May 26, 2012 It is hot, humid and a smell of the past anchors my senses. I can’t wait to get rolling into the city labyrinth. The service for renting the machine to embark on my trip is humble and people’s humility confirms my identity. The inspection of the Japanese-made transporter is carefully and mystically done as if I will be navigating the sky. The sweat on the dark native faces alerts me of the weather conditions awaiting. The nostalgic reality hits;  I’m back where I’m belong.

My companion helps accommodating our belongings. I take charge and my pilot skills are about to be experimented or better yet tested. Signals and road conditions are not as those of Minneapolis, Los Angeles or even Tijuana. I do feel comfortable and at ease. After all, I belong here, I’m with people who look like me, I’m blending in easily and it comes naturally.

I know Northwest is my destiny to the city of Leon. It is 1:00 P.M., and I see where the sun will set. My co-pilot map on hand reminds me, ” take it easy”. Two road alternatives are my choices, the signage is no where to be seen. I’m on the right direction, but the best road. I instantly knew I had taken the barrios side of the two roads. My direction is the same, northwest.

Shanty houses dictate the landscape to my right and to my left. People remind me of 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. Nothing has changed. Conditions, and the struggles for survival are the same as they ever were. The only difference is in 2012, the FSLN is in power and people seem happy for that. At our first stop light, happiness is transformed in spectacles of ball juggling, dancing clowns, fruit sellers, and window cleaners. My memories re-track and my spirit remolds into my childhood, into my past, and into my fighting self being.

Passing this proletarian landscape seems endless and yet every spot, every person and every scene is vivid, and real. It is a confirmation of people’s struggles everywhere.

Struggle differences in our world are acute but no worse than in this part of our planet, our earth. Children playing baseball reminded me of  my accommodating home, of my super power home, of the luxury home where to have baseballs, bats and gloves is no worry, is no problem. In this land, baseballs are rocks, bats are broom sticks and gloves are hands. The game has a different feeling at every corner and empty lots as our northwest direction seem more clear and our landscape fades behind me.

The road to my destination opens up into this beautiful majestic puristic green flush, pasture fields, and volcanic landscapes unlike the struggling scenes and dirty streets left behind. I crack the windows open and fresh clean air hits my nostrils. Instantly it enriches and satisfies my humanity with pureness nature and clear blue sky.

For a moment, it feels as a dream, as heaven on earth, but I know where am at, and I know the natural views does not reflect the conditions of its people. A few do have the beauty of luxury and the richness status that the land brings about. The road is well maintained, one way lane highway is easy to maneuver and driving becomes relaxing as our eyes hardly wink.

I pull over to reconfirm my destination at a group of students waiting for the bus. They immediately come to assist, They all have clean dark blue and light blue uniforms. I let my companion do the talking. With an astonishing look in one of the student’s face, he ask my co-pilot, “Italian”, after hearing Spanish with an Italian accent spin. I think to myself, please tell them know you are from Minnesota, USA, and as if my thoughts were directing her, she starts explaining. I pull back to the road and a couple of hundreds yards, we find our detour towards our city. A few minutes after making our turn, we climb a steep hill. I parked on the side of the road into a Mirador. Parking space is enough to accommodate ten vehicles. There was a couple having late lunch, they were enjoying a bowl of rice and beans. We exchange salutes, ” Hola, buenas tardes”, and their reply was in choir, ” Buenas Tardes “.

We proceed to a retaining wall made of black volcanic rock. With smart phone and camera on hand, Momotombo volcano is front of us, it feels like I can almost reach it with my hands, the Managua lake  and blue sky reflection in the water makes it a post card picture. My phone camera and her camera are at work, one, two, three… one more! Our pictures are recorded in the memories for us to share, but the in-prints in our brains are for ever, it will never be deleted.

I get back into our driving machine’s seats, and our reactions are “WAO! The view is fantastic “. We both agree. My next thought, I want to climb Momotombo volcano. Our plans are to climb volcanoes, but seeing it front of us, the challenge and eagerness to do so becomes goal, becomes a must. My adrenaline levels start ascending at a pace I need to control or my heart will remind me that managing is necessary if I want to keep enjoying this voyage!

The high way to our destination is of good infrastructure standard considered we are in one of poorest county in the Americas. After all when you have a revolution with Marxist and Leninist ideals, the USA government will not side with you even when is taking place on our American back yard.
We are eager to get to Leon, the land of one my favorite poets, Ruben Dario. Back 1867 when Dario was born, this land was of intellects, a land for writers, a land for poets, a land for filibusters like Mr. Willian Walker. it was land reach of culture, rich of resources, rich of exploitation. Rio San Juan and the Atlantic ocean connecting the great lakes of Nicaragua with Pacific coast was an alternate route one one could resist. Pirates, British naval, and the USA were well aware of this strategic geographical location.
We arrived to Leon, driving around takes a while. In Nicaragua, there isn’t addresses. Our Hotel directions are, Una Cuadra Norte de la calle pricipal antes de llegar a la farmacia de Ocampo”. We get to our hotel owned by a couple of Nicaraguans who spent time in Florida in their younger years, very cool people. We get settled, bags positioned, changed clothes, drink water, it’s hot and humid. I take a Nicaraguan beer, Toña, and down it, it goes down like water.
Karen is very mystic about places she wants to see in Leon. Her first stop, the local market, we looked and studied our map on hand, we think we got it, but we did not we ended up at a art gallery. We spent time at the gallery, made some purchasing and we stepped out to the hot and humid side walk. Map on hand but it’s 3:00 P.M. and the Sun is not my GPS. We spotted a man on a bike who has stop to get a drink of his water bottle. We took our chance and asked for directions to the local farmers market. The man on the bicycle, with sun inflicted darkness on his skin, and hard working hands, was pleasant and gave us simple directions, at least they seemed that way, We decided on taking our items from the art gallery back to the hotel before continuing our walk to the market.

We started our walk in the market, fresh tortilla smell over takes our senses, Karen wants fresh tortillas, my instincts of tortillero drive me to avocados stand. I asked for two huge ripe one, price is ten cents american dollars, grabbed two, walked to a lady with a great smile, she knew we were Americans, Karen immediately falls in love with lady, comal and tortillas. We bought half a dozen for a dime. Karen, again, could not believe it.

We walked around the farmers market eating tortillas, avocado and salt. At our exit of the mercado, Karen said, ‘this is the best lunch I ever had’. I reckon to it. As we walked out of the mercado, our destiny is a city walk. We were impressed at the colonial architecture and the people. The city was busy with commercial activities, and people of all types, natives, tourist, and the diversity.

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