This week I am in Jinotega, Jinotega, the capital of the coldest and wettest Nicaraguan department. April is a hot and dry month in Nicaragua in general, so despite being cooler than the rest of the country, which is sweltering this week, it is still hot up here. In addition, April is a dry month all over the country, and it rained here last night.
Jinotega has two claims to fame, one good, one bad (and both somewhat related). First, 80% of Nicaraguan coffee is grown up here. And everyone tells me it is good stuff (I don’t drink coffee myself though). The land is hilly, and the cooler wet climate is just right apparently. Secondly, this is where the contra war was fought in the 80’s. Basically rebels would pour over the Honduran border and sweep down on the coffee plantations to kill recklessly. It was pretty awful stuff. They were not strategically trying to win a war. They were waging a guerrilla war and just trying to ruin the economy and destabilize the government.
The city itself is small and quiet. It is nice though. There are approximately 40,000 people in the city, and it is a 2.5 bus ride from Managua. It is tucked in the middle of a valley, and you can hike up to a cross up on one of the ridges above the city, which we did this morning. Yesterday we went to a lake outside the city, but there wasn’t much going on there other than a bunch of cows wading through the water. The city is far off of the tourist trail, so the only “gringos” you get up her are development workers like me and religious missionaries. And if you were wondering, yes, Mormon missionaries even wear their name tags while they are working out at the local gym. It is a shame that there aren’t more tourists up here really. There is tons of natural beauty, plus the coffee plantations could offer tours.
This morning we woke up before class (which wound up being cancelled, in classic Nicaraguan fashion) to hike La Peña de la Cruz, which is about 1,000 stairs up the ridge of the Jinotega valley to a cross perched on the top. It reminded me a lot of the 1,000 Steps hike Catherine and I made in Australia.
What am I doing in Jinotega?
This week all of the Trainees, myself included, got sent out to a different site around the country to shadow a Volunteer. I was assigned a Volunteer in the twilight of her service. Her name is Hannah, and she closes her service this coming July. Other than some hiking and the usual classroom planning and teaching (feasibility studies this week with the 11th graders) I am consuming lots of Wi-Fi, since Hannah has it free in her house!