I don’t like going to Managua. It is the capital of Nicaragua and from time to time Volunteers have to go there to work in the Peace Corps office. Our bosses and doctors are there. The city is large and not particularly safe. We have to take special Peace Corps taxis all over the city, and that can become a nuisance.
I’m fairly lucky living only an hour and a half from Managua. I don’t have to stay over very often. If I have to go in I can just catch a bus back later in the day or early evening. However, many Volunteers have to stay for days at a time, since transportation to and from their site is not as frequent.
Last week I had business in Managua all week. Most of it was my final medical checkup, but I also had some meetings and trainings with the new group of trainees (my replacement is among them). I was not alone for this trip. I was accompanied by numerous other Volunteers, also banished to Managua, in particular, my friend Thomas. As the week went on we drifted further and further down the River of Irony.
On day three down the river we took a stop off at the city of Contradiction (sorry, I am reading a book on the Congo – think Heart of Darkness-style river travel). Although Passover is not until later in the month, a few of us decided to celebrate at the hostel in Managua on Tuesday night. Rachel really wanted to do a full on Seder. I was not too warm to the idea (I wanted to just make matzoh ball soup and let everyone have some), but she insisted. She wound up printing off an interfaith Haggadah for everyone to use. I found that to be an oxymoron, but in the end it was a wonderful oxymoron. The scripts were thought provoking, and despite a predominantly Christian guest list, everyone absolutely loved the Seder. There were more than 10 of us around the table, and it was a great night.
Day four of our trip down the River of Irony took us deep into the Managua Jungle of Surrealism. In 1972 Managua was mostly destroyed by an earthquake. Ruins still remain scattered around the city, and the city is organized haphazardly. There are pockets of development, mostly in the southern half of the city. Volunteers tend to spend their time there. I desperately wanted to see Old Managua and the lakefront park that they developed over the last few years, and a few of my other passengers on the steamboat down the River of Irony joined me one late afternoon.
First we saw the ruins of the old Managua Cathedral. Directly on the other side of the square are the remains of the two primary founders of the Sandinistas: Carlos Fonseca and Tomas Borges. Wondering where Sandino himself is buried? No one knows. After he was assassinated his corpse was hidden. Why did they do this? To prevent a martyr. #Fail. Every once and a while there is a push by the Sandinista government to look for him.
Down at the lakefront there is a sprawling park that is quite pleasant. Among its features are an old airplane (the First Lady put it there for selfies – most Nicaraguans have never been on a plane don’t forget), small models of Old Managua buildings destroyed in the earthquake, statues, and a temporary exhibition of high resolution photographs of artwork from the Prado in Madrid. Plus there are Trees of Life – lots of large, brightly colored illuminated metallic trees.
So we have life size people, walking among half-size buildings, with brightly colored fake trees in the background, and a Prado exhibit along the lakeshore #Surreal