Two Missed Days – July 12 & 13th combined in Leon, Chicigalpa, & Guyana Nicaragua
Well yesterday we had a very slow day yesterday. My son Miller got a bit of a small stomach bug so we had the pediatrician stop by to check on him. Due to this, it prevented us from climbing Cerro Negro & swimming in the Laguna Asososca which means the lagoon asososca which is a freshwater lake located in the center of the crater of this volcano about an hour from Leon.
The pediatrician was recommended from Eron our driver & he is also a Medical Instructor at one of the Universities here. A house call is $25 USD. He prescribed some Zinc, some paste for his butt that was sore (LOL J ) and some anti-gas stuff which my wife said no to giving him as we are trying to keep him on a med-free life. Anyway the meds were all only $20 buck anyway. This shows you how ridiculous the health industry is in the US, right?
So yesterday I worked on my youtube video logs at www.youtube.com/nicaeco as well as some business for my towing company www.paradisetowingcompany.com. Miller of course really wasn’t sick and we could have went but ce la vie we had to find out.
I was able to meet again with the director of the Dariana Spanish school to get pricing worked out for our students. Can you believe we will only be charging students $15 USD per day for housing with a private bedroom at a local Leon family’s home with 3 meals a day? Anyone can see this is going to be a GREAT seller for US students wanting to study Spanish abroad and earn college credits.
A comment I keep hearing around Leon is “how did you get your program accredited so that your students get college credit?” Well, that’s just one of the competitive advantages we have, and why students should only use NicaEco for organizing their Spanish immersion to Nicaragua.
1.) We are a US – American based subsidiary of the multi-million dollar Inertia Tours Inc. That gives you piece of mind that we are accountable for your safety AND your experience
2.) We are also a Nicaraguan based public corporation Nica Eco Inertia Tours S.A. that is legal to do business in Nicaragua, and within 30 days we will be INTUR certified. We will be the ONLY INTUR certified study abroad company operating in Central America, which is a laundry list of criteria the government here requires for you to legally operate as a travel company
3.) Our ground handler Green Pathways is a certified member of the Rainforest Alliance, making our Spanish immersion program the only one in central America that is at arms-length a member. Soon, Green Pathways will also be using for all of its side trips and airport transfers for NicaEco students hybrid vehicles NicaEco is importing here to Leon via Bluefields to Managua to Leon from Houston, Texas.
4.) We are the only Eco-study abroad company in existence. We are members of the Sustainable Travel Association
5.) We are the ONLY travel option into Nicaragua with US American staff onsite
For dinner we went to the Manhattan which is this Sushi place across the street from the La Perla hotel & casino. A California roll was $2.50 USD and a spicy tuna roll was $4.00 USD. Ultra cheap & super fresh!
We woke up this morning at 8 a.m. to go to a couple of the foundations that are coordinating with NicaEco for volunteer opportunities we can “roll into” our Spanish immersion programs here in Nicaragua.
The first foundation was http://www.laislafoundation.org/La_Isla/Home.html or the Isla Foundation which focuses on fighting an epidemic of kidney disease in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua which is believed to be caused by the pesticides used on the sugar cane fields which is the staple job here in Nicaragua. The HUGE rum maker is Flor de Cana here.
If you come with NicaEco to study abroad here, you can volunteer with La Isla in a number of ways (very, very varied!) from going out into the community of La Isla / Chichigalpa and teaching English & computer skills to the local kids, to helping in their Leon office on a number of things from fundraising, office administration, to computer networking they need it all.
You would volunteer 3 to 4 hours per day for 2 or 3 days a week. Talk about a resume builder that makes you a 100% better person!!!
My wife outside the foundation isla offices:
I felt from our first meeting that the La Isla Foundation strengths are:
- VERY organized here in Leon
- Nice website with strong push for donors (a good thing)
- Good opportunities for individuals coming to Leon
- Office setting & staff very professional
I think their cause is a worthy one as about 80% of the men in Chicigalpa have died from chronic kidney failure.
The second foundation was called Viviendas Leon their website: http://www.viviendasleon.org/
This foundation really centers around not just providing aid, but providing sustenance in the communities they work with about 45 minutes outside of Leon in a small puebla called Guyana.
We toured a community center they were building there and sure enough – they require the locals to help & take ownership or they will not provide aid. One of their goals is to provide different types of cooperative ideas such as sewing & artesian goods this indigenous people can make a living off of besides just working in the cane fields.
They also get the locals to do vegetable gardens to not just help feed their families, but also to sell at market in Leon, as well as HUGE reforestation projects (in May of 2011 they replanted 500+ trees!).
The strengths of Viviendas Leon are:
- Their Director Indiana lived in Texas – easy fluency in English
- Their programs center around large university groups that they can input individuals or small 2’s & 4’s of students into existing projects
- Their current volunteers were very hard working & dedicated. We met the old mayor of Leon out working on the community center in Guyana as a matter of fact.
If you have NicaEco set up your Spanish study abroad program, we will integrate a volunteer opportunity with Viviendas Leon for you with a coordinator to make the work seemless and easy with no stress for you.
Volunteering with either of these organizations in my mind even a couple of hours a week seems like not just an incredible resume builder, it seems to me like a possible life-changing experience. Talk about making you feel thankful for what we have in the USA that we take so granted. Wow.
When we got back, we lounged around as it was raining and hung out with Miller. We also got Lasagna & a burger & fries at this little place called Pizza Roma which is one of the best restaurants in Leon, having been in business almost 30 years. The two items were $11 USD. Restaurant prices here have came up some since 2006 my first time here. I would now say restaurants are about 25 to 45% cheaper than the United States.
Tomorrow, we get up at 6:30 a.m. to go see Cerro Negro and the Asososca Lagoon to go swimming in the mouth or crater of a volcano. I learned this week that it is believed that 90% of the population here in Nicaragua is within eye line of a volcano there are so many in this country.
Inertia Chad…(nica eco chad…) OUT!!!
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.
Today woke up at about 8:30 a.m. and went to breakfast with my Assistant Marginne. By the way I make videos of almost everywhere we go. Check out http://www.youtube.com/nicaeco to see vidoes.
We covered the upcoming schedule which includes visits for contracts, pictures & videos at a couple of language schools to study spanish abroad at that http://www.NicaEco.com got approved for college credit in the US.
Julie & I will be visiting La Isla and Juntos Contigo foundations as if you do our spanish immersion you can volunteer as part of the program for 3 days a week / 3 hours each time.
We will be seeing Ometepe, Cerro Negro, Cerro Madera, Lake Nicaragua, Granada, San Juan del Sur, Big & Little Corn Islands, Managua, Chinandega, Miraflor & more over this next month.
We are very settled in at Casa Leones and feel that this will be our college spring break headquaters in terms of a hotel property for http://www.inertiatours.com for our college spring break party trips
By the way if you want to do an alternative spring break trip to Nicaragua, or spring break in central america – skip Costa Rica & come here. I have a trip here for $1099 per person with airfare, transfer, 3 nights hotel in Leon, 2 nights at Penitas Beach, 2 meals a day, an onsite party itinerary, Volcano Boarding, and surfing lessons all wrapped into one including our great onsite english speaking staff.
We had dinner tonight at CocinaArte. Julie’s Pesto pasta was superb, my fried chicken sucked. Our baby Miller ate & ate. He’s already in bed. We have a sitter for tonight & are going out with Phillip from Bigfoot Hostel and the owner of GreenPathways tours. He’s a sick surfer and a great guy. We are going to go “clubbing” and see the nightlife. I’ll do videos & post up to my youtube as well.
Tomorrow we are going to Penitas Beach & Poneloya beaches to surf, tan, swim, and ride horseback. I’ll let you know how it goes.
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!