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    [post_date] => 2013-07-21 22:18:16
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-07-22 04:18:16
    [post_content] => Last night, I sang "Mi Luna," a song by Nicaraguan singer-songwriting Duo Guardaborranco, to a crowd of people at our despedida fiesta in El Lagartillo.  My understanding of the song comes entirely from a book I borrowed with selected lyrics and chords and other people singing it through at least twenty times with me.  Like a story that changes slightly from generation to generation, the version of this song I ended up knowing is probably pretty far from the original.  I am looking forward to finally listening to the recording.  I enjoyed spending the seemingly endless minutes going over the song again and again, getting a gradually better grasp of it -- a very different feeling from listening to a CD many times to learn or remember.  I did not want to sing this song alone last night, so I asked one of the younger members of Los Rusticos (the local band) if he would be able to sing with me.  We practiced several times and worked on bringing my guitar-playing, his violin, and our voices together.

Watching Los Rusticos perform at the Despedida, I was worried.  It bothered me how little attention people seemed to be paying to them.  Chattering seemed oddly present for a performance and I am used to the idea that quiet means respect and care for a performace.  We sang and afterwards I felt let down.  I worried I came off as someone who felt so much self-importance that she assumed people would want to hear her sing and that this explained a lack of warmth when I walked back to my seat.

Later, I thought about this more.  I had some kind of expectation even if I did not want to necessarily admit this to myself.  But then I also had a very specific idea of why this expectation was not met.  There are endless other possibilities for why I did not feel perfectly accepted last night and it was silly for me to assume I knew which one it was.

El Lagartillo is a place full of music and love on a daily basis, so they do not usually stand out or get attention called to them.  However, this does not mean that they are not valued.  At certain points during our time there, I craved some sort of tangible acknowledgement -- a question, a smile, laughter.  The quiet acceptance of El Lagartillo and the family I stayed with sent me off feeling a bit more complete.
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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A Different Applause

Sonia Bloom,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

Last night, I sang “Mi Luna,” a song by Nicaraguan singer-songwriting Duo Guardaborranco, to a crowd of people at our despedida fiesta in El Lagartillo.  My understanding of the song comes entirely from a book I borrowed with selected lyrics and chords and other people singing it through at least twenty times with me.  Like […]

Posted On

07/21/13

Author

Sonia Bloom

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    [post_date] => 2013-07-21 22:17:01
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-07-22 04:17:01
    [post_content] => We just finished our 2 week home stay and even though it was just 2 weeks we all had a connection from someone in the community. It was either a home stay parent, sibling, or one of our Spanish teachers. Whoever that person was they made our experience a million times more enjoyable. For me that person was a 7 year old boy named Fareh-Mateo. He was my first friend in El Lagartillo. He would tell me silly jokes and sing random songs all day, he made everyday entertaining! The only sad thing was he was only there for the first week of our 2 week home stay but he made the first week a little less awkward for me. I also had a strong connection with my Spanish teachers who were actually interested in hearing about my life and in return it made hearing about there life even more enjoyable. What made it even more special was that they are a part of history and the stories they told are from actual people who experienced it.
It was a sad good bye but it wasn't really a goodbye, it was more like a see you later. We all had an amazing experience in El Lagartillo and plan on coming back on our own to enjoy more of the amazing community they have.
    [post_title] => We said our goodbyes but not forever
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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We said our goodbyes but not forever

Miguel Castillo,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

We just finished our 2 week home stay and even though it was just 2 weeks we all had a connection from someone in the community. It was either a home stay parent, sibling, or one of our Spanish teachers. Whoever that person was they made our experience a million times more enjoyable. For me […]

Posted On

07/21/13

Author

Miguel Castillo

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    [post_date] => 2013-07-16 13:59:23
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    [post_content] => About a week ago, I got sick for the first time in Nicaragua, the first time in a foreign country, and the first time anywhere in over a year. Aside from the irritating and painful nature of severe illnesses, my sickness was unfortunate  because at the time I had just started to get fully adapted to the flow and customs of Nicaraguan culture and was looking forward to our three day trek through the Nicaraguan highlands. But alas, after trying to push through, early on the second day of the trek, my body finally started to weaken. After discussing my deteriorating situation with the instructors, it was decided that I should return to Esteli to take some much needed rest and go to a clinic if necessary. As it turns out, I did need to go to a clinic and as I'm writing this, I'm currently taking pills for bacteria and parasites. So yes, poor me. But I wouldn't say that my sickness has necessarily been a bad experience. Rather it has given me a unique chance to see the hospitality of the Nicaraguan people and some aspects of its culture that I may never have been exposed to.

I will begin with the transportation. Because my illness began in a remote part of the northern highlands, when I decided to return to the city of Esteli with one of the instructors, we needed some kind of transport there. Fortunately, Luis, a member of the community of El Lagartillo, was kind enough to give us a ride. But as we rode along the particularly bumpy road, sometimes having to back to down a hill because of the truck's inability to surpass steep inclines, I realized that such transportation was not a reality for the majority of the people in the area. In fact, when we stopped a few times to pick up some hitchhikers, always there was a look of gratitude and relief on their face, and after traversing much of the similar terrain by foot myself, I can see why. For the people that we picked up, if we hadn't decided to give them a lift, they could have easily found themselves with a multi-hour walk on their hands. Now for me, when I imagined having to undetake such a walk every day, it didn't seem like that big of a deal. But when I considered that many of the people making those walks were carrying weighty items, such as goods, to and from market, the task seemed much more daunting. Certainly, it is a much different reality than my native New York where there is probably some form of transportation within 5 minutes of every resident.

The other thing I was able to observe about the transportation in Nicaragua involves the public transportation. The first experience I had was with a taxi, as the second night that I was sick in Esteli, Dhyana and I need to get across town to get to the clinic where I was treated. As someone coming from New York City, I would definitely say that the taxi experience was "different". As it turns out, in Nicaragua, you can end up riding around in a cab for up to an hour even if your destination isn't particularly far away. This is because of the abundance of taxi-sharing and the fact that. essentially, the driver's run the show and dictate how many people they want to pick up, and who they want to drop off when. The second experience I had with public transportation was with the public bus. The local buses, like the one that I took, are best described as glorified school buses, and typically have three workers on them: one driver, one person to collect peoples bags and place them on top of the bus, and a third person who collects the fares. Certainly this was different from what I'm accustomed to but what stood at most is that the buses, while not the nicest or most comfortable form of transportation, were extremely accomodating. I say this because not only do they stop for nearly everybody who wants to get on, but they will carry nearly anything. For example, at one point we stopped to pick up a large bag of rice from a young girl and several miles later we dropped it off at an older gentleman's farm. This to me was fascinating because in New York City, its hard to even get someone to hold a subway door for you as your train threatens to pull away.

But the second, and probably most important thing that I observed from my experience with my sickness was the hospitatlity of the Nicaraguan people. I will always remember how the second that I began vomiting at the house of Don Julio in the middle of the trek and in the middle of nowhere, Don Julio, who I had only met hours before, was setting me up with a bed, giving me drinks to settle my stomach, and taking a real concern in my health. Even when I, the stranger, returned to his house the day after, after I fell ill on the trail shortly past his house, I was welcomed with the same kindness and compassion, given a hammock to rest in, and some vegetables to help gain back some of my strength. It is truly an act of kindness that I will never forget.
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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Connor’s Yak

Eva Vanek,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

About a week ago, I got sick for the first time in Nicaragua, the first time in a foreign country, and the first time anywhere in over a year. Aside from the irritating and painful nature of severe illnesses, my sickness was unfortunate  because at the time I had just started to get fully adapted […]

Posted On

07/16/13

Author

Eva Vanek

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    [post_author] => 19
    [post_date] => 2013-07-16 13:56:47
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    [post_content] => After three full days of trekking, the group arrived in El Lagartillo. Sweaty, tired, and some even bloody, we walked down the main road of the community and headed to the library to meet our homestay families. That night, after dinner, the group convened in the street because we heard that there would be some kind of music. Nobody knew exactly what to expect, but the idea of having some relaxation was exciting for everyone. I know that I have been missing my music back home, so I definitely wanted to hear some local music, especially after an exhausting trek.

We sat down on a curb and watched as some El Lagartillo locals set up chairs and lit a fire in the middle the ciricle. With the smell of the burning fat wood, a deliciously fragnant type of wood, surrounding us, the local band sat themselves down in a few of the chairs and prepared to play. The band, called Los Rusticos, consisted of a 16 year old mandolin player and a 4 year old drummer, in addition to others. One of our guides on the trek, Chango, played the guitar while others sang and played violin. The songs were surprisely catchy, but what really struck me was the atmosphere in our little circle around a fire. The locals who weren't in the band sung along and smiled the whole time, certainly aware of the specialness of the night and proud that Americans were seeing how extraordinary their town truly is.

After an hour or so, I went back to my homestay house and got ready for bed. Even as I was crawling through my mosquito net into bed, the party continued, which was apparent to the entire town considering how close everything is. While I was writing in my journal, I heard "Hey Soul Sister" and "I'm Yours" being played, and the remaining Americans singing along. I was a little disappointed to be missing the songs that I could participate in, but at the same time, falling asleep to live music was incredibly soothing and brought a little bit of my American home to my new Nicaragua home.

The next day, the violin player/singer, Yerik, was sitting in my living room watching TV. I sat down to chat with him and learned that his aunt is one of the people living in my homestay house, so he comes by a lot to eat and watch TV. A little bit into our conversation, I started asking him about Los Rusticos (I was fan-girlling a little bit, not going to lie), which led to him wanting me to translate or at least explain the lyrics to "Hey Soul Sister" to him in Spanish. For some reason, I found this hilarious because it really showed how silly some of the lyrics are. My personal favorites were "a game show love connection you can't deny" and "so gangster, I'm so thug." Trying to explain those ideas in Spanish was next to impossible for me. Hopefully, by the end of our time in El Lagartillo, I will have more successfully translated "Hey Soul Sister" and also formed stronger relationships with the members of Los Rusticos.
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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Los Rusticos

Eva Vanek,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

After three full days of trekking, the group arrived in El Lagartillo. Sweaty, tired, and some even bloody, we walked down the main road of the community and headed to the library to meet our homestay families. That night, after dinner, the group convened in the street because we heard that there would be some […]

Posted On

07/16/13

Author

Eva Vanek

WP_Post Object
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    [post_author] => 19
    [post_date] => 2013-07-16 13:54:01
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    [post_content] => For my Independent Study Project I wanted to interview various people in town. My host mom had recommmended that I talk to a man named Juan Ramon about the theatre program in El Lagartillo.  My first task was to find his house.  With the help of a group of young boys ranging in age from 4 to 10 I was able to find his house.  They took me to the doorstep a modest house that had winnie the pooh painted all over the outside of it.  Just as I was able to enter the house of a complete stranger I got the feeling that I should turn around and maybe try a different time because that is the logical thing to do in almost any community.  El Lagartillo is the expection.  It is a pueblo made up of 36 families that are united both by blood and friendship.

With this in mind I entered the house to find a woman sitting in a chair surrounded by many young children.  She looked at me perplexed and I again remembered that I was a stranger in her house.  I said "Esta Juan Ramon?"  in a voice coated with self-doubt and she stood up and said si! and then called to him from a different room.  A man then entered the room without a shirt and not even looking a little confused that a stranger was in his home.  I introduced myself as Hannah con los Dragones, and explained that I wanted to ask him about the theatre program.  He seemed thrilled and we went outside where his wife, the woman from before, gave me a chair, and asked if I wanted any cafe.  In the 20 minutes that followed Juan Ramon completely opened up to me about his life and his passions.  And he only put a shirt on when I asked to take his picture.

The air of complete openness radiates through El Lagartillo and is a part of every aspect of their lives.  When eating lunch in my homestay it is compltely normal for 5 or 6 different people to wander through the house and talk to my family, take some food, leave a gift, you name it.  The openness is evident when you ask anyone about their experience with the war as they delve into sharing every detail and emotion from their personal story.  The openness is infectious and is what I believe makes El Lagartillo so special.
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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Openness in El Lagartillo

Eva Vanek,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

For my Independent Study Project I wanted to interview various people in town. My host mom had recommmended that I talk to a man named Juan Ramon about the theatre program in El Lagartillo.  My first task was to find his house.  With the help of a group of young boys ranging in age from […]

Posted On

07/16/13

Author

Eva Vanek

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    [post_date] => 2013-07-15 10:29:02
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    [post_content] => Hi Ryan

Have enjoyed your emails and also those of the group. What an experience! Hope you have continued to stay well.  You missed about a week of very hot weather (90 degrees at 9:00 a.m.). Lindsey was here the whole week bonding with her puppy (Bailey). We all had a wonderful time at Tahoe but we all missed you and Allison.  Just picked up Allison at the airport as she is going to Chico to register for classes tomorrow. Virginia Schwarzgruber has a cabin at Strawberry so Enis Engstom, Shari Bierman and myself are spending July 22 to 25th. Have been trying to play a little golf as am in a tournament in a week. I hope I won't embarrass myself too much. Love you, Grandma and Molly

Dear Ryan,

Hey! It's me Allison, your favorite cousin! Haha I hope all is well in that far off land and I hope you are getting to enrich your soul in ways any of us could only dream of. Those islands sound nothing but enticing; especially after your brother and I have been working away our summers with fourty-hour work weeks. All is well in Cali and I can't wait to hear about all of your expiriences when you get back before I leave again for Chico! I miss you tons and am sad that I don't get to see you on my short visit to Woodland. Be safe and enjoy what you can while you can!

Love,

Allison (acpotter6@gmail.com)
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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Ryan Payne

Eva Vanek,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

Hi Ryan Have enjoyed your emails and also those of the group. What an experience! Hope you have continued to stay well.  You missed about a week of very hot weather (90 degrees at 9:00 a.m.). Lindsey was here the whole week bonding with her puppy (Bailey). We all had a wonderful time at Tahoe […]

Posted On

07/15/13

Author

Eva Vanek

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    [post_date] => 2013-07-14 10:34:49
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    [post_content] =>  

 

(Please note that this Yak was written earlier in the week- Connor and Markita are doing much better!)

Yesterday was our first day en El Lagartillo and the last "four" hours of our trek.  Unfortunately, the last four hours of our trek turned into the last eight hours of our trek, due to our lack of luck regarding the health of our group members.  The first day of our trek was the shortest, although some would argue the most physically demanding.  Most of it was steep and up-hill, and we had never been more prepared to do absolutely nothing for eight hours than when we finally arrived at our destination.  However, the resting period after the first day allowed for us to soak in the accomplishment in addition to allowing us to process the fact that we still had two more days to go.  We were rewarded in the evening with a bowl of hot soup to warm us up in Don Julio's cabin, and we all slept early so we would be energized for the next day's six hours.

Day two of the trek is said to be the most difficult, but I might beg to differ.  Although we were walking from nine thirty in the morning until past five pm, it was on rolling terrain and we took enough breaks that we were never completely worn out.  We packed peanut butter and guava jelly sandwiches for the road, and they served as wonderful comfort food for our long day.  However despite the fact that the day went well for many of us, the case was not the same for our friend Connor, whose sickness won him over, resulting in his return to Esteli.  That night we enjoyed a delicious feast at Esteban's house featuring some of the best bread any of us had ever eaten, and we refueled for our last day.

Yesterday morning a few of us woke up feeling sick and had stomach pains.  The constant down-hill from the previous day had worn down our legs some, and soon enough, our nine healthy students dropped to only eight.  Twenty minutes into the initial climb, Markita's waining health caught up with her and we paused our trek for a few hours while she attempted to strengthen herself.  We finally arrived en el Lagartillo around five pm, but still await Connor's arrival after his clinic visit in Esteli.

The specific path that we chose to trek to get from Esteli to el Lagartillo is one that holds stories, history, and beauty.  Families traveled this path when they were fleeing from the dictatorship in the late twentieth century, and therefore this particular route has been traveled by many.  What makes it so special is how clear it is that you are moving through a country.  I can clearly remember almost every part of the trek because as we walked, our surroundings changed very often.  At times we were walking through the forest, other times up a rocky hill, others through meadows.  The views that we saw when we had just climbed to the top of a hill were some of the most gorgeous I had ever seen, and the amount of work it took to get to those places only added to their beauty.  Considering some places were at the least over two hours away from the nearest road, they are only accesible by foot.  Our group can now say that we were able to see places that one would only be able to discover if they had spent hours walking, and it was incredible to see things that I would never imagine would exist so far away from a road that I would normally travel on.

All in all, the trek was an amazing experience for me.  The people in El Lagartillo were beyond welcoming to our group despite our late arrival, and I'm extremely excited to settle into my homestay and enjoy the few weeks we have here.
    [post_title] => A Walk Through History
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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A Walk Through History

Admissions1,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

    (Please note that this Yak was written earlier in the week- Connor and Markita are doing much better!) Yesterday was our first day en El Lagartillo and the last “four” hours of our trek.  Unfortunately, the last four hours of our trek turned into the last eight hours of our trek, due to […]

Posted On

07/14/13

Author

Admissions1

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    [post_content] => My first spanish class ever was actually a lot of fun. My teacher Rosa is extremely patient with me, which is extremely nice. In my first day of class I learned the numbers, letters in the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, and some important vocabulary. I feel like most of the things that I am learning is coming pretty easy for me. Another thing that I was surprised about was that what I learned in my first class usually takes a month in school, which is pretty cool. One nice thing that our entire group is doing is having a "Secret Chef" which is like Secret Santa and I think that the entire group is looking forward to. i think something that is helping me alot is having a one on one sessions with my teacher.
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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My First Spanish Class, EVER

Admissions1,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

My first spanish class ever was actually a lot of fun. My teacher Rosa is extremely patient with me, which is extremely nice. In my first day of class I learned the numbers, letters in the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, and some important vocabulary. I feel like most of the […]

Posted On

07/14/13

Author

Admissions1

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    [post_author] => 24
    [post_date] => 2013-07-14 10:18:11
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    [post_content] =>  

I have come to terms with waking up to sounds of los gallos at 4 o'clock in the morning.  The cock-o-doodle-doos don't necessarily mark the sunrise but as I roll over and go back to sleep for a couple more hours, I know that the people around me are getting up (if they haven't already) and making tortillas and cafe, starting their days.  My spanish teacher said today that for her, and others here, the sonido is like a beautiful song.

I have been looking into El Duo Guardabarranco, a sister-brother harmonizing, singing-songwriting team from the 70s and 80s that wove poetic images and thoughts on revolution into their music.  El guardabarranco is the national bird of Nicaragua and today, when listening to one of this duo's songs, a woman said it was like a lullaby.

The family I stayed with on La Isla de Ometepe had pigeons in their backyard.  I am not talking about any kind of tropical or traditionally beautiful pigeon now -- they looked very similar to those found in flocks in New York City.  After dinner one evening, one flew in through the window and landed on a shelf in the kitchen.  I exclaimed and pointed it out to my host mother who then got up and went over and to my surprise somehow got a hold of it with her hands.  She showed us her amigo and I couldn't help but think of my grown brother who is irrationally afraid of birds in all varieties but particularly any pigeons we pass on the street at home.  Coexisting.

Yesterday, I went to the bathroom and noticed a chicken hanging out in a cardboard box.  When I returned later, the chicken was gone but an egg remained.  Never have I ever shared a bathroom with a chicken and its egg.

Both day and night, the tradition of a symbol and inspiration for change, friendship and food, and life's cycles.  My dear brother, birds have much more meaning than we thought.
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

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Different Birds in Nicaragua

Admissions1,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

  I have come to terms with waking up to sounds of los gallos at 4 o’clock in the morning.  The cock-o-doodle-doos don’t necessarily mark the sunrise but as I roll over and go back to sleep for a couple more hours, I know that the people around me are getting up (if they haven’t already) and […]

Posted On

07/14/13

Author

Admissions1

WP_Post Object
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    [post_author] => 24
    [post_date] => 2013-07-14 10:08:16
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    [post_content] =>  

After our three day trek, I found myself in a small city just roughly two hours away from the city of Esteli. I was taken to my family and introduced by an older lady of the town who has hosted previous dragons in the past. The beggining was a little awkward as the mother's first question was if i spoke spanish or not, and I responded to her and I attempted to talk to her for a little bit. She only took me to my room which was located on the outside of the house, and she gave me the only key to the door. Days have passed and I have taken a few spanish classes already but the conversations with my family and I have only improved slightly. I am going to make an attempt to put myself in a position where it forces not just me but also the family to have a decent conversation, and it will hopefully allow for both of us to meet on a more comftrable level.
    [post_title] => Mi Nueva Famalia en El Lagartillo
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Nicaragua Summer 4-week

View post

Mi Nueva Famalia en El Lagartillo

Admissions1,Nicaragua Summer 4-week

Description

  After our three day trek, I found myself in a small city just roughly two hours away from the city of Esteli. I was taken to my family and introduced by an older lady of the town who has hosted previous dragons in the past. The beggining was a little awkward as the mother’s […]

Posted On

07/14/13

Author

Admissions1

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