Friday, February 28, 2014

Thursday, February 27th, San Salvador, El Salvador


Goodbye, Nicaragua.  At the airport, I bought a small book containing some of Ruben Dario's poems.  I leave the country recommending some verses from "Greetings from an Optimist", written in 1907.
Renowned, productive clans, abundant blood of Hispania
Fraternal spirits, luminous souls, hail!
For the moment is coming when new hymns are to be sung
By glorious tongues.
An immense rumbling fills the atmosphere.
Magical waves of life will soon be reborn.
Forgetfulness is retreating, disappointed death is retreating.
A new kingdom is proclaimed, a happy Sibyl is dreaming.
And in Pandora's box, from which so many misfortunes emerged,
We suddenly find, talismanic, pure, laughing.

And just as divine Vergil might have described her in his verses,
The divine queen of light, of high Hope!

Who will be so small-minded as to deny that Spanish vigor has muscles,
Or to deem the Spanish soul to the wingless, blind, and maimed?
This is not Babylon or Nineveh, buried in oblivion and dust.
This is not a queen inhabiting the tomb amid mummies and stones.
But high-hearted nation, crowned with unwithered pride,
Fixing its eager gaze in the direction of the dawn.
And the same holds for the lands beyond the sea.

One and another continent, renewing the old lineages,
United is spirit, concerns, and language.
See the moment coming when new hymns are to be sung.
The Latin race will see the great dawn of the future.
And in a thunder of glorious music, millions of lips
Will greet the splendid light that will come from the East.
The august East where everything is transformed and renewed
By God's eternity, infinite activity
And thus let hope be the permanent vision within us,
Renowned productive clans, abundant blood of Hispanics.

Of course, I couldn't help but spend some time in envy watching swimmers and boogie-boarders enjoy the warm afternoon waves.  I know I've said this several times before, but I will get back out there (and you'll see it in this blog).
Our group walked out on a pier on the Pacific coast of El Salvador, where the local fishing fleet brings their catch to market.

To view all of the photos taken today, click on: Thursday, February 27th, San Salvador.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wednesday, February 26th, Leon


 Nicaragua is currently telling the story of its rise from the oppression of the rich and powerful, whose corruption and exploitation of the resources of Nicaragua has many good examples in its past political and historical leadership.

As in most Central American countries, the role of foreign powers has usually been at the heart of this abuse, and the United States has played a huge role.  It has not been surprising to be reminded of this many times daily, and to be taken to monuments which celebrate the heroes who have fought against my country's excess.
While traveling in Europe brings most Americans a sense of pride for our participation in overcoming the advance of Germany in the cities we visit, our visits to Central American countries can easily bring a bit of shame and embarrassment.  How could we be so blatantly self-interested in acquiring cheap resources, and so callous in our disregard for human rights?  Those who we supported in their domination of the peoples of Central America were generally among the least concerned with building the kind of democracy which we love so much.

 San Jacinto is a small community outside of Granada, which contains a beautiful collection of  volcanic, sulfur-spewing mud-vents.  The villagers nearby collect the mud, and supply tourists for health-improving facials.

I only wish there were really some earthy potion that my country could take to save its own face from its past transgressions.

For all of the lessons which one could learn from visits like these, it's still apparent to me we have not learned that the strongest motivation on earth is to improve the conditions under which one's family survives.  And any government which does not allow a fair chance for its people to pursue such ambitions - will not itself survive.

These towering volcanos should remind us how explosive life can be when something is oppressed and restricted.  Freedom and great hopes are the power which builds great nations, and any leader which ignores or prevents this energy is just sitting on dangerous ground.

How often do you get to climb up onto the roof of a church?  If you want a better view of the Avenue of volcanos in Nicaragua,  why not?

Below us sits an 18th century-built cedar columned church, only one of 14th churches in Leon, Nicaragua.  Enrique tells us that Leon is his country's church factory.

And here are some workers happily cleaning this one.
Central markets are good places to practice photography.  My friend Emilienne probably has a photograph just like this one, because I encouraged her to see that a good balance in a photograph is important.   The viewer's eye is drawn into the center of a shot easier if there are closer objects in the corners of the photo.
The streets of Nicaragua are filled with reminders of the revolution, and no one is shy to blame either the U.S. or it's corporations for the troubles which occurred before 1979.

But children everywhere aspire for better, and Barbies, coloring books, rulers, and school lessons inspire Nicaraguans to reach higher.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on: Wednesday, February 26th, Leon.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday, February 24th, Ometepe Island


 An early morning wakeup led us to scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and a pineapple-orange slushy at 5:30am, followed by a long drive down the coast of Nicaragua to the ferry to Ometepe Island.  The island is not off the coast.  It's the largest island in a lake in the world, and is home to 40,000 Nicaraguans.  Two picture-perfect volcanos ring it, and we watched as a wisp of a cloud just drifted away as we sailed across the lake to Ometepe.
The two volcanos, Concepcion and Maderas, are joined by a low isthmus to form one island in the shape of an hourglass.  It's the ancestral home of a group thought to have originated in Mexico, and whose funeral vessels have been dated from 500 AD to 1300 AD.
We visited the El Ceibo, a biosphere reserve Museum containing natural, cultural, and archeological specimens found on the island.  Included are  three thousand spiral petroglyphs carved on basalt (volcanic) rocks.  Symbolizing fertility throughout the world, the spirals are particularly plentiful.

Unbelieveably, the museum does not have a local text describing their collection, so I'm making arrangements with them to produce a useful resource document.
 We stopped at Charco Verde to enjoy a spring-fed mineral pool, where the water was about 60 degrees, and the sandy bottom aided even the squeamish to have a great time.
 We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Lake at Santa Domingo Beach, and were joined by beautiful, and only moderately-pesky magpie jay.

To see all of the photos we took today, click on: Monday, February 24th, Ometepe Island.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday, Feb 23rd, Granada


Today, Granada.  Did you know that this city was the first European city on the North American continent?  It was registered with the Crown of Aragon and the Kingdom of Castile of Spain in 1610, after the defeat of the Moors in Granada, Spain.

We cruised Lake Nicaragua looking for birds and other wildlife.
For the most part, we found what we'd find in marshes in Sonoma County (herons, kingfishers, ospreys, vultures, and gulls).

But the spider monkeys were unusual.  And the backdrops with volcanos made for some very pretty pictures.

Our guide, Enrique, showed us some gorgeous surprises which awaits the persistent explorer.

And we watched cigars being made for shipment to Europe.

And we ended the day, walking through the city again, visiting a small exhibition of 28 Pre-Columbian statues dating from 800 to 1200 AD, found on an island in the south of Lake Nicaragua (Zapatera).

To see the rest of the photos we took today, click on Sunday, February 23rd, Granada.

Saturday, February 22nd, Managua to Granada, Nicaragua


At the end of our first day in Nicaragua, we're in our travel mode.  The flight was long.  Since when did they start charging for inflight entertainment?  I've got to remember not to pack the extra battery life for the IPod Touches in the suitcase.  Last night's hotel bed was too hard, and the air conditioner was too loud.  

But this morning started off a great day of our tour of Nicaragua.  Fourteen Canadians, and one other American, joined us for breakfast by the pool at the Hotel Seminole.  Our tour guide, Laura Rudderforth, provided us with the day's itinerary and an upbeat can-do attitude.

A controversial church, several volcanos and calderas, a lakeside commercial district,  and lots of Sandinista tributes and political discussions later, we've arrived in Granada for our first of a three-night stay.

Our tour mates are wonderful, as is our experience with most Canadian travelers, and our local guide (Enrique) and driver (Alfonzo) are excellent.

As we listened to Enrique reveal the history of Nicaragua, and heard the more recent history through the experiences of a child of the revolution, we become even more aware of the impact of U.S. foreign policies.

I am taken aback during a discussion at the Sandinista Museum of the time when, as a young airman in Florida, I met the President of Nicaragua (Anastasio Somoza Debayle).  He had come to the airbase I was stationed at, and was allowed to co-pilot one of the Air Force's newest jets from there to Nicaragua and back.  As head of the Command's First-term Airman's Council, I was one of the guests at a dinner in his honor.  It was somewhat strange to recall that meeting, after hearing of the destruction caused by him from our guide.

Later, as we drove through the streets of Managua, we saw hundreds of Sandinista supporters celebrating the 80th anniversary of the campaign that Augusto Cesar Sandino led.

One of the most interesting developments in Nicaragua is the possibility that a contract signed recently with a Chinese billionaire will result in a new canal allowing ship traffic to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Research is proceeding to determine the most cost-effective and environmentally-appropriate route, and debate continues on whether Nicaragua has over-reached in this mind-boggling undertaking.

This is the National bird, which we saw on the drive up to the Masaya Volcano National Park.  It looks a little like a Quetzal, which we saw in Costa Rica many years ago.  I hope to get better at using a new telephoto lens that I bought for our Africa trip ager this year.  I know I'm going to have to have the camera cleaned up before we go, as I've noticed a pesky hair inside the lens apparatus which I constantly have to clean up with the editing features of IPhoto.

I'm impressed with the newest Google photo improvement features, as they significantly sharpen the photo, and add crisp color.

The Masaya Volcano National Park comprises an area of 54 km² and includes two volcanoes and five craters. The volcanoes have erupted several times in history, and were feared by both the indigenous people and the Spanish conquerors. The Spanish baptized the active volcano "La Boca del Infierno" or "The Mouth of Hell". They planted a cross, "La Cruz de Bobadilla" (named after Father Francisco Bobadilla), on the crater lip in the 16th century in order to exorcise the Devil.

Tonight, we walked the streets of Granada after dinner.  The city is hosting the Festival Internacional de Poesia de Granada, and the plaza was filled with music and excitement.

To see the rest of the photos taken today, click on Saturday, February 22nd, Managua to Granada

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Google Plus Satisfaction


On the long drive home from a week at a friend's beach house in San Clemente,  I heard a commentator on the radio remind me of my love for channel surfing on television many years ago.  Nowadays, my DVR captures all that I want to watch, and I hardly ever use the remote for anything other than fast forwarding through the taped shows.

But then I got to thinking that I have an even better substitute in Google Plus.  The hundreds of posts that stream through my Home Page usually contain just enough of a teaser line to catch my interest, and the photo, video, or link to post/news article lets me explore further.  Because I choose who out there is gathering the content I see, my time is very well spent.  No filler channels, re-runs, or lousy shows to skip over.  It's easy to delete a source, and there are thousands more each day, from all over the world, trying to write for me.

And do you remember all those times you caught something special while going around the dial, and you wished there was some way you could share it with your friends?   Can you imagine how much fun it would have been to just repost it to their sets?

We boomers are supposedly entering another childhood, and this is definitely an improvement.