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!!!
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!
Let me introduce myself. My name is Chad Hart, I am the founder of http://www.NicaEco.com – what I feel is
The very first Spanish immersion program for study abroad to Central America that includes not only a nice, eco-tourism edge – it also combines volunteering in Nicaragua.
No, I didn’t fall out of bed and decide to start offer Spanish study abroad as a program. Our “flagship” http://www.InertiaTours.com is the largest provider of US college spring break trips in the United States to South Padre Island, Texas.
We have been “at it” with student travel as a tour operator (not a travel agency that sells a tour operators product but a real honest-to-goodness tour operator for 17 years. Personally, I studied abroad at the Tec de Monterrey in Cuernavaca, Mexico in the late 1990’s for a summer semester program. Now, that’s unthinkable as Mexico is too unsafe.
So, why Nicaragua? Well:
- It’s tropical with awesome beaches
- It’s half the cost of Mexico once you arrive
- It has the lowest crime rate in central America (yep, WAY lower than Costa Rica)
- It’s not all commercialized nor overrun with Californians pretending to be the next Dylan Graves on a surfboard
- They speak Spanish (duh! J )
- Continental & Delta fly in daily
- YOU WILL receive college credits by the way!
Finally – the “contra” war or civil war my friends has been over for longer than any college student has been alive (most anyway as it’s been over almost 25 years). Yes, it’s safe.
Also, since I have a MBA (Master in Business Administration) I’m interested in promoting tourism to Nicaragua (for one) and (for two) bringing in sharp US Americans that will spread the word this is a cool place, untouched, and tourism will spark their economy to give them a much better way of life.
NicaEco also will be the first Spanish program in Nicaragua that is INTUR certified by the Government. INTUR is more or less a laundry list of criteria you need to operate in Nicaragua. For a so called “third world country” it’s really impressive. Things like a required capital investment, full time employee, a physical office, a vehicle, etc in my mind all lend a lot of credibility to anyone that is INTUR certified.
I also believe NicaEco is the first of its kind study abroad program in that is put together by a tour operator rather than a language school, a university, some college professor (or worse some college kid that just thought central America was cool) nor by some huge online consortium that is offering ever single possible destination to study in. (jack of all trades, master of none)
Here’s the thing: we don’t want to travel all college students that want to study Spanish abroad. We just want to travel the ones that are considering Nicaragua. Put us on your radar.
So, back to this blog – the “eve of the trip” for a month in central America. I woke up at 6 a.m. and have been going non stop. It’s now almost midnight. I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get my son Miller ready (yep, our 14 month is coming too) and my wife Julie.
Julie speaks practically no Spanish. This makes her more brave than I, as I am fairly proficient. It also shows her loyalty to my entrepreneurial spirit that I love dearly about her. I believe she will/would follow me to all ends of the earth to pursue my idiotic travel goals.
So, what’s the weirdest thing I packed you asked? I book on the Great Depression. I’ll tell you if it sucks before I list the title, ok?
Tomorrow, we arrive in Nicaragua to be greeted by our ground handler Phillip Southan with Big Foot Hostel & Green Pathways. Phillip is a super cool dude from Barbados I met somehow the very first time I went to Nicaragua in 2006. This guy knows a ton about Leon, Nicaragua where we are going to operate.
Anymore, more on Leon, and our adventure that is about to begin tomorrow from our house Casa Leones about 4 blocks from the square in Leon. How odd you can go to bed the same day and in 12 hours you are sitting almost at the equator in your second home?
Chad “Chadillac” Hart