There are beautiful landscapes in the hills of Nicaragua surrounding the town of Esteli. One weekend we decided to explore them further by participating in a local homestay. During a homestay you stay with a local family. You sleep on their property, eat with them and participate in their family activities. We signed up through a local non-profit that works with the surrounding community to enrich their lives through education and profit sharing. For $123, we got a private room and our own bathroom, 4 meals for Ken and I, entrance to Miraflores National Park, and a 3.5 hour horseback riding adventure. We'd be entrenched in the family's life, exploring their land and basically learning whatever we wanted to learn. Prior to booking we were warned that the family may or may not have electricity and/or running water.
After reading a description of several families, we chose to stay with Orlando and Devanira at their home quaintly called "Ojo de Aqua" (Eye of the Water). The family lives on their farm near the headquarters of the revolutionary guerrilla Leonel Rugama, in the middle of Miraflores National Park. As we later learned, much of the guerrilla training for the Sandinista's Revolution took place around Esteli. This family also has young children which also interested us.
Shortly after arriving at the family's farm, the youngest child, Juan, was asked to carry lunch to his brother working in the fields. We decided to tag-along with Juan.
After dropping off lunch, Juan decided he wanted to visit his dad a bit further up the mountain. Ken, Ela and Juan went upward, while Tag and I returned to the home. When I returned, Devanira, Juan's mother, was a bit shocked to hear that Ken, Ela and Juan were heading up the mountain. Apparently it was a very steep climb and would take them about 30 minutes, not to mention it was very hot. She was also preparing lunch and was trying to figure out when best to serve it.
An hour and a half later, Ken, Ela and Juan arrived back at the home. We ate the first of four delicious meals.
After lunch, we spent time exploring the farm and the neighborhood. Ela and Tag played with the local kids.
Around 3:00 it started to rain. This was no gentle Seattle sprinkle. It was a typical rain forest afternoon downpour. The kids played outside at a covered table. Ela shared her Lego characters and other small toys. Tag played with a can and a yogurt container. If I could do this weekend all over again, I would have brought Uno. Later, Ken and I escaped to the covered hammocks and actually talked uninterrupted for 2 hours. I can't remember the last time that happened!
Later that night, there was no power. The family had some solar power in one room of their house. We spent the night playing chess and checkers. Orlando and both kids played guitar and sang songs. Both kids attend their local school 5 days a week, where they are taught to play the guitar. It was a special evening.
The following morning, we awoke to the sounds of hoofs along the street. While there are some cars, trucks and the occasional chicken bus, the main form of transportation is the horse. We ate a wonderful breakfast and headed out for our horseback riding adventure.
Although we only spent 2 days and 1 night at the farm, it felt like we'd been there for a week! We were exhausted by the end of the weekend. It didn't matter that we didn't have electricity most of the weekend. It didn't matter that the only running water was behind the house and in the toilets. (We always drink bottled water anyway.) We were surrounded by the kindest family, beautiful land and a simple, yet hard working lifestyle.
Whether she realizes it or not, this may be Ela's best experience so far in Central America. She was happy day and night. Everything about the weekend thrilled her (and us). I highly recommend such an adventure for any family finding themselves in Esteli, Nicaragua.