimit as one bag was only 34 lbs filled with baby stuff).
I wouldn’t fly Continental if you have a family. They don’t care. Who has that kind of money. This lady was rude to me to the point of almost bringing tears to my eyes as I was so tired. Manny the “Manager” was like “there’s nothing I can do, sorry.”
The fact is many people consider airlines commodity purchases. I do not. I like continental (1) and southwest (2). Now, I would switch these two. These guys owe me $400. Will I chargeback my credit card? Nope. I am going to sue them in Travis County when I return in small claims court. I bet I get my money back. I did not, do I agree with this fee.
The flight then was 2 hours late with no AC on board and they kept us on the plane an hour before telling us why. Just rude service all the way around.
Enough whining about continental – but if you have “over bag weight” get ready to pay. I mean…who keeps a scale in their home ? That’s where the scam comes into play. They know this.
When we arrived in Managua – we were greeted by http://www.Greenpathways.com staff – NicaEco’s grou handler. It was awesome – Marginne was there the new Nica Eco full time employee and Erlon, our driver for the month.
We stopped & got 3 frozen coffees, a gatorade and a bottle of water for $10. Nica is really inexpensive – but I have noticed since 2006 my first time here it is going up to be just about 25% lower than the US. Used to be about 50%.
We met up with Aurora Real Estate’s agent (Jordan Clark) an American Ex-Pat that lined up the house Casa Leones (an old hotel we rented the entire place out for the month with a private pool about 4 blocks to the Center Sqare (plaza) in town.
They have two helpful staff for us. Karen (our nanny here) is $5 usd per day.
On the first day we didn’t do much. We went to eat at Jack’s, this cool upstairs bar across from the plaza and the autonomo university. It is owned by a Canadien Ex-Pat that got out of Canada after 9/11 – feeling it was too friendly with the US. Julie had pasta – something with basil he made fresh and it was delicious. The chicken cesar salad I had was just alright. I had a Tona Beer ( big one like 4 eight ounce glasses worth) and she had a rum and coke and a water for $12 USD.
Then, we walked back to the hotel and Julie went for a swim and surfed the web letting our families know we are safe in nicaragua. I passed out I was exhausted! I’m an old man compared to my wife, she’s 11 years my junior. Miller our son is of course acclimated already loving life. He’s just SO ACTIVE right now my julie needs a break sometimes. A 14 month year old is a handful!
Today we woke up to be greeted by the owner of Green Pathways Tours and he also owns Big Foot Hostel. His name is Phillip Southan, and I met him in 2006 here on my first visit I think. He’s from Barbados originally and just a cool surfer dude but very hard working. His firm is our onsite tour company for all of our side trip activities you will take when you arrive to study abroad in Nicaragua with us.
I ONLY USE HIM as a.) he’s cool b.) he CARES about quality and service like I do c.) he knows I am a tree hugger and he must conserve and be eco friendly with his tours (we use only diesel vehicles – FULL hybrids I will import to Nica in 2012 so we are fully greened out and last he speaks fluent english and his staff must too.
We woke up and went to breakfast at Mediterrano. Mine (eggs sunny side up with bacon) was almost inedible. My wife had Pinto Gallo which is beans and rice a Nica staple food, and some sort of odd chicken wrap that was really good. The thing is – Leon has EXCELLENT food so I don’t know what their problem was (LOL!!)
Today we went to the plaza and had lunch at this Chinese place. We shared a gigantic chicken fried rice, fried wontons, and a chicken and corn soup. All was awesome and $12 with waters included. Then my wife did some shopping. She got two cool tops for $12 for the 2, and wanted a cheap wedding band to not wear hers. She bought a $2 silver ring 🙂 that says “love on it” ahhhh! 🙂
Then we came back and I went to sleep. I was so tired! It’s only about 90 degrees but it rains at night so during the sunny day it’s super duper humid with very little wind. The big “hills” and volcanoes around Leon prevent the pacific ocean trade winds (Penitas Beach is just 10 miles away) from reaching Leon which is a shame.
I woke up and relieved the nanny and am writing this post. Tonight we are going to El Jardin this outdoor italian place with a wood pizza oven I guess on Calle Real by some school over there. I’;m starving! We are waiting on our nanny that is going to take over for an hour but Miller is already going to sleep. The new environment has him overwhelmed and tired.
Well, I’ll keep posting daily. Next up tomorrow we are going to go see Viejo Leon (old Leon) and her ruins . Tomorrow night out with drinks with Phillip and his gang and on Saturday we are off to beaches of Las Penitas for some fun in the sun!