A day full of love and wander in Nicaragua.

Thursday, Feb. 18th

The morning started with awakening of the dogs barking, birds chirping and the sounds of the city coming to life. I climbed down my bunk bed and debated about how I wanted to begin my day, cold shower, stretch and yoga on the front porch or just the opportunity to make coffee and tea for my beautiful friends that I have grown so much closer to because of the experience of sharing Nicaragua. I opted for making tea/coffee in our little Casita kitchen. We shared fresh piña and melon before we headed across the street to the Casa to enjoy a traditional simple breakfast prepared by our hosts. But nothing is simple at the Casa. The food is prepared with love and the highlight of the morning is checking in with the mothers. Did anyone go to the hospital last night? Did any new mother’s arrive? Which women are bonding? How is everyone feeling? Even without Spanish it’s so easy to communicate with the mothers and thanks to our wonderful guide, Susan who oozes with love, warmth, respect and true compassion for the staff and the mothers, we made friends quickly.

After breakfast and our goodbyes we headed out for our day’s adventure with Matagalpa Tours. We were greeted by a handsome guide named Daniel, with curly hair, who learned English by watching US television, his two favorite shows were “Nine and a half men” and “The big bang theory”…….go figure. First stop was a chocolate factory just outside of Matagalpa. What a way to begin a busy day, learning how “real” chocolate versus “candy” is made. I will never buy Hershey’s or Nestles again. The highlight of the morning was dipping cashew nuts in a plate of chocolate sauce just made that morning. All of the workers were women and the realization of the power of the Nicaraguan women was just starting to sink in.

From chocolate, we drove off-road to the campo for lunch prepared by a local family. The campo had a preschool, a little church, small houses, dogs, a storefront where campo families bought pollo and a coffee plantation where our lunch hosts lived. The patriarch was 83-year old, Enrique who couldn’t help but try out his English with us and had an eye for Susan. Much to his granddaughter’s horror he asked Susan for “just one little kiss”. By far my FAVORITE meal of the trip, (and the food has been fantastic every where we have gone), was the lunch prepared by the family. Vegetables, rice, beets, chicken, beans and a carrot, orange and lemon drink that was as tasty as it was colorful. How this delicious meal could have been prepared in the simple dirt floor kitchen attached to the back of the house was beyond me, but we loved every taste and ended up fighting over the fried plantains! The family was so proud, “Everything we serve we grow on the farm. All orgánico!” It was obvious to us that love mixed with family, new friends and sprinkled with contentment and a desire to share a meal and a culture is the best recipe for a memorable lunch.

After a quick walk through the coffee plantation lead by one of the daughters who proudly explained the family business, (Daniel spotted a sloth lounging in a tree), we said our goodbyes to the family and headed out on a 6 mile hike through the mountains, dry rain forest, farms and orchards tucked into the side of the hills and even a cow pasture. We spotted monkeys, birds, frogs and thankfully no snakes Destination: a waterfall. We crossed bridges took our time enjoying the most clean air and beautiful vistas and arrived at our spot after about an hour and a half. The river was amazing, reminding some of us of Yosemite, or the Gold Country in California. Quiet, clean and remote we sat along the rocks and listened to the birds, the river flowing and the water rushing off the side of the rocks. Walking back towards the van, we passed a group of children playing baseball with a ball made out of socks and a wooden bat that was a fallen branch. We had learned that baseball is the national sport and soccer is growing in importance. Watching the children swing hard, run the bases and lose the ball in the vegetation reminded me that children are children wherever you are. Children are born with the spirit of love and adventure and laughter is a universal language.

Driving back to the Casita we saw the most beautiful sunset peaking out through the trees and our driver just seemed to time the ride perfectly. But there was one more surprise. Off the road was another waterfall that was developed for tourism. A six-mile hike was NOT required to see the falls. The site was closed, but of course Daniel was able to chat with the guard to open the gates to let our little van in. We scrambled off the van and walked down a set of stairs to be greeted by orchids clinging from trees, begonias with their white flowers dripping with moisture and turned a corner and found the waterfall flowing. I was thankful we didn’t have to share this with tourists just our small group of six…….perfecto.

As we headed back to town the Casa was calling me. Did anyone have her baby today? Did any new mothers come? Which of these strangers from the many different campos bonded? I couldn’t wait to hear the news and say my hellos to the mothers, knowing my day was very different from theirs, yet still feeling an intimacy and connection that I will never forget.

-Jan

Arrival to Nicaragua

The first step outside of the airport baggage claim into the Nicaragua air brought me immediately back to my last visit, and every visit here – the warm humid air and distinctive scent of the air. Our friend and guide Susan greeted our group of five California women.

Our driver was Frank, who proudly hoisted our luggage to the roof of our small van. On our drive to San Simean, on the Laguna Apoyo – a beautiful lake created by a volcanic crater- I spied a Rotary International sign 🙂

San Simeon is a tranquil property with small, individual huts with grass roofs. The perfect spot to acclimate to our visit in Nicaragua. The resort is run by a wonderful group of local Nicaraguans and owned by Daniel, a Swiss man who created a dream for him. The evening meal was simple and fresh – flavorful chicken and rice. We shared a bottle of wine and talked about the hopes for our visit here. After dinner we engaged in lively game of Yatzee, which entertained two Canadian men eating at the next table.

I ended the day in bed under a mosquito net, listening to the wind and feeling completely at peace.

–Dana

7 tips for staying healthy on the road.

Oh, the woe of travel! For some, travel is an excuse to “sit still”, eat and drink things you otherwise wouldn’t and hope the waiter doesn’t delay bringing the next margarita. For others, travel is an opportunity for adventure and discovery. And for many, travel is for work.

Regardless of the type of traveler you are, feeling healthy while away and upon your return will do nothing but cure your travel woes and remind you of the great fortune you have to move and engage and wander through the world.

So here they are, in no particular order, by popular request, our seven tips for staying healthy on the road:

1. Routine-Establish one. Find a healthy practice you are willing to do every day, be it five minutes, twenty minutes or an hour. This is something you will make time to do whether or not you feel you have time. (My routine looks something like this: Roll out of bed, drink warm water, sit and breathe, 5 minutes of stretching, 10 pushups, 10 abs, 10 one arm handstands, 10 minutes of writing=more or less 25 minutes total.)

2. Intervals-No gym at the hotel? In a city where jogging about as a solo female just won’t do? Think you don’t have the time? Do intervals. They’ve been proven to be a highly effective way to get your body in shape. Fast. (I travel with a list of at least 15 different interval routines. I’ll randomly pick one, sweat for 20 minutes or so, and feel satisfied for the rest of the day upon completion. Check out this app for a timer and this site for some ideas.)

3. Green powder-This was mentioned in a recent “packing tips” blog. Due to the fact many places don’t have the requisite green items on the menu, I highly recommend “green powder”. Take some each day. This is our favorite.

4. Sugar-Do what you can to avoid it. You’ll feel better.

5. Move-Okay, so the intervals are intimidating, you’ve got a 5-hour flight ahead and meetings all day long. Keep moving. Get up from your seat, and if the flight attendant expresses disappointment in your impressive airplane handstands, explain to her that you read this blog, that moving is a part of your regimen and if you don’t do it, your muscles will atrophy. If confrontation isn’t your thing, at least do some neck stretches, use the bathroom more than you actually have to and try “eagle arms”. Your traps and shoulders will thank you. **See an upcoming blog on “airplane, airport and when-you’re-waiting yoga”.

6. Breathe-It seems like a silly suggestion because we have to do it to survive, but when we remember to breathe consciously, we are actually increasing optimal health. And when we remember to breathe, we often slow down, allowing for time to take that “mental snapshot” of wherever we are, appreciating whatever it is we get to do.

7. Hydrate-Duh. But not just a little…a lot. Go for two liters of water a day. At least. I try to drink my body weight in pounds in ounces of water each day. (And then you’ll have to visit the restroom more, and then you’ll move more, and then you’ll feel better over all).

Let us know your thoughts. Do you agree? What are your tips for staying healthy on the road? Contact us here.