Many people identify Estili with large groves of shade-grown coffee, which is true for the district at large, but close to the city of Estili, the biggest crop is actually tobacco. And thus I suppose it is no surprise that I saw more people smoking cigarettes here than I have elsewhere in Nicaragua - but still very few people, I am happy to say.
My hosts, Oscar and Eira Aragon, founded and still run Alianza Americana, with offices in Leon, Estili, and Chinandega. The organization's primary mission is to teach English and leadership skills to Nicaraguan youth and adults to improve employment opportunities in tourism and international business. In addition, Alianza facilitates international student trips from various universities (including mine) and medical mission trips. And fortunately for English speakers, they have also developed a method to teach Spanish to us. Above is the Estili location, which has several classrooms, and living quarters for the teachers and English-speaking students (like me!)
Directly across the street from us is a new football (soccer) stadium, which will open soon. The Nicaraguan team feeds directly into the Madrid team in Spain. The stadium sits within a large park, and I am sure lots of stores and other venues will open once this sports arena goes live later this year.
Estili has a central plaza...
anchored, as is common, by a church... the little cart with the umbrella is selling ice cream. The local climate here is more temperate than Leon or the port of Chinandega, but still rather toasty - but then again, it is summer here!
made by the wonderful cook Yasmina! She cooks for the resident teachers, and I was fortunate to be included - some of the best food I have ever eaten in Nicaragua!
A highlight of this week in Estili was a day spent in a nearby national park, Tisay. My tutor and I took a bus very early in the morning to get there.... I wish this photo captured all of the detail - a true mixed media piece if ever I saw one! To the right of the driver's sunshade were large silver letters spelling "BIRD" and although it does not show well here, he also had a beautifully carved and painted flying eagle hanging from his sunshade. And lots of colorful duct tape everywhere.... stunning!
This sign depicts the circular hiking route.... although we ended up not taking it all the way round due to the wind (and ok, my hip!) So alas, we missed the stunning waterfall I heard about....
Eventually, we traversed a lovely valley to come to a very unusual sculpture garden.
The sculptor is Alberto Gutierrez...
who has lived in his enclave for 40 years, with his brother, never leaving. They charge about 70 cents US to enter, and give the collections to neighbors who hike in food for the brothers.
Alberto carves animals and figures everywhere.... and people from all over the world have been to his garden, as he showed me by the guestbooks filled over the years. And indeed, we met a Swiss woman and several folks from Barcelona, Spain on the trail.
He also maintains a wide variety of native flora....
including banana forests.... below is the cut portion of a banana trunk which remains when the primary stalk dies off. He has burned this one for some reason unknown to me, but what a lovely motif!
We slowly made the return trip, all uphill, and went to the wonderful little cafe for coffee and more Spanish lessons! I am primarily trying to work on verbs this trip.... finding it a tad difficult to remember the 14 different tenses, lol!
Below is my ever-so-patient tutor, Maritza.... she is a former student of Alianza, and has been temporarily released from her teaching responsibilities there to tutor me, for which I am very grateful!
I was back in Leon for the weekend, but we are off to Chinandega this afternoon for the rest of the week.... more on that later. In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by (and making it through a rather lengthy travelogue!) If you've a moment, please leave a comment as I love hearing from you! xxx Lynn