1 The main market in the city of Masaya, which is known as 'The Cradle of Nicaraguan Folklore' - This market sells a diverse selection of merchandise, but it is best known for its hammocks and woodcarvings.
2 There were plenty of colorful hand-woven hammocks for sale.
3 One morning, we went to the ChocoMuseo in Granada and took a chocolate making class using organic cacao beans. Making chocolate requires a great deal of time and patience, but is so worth the effort! The first step involves roasting the beans. Approximately 300 beans produce one pound of chocolate.
4 After roasting, the beans are peeled.
5 Then they are ground using a mortar and pestle.
6 We learned how to make three different kinds of hot chocolate: Mayan, Aztec, and Spanish.
7 We also made our own chocolate bars. Megan added peanuts to hers and I added crushed coffee beans to mine.
8 We bought delicious oranges from this vendor in Granada.
9 Mamon chino fruit,also known as rambutan, is native to Malaysia and Indonesia. You peel off the skin and eat the white, translucent flesh inside. But, you must spit out the seed inside because they can be poisonous.
10 It is important to take breaks in the shade, since the heat can be oppressive.
11 Even the shops and cafes are colorful in Nicaragua.
12 Resting in the shade
13 All Nicaraguan school children wear uniforms.
14 We had delicious ice cream from an ice cream shop called Eskimo.
15 Granada sits along a large freshwater lake called Lago de Nicaragua.
16 Megan lived in a neighborhood called Batahola Sur, and this is the view from her front steps.
17 One day we took an excursion to Volcano Telica. This photo was taken in a small village outside the city of Leon where we rented horses for the day.
18 The countryside was beautiful for horseback riding. We rode for 2-½ hours and then hiked for 2 more hours to reach the top of the volcano. Then we had to make the long trip back to Leon, which made for a tiring but worthwhile trip.
19 An interesting seed casing along the trail
20 Here we are taking a break from the hike.
21 Volcano Telica from a distance
22 The inside of the crater - Telica is one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua, last erupting in 2008. The sulfur smell is so strong that it became difficult to breathe after 5 minutes of standing near the rim.
23 Here I am capturing the beauty of the crater.
24 Our guide, Anry, found edible berries along the trail called nancite, that tasted bitter and a little sour. Nicaraguans make helados with them, which is a typical Nicaraguan ice cream/frozen treat, made with local fruit. They can also be fermented and turned into wine.
25 La Soya youth center where Megan taught English - Here is an excerpt from CANTERA’s mission statement: to contribute in the creation of a more just, equal and sustainable society by strengthening the identities and capacities of people, both individually and collectively.
26 This is the 2011 photography exhibit that was displayed at the youth center.
27 More photographs from the exhibit - Megan taught photography workshops in all four of the urban cities where CANTERA has youth centers - Jorge Dimitrov, San Judas, Mateare, and Ciudad Sandino - in preparation for the annual photography contest.
28 Megan’s class schedule - She offered basic, intermediate, and advanced English classes. All of the classes were free to anyone who wanted to learn, regardless of age. Her students ranged in age from 13 to 57 years old.
29 The children at the youth center enjoyed posing for photos.
30 Diego lives in the Jorge Dimitrov neighborhood and often spends his afternoons playing soccer at the youth center, since he is still too young to attend school.
31 One of the other volunteers started a community garden in the center’s backyard. They grow tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, corn, chiltoma (a type of pepper), and pineapple.
32 This is pineapple growing in the garden.
33 We took a weekend trip to San Juan del Sur, which is a beach town along the Pacific Ocean.
34 I loved photographing the buildings in San Juan del Sur.
35 A colorful spot to rest
36 Walking home from the market
37 Walking through town
38 Tostones and queso frito (fried plantains and cheese)
39 The beach in San Juan del Sur
40 Here we are on the turtle excursion. It is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, watching over 500 turtles on the beach laying their eggs at the same time. There were so many that we had to be careful to not step on them in the dark.
41 This is one of the hundreds of turtle nests that were on the beach. We were not allowed to use our camera’s white flash because it disorients the turtles, but we were given red flashlights to find our way around the beach.
42 Megan cutting down a plantain branch
43 Showing off the plantains we cut down with a machete
44 This is a clump of coffee cherries, which turn red when they are ripe and ready to be picked. The seeds of these fruits are what we call, coffee beans, and they need to be processed as soon as they are removed from the tree.
45 Megan washed her laundry by hand using soap and a washboard and hung them on a clothesline to dry. This was one of the many things I witnessed in Nicaragua that made me better appreciate how easy our lives are in the U.S. compared to other parts of the world.
46 Since the volunteers have not grown up with drinking Nicaraguan tap water, they have to use clay filters to purify their drinking water.
47 This is the Cathedral of León, also known as the Real e Insigne Basilica Catedral de León Nicaragua.
48 The view from the top of the cathedral as a storm approached
49 Megan and I hung all of the photographs for the annual CANTERA photography contest in the Palacio Nacional de Cultura, or the National Cultural Palace. The theme for the contest is always based on the environment, and the theme for 2011 was: Nicaragua, Thinking Positivity.
50 The National Cultural Palace - The students could focus on the beauty or the destruction in the environment. Megan helped select 20 finalists and one winner. The gallery opening at the National Palace also included a theater performance and dancing.