Some Homeshot Vacation Video

Video of some leaf cutter ants, shot by my wife on her digital camera (no sound), in the jungles of Nicaragua on our recent honeymoon. Chloe titled it “The Ants Go Marching”.

It might be hard to get from the clip, but there were like thousands of these guys all in perfect alignment, even two directions: comers and goers.

Published in: on July 7, 2008 at 9:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Islas del Maiz

We´re headed off to the Corn Islands, on the Atlantic side. Very different culturally (more English influence via the pirates….arrrrhhh matey) and geographically.  We will be on the little island.

The top photo is a postcard, promo shot from a local hotel (the one we are staying at), so that well in mind, a sneak peak.

Nerd that I am I have brought a copy of Emmanuel Levinas´Totality and Infinity to read on the beach.  For the similarly minded, the Stanford Encylopedia entry on Levinas

I´m not sure what if any internet connection we´´ll have there.  So posting may be light.  If not, expect some Levinasian (??) meditations. 



Published in: on June 7, 2008 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Even More (Flickr) photos

We went to Matagalpa, a city (100,000 pop) but a small town feel. Great place. My favorite place so far in the country, although the flies are a little excessive.  The countryside is stunning.   

I´ve got some pics up from our trip here.  We leave tomorrow for Managua, the following day to the Caribbean side and some small islands (Corn by name) the day after.

The photos can be viewed here

Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Luke Soy Tu Padre

Somehow I forgot to post these. During our stay in Granada we went up to a live volcano (Masaya) and the winds blew in a other than usual direction (i.e. right towards us), those winds blowing poisonous sulfuric gas. Hence the masks.

I thought the next thing is that the Germans might drop mustard gas on our forward trench position.

Published in: on June 5, 2008 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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New photos

Up at Flickr.

Check the folder for Leon, with some non-tropical storm pics. Nice shots of the city with the sun out.

Also within the Leon set, multiple shots of our day up in the mountain.

For those wondering, I didn´t realize I only had the option with a basic Flickr account of three sets. I´ve combined Managua-Granada into one. Now Leon, Esteli with Matagalpa and Jinotega to follow I suppose.

Below two shots, not in the photostream.

Published in: on June 3, 2008 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Being in the highlands (and especially after having come from Leon) the specter of the war haunts this land, although it is rarely discussed. 

For some background, this wiki (which is flagged for a dispute but which I find remarkably balanced) would be a good place to start.

The Sandinistas who are currently in power and whose local Esteli office I passed on the way over to this internet cafe ruled from the revolution (1979) until 1990. 

The article discusses how originally part of a broad movement of anti-Somoza elements, some middle class, business, even church and human organizations NGO type organizations, the Sandinistas began to seriously concentrate power in their hands.  Particularly in inverse proportion to the degree that they were attacked by the Contra forces.  Room for those who were anti-Somoza/anti-Contra but not pro total control of the Sandinistas was squeezed out.  Particularly brutal was the law which allowed by the indefinite detention of suspected (counter)terrorists–sound familiar to anyone?

On the other hand the Sandinistas did inherit a totally destroyed country with no infrastructure all of which had been expropriated by the Somoza dictatorship over decades.  The FSLN started the famous Literacy Campaign across the country as well as increased rights for women, unions, and improved health care.  The 1984 election was considered fair by most organizations (other than those funded by the US essentially). Although with all these issues, fair is a sliding slippery scale.  The Sandinistas no doubt used their government control to influence the election.  So does the Republican and Democratic Parties in the US. And with the amount of voter disenfranchisement in the US (particularly bad in my hometown of Cincinnati) hard to make absolute calls on these issues.

On the 1990 election, in which (current and former President Ortega) lost to Violeta Chamorro in a major upset the following (again this was considered a fair election but fair is interesting when you consider this):

Due to factors such as natural disasters, the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (which stopped aid), state corruption and, inefficient economic policies, the state of the Nicaraguan economy declined.[citation needed] The elections of 1990, which had been mandated by the constitution passed in 1987, saw the Bush administration funnell $49.75m of ‘non-lethal’ aid to the Contras, as well as $9m to the opposition UNO – equivalent to $2b worth of intervention by a foreign power in a US election at the time, and proportionately five times the amount George Bush had spent on his own election campaign.[49][50]. When Violetta Chamorro visited the White House in November 1989, the US pledged to maintain the blockade against Nicaragua unless Violeta Chamorro won. [51].

In August 1989, the month that campaigning began, the Contras redeployed 8,000 troops into Nicaragua, after a funding boost from Washington, becoming in effect the armed wing of the UNO, carrying out a violent campaign of intimidation. No fewer than 50 FSLN candidates were assassinated. The Contras also distributed thousands of UNO leaflets.

EIther way after the 90 election a process of total amnesty was begun.  For all sides.  This has been credited with preventing another further fighting in the last two decades.  The country is now one of the safest in the Americas.  But it has been wondered whether this has come at the cost of essentially suppressing memory of the war. 

I would have no call on any of this as an outsider.  There are interesting pics and video you can see of former Contras and Sandinistas hugging and chummy now a days. The country is quite young and many youth would be too young to essentially remember anything.  Does healing come through forgetting?  I have no idea.  But now the country is on a long haul to anything resembling normalcy in economic terms.  It is a very very very poor country.   The policies of 1990s neoliberalism (as it would be called down here) certainly has opened up the economy and freer press but as with all these policies built as they are on the creation and concerns of an upper elite and technocratic middle, the inevitable swing back to rural sector interests (supposedly) and urban poor has brought Ortega back to power.  To what end, who knows.

For one, Ortega is an incredibly corrupt dude.  Kinda Nicaraguan version of Yassir Arafat who plays the part of the poor man of the people but actually has his hands in milliones.  Ortega is rumored to have transferred to himself property that was seized and then nationalized from Somoza.  Also like Arafat has held onto power within his party far too long and not allowed organic growth of younger generations to gain influence within the Sandinista movement (like Fatah). 

Yesterday on my tour of the finca was the first day a Nica brought up Iran-Contra and the US meddling in this country and its adverse destructive murderous effects.  He did it in a way that was not insulting to me or pinning the events on me (I was you know about 8 at the time) but there it was nonetheless.  Don´t know what it means exactly, but I somehow thought it was telling. 

Published in: on June 3, 2008 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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From the WIki on the town:

Estelí is a city and municipality within the Estelí department. It is the third largest city in Nicaragua and is the administrative and commercial center of the Northern part of the country.

Located on the Pan-American Highway, 150km north of Managua, Estelí is a fast growing and progressive city of about 119,000 people. It enjoys a pleasant climate throughout most of the year due to its location in the north central highlands at a mean elevation of 844 m above sea level. The city is also surrounded by forested mountains and plateaus that go up to 1600 m above sea level, some which are protected as natural reserves. Estelí was the scene of heavy fighting in the war against the Somoza government during the 1970s.

Sorry been away for a few days.  We´ve had some interesting adventures.  The bus ride from Leon up to Esteli was shall I say a tad bumpy.  It was true Central American form with some random Jesus and Maria statuettes next to cartoon images on a converted former child´s school bus packed in like sardines bouncing up and down like mad on dirt roads.  But sadly no one brought any chickens abroad (live ones) the bus. 

I´ll have some pics up soon enogh. Some more from Leon and the rest from Esteli.

Traveled yesterday to an amazing eco finca (farm) about 2 hours from here.  The owner a young guy named Eduardo took on us on a 6-7 km hike of the area.  With a waterfall, mountain lookout, wild bird species.  And his amazing dog Fiona who would just run off and disappear into the forest for 10, 15 minutes at a time and when would turn a corner on the path she was there waiting for us.  Super perro!!!

Taking a rest day today.  The cathedral in the city is extremely beautiful, but the city itself is definitely not as pretty as Leon or Granada.  But it has its charms.  People are friendly, but you do not come to this country for its cuisine or service.  But as Chloe said, at least the people don´t stare at you for being a gringo(a).

From here we will do a couple more days into the highlands—Jinotega and Matagalpa.  Then we will return to the capital Managua for a day, take a intra-Nica flight to the Corn Islands which are on the Carribbean side and do more the stay on the beach in a hut for a week thing.  Then back to Managua to catch our flight back to el Canada.   

Published in: on June 3, 2008 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Tropical Storm Alert/We Ok

Here is a Spanish language page from La Prensa, the daily Nicaraguan news.  It says there are reports of 3 dead so far, 10 missing, and thousands evacuated.  Prayers for the dead and their families.   

It´s a day after Alma (which oddly means Soul in Spanish), the first tropical storm of the year.  It did not become a full on hurricane but we were here in Leon which was pretty much the landfall-epicenter of the storm.  It was pretty wild.  We made a mad rush to the grocery store in the middle of a lull not knowing whether stuff would be open today.  But it is.  The winds became pretty severe and it was weird going through the eye. 

Chloe and I waited it out at our hostel.  Pics to come.  We made some friends and we had a hurricane party (though technically it was as I said a tropical storm party).  Which ended of course with a drinking game.  We were out of power most of yesterday, so when we went to the store the only candles they had left were La Virgen Maria and Jesus.

It was quite fitting to be illuminated during our inebriation by this lady.



Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Doc on history of the Revolution

This is a documentary that was made in 1979 the year of the Sandinista Revolution by Australian journalist John Pilger. His wiki here. As the wiki states Pilger has been a long time critic of US foreign policy. This video is decidedly one-sided in its depiction of the events. (pro-Sandinista). I post it because that side is the one not often shown in the West or rather the US.

You also get to see an honest to God liberation theologian in the film.

The Vatican under John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) stood against the liberation theologians because they were seen as Marxists. JP II was in the midst of the East European, particularly Polish Catholic struggle against Soviet communism. John Paul could not see a difference between what was going on in Latin America and the Soviet Union. Reagan saw things similarly i.e. that Nicaragua would become a Soviet satellite in the Western Hempishere a la Cuba. The movie questions that fundamental assumption. It examines the possibility that this country was on its own trajectory (not without serious problems or potential pitfalls) trying for something different and unjustly robbed of its sovereignty.

It also exposes the paranoia (from our vantage point today) of the Cold War.

A more balanced doc would show also the atrocities committed by the Sandinistas (of which there were many) particularly in response to atrocities perpetrated by the Contras.

Edit:  Not sure if the video is coming up.  If not, the link is here.

Published in: on May 29, 2008 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Leon Thread

Haven´t seen much of the city yet.  Arrived last night went to see the new Indy Jones movie (not bad particularly for $1.50!!!).  Today we are experiencing the brunt of a rising tropical storm that could become the first hurricance of the season.  Slated for the West Coast of (you guessed it) Nicaragua.  The streets are currently fairly flooded and it has been raining hard pretty much non-stop for the last 12 hours.

From the Weather Channel:

Tropical Depression One-E formed late Wednesday evening and this morning has become Tropical Storm Alma the first named storm of the season in the eastern Pacific.

Some moderate strengthening will continue, while drifting north along the western coast of Nicaragua with a threat for torrential rain and flooding in central America. Alma is forecast make landfall along the northern coast by later this afternoon and then weaken over western Honduras.

Hurricane Warnings are now posted along the west coasts of Nicargua and Honduras with a Hurricane Watch for El Salvador. All residents and mariners along the coast need to pay close attention to Alma and take measures to protect property and life the next 24 to 36 hours.

Tropical storm warnings have been posted for the coasts of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador, with tropical storm conditions also expected along the Pacific coast of Honduras.

A major threat with Alma will be torrential rains that may cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides. Extreme caution is advised in the path of Alma the next 24 to 48 hours. Be prepared to move to higher ground and away from flooded areas during this tropical event.

So we may be stuck here for a few days.  We were thinking of going up to the northern highlands but that might not be possible with so much rain and possible flooding.

Also there may be a taxi and bus strike upcoming.  That would also put a major damper on my desire to go to the north.  But either way we are shifting more into the political terrain and history of this country.  Grenada was mostly spared the violence during the Revolution and Contra War.  Leon not.  I´ll get some pics up of bullet hole buildings.  And the rain.

Published in: on May 29, 2008 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment