Today, like many of the days we have spent in Nicaragua, was one of activity, excitement, and emotional trial. We began the morning by packing up our things and saying goodbye to the Casa Cuaquera to head to Matagalpa. We made it to the station just in time to catch the express bus and got started on the couple-hour trip north. As we made our way up into the mountains, we were greeted by various characters who boarded the bus, including a clown and a man selling elote and tamales. Once we reached Matagalpa, which is a beautiful, walkable city nestled into a valley and surrounded by green mountains, we were driven straight to the Casa Materna, where Jemma will be interning this summer and where we were to spend the night. I think most of us enjoyed taking in the sights on the drive almost as much as we enjoyed watching Jemma’s face of excitement at seeing her new home for the first time.
We dropped our things at the Casa Materna, met up with Kitty, a social worker there and one of Jemma’s mentors, and then headed out again to reach Selva Negra. This enormous property, composed primarily of coffee farms and woods with hiking and horseback riding trails, was founded by Germans living in the area. We enjoyed a delicious buffet meal topped off with German chocolate cake and then split up to explore the area as we pleased. A number of us headed deep into the mountainous woods, discovering howler monkeys, toucans, magnificent trees, and more as we hiked. Eventually, we regrouped in the restaurant, where we were regaled with stories–and jokes–about the history of Germans and coffee in Nicaragua by Eddy Kühl, the husband of the owner of Selva Negra and quite a character.
Returning to the city, we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant and were joined by Sue Howe, a friend of Carmen’s and Kaye’s. After another couple hours of great conversation, we returned to Casa Materna, where we watched a thought-provoking documentary about Ben Linder. A U.S. citizen, Ben headed to Nicaragua as a young college graduate and dedicated himself to bringing water-powered energy and joy (as a clown) to the Nicaraguan people but was tragically targeted and killed by Contra forces funded by his own native government. He became a big rallying point for Nicaraguans and Americans alike against U.S. involvement in the Contra War. At the conclusion of the film, with tired bodies and full brains, we then called it a night and went to bed. All in all, it was a long yet rewarding day.
I want to dedicate this post as a memorial to César, a 13-year-old Quincho who took his life today. Although we didn’t have the fortune to meet him when we visited, he has been a huge presence in our thoughts and conversations and we send our consolations to all those who knew and loved him.