Tag Archives: La Mariposa Spanish School

Community at La Mariposa Spanish School

Still got a few blog posts coming from my time at La Mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel ūüôā

I mentioned previously that one of the wonderful things about the school is the sense of community it fosters amongst its students.

For example, there were two families studying at the school over Easter, so the kids dyed eggs, the parents hid them around the Mariposa garden patio area and we had an Easter Egg hunt!

La mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel community

Paulette (the owner of La Mariposa) checking out the spoils once all the eggs had been gathered.

La mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel community

We all got offered an egg to indulge in afterwards – brain food for completing homework!

Then there was also the farewell pi√Īata that was held just before both families finished up their studies.

La mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel community

And then there was my own farewell (and that for Caite, Patricia and Nadine as well) where we ordered pizza and had a mini party for the group of us who had hung out a lot together.

La mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel community

I’ve met some truly remarkable people at La Mariposa over my two visits! ¬†Thanks guys (from this time and last time) for the fun times and inspiring me with your stories.

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From La Mariposa to San Carlos

Getting around in Nicaragua is both easy and difficult.

What is easy:  there is public transport to pretty much everywhere and it is really cheap

What is difficult:  said public transport is

  • slow as a wet week
  • crowded as¬†sardines in a tin
  • without aircon (Nicaragua is a hot country, especially in April)
  • without a bathroom (or bathroom breaks!)
  • lacking a well documented timetable – quite often you just have to rock up and hope you aren’t waiting too long

To get from La Mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel to San Carlos on the Río San Juan, first you have to take a microbus to Managua.

However, it turns out the buses to San Carlos leave from El Mayoreo bus terminal and none of the microbuses that pass by the school terminate there (though they do terminate in every other terminal in Managua).    Best bet was to catch the Huembes micro (which, of course, is the rarest of all the micros that pass by the school) and then take a taxi from Huembes to El Mayoreo.

Stood outside the access road to La Mariposa waiting for the Huembes micro and had just made the decision to take the next micro – regardless of where it was going in Managua – when it turned out it was going to Huembes! ¬† And – even more miraculous – it wasn’t already full/overcrowded! ¬† So I shuffled my¬†way into the back corner and I set about maneuvering my bags so that I only occupied a single seat in the micro. ¬†Otherwise I would have to pay double the amount – which I usually do (after all it is a grand¬†total of AUD$3.50), but was keen to see if I could avoid it today.

Arrived at¬†Huembes, took¬†a taxi to El Mayoreo (US$10 – no, taxis aren’t particularly cheap) and the bus to San Carlos was pulling into the bay just as I arrived. ¬† I asked whether there was another bus at 11am (the timetable I found online said there was, but I’d heard from others that there wasn’t) –¬†the answer was no, only at 1pm. ¬†It was 10:00am. ¬† I asked if it was an express bus. ¬†They said it was. ¬†I asked how long it would take. ¬†They said 5 hours. ¬†I have to admit I was dubious (it was a chicken bus after all), but 1pm was a long way away so I bought my ticket (AUD$7.50), and found my seat.

It was not an express bus. ¬†We stopped an uncounted number of times at random points along the highway to pick up additional passengers¬†and, of course, the ubiquitous food and beverage vendors that swarm the bus every time it comes to a halt. ¬†Even before we left Managua there were people standing in the aisle, and I’d heard 2 spiels from 2 different guys trying to sell people vitamins (in the first instance – his spiel went for 15 minutes), ¬†and Ginkgo Biloba (in the second instance – a mercifully short spiel) as the answer to whatever heath problem my fellow travelers had. ¬†Weight loss (there are a surprisingly large number of obese people in Nicaragua, one of which was sitting next to me at the time), kidney stones, arthritis – you name it, these magic pills¬†could fix it!

It did not take 5 hours.   Between all the random stops to pick up and let off passengers and the 20 minute lunch break for the driver in Juigalpa which left all the passengers sweating to death in the bus for fear of losing their seat (if they had one) or being left behind Рit ended up taking 6.5 hours to reach San Carlos.   6.5 hours to travel 300km.

Fortunately I had dehydrated myself to such a point that even once I’d arrived in San Carlos I still didn’t need to go to the bathroom. ¬† Obviously this is not a good thing, but its what you¬†do when you have a long bus trip with no breaks. ¬† ¬†The incredible heat also helped in this endeavour. ¬†While it wasn’t too bad while we were moving, every time we stopped I could immediately feel beads of sweat roll down my back, my front and down my legs from the backs of my knees. ¬†It was so hot I ended up sleeping more than 1/2 the time, and what was interesting is that even those who were in the aisle were¬†sleeping standing up! ¬† They were pretty packed together so there was no chance they would actually fall down, and every time I started feeling sorry for myself, I just looked at the crush standing in the aisle and realised it could have been a whole lot worse…

Checked¬†into¬†Cabinas Leyko¬†after arriving, though they didn’t seem to have my booking. ¬†It’s fine for 1 night and has decent WiFi. ¬† Started the rehydration process and then went for a walk down to the¬†Malec√≥n¬†– the walkway that fronts onto Lake Nicaragua and the river. ¬† Amazing view – I’m so excited about being here!

San Carlos Rio San Juan

Watched a gorgeous sunset while drinking Coke Zero (desperately needed something icy cold) and eating an icy-pole¬†(again, icy cold). ¬†Did I mention the heat at all? ¬† Was a long time before I saw another Chele (Nicaraguan equivalent to “gringo”) but eventually discovered I wasn’t the only one in town. ¬†Cabinas Leyko seems to be full of Nicaraguans.

San Carlos Rio San Juan

San Carlos Rio San Juan

Ate at the fritanga near the open area on the Malec√≥n¬†that the young guys use to play soccer when it finally starts to cool down in the evening (love the Nicaragua and FSLN – Sandinista flag in the photo). ¬† Wasn’t particularly hungry, but given I didn’t have any lunch either – figured it was probably a good idea.

San Carlos Rio San Juan

Tomorrow I’m off to La Esquina del Lago Jungle River Lodge for several days and its not clear whether I’ll have internet for the rest of my stay down here (the next 2 weeks). ¬† If not – there’ll be plenty more blog posts published once I come out the other side!

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Farewell to La Mariposa

Big day when I finally headed out of La Mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel to start my travel adventures! ¬† The great news is that my formal spanish-learning journey is over – I am at the highest level of advanced spanish in both writing and speaking … almost bilingual ūüôā ¬† ¬†The rest is really about refining a few little things (damn gender with adjectives!) and simply getting out there and speaking to as many people as possible.

Thank you Paulette and La Mariposa and all the amazing staff who work there, including all the conversation teachers I’ve had (Kinema, Jenny, Alba, Johanna, Charly, Brandon, Layda). ¬† And a special massive thanks to Eliza who has been my teacher for almost 3 months in total. ¬† I know you said I achieved¬†this last part¬†myself over the past 6 weeks, but I couldn’t have done it without you! ¬† I’m going to really miss our classes!

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Pedro and his Macaw

La Mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel is very well known for rescuing dogs (there are now 45 and counting!) but they also rescue other animals as well.

Only a few weeks after we arrived, Pedro heard a macaw calling from a house while waiting for a mototaxi.  He asked to see the bird (which was obviously smuggled) and found that the owner had clipped her wings and she was in a pretty bad state.

Pedro and Paulette rescued the macaw and, one month on, she is enjoying her new home and her feathers are slowly growing back. ¬† She says “hola” (“hello” in Spanish) quite a bit – particularly if she hears Pedro ūüôā

pedro rescue macaw

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Birds of La Mariposa – Nicaragua Fauna

Some more pictures of wildlife taken from the patio where we eat our meals at La Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel.    Apart from the Blue-Crowned Motmot, we also have the following regular visitors:

Blue-grey tanager

Blue-grey Tanager

Hoffmann’s Woodpecker

Hoffmann’s Woodpecker (female)

Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Clay coloured Robin

Clay Coloured Robin

 

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Variegated Squirrel – Fauna of Nicaragua

Another very regular inhabitant of the gardens around La Mariposa Escuela de Espa√Īol is the Variegated squirrel. ¬†This is a tree squirrel endemic to southern Mexico and Central America.

Again taken from where we eat our meals at the school/EcoHotel.

squirrel la mariposa escuela de espanol

squirrel from La Mariposa spanish school

squirrel from La Mariposa spanish school

variegated squirrel at la mariposa escuela de espanol

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El Chocoyero – El Brujo Nature Reserve

One of the regulars on the activities schedule for La Mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel is a trip to a nearby nature reserve: El Chocoyero – El Brujo.

El Chocoyero - El Brujo nature reserve

The reserve is the main source of Managua’s water supply and has several hiking trails and good wildlife watching opportunities.

Hiking El Chocoyero - El Brujo nature reserve

The highlight of the afternoon trip with the School to El Chocoyero – El Brujo is to see the Chocoyos – a variety of the Pacific Green Parakeet that is native to Nicaragua.

Chocoyos in El Chocoyero - El Brujo nature reserve

They make their nests next to one of the waterfalls in the park and can be usually be seen in vast quantities either early in the morning or late in the evening as they leave and return to their nests each day.   During the day they search for food in the local area.

Waterfall El Chocoyero - El Brujo nature reserve

Unfortunately, it’s a little luck of the draw whether you get to see them in vast numbers¬†or not, and unfortunately, both times I’ve been to El Chocoyero – El Brujo I have not had much luck! ¬† ¬†You can certainly tell from the noise that there are heaps of them around, but whether they do that final flight to the waterfall while you are watching or not is another thing.

 

El Chocoyero РEl Brujo is also home to lots of other wildlife, including over 100 different bird species (including the motmots that I love so much), and almost 50 different types of mammals including agoutis, White-faced Monkeys and Howler Monkeys (Mono Congos).

This last trip, although we didn’t have much luck with the Chocoyos, we had a fantastic view of some¬†Howler Monkeys which, as the name suggests, make a lot of very loud noise and usually easier heard than seen.

Howler Monkeys in El Chocoyero - El Brujo nature reserve

Howler Monkeys in El Chocoyero - El Brujo nature reserve

For some reason, these guys were very quiet this day, but what a wonderful up-close view!

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La Verbena in Masaya

Every Thursday night, the Centro Cultural Antiguo Mercado de Masaya (ie the artesania market) hosts a cultural show of dancing and singing called La Verbena.   Here you can see traditional Nicaraguan dances as well as some Nicaraguan singers, and it is attended by both locals and tourists alike.

Once per month a trip to La Verbena is scheduled as part of the activity program at the Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel and a group of us headed there this week for dinner and the show after exploring the local market in Masaya.

La Mariposa Spanish School students at Jueves de La Verbena in Masaya

The costumes for the traditional dancing are always spectacular and there are several different types of dancing demonstrated on any particular night.

Jueves de La Verbena in Masaya

Jueves de Verbena in Masaya

I had been to La Verbena 2 years ago when I was last at the school, but this time was better – the absolute highlight being¬†the contestants of the Mister Pacifico Nicaragua 2016 male beauty contest modelling latest fashions from the artesenia market for us! ¬†Many thanks to Sophie for pulling together this amazing video of the fashion parade ūüôā

 

For a bunch of latin guys, I am disappointed¬†to say they were more than a little robotic in their movements – no it’s not just a function of the video having been sped up. ¬† ¬†We saw them do 2 modelling runs but had to leave to head back to the School before we found out whether there was a swimsuit section to the modelling as well…

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Nicaraguan themed talks at La Mariposa

Another of the wonderful initiatives on the activity schedule for students studying at La Mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel are the talks about Nicaraguan history and other themes.   It really helps you to get a bit more of an idea about the country you are visiting and, to be honest, Nicaragua is a fascinating place!

Every Friday afternoon (just before Salsa dancing class) there is a talk covering a particular period of Nicaraguan history, and there are bonus talks every few weeks like this one on the very controversial Nicaraguan Canal.

Talks about Nicaragua at La Mariposa

Talks about Nicaragua at La Mariposa

Yes Рwe are all familiar with the Panama Canal which opened in 1914, but the idea of building a shipping canal through Nicaragua is more than 100 years old and lingers to this day.

Talks about Nicaragua at La Mariposa

In this presentation, Brandon was telling us about the social and environmental impacts of the Canal as well as current status of the project.   It is truly frightening how devastating this will be for Nicaragua!

Unfortunately the construction of the Canal has started (just) and if there is anything good to come out of a possible slowing of the Chinese economy … abandoning this project will probably be one of the things at the top of the list!

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Semana Santa Procession – San Juan, Nicaragua

There are no Easter Eggs in Nicaragua… ¬† Nor hot-cross buns. ¬†However, there is an overabundance of Semana Santa Processions (Holy Week Parades) and Easter is much, much more than an excuse to eat far too much chocolate and bread-and-buttery¬†goodness.

There have been parades all week, but the main parades tend to occur on Viernes Santa (Good Friday). ¬† So yesterday many of us headed down to watch the final stages of the parade for San Juan (the “suburb” of La Concepcion where La Mariposa Spanish School and EcoHotel is located)¬†with our conversation teachers.

The Semana Santa procession started at 7am and we joined right at the end between 10am and 10:30am.   3.5 hours of very slow movement through the suburb with hundreds and hundreds of people praying and singing.  My teacher told me that most of San Juan is Catholic and the majority were there following the procession of Jesus and Mary through the streets to different stations of the cross.

semana santa procession san juan

semana santa procession san juan

Of course, there was a brass band to accompany them.

semana santa procession san juan

And the Catholic Church was collecting donations.

semana santa procession san juan

It was an incredibly hot day (April is the hottest month in Nicaragua), hence all the umbrellas to offer some kind of shade for the duration of the Semana Santa procession. ¬† One of the things that fascinates me here in Nicaragua, is that despite the heat (it’s always hot here) everyone wears jeans. ¬† I had sweat running down my back and I was wearing light weight travel clothes! ¬†I also felt a bit sorry for the kids that had dressed up – it had to have been hot under all that after 3 hours, despite the smiles.

semana santa procession san juan

The highlight for me was right at the end of the parade when the Jews – young people from the church dressed up in disguises – ran through the streets carrying Jesus aloft on the cross.

semana santa procession san juan

semana santa procession san juan

semana santa procession san juan

My teacher told me that young kids are usually very scared of the Jews in the parade and I can understand why!  Wonderful masks and headpieces, and lots and lots of noise and fast-paced movement.

semana santa procession san juan

To give you an idea of the noise and movement – this was the last run they did. ¬†By this time Jesus had gotten off the cross and a wannabe Jesus went for the ride ūüôā

 

Finally, after an hour or so out in the hot sun we bought a sorbet and headed back to school.

sorbete

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