Last Saturday I took a trip out to Matagalpa to visit a friend of who owns an english academy named LLC (Language Learning Center). I got up early in the morning in order to maximize my time out there.

However, the bus ride from where I live on the far western edge of Managua to the bus terminal in Mayoreo on the far eastern edge of Managua took over an hour. Also, I had to wait about 30 minutes for the bus to leave the terminal and the trip took about three hours. So, I ended up getting there around noon despite my best efforts.

The bus that took me to Matagalpa was at one time an elementary school bus. I know this because all of the seats are too close together for adults to be able to sit with their legs straight. Of course I mean adults in the States not adults in Nicaragua. Here everyone exept me is able to fit into the cramped seats without a problem.

The seats on the left side of the bus were able twice as wide as the seats on the right. I figured that meant I could eith sit by myslef on the right or share a seat on the left so I sat on the right. I very large woman was sitting directly in front of me. I became aware of her as we started our journey because she was constantly eating.

She consumed what seemed to be a three course meal out of plastic bags over the course of about an hour. This only bother me as she had the window open next to her seat and would eat leaning towards to window. The result being that little bits of food a drink kept flying back onto my face and shirt.

At that point there werenīt any open seats so I didnīt have the option of moving, so I just cranked up the volume on my IPOD and tolerated it; the bits didnīt end up in my eyes on on my mouth too often.

I enjoyed watching the scenery between Managua and Matagalpa. At first I watched us wrap around the eastern side of lake Managua and then drive across a large flat expanse with short trees and lots of grass. It seemed similar to the pictures that Iīve seen of the african savana.

After awhile we started climbing up into the mountains in the northern middle area of Nicaragua. The Mountains are really beautiful: green, rolling swells. Once we were up in the mountains we drove through some flat stretches that had been planted with some plant (probably a grain) that I had never seen before.

They were a dark green with a single pink flower on top. I was odd to see a large field full of evenly spaced pink flowering plants. Does anybody know what these plants are?

The bus stopped at every city that we passed to pick up and drop off pasangers. It seemed that we allways picked up more than we dropped off but luckily we never ran out of seats. I remember noticing that we stopped at the city named for Ruben Dario; I think he was born there. Also, we stopped at a city famous for onions.

After passing through the onion city we got to a stretch of road that was under construction. This slowed us down quite a bit. If not for the construction we might have made it in 2.5 hours instead of 3.

I jumped off the bus before it got to the terminal in an area that looked like the center of the city because I had no idea where I was headed. It turned out that I was fairly close to the center. I walked a few blocks to the east to hit the main street.

The main street in Matagalpa is awsome. It is lined with all of the major stores and was packed full of people. After spending so much time in Managua I found a city with an actual center to be a novelty. I walked up the main street just to look around and then called my friend for directions. I ended up going back on block to the west and then following that street up to a park. That steet followed a river.

Once I got to the park I walked two blocks back to the east to a street that she called the street of the banks. I love streets that have such obvious and helpfull names. I walked back south down the bank street until I got to the LLC academy, passing 5 or 6 banks on my way.

My friend Yoseling was between classes so she took me to lunch. We ate at a buffet just a bit down bank street from the academy. The food was ok, nothing to rave about but at least there was variety. We headed back to the academy afterwords so that she could teach a couple of classes; I sat in on the classes.

I realy enjoyed myself. It was fun helping the students learn how to polish their english, plus I got to teach them some common slang, like "digits" instead of "telephone number". What made it so fun was that the students were all eager to learn. Nobody was there because they had to be. Every last one of them was paying to be there, so they soaked up everything that I said.

During my many years working as techincal support for a large international webhosting company I was often told by our clients that I have a voice made for radio; many mentioned that with a voice like mine I had missed my calling. I doubt this holds true while Iīm speaking spanish, but when I spoke english in Yoselingīs classes the stundents loved how I talked.

They often listen to a recording of a man speaking in english that they use to learn new phrases. They told me that my voice sounds exactly like the guy on the recording. In any case, the students in her classes enjoyed themselves as much as I did and they asked about me after I left. Some expressed interest in taking classes from me.

So, now I have been offered a job teaching english in Matagalpa. The best part is that what the more advances students want is to simply spend time speaking english. So, all Iīd need to do to earn my living would be to talk to people in my native tounge. I wouldnīt even have to prepare lessons. . .

. . .Iīm considering it.

After the classes Yoseling took me shopping for a gift for a 15 year old birthday party that we were planning to attend later that evening. After visiting three stores and looking at hundreds of items she settled on a candle holder shaped like a rose. I recomended that she buy a padlock for the girl because sheīs a teenager, but Yosleling didnīt think this was a good idea, but she did laugh.

The quinceaņera party had mariachis and alcohol, both in excess. The mariachis felt that their trumpets and whatnot werenīt loud enough in an enclosed space so the were miked through a pair of huge speakers. The girlīs father got sloshed and then started singing with the mariachis about whatever crossed his mind.

Nothing that he said made much sense and was often course, but everyone there whistled and hollared at the top of their lung at everything that he said. I was attempting to carry on a conversation with my friend; big mistake. My hearing still hasnīt completely recovered.

Neither of us drink, so they brought us cups of Coke until my bladder felt like it would burst. I wandered into the bathroom there and wandered out just as quickly. As a military brat I have traveled all over the States and seen my fair share of nasty public restrooms at out of the way gas stations, but nothing that came close to this. About the only thing that Iīve seen that could have prepared me for this would be the bathroom that Quentin Terentino walks through in Deperado.

We ended up leaving the party before it was over because my friend had a splitting headache (for obvious reasons). She took a taxi back to her house to sleep, and I started my quest for a hotel room. During the day I had seen several hotels up and down main street and bank street so I felt confindent that I would be able to find one.

Itīs probably because I wasnīt that familiar with the city, but at night it seemed completely different. I wandered up and down those two street from one end of the city to the other three times that night trying to find a place to stay. I couldnīt find anywhere near as many otels as I seemed to remember seeing during the day, and those that I found were all full.

I felt a bit unsafe walking through some parts of Matagalpa late at night, which is odd as I will walk around most parts of Managua last at night without any problems. There are some areas that are poorly lit or not lit at all. Also at either end of main street there are parks next to cathedrals that at least that night were full of people just hanging out.

Groups of drunks or glue sniffers or gang members hanging out late at night in dark places is not a recipe for success. Still, I felt completely safe on most of bank street as they are armed gaurds stationed out in front of each bank 24/7.

Two hours after beginning my search I was beginning to despair of ever finding a place to stay and was starting to consider just sitting in a bar or something until morning. Finally I stopped a taxi and asked if he knew of someplace I could go. The taxi driver charge me 20 cordobas (twice the norm), but he drove me around from place to place until I found one with rooms.

The next morning I awoke at about 5:30 feeling refreshed. I got ready and headed out immediately because I wanted to get some exploring in befire I headed back to Managua. Nothing was open yet at that hour, but the sun was up. As I had explored the center of the city thoroughly the night before I started walking around the outskirs of the city, up the mountainsides.

There were some streets so steep that they had constructed cement stairs to make it managable. The view from atop some of those hills is breathtaking. Matagalpa is a beautiful city situated in a beautiful part of the country. I spent several hours that morning walking up and down mountainsides. After doing so I felt that I had explored as much of the city proper as I could so I walked down to the bus terminal and caught a bus back to Managua at about 9:00am.

On my way back to Managua I picked a seat on the right side of the bus again so that I could sit alone. The seats were so close together (even closer then the last bus I think) that I was forced to sit with my legs splayed open like a woman at a gynecologistīs. One knee was presses against the right wall of the bus and the other was hanging out into the aisle.

I order to pass the time I bought a newspaper and read most of it as we tried to get past the construction south of Matagalpa. I was forced to stop reading when the motion sickness kicked in. Reading in a moving vehicle isnīt for everyone.

At the onion city we picked up far more people than we dropped off, and I noticed that there were two people in each right hand seat (exept mine) and three in almost every left hand seat. On our way to Dario we picked up enough people to fill the remaining left had seats to overflowing. An old man in a cowboy hat pushed my left leg and sat down on the exteme edge of the seat.

Unfortunatley for this old man, my leg could move over and he was forced to holding himself over the aisle with only one butt check in my seat. Luckily for him, he was getting off in Dario. Once again more people got on than got off in Dario and now there were about eight people standing in the aisle. Iīll admit that I felt a bit odd being the only person not sharing a seat; I gave the people standing near me an apologetic look.

The guy who collects the bus fair noticed that I was sitting alone while people were standing as well. He worked his way down to me and told me to move over. I gave him a long look and then asked him, "How?" He seemed confused by this question so instead of answering it he said, "Youīre all alone in that seat and these people are standing; Iīm gonna need you to move over."

I retorted, "What do you expect me to do, chop my legs in half?" To which he seemed confused but for a little while he moved away probably trying to think of some new way to get me to move over. The bus stopped to pick up yet more people and he came back to once again tell me to move over and let someone else sit down. At this point I let some of my frustration at his stupidity slip through as I replied, "No, I not moving anywhere."

This response caused everyone around me to stare at me for awhile but at least the guy backed off, at least until the bus stopped to pick up yet more people. This time he tired crouching down next to my seat and appealing to my good nature to get me to move over. He probably assumed that I had replied in a frustrated manner because of something he had said or done.

Once again I attempted to explain to this man the nature of physics as it applied to the length of my legs and the bus seats. He gave he a patronizingly patient look and then recommended that if I couldnīt move over than I should stand up or sit mith my legs in the aisle.

I told him that my legs were long enough that I would prevent people from crossing by me if my legs were in the aisle and I had no intention of standing as I had gotten their first. However, I did offer to let share my seat with any legless people on the bus. At long last he gave up, but I donīt think it was because he understood that I was physically unable to move over.

While in Matagalpa I sneezed constantly. There is something growing up there that Iīm alergic to that doesnīt grow in Managua or Carazo. Still, even with the alegry I really enjoyed my time in that beautiful city. So much so that I am planning another trip towards the end of the month where Iīīll visit the Selva Negra as well. And, as I mentioned previosly, Iīm seriously considering moving to Matagalpa to stay and work for awhile.

Iīm loking forward to my next visit.