On Tuesday I took another day trip out to Carazo. The mico-bus that I picked from the UCA took me down Carretera Sur, over El Crucero and then down into Diriamba.

We left Managua around 11:00am with rapidly changing cloud cover threatening rain and then backing off, over and over again. Because we are now squarely inside the rainy season the scenery as we climbed southward towards El Crucero was lush.

The greens have become even more vibrant than when I first arrived at the end of May. Things are growing so fast now that there is a carpet of green almost completely hiding the layer of dead and decaying life that can be found along the grown everywhere here.

The vines were so think in places that they looked like they were choaking the life out off all of the other trees and plants around them. However, here and there what is hidden just beneath this fresh layer of green pokes through.

Here I would see a corner of an old building poking through, and there I would see the bare dead branches of a tree thrust through the vines like a hand sinking into quicksand. The taller trees are uneffected by the vines and other undergrowth.

Sure their trucks are covered with these smaller plants but their branches and leaves extend majesticly above it all. many of these were flowering, beautiful yellows and oranges.

As my eyes were drawn upward I noticed a flock of buzzards occupying a nearby tree as we drove by. I couldnīt count them with any exactness, but there appeared to be close to a hundred birds sitting in that tree watching us drive by.

I have lived much of my life in the Rocky mountains of the western United States. Anyone who drives through the passes in those mountains quickly becomes accustomed to seeing dead deer, and other smaller animals, along the side of the road. There are people whoīs job it is to scrape these carcases off the road, but they allways seems to build up faster then they can be removed.

After seeing all of the vultures it occured to me that I almost never see a dead animal along the road in Nicaragua. I wonīt say never, but it is much more infrequent than in the Rockies. Iīm guessing that the vultures and the ants and everything else about this climate make short work of anything that dies.

The trip through to Diriamba went quickly and smoothly. However, as we were leaving Diriamba towards Jinotepe (only 3 kilometers away) we slowed to a stop in my first experience with a traffic jam ever in Nicaragua. Predictably the micro-bus driver wasnīt content to wait behind the line or cars and trucks in front of us.

He pulled unto the shoulder and started passing everying all the while honking to chase pedestrian off of their rightfull place alongside the road. When we got to the outskirts of Jinotepe the pedestrians became too think to push aside with a bus, so we turned off onto a side road to get around them.

We wove through dozens of small side streets in an effort to get around whatever was stopping traffic in order to arrive at the market in Jnotepe which was the end of the line for that trip. As we did so I caught glimses of the main street from time to time. It was completely full of people and horses and whatnot. I figured it had to be a parade.

Once we got to the market I decided to backtrack to the "parade" to see what was going on. I only paused at a supermarket to buy some "Pan Bimbo", some ham, and a couple Strawberry flavored milks in platic bags. I consumed all of this in short order as I made my way across town exept for half of the ham (I was too full), so I tucked it away in my backpack for later.

Once I made it back to the main street I could see huge numbers of people all making their way to the same place as I was, so excitedly I continued on. The street was lined on both sides wih pavilions covering people seated drinking Flor de Caņa and smoking and visiting with family and friends.

I walked all the way down this street until I was on the outskirts of Diriamba looking for the parade, but I was unable to locate it. I figured that it had either allready passed or else was still on itīs way. In the hopes that the latter was true I headed back down to what I felt was the middle of the crowd and stood in the shade of a large Almond tree behind a wealthy looking family to wait for it.

I waited there for a couple of hours before I finally gave up and started walking back to Jinotepe. Still, even though I never got to see Catholic statues, or dancers, or floats, or marching bands, or whatever the parades have there I enjoyed being there in that sea of humanity. Everyone there was laughing and having a good time. The energy was infestious, so much life.

I did manage to see lots of magnifecent horses and a couple of girls with leather sashes that looked like they might be Miss Jinotepe or possible Miss University winners. Also I saw a "Gigantona", and I got to listen to several mariachi groups that passed by playing their metal drums and xylophones and whatnot.

Also, judging by what I saw in that crowd Jinotepe and Diriamba have more than their fair share of beautiful women. Still, it looked like most of those women were there with a guy. This didnīt prevent them from eye flirting with me a bit, but I couldnīt really engage them conversation while they are with another guy. Thatīd be discourteous.

Anyway, I walked back through Jinotepe, and through the market, and then out the other side on the southbound road towards El Rosario and Santa Teresa. I was enjoying exploring the city so I stayed on foot. I found a back road to the west of the main road heading south and I followed that broken dirt road until I got to the bridge leading to El Rosario.

On my way I stopped by a friendīs place to say hi and to give him my new phone number. Turns out he and almost his entire family had gone to the "Tope" (It turns out that the parade thing is a celebration of three patron saints from Jinotepe and is called the "Tope"). His elder married daughter had stayed behind because she had a fever.

She enlightened me about the Tope and we had a good talk about married life, humility despite wealth, and happiness:

--She had been fighting wih her husband recently.

--Her sister had married a rich guy and now looked down on her and her family.

--And the happiness bit was about what each person really needs in life to be happy.

I enjoy talking to her whenever I get the chance because she has such a frank and clear way of thinking and expressing herself; it is refreshingly disarming.

As we talked we watched her daughter paint the house with water. She had a plastic cup for off water and a paintbrush. We talked long enough for her to finshing applying a coat of water to the entire house, let it dry, and then appy another coat. It was amazing just how dedicated she was to her artificial task.

While her daugher was "painting" her son and nephew (both about the same age) played with a bicycle tire, rolling it around, passing it too each other. One of them even pulled his penis out and peed all over it. This didnīt dampen either of their interest in playing with it however. Iīm guessing he did it to see the tire change to a darker color grey as he wetted it down.

Kids crack me up.

In any case, once I got to the bridge at the etrance to the raod leading to El Rosario I decided to just keep walking south towards Santa Teresa. As I walked down the road I passed long stretches of wild trees and field and even orchards. Carazo is a beautiful part of the country.

While passing by a field containing several large oxen I smelled death. I had to walk about 50 yards before I located the source. There was a dead and mostly decomposed dog laying in the far corner of the field. It looked the like vultures were allready done with him, but he was swarming with flies and ants.

The walk was long and dry, so I stopped at a small restaurant along the side of the road to buy a 12 onz orange fanta. Along that stretch of raod I saw several restaurants and auto-hotels. An auto-hotel is a hotel that specializes in catoring to lovers; they charge by the hour and have special garages to hide the cars of their clients (I was curious so I walked into one in Managua a few weeks back).

When I got to the right hand turn to Santa Teresa I saw a sign indicating that it was now only 2 kilometers away. As I walked down the road I passed several nice houses. It occured to me that some of them might belong to TheRealNicaragua members as I remembered seeing a picture of an orage house posted that I seemed to remember being in Carazo. . .

For some reason I remembered at that moment that I still had half a packet of ham in a plastic bag in my backpack. I had purchased the ham about four hours ago, so it was probably still good, but I just wasnīt hungry and I was thinking that I didnīt want it to go to waste. At about that time I passed a house with a couple of dogs inside the front gate, they loked like labradors.

I fished out the ham and tossed it through the bars to the dogs. They both ran over and sniffed it and then they started barking at me. They didnīt eat the ham while I wa there, but maybe they did after I walked off. It may be that their owners had trained them not to eat anything offered to them by a stranger. In that case at least the ants would have enjoyed my half a package of ham.

Right after arriving in Santa Teresa I passed by a young looking woman holding a baby girl. I greeted her warmly as I passed by and she asked me if I had walked all the way there from Diriamba. She told me that she had seen me in the Tope and later along the road as she returned to Santa Teresa in a bus. I admitted that I had, and she gave me a bug eyed stare of surprize.

She turned out to be a kind and interesting girl. The one(ish) year old baby girl she was holding was hers, but she told me that the father wasnīt in the picture anymore (this is so common that I will most likely stop mentioning it soon). Her name is Teresa; itīs an easy one for me to remember. Teresa from Santa Teresa.

Her daughter kept pulling one of her dangly earrings out and sucking on it while we talked. I was concerned about her swollowing the thing, but Teresa assured me that she did that all the time, so I need not worry. Her daught was being a brat but she is so cute.

After saying goodbye to Teresa I wandered around Santa Teresa until just before 6:00pm. I found some apartments that I am considering renting there, and I also walked by a great little old church that made me wish that I had remembered to take my camera with me.

As I was waiting for the bus to leave in the center square in Santa Teresa I stopped by an Eskimo for a chocolate icecream cone. In this Eskimo I found something else that should make it onto most tourist stops. The girl that works in the Eskimo in Santa Teresa is one of the most stunningly beautiful women I have ever seen.

I engaged her in a brief conversation as she served me my icecream, but then I felt my mind go blank so I just walked out eating my chocolate icecream trying to make my brain function normally again. Yes, she is that cute.

The bus ride back to Jinotepe was uneventfull. Once I got to the terminal in Jinotepe I had to wait a bit for the next one to leave for Managua. While I was waiting I large heavyset dog walked too close to my legs causing me to spin around to face it. The dog growled and tensed at my sudden movement, and got into an attack posture.

I stared into the eyes of this dog and slowly squared my shoulders and started leaning forward. The dog started looking nervous, so I pressed my advantage and abruptly moved towards it. The dog broke away in fear and hid in one of the stalls in the mercado.

A group of guys who work on the buses had laughed when I had spun around quickly because of the dog, but they stopped when they saw how I handled it. I had compared the manerisms of dags to the manerisms of men many times, and this is yet another example.

Yesterday, I was leaving the mall on Carretera Masaya called Las Galerias at about 8:00pm. As I was walking around the side of the mall towards the carretera a guy walked by me going the other way. As we passed he said "boo", or something like that intended to startle me I suppose. I obviously was not startled, and I gave him a disdainfull look that clearly said, "you little pissant" and then I just kept walking.

Iīm not real sure why many dogs and men feel the need to try to posture and try to intimidate, but I do know that if one shows no fear and a calm confidence both will back down, usually.

When I got back to Managua, I took a bus from the UCA to the Hospital next to the new US Embassey which is near where Iīm currently living. From there I have to walk westward a couple of blocks down a dirt road that allways has several large standing puddles and large piles of sand and rocks along the side, as during the day people work on the road making blocks of stone and cement.

The people that live along this stretch of road all own dogs. They are probably worried about all of the men that hang around all day along there because they work with sand and stone, but they are really harmless. Anyway, these dogs allways bark at me as I walk to my apartment after dark, and this night I was there at around 9:00pm.

A small pack of three dogs were standing out in the middle of the street in front of a path between two huge puddles that I needed to use to get where I was going. As I got close to them they started barking and growling and dancing around excitedly like dogs will do when they are scared or thinking about attacking.

I squared my shoulders, growled deep in my throat and quickened my advance. Predicably they scattered out of my way, but then they started coming up behind me like they were thinking about biting me from behind. I couldnīt allow this so I bared my teeth, growled so loudly that it soundled like a bark and charged them.

Finally, this was enough to scatter the dogs well away from me back into the safety of their houses. My quick movements had knocked my cellphone off my belt however, so I had to hang around in the street for a few moments looking for it. Luckily for me a couple coming up behind me found it and returned it to me.

They had witnesses the whole exchange so I felt the need to say, "All this just to chase off a dog" in order to explain myself. They probably thought I was out of my mind.

As I lay on the comfortable bed that came with the room Iīm renting feeling the air conditioning wash over my body after a nice shower that evening I couldnīt help but contrast the controlled environment of my room to the chaotic wash of life and death just outside.

I admit that it feels goods escape from the struggle for survival every now and again, but as a person who has spent long periods of his life sheltered from it, I realize that I need it. Without it I donīt feel connected to life or death in the same way; I feel like a spectator in my own life.

So,as it says on the common bumper sticker down here:

"Vive Nicaragua Jodido!"