One of the Marys on the street with people singing. The line to sing to her was about a block long and later it got even longer.
Daniel in this message is Daniel Ortega, president of the country and strong socialist. He is very, very popular and messages like this are scrawled nearly everywhere. It may be that those of other parties are removed while his are not, but my bet is that he wins reelection in 2011.
Our first night in Managua, we got sucked into the big performance outside the old cathedral (the interior was destroyed by earthquakes and is not open, but it still looks nice). They repeatedly sang two songs about the Virgin Mary and were apparently awaiting the arrival of one of the traveling statues of her. However, after two hours we gave up and left. What we realized only at that point was that no one cared about the staute. They had only come because they were giving away free buckets of staple foods like corn, rice, and beans. As soon as people got their buckets, they were running for the exits.
They had built a lovely Christmas tree out of lights and had a lot of fireworks all night long. They also had the fireworks that simply explode with no pretty lights that went off about every 10 seconds for the whole two hours. Apparently that is how they honor Mary.
In Nicaragua, Tara and I both got haircuts. For $1.50 each. Here is Tara's, which looks good for $1.50.
The Honduras coup is covered a lot in the news here. We saw a few signs on the topic. (Zelaya is the ousted president of Honduras.)
This is the new cathedral in Managua, paid for by the founder of Domino's Pizza, who now devotes his fortune to Catholic causes. Inside, it feels like a cross of a high school gym and a bomb shelter. Outside, it at least looks cool.
From Managua, we went to Leon. Leon is the other major colonial center and is most famous because it has nearly a one-to-one colonial church to person ratio. Here is one such church. Because I don't remember the names, I'll call this the pink one.
Leon is near the Cerro Negro Volcano, which is one of the most active in the world. However, when it erupts, it just spews out lava bombs (small bits of lava that harden in the air and are rock before they hit the ground). They have tours here in which you hike to the top with a piece of plywood nailed to a piece of metal and then sled down the volcano on it. We first read about this in the New York Times about a year ago and have known we had to do it ever since. Here is the truck to take us to the volcano.
Here is the volcano. We climbed up the right side in this picture and then slid down at almost the left side.
Looking down from the top, you can clearly see where the small lava flow and rocks from previous eruptions stop. Lots of volcanoes in the area, but this is the only active one.
Looking down into the crater of the volcano. We actually got to hike around in the crater as the guide was telling us about how they are really bad at predicting when it will erupt.
Now, for the main event. Here we are in our jump suites getting ready for the sledding. On the ground in the background, you can see a couple of the sleds.
This isn't either of us, but here is roughly what you look like sledding down. The incline is 41 degrees, which may not sound like a lot, but is really steep. While you are sledding down, these tiny black rocks are flying at your face. And they have a radar gun to clock your speed. It was great! We have video of Tara going down.
Here is Tara upon completion of her run. She fell a couple times, but did a great job. In the end, I was clocked at 65km/hour (40mph) and Tara was clocked at a slightly slower 20km/h (though she was going faster at one point before the radar gun). The record is 50mph, so I wasn't even close to that.
Back in town, we ran into this woman. Not sure who she was supposed to be, but I'll guess that it has something to do with the Virgin Mary.
We'll call this the Yellow Colonial Church of Leon.
This one is the main cathedral of Leon. It is huge for a city this size. Apparently, there are stories that the plans for Lima were accidentally sent here instead, so now they have a huge cathedral.
We don't know what kind of store this is, but we have seen it in two different cities and we like the logo. I think they sell clothing. Or maybe execution equipment.