. The only other student was a super friendly and interesting girl named Susan from Alaska who was travelling alone. When we werenīt in class we all chatted over meals and hope to all stay in touch. There was also Lucinda the Nicaraguan chef and my teacher Aura lived on site too. The chef was awesome and prepared three simple, fresh meals everyday using rice, beans and mostly vegetarian dishes with fresh juices and some little additives from the jungle surrounding the house. The routine meal times were a little hard to get used to and class started at 8am everyday. You were expected to study after school too, homework too??? and attend hiking and documentaries all commentated in Spanish. I was a little bored and found the language difficult to concentrate on. We were determined to give it our best shot though and the English speaking crew encouraged us. I was a little annoyed, maybe jealous at the people who could speak fluent Spanish. Itīs a lot of work. There were two resident dogs living on the property who i fell in love with, Coo-ko and Blacky. Blacky had been mauled as a puppy and walked in a most deranged way. Coo-ko had eyesight in one ear. They seemed to like to come to class with me and also walked on our tin roof at night. The first night we arrived was a horrendous wind and rain storm, no-one could sleep as large seeds, fruits and branches pelted our tin roof and many animals seemed to be running around outside. I tried to get some seedpods to carve into bowls. There were two wild boar pig creatures at the school that had been injured and allowed to stay in a pen there
. These pigs stank out the whole property like a kind of muddy guano stench...... bad. The electricity would cut out at 7pm every night as the Nica government has rations on it. There were three American missionary lads learning Spanish and spruiking Christianity out of a large white tent at night to the families of the area, bizarre and not something i agree with at all. These people have enough problems.
The lake itself was clear, boat free and absolutely divine. Itīs a volcanic crater lake. Mornings were best when howler monkeys roared through the forest, roosters near and far cock-a-doodle-doed and the abundant bird life woke up and sang. The recordings on my microphone are grand. We had our own room close to the lake and could hear small waves lapping at the shore. There were squirrels there which we ate breakfast with along with lizards, iguanas, dragonflies, crickets and even a resident tarantula living in our shower. The best species were the butterflies, especially large Blue Morphos as big as your hand which i sat and photographed for a long time. Photos are going well and we have some classic shots. Sometimes you have the image in your mind of exactly the shot you want and if patient, the scene emerges. There was a view over a volcano which was smoking and seemed relatively active. The jungle was lush however the surrounding area had a lot of weeds growing in areas previously cleared
. The families who live in the area (about 100 of them) are campesinos families (poor, rural workers). Some of the families cut many trees down to make broom handles. I saw young boys carrying wood and other field gear on horse back and also bullock and cart teams, a step back in time. An earthquake devastated this area in 2000 and many people died here. There is a school and a few small lodging houses. We visited the Monkey Hut Hostel where we met two guys from the Gold Coast (Currumbin), small world yes. It seemed to be the sit around, play guitar, swing in a hammock, drink beer, play cards, float on an inner tyre tube, roll joints style of place. Okay for a small stop i guess. Nadine did a trip to a small village on top of the crater where she had a go at the local pottery ceramics on a wheel.
Nadineīs teacher was Barney. Mine was Aura. At first were completely terrified of our teachers who we thought were yelling at us. We settled in and had our ups and downs in class. Later we were told that the Australians are the hardest to teach and that the two languages donīt mix too well at all. We learned alot though and are now putting some of the new skills into practice. Mid-week the school was struck down with a mysterious virus bug that dropped people like flies. I ended up with 24 hours of hell, violently vomiting and stomach and bowel bollocks. I had to spend half the night in the garden throwing up, then watching the chickens pecking at my stomach contents in the morning...
. charming, then the virus left me altogether after i took a parasite tablet. Are the chickens infected now? Nadine was the only one not to get it. That ill morning whilst lying in bed i heard a tremendous crash and thought we were witnessing an earthquake. It turned out to be a steam roller that fell off the overhead road and rolled down an embankment close to where Belen and the baby were in a house. All were okay but i think everyone got a fright.
We all caught the bus from Craters Edge Hotel to Grenada where we dropped off Susan from Alaska and then we continued on to Rivas and onto San Juan Del Sur. Our Spanish is so much better after the effort and the rewards are starting to be seen. Next stop, turtle nesting. Yippiieee and our health is back!!!!
We arrived at Laguna De Apoyo five days ago where we met our Spanish teachers for what was to become a very intensive and grueling week of classes and activities arranged by the school. The only way to study with no distractions and to be able to totally immerse. The school is housed in a ranch home owned by American Geoffrey and his Spanish wife Belen along with their beautiful baby daughter. They run an ecological research centre there which does dive trips into the lake where they have discovered four new species of endemic fish. They also monitor birds and run reforestation projects there. We had a great group of people there. There was another sweet, conservation volunteer guy named Sierra and an amazing young woman named Anne who is writing a book, finishing her doctorate and working with the local communities in the area to research the impact self empowerment has on sustainable development, Anne was a true inspiration to meet and wrote us an excellent poem about our lives when we left