Days Six-Eight (July 14-16)
The regional MCC retreat is held about 20 minutes outside Managua at a place called Pueblo Viejo.
When we received the informational letter from the Nicaraguan team telling us that the retreat center was at a higher elevation and would be quite cool, my husband and I scoffed: Managuans! If it drops below 85 degrees, they think they’re freezing!
But they are right and we are wrong: it is delightfully cool! I am shocked. How could it be that I lived in Nicaragua for three years and never knew that there was climate relief only a few kilometers outside of Managua?
The facilities are amazing. We have our own cottage which is actually more of a house with its full kitchen and two bathrooms.
There are lizards everywhere, and the kids see their first (small) scorpion. Mangoes and avocado trees abound—it feels exotic to see such gorgeous fruit scattered over the ground.
The meals are delicious, and waiters bring out frosty glasses of fresh fruit juice at every meal.
Here’s an example of what’s available for breakfast one morning: balls of fresh cuajada (a very salty Nicaraguan cheese that I adore), tortillas, refried beans, little hotdog/sausage thingies, eggs, toast, yogurt, crema (thin sour cream), pastries, coffee, juice, and assorted fruit. All day long there is hot coffee at the ready and there are mid-morning and afternoon snacks. Plus, the Nicaraguan rep puts out little plates of dark chocolate and nuts at morning break. This small gesture of chocolate love pretty much puts me over the edge. It couldn’t get much better.
We have meetings in the morning and games or free time in the afternoon.
One afternoon, a group of us goes to see the Masaya volcano.
The volcano is exceptionally smokey on this particular day, so there is no seeing down in the hole which disappoints the children.
They are repulsed by the stink, and they throw stones into the pit and then quietly wait for a long time, waiting for them to hit bottom. This makes me nervous: could a pebble plink be the one thing that sends the dormant beast into eruption mode?
There is a TV crew filming a mostly naked buff guy as he waves around some weights.
I find this immensely entertaining. People are so weird.
Afterwards we go to the Masaya market to do some shopping. I am immediately distracted by a stand that sells fruit drinks.
I convince the rest of the family to forgo the trinkets in favor of enormous goblets of pitaya, melocotón, banana, etc.
They comply quite happily.
The boys both have swimmer’s ear, so my husband finds a pharmacy and then drops the (hopefully) healing potion into their ears.
The fruit drink moves through my younger son’s body at a rapid clip and soon we have a mini crisis.
However, it’s nothing that a concrete wall and shady corner can’t fix.
We leave our little piece of heaven and relocate to a guest house in Managua. The pick-up truck we have arranged to rent arrives at the door and the entire family is electrified.
That we can drive!
All by ourselves!
My husband is practically giddy.
That afternoon we visit a friend of my husband’s, and his wife and their two little boys.
They live on a farm and grow pretty much everything that there is to grow: coffee, bananas, plantains, yucca, vanilla beans, black pepper, squashes, tomatoes, all sorts of fruit trees, sugar cane, etc. Our lunch and afternoon coffee break is made of things mostly grown right there on the farm: rellenitos from their plantains, pitaya, guacamole, pineapple upside down cake, marvelous coffee, and mint tea. We talk for hours and then finally tear ourselves away in time to get back to the city by dark.
(Note to our Virginia neighbors: the coffee is being sold in Harrisonburg out of our friend’s mother’s basement. It’s ten dollars a pound. It’s not highly acidic, so some people say it’s inferior coffee. The coffee is not inferior (and anyway, who are the coffee gods that say coffee has to be acidic?)—in fact, it’s very delicious. Those of you who are turned off by coffee’s bitter bite? This is your coffee.)
To be continued…