Wow… What a stunning country. From the landscapes to the people to the history flowing from the land, I will truly never forget our voyage to this magical place.
This past weekend, our program organized a trip to Nicaragua. While it was obviously organized for our benefit, it was also partially organized to get us all out of the country for a few days to avoid having to buy a student visa (since our stay is slightly longer than 90 days).
We left very early Thursday morning (2:30 AM to be exact) and hopped on a bus filled with some locals heading to both Nicaragua and Honduras. The bus ride was relatively uneventful, until we hit the border. We had to exit the bus and enter customs on the Costa Rican side, then 20 ft. down the road, we had to exit the bus and chat with customs again on the Nicaraguan side. While I appreciated this act of safety, it should also be noted that the borders were surrounded by dense forests and that it wouldn’t be too difficult for someone to cross the borders through the thick vegetation in the dead of night. Luckily, we did not have to do that.
Our first stop was Granada. A beautiful city that has retained the image of colonial times; the buildings were bright pastel colors with tile roofing and courtyards filled with palm trees. While taking a city tour, we climbed up an old bell tower to see the most famous view of the city, went to the house which Ernesto Cardenal had donated to the city and is now a “casa de cultura” (cultural house), and saw some ancient artifacts left behind by the region’s pre-colonial inhabitants. It was amazing to explore a city with such culture and history. San José is a relatively new city, sprung out of the excitement of modern development. Not that it lacks any culture, but the city is young and does not contain the type of history we found in Granada.
While the city itself was beautiful and actually felt safer than San Jose, we also encountered some negative aspects we had not expected. At one point on the tour, some young boys approached our group, asking us to buy flowers from that which they had made out of palm leaves. They approached every female member of the group (about 17 girls) until they realized we weren’t going to buy anything from them. Well, later on that evening, we saw one of the same boys passed out on the sidewalk off of a main street in Granada. We had all been warned that we were likely to see young children drugged up and passed out later in the evening, but none of us had believed what we heard. It was entirely different when we saw it ourselves.
I feel terrible that a young boy, in such a state of poverty and peril, felt the need to drug himself so much as to pass out on a busy sidewalk. What is his life like, the day-to-day struggles he endures? I cannot say for sure, but I can say that I will be more active in the days to come to prohibit this act from occurring, especially before my very eyes. The image of his small body lying prostrate on the ground on a casual Thursday evening will never leave my mind.
To be continued…