irene takes new york by storm, part 2

7:00 AM

It's still raining but the darkness seems to have passed. I am on the floor cocooned in a comforter having slept in the living room so I could monitor the sky from the window and avoid a startling awake from water flooding my bedroom. Luckily nothing of the sort has occurred. The rain rocks me back to sleep.

10:30 AM

I wake to the sound of text messages. Irene has come and gone overnight, flooding some areas, leaving behind fell trees in its wake, downgraded to a tropical storm. The sun is attempting to break through the clouds. I think the worst of it is over.

12:17 PM

I go outside. And there is nothing earth shattering to report. My biggest fear was that the massive tree across the street would fall, striking neighboring homes but luckily the block didn't lose one tree, of the few we have left.
And save for a few overturned garbage cans there is little to no damage. The wind is still strong but not with a withering force and unlike many, we have power. Bloomberg is encouraging we stay local and inside if possible. Personally I am perfectly okay to stay put, have breakfast, watch movies the rest of the afternoon; if I can figure out how to get the DVD player to work.

1:00 PM

40 minutes of struggle but I can both see and hear the Harry Potter DVD inserted into the player now. Seems like an appropriate movie to watch given the surreality of the last few days.

I don't know that I would criticize the government officials, I understand that they were trying to safeguard against the possibility of another catastrophe and their lack of response to past incidents with Mother Nature. I can't help but wonder if the random earthquake didn't contribute to the overreaction from everyone. It's hard not to think apocalypse when nature's stage show falls upon you over the course of a few days. Luckily Nostradamus didn't predict this one.

irene please be gentle...

11:30 PM

sometimes my dad makes me nervous. i just went to check in on him and he asked me if it was time to eat. it's nearly midnight for crying out loud, and though it's true that i bought food for the both of us hours ago, I certainly didn't expect him to wait until I appeared to eat it. How is it that his hunger pains didn't alert him to pause the black and white movie he'd been watching to eat long enough to eat something. So now at 11:41pm that's what he's doing, dining on fish salad and a glass of chilled white wine. Crazy Italian.

12:30 AM

The wind is fierce; the chimes are in a fury...didn't think to take them in. I am grateful that the Grinch tree is gone...there is no doubt in my mind that it could have been ripped out of the earth and used as a baton by this storm. I don't know why but one of my neighbors is outside, finagling with his car, in the wind and the rain. The thought of going outside is exhausting.

I am tired, my body's pent up with stress from anticipating Irene's wrath. Certainly doesn't help, and it turns out that active threads of a tornado (as Mon Frite predicted) have emerged too. Actually Emily is in Philly anticipating the tornado from her FB post: "Philly's under a warning--unconfirmed touchdown about 3 miles southeast of my house!" She's been debating between floors where to stay until it passes over, and was holed up in the stone basement with an Angel cat, flashlight and glass of wine. I pray she stays safe.

I swear if it weren't for Facebook I think we would all be bored senseless with worry about each other. At least we can somewhat brace ourselves with what's to come based on each others stories. Little comfort I realize but it is something.

I am nervous about sleeping. Closing my eyes and waiting seems like a foolish gesture, and yet there is not much I will be able to do if I am just as exhausted in the morning. Whatever sleep I can get with all this crazy wind noise--it is a frightening bellow too, like something out of a horror movie--will have to do. And Lord knows I'll be saying a little prayer for everyone before my eyes close shut, prayers that we wake up to a blissful simple rainstorm, and nothing else.

Sleep well all, Irene I beg of you, please be gentle.


raining irene

9:19 PM

I've been charging everything and anything that might require juice just in case the power goes out tomorrow. (Cannot even think about the loss of food if it does.) The "Carry & Go" bag is in the bedroom, Tigger's carrier is prepared as well, I have a full tank of gas, extra cash and have coached my Dad to do the same. I pray that we won't have to evacuate, I wouldn't even know where we would go. I feel like we will be much much safer if we just stay put. 

It's raining harder than before, and I think I just saw lightning or maybe the lights just flickered? Either way not a good thing. I also can't tell thunder from the wind at this point, and it's humid as Hades in here. Rain sounds like rain, just the same:

wind+water & everything in between

8:30 PM

This image comes close but the sky I see is far more foreboding.

I look outside my window and all I can see is darkness. No external light is visible from where I sit. I stand up to move closer to the window, the sky is gray, storm gray I suppose. 

The rain starts, then stops. I feel tired but I haven't done a thing today. The weather makes me lethargic, sleepy, wistful. Tigger nearby curled on his bamboo settee. Chimes twinkle just outside my door. I feel vulnerable, to the elements, to myself. Loneliness is an uncomfortable feeling, and a part of me longs for the comfort of another person, which feels exponentially real just now. 

There's something to be said for happiness. Stability at work, comfortable with yourself, at peace. Once your life settles into that kind of mindspeak, it opens the doors to other possibilities, to meeting people, to love. I've been so wrapped up in my work lately that I'd forgotten that I held the power to open those doors. 

I had a date this week, which was actually a lot of fun. I found that despite our chance meeting, we had a lot in common: photography, music, writing.  It seemed to go well: dinner, followed by drinks and a nightcap. We shall see how it unfolds, the who calls who adding texts into the mix and the prospect of when shall we meet again--too often silence and disappointment follow, I will hope this time will be different.  

Facebook is buzzing, and an alert from a college friend from Suffolk, VA has posted: "We are 35 miles from the eye and this storm is what everyone said it was!! Drilling rain started at midnight. Lost power at noon. Nothing but 50-80 mile an hour winds. The Nansemond River that runs through our golf course is usually a salt water marsh with a one hundred yard channel, it has to be two miles wide - no lie. Hunker down yanks!"

Suffolk is 7 hours south of here, Irene is moving fast...the crisis hurricane map is holding steady showing Irene as Category 1. It is the intensity of the wind that determines a hurricane's true category, the storm surge refers to the amount of water the hurricane will discharge on everything in its wake. 

The rain starts again, this time harder than before, other than that the night is quiet, only it feels later than it actually is. I'm preparing a late-night dinner: grilled steak with zucchini and peas. Eating dessert first: Haagen-Daas coffee with Nutella swirled atop. Waiting for the zucchini bread to finish its time in the oven. It's one of my favorite recipes from Mom.  The other is for rich moist brownies, the ingredients for which are on the counter and at this point, well beyond room temperature. 

Mom's Zucchini Bread

3 c. zucchini, very thinly sliced
1 c. Bisquick
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. parsley
1/2 tbsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1 clove garlic
1/2 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten

Mix all ingredients together and put into a greased 13"x9"x2" pan. Bake approximately 30 minutes at 350 degrees. This recipe can be doubled or tripled and part of your bread can be frozen.


Waiting for Irene


I slept soundly last night and woke up to silence, the occasional splashing of water on asphalt against tires. I wondered if people were actually listening to the Evacuation Advice from government officials that there would be damaging winds to come that the threat of Irene was real.

There were a few were on the street, those that were out gathering supplies, the supermarket appeared peppered with customers, closing early in anticipation. Almost everyone bidding each other to be safe, stay indoors.

Stay indoors, sleep, read, clean, prepare. Prepare? How much is enough? How much is not enough? I live in a ground floor apartment, approximately 1 mile northeast of Gravesend Bay, 2.4 miles west of Coney Island beach. Will that proximity make it worse? Our block is bordered by 2 large high rises, does that make it better? The drain in the backyard makes me nervous, the last time it rained hard as hell, the entire area was covered in 2-4" of water. Mind you not close enough to my windowsill but predictions for Irene make me wonder how much she will challenge that benchmark.  

The light rain hesitates, the hum of cicadas haunting in the quiet lull before the storm.  It's the waiting, that is the hardest part I think. The waiting of the unknown, of what Mother Nature will choose to bear down on us. 

I Want to Sing Again

2 weeks later the waiting room at Dr. Kumra's office is soothingly decorated in shades of gray. The floor is particularly intriguing--vinyl steel linoleum tiles that remind me of sharkskin. Every thing connects back to water somehow.

The doctor sprays numbing antiseptic in my right nostril and then passes the scope, a curved fiberoptic cable through my left nostril and pharynx until it offers a view of my vocal folds. The diagnosis is promising: The chords on the left side of my throat are slightly inflamed but do not show any signs of bruising. The doctor recommends that I refrain from putting any unnecessary pressure on my vocal chords for the next 6 weeks, that includes talking loud, yelling and singing--not in the shower, or the car and absolutely no karaoke. 

No karaoke? For six weeks? It sounds like a life sentence. The thought of not singing produces a dull pang. I love music, I love humming melodies, I can't help but sing-a-long to a favorite tune. And it's more difficult than you can imagine, every time I catch myself in the act, I cringe. I silently belt a mantra to remind myself that every ooh, aah or woo-hoo adds stress to already swollen chords. This  necessary act of restraint, is a true personal challenge. 

And like anything that is forbidden, that is taken by force or circumstance, that is taken without your permission--the feeling of loss is almost immediate. I find myself thinking about the possibility of not ever being able to sing again and I get sick to my stomach. Sick because over the years I've allowed myself to forget that I can sing. I was studying music with a coach in Brooklyn for awhile and wasn't really committed to the lessons, did not put effort into practicing. I think of all that time wasted, and have to shake the negative thoughts from my head. Right then and there I make a promise to myself to reconnect to music, to find a way to sing again, even if just for myself. 


come on irene....

The city is in a tizzy over Hurricane Irene. A co-worker went out at lunch to buy a flashlight, 4 stores later not a one in sight. Friends are pinging left and right to find out if they should make plans to evacuate now or wait and see until tomorrow. Bloomberg has alerted the masses that MTA service will be suspended as of tomorrow at noon. I checked the crisis map and we are a block northwest of the flooding danger area in Zone C--which will only see issues if Irene turns itself into a category 4 hurricane. And as long as I have access to electricity and a signal know that I'll be posting updates from the front. 

Photo taken from space 20 hours ago. Source: NY Daily News

Useful Links:


Surfboard: Impact

shaken, unnerved, the
same unexpected feelings
after the impact.

Of all the things that could have happened on this trip, all the things I imagined, being slammed in the throat by a surfboard was not one of them. And even Holly, in all the 17 years of her surfing career, had never heard of such a thing either.

Gleefully excited for having finally gathered enough confidence to push the board forward (without any assistance) into the whitewash, steadying myself if but for a minute in an abbreviated warrior stance, I approached the shore just in time to slip off the board in shallow water. Shallow water, low tide, no wind--it took but a moment to readjust to standing when the board took flight, flipping out of the ocean in a horizontal cross, with a clothesline to my throat.

It is by far the most helpless of feelings losing one's voice (as I would imagine losing any one of the senses you rely on so heavily)...imagine being the furthest distance away from the group and the camp and not having the means to let the others know that something is amiss. Flailing hands and jumping up and down could easily be misconstrued as excitement from afar. I had to calm myself down (nerves and fear) long enough to disengage from the board and make my way across the beach to the cooler of beverages where Joice was taking a break.

No blood, no bruising, and thankfully no concussion, just my new role as a silent movie actress in a technicolor film.

Once back at the lodge Jamie's kitchen staff provides hot lemon water to soothe my throat and ease the pressure and sore throat feeling. I begged off on afternoon lessons for a hammock nap. my larynx/esophagus it feels as if someone had attempted a strangling, thwarting my speech by applying pressure to my vocal chords. My voice is raspy at best and I lie in wait wondering if my voice will ever return to normal. 


24 hours later I find it hard to swallow--as if I have a bout of laryngitis, which isn't too far off the mark. There's a constant raw feeling in my throat--from the saltwater intake or impact, it's hard to determine. And I have a dull tension headache that is lingering, I cannot remember if I had it before I went to sleep or what.

At breakfast, Jamie asks if I want to go the local clinic...and I am torn. I am in a 3rd world country, what could they possibly do other than take an x-ray. The real damage, if any is with the muscles and cartilage on the inside of the my throat, that will take an endoscopic tool of some sort. Better to wait and see, and make an appointment with an ENT as soon as I get home.


Interesting thing about being voiceless, it heightens the capabilities of your other senses and the awareness of one's observations. (...to be continued)

iPhone Nation

I've been having issues with my Motorola Droid, one of the original android phones released by Verizon, for a weeks now. My biggest gripes included battery life--I was charging it up to 2x a day for a limited 4-5 hour span; the quirkiness of the touch screen--on occasion it would act on its own accord as if enchanted by Harry Potter or Sabrina the Witch; and the blasted QWERTY auto spell was driving me insane replacing numbers for letters and wacky word intuition.

When I was eligible for the New Every Two upgrade*, a Verizon-supported iPhone was lacking in the marketplace. And despite being  surrounded by iPhone enthusiasts, I was able to resist the temptation of switching carriers to join the iPhone nation. And to be frank, I don't know that I was ready to drink from Apple's Kool-aid chalice. And even now I am hesitant to make the switch.

A chance conversation with Daniel, a sales rep from the 8th Street Verizon Wireless Store makes me reconsider. When he first learns about my dilemma he begins to ask me a series of questions, like do I have Mac and what percentage of the Mac applications I use on a daily basis. That made me really stop and think about how I approach my day to day relationship with the Web. I check my personal email about 3x day, so consolidating all my email accounts (gmail, AOL and MobileMe) into one centralized mailbox with a clean interface was super important and would be a huge time saver. Everything else I could think of--managing photo libraries and calendar plus saving files to iDisk soon-to-be iCloud all required a Mac-friendly environment. I guess one could assess that it was a no-brainer to consider purchasing an iPhone--the Apple Gift Card I received from my brother for Christmas more or less sweetened the deal.

I became an official iPhone owner on Friday, August 12th, 2011. Colleagues and friends in preparation for the purchase day warned me about App Obsession (suffered by folks of all ages) where one finds more time to search and download apps than pretty much any thing else in the world. I polled friends on Facebook for their must have Apps (you can check out the list below), and proceeded to customize my wallpapers and settings as well as sync contacts and music (for the handy little iPod feature).

It was awesome to be out and about today with a streamlined and easily navigable phone (though I'm convinced it will take a long time to uncover every nook and cranny on how best to optimize and customize the gadget). I downloaded new apps, and took some cool photos filtered by Instagram
-- this next week will be a trial run and I hope the platform transition won't be too painful. :) 

Recommended Apps:
  1. Whirly Word
  2. imo 
  3. Skype (3)
  4. Hipstamatic (2)
  5. Pandora  
  6. Find my iPhone (2)
  7. TripIt!
  8. Viber
  9. Soundhound
  10. Flashlight (if you got the iPhone 4)
  11. +1
  12. Calcbot
  13. Shazam
  14. Angry Birds
  15. Shazam
  16. iHeart Radio
  17. The Scoop
  18. Urban Spoon
  19. Netflix (if you already have an account)
  20. CNN
  21. The New York Times
  22. NY1 News
  23. imDb
  24. grubhub
  25. NPR Addict
  26. Epicurious
  27. Menupages
  28. Yelp
  29. Pulse
  30. Thicket
(*ironically has been discontinued with the introduction of iPhone 4) 


We’re all amigas in El Coco Loco

Amigas in El Coco Loco trek to the beach

Early Monday morning, the rooster crows, the sun rises. I’ve no idea what time it could be but it must be early for the chocogos to be chirping. I can hear the surf pounding the shore in the distance. I dress quietly as to not wake Jen and head to the common dining area to write. El Coco Loco is an oasis, a paradise of sorts, luxurious in that there are no expectations for anything beyond peace of mind, the quieting of the western world, the rejuvenation of spirit. 

We trek to the beach, our gear safely stored in backpacks and totes. Holly takes the boards in the truck. We learn how to wax the board and then our first lesson on how to hug the board and prepare to pop up and stand. Holly tells us that surfing is about having the ocean push you, and about having fun with the board. I appreciate that she stresses the fun factor vs. the competitive edge.

I am still unsure that I will take to surfing but in facing my fear of the unknown I push it aside and forge ahead listening closely to the safety rules. The board should be held parallel to your body as you enter the water, the fin in the water, the tail end firmly held in your hand. When readying yourself to take a wave, remember to always pivot clockwise away from the water, as you never want the board between you and the oncoming waves. Most injuries occur with the force of the wave wielding the board against your body. Also of note when riding a wave, if you fall off and under water, be sure to cover your head with your arms until you can determine where the board is at in relation to where you are. That’s a lot to remember especially for a beginner.

Lying face down on the board, the foam and sea washing over my body, in the beginning an instructor waits with you for the right wave to push you forward. Quiet mind, quiet soul, be patient. Then the board pulls back slightly and ricochets through the water with a gentle push, a gentle slingshot, and you propel across the surface of the water. I am far from an extreme sportster daredevil but I would be lying to myself if I said that first rush toward the beach wasn’t exhilarating.

From the shore, as I watch the amigas I see that for some it is easy, almost second nature to pop-up and stand. And even on this first attempt at taming the ocean I can see through the beautiful cobra and warrior stances to those who will evolve into surf riders by week’s end. 


The day seems to move slower here, though getting up at the crack of dawn certainly makes the time you have more productive. Catch a wave, take a nap, cat cow, downward facing dog, listen with your heart speak only if you wish. I find I am observing more than participating, somehow leaning toward monastic solitude. The ocean is loud a rough and tumble of white noise, crushing the surf like a fleet of semis racing the highway. The day is lazily spent swaying to and from a denim hammock tied to posts with yellow and purple bungee cords.



Mellow vinyasa yoga on a palapa with stilts the view of the horizon aligned to the downward dog. Flow into high lunge. Nicole leads us through positions to open our heart, unlock our soul energy, explaining the value and strength of each position and how it relates to surfing; the fog lifts as the meaning becomes clear. Rotate the hip joints, release the stressors. The stretch feels good, for my body, for my mind. Self-criticism tumbles over and upside down in my mind. Many of the amigas were successful in popping up on the board today; I did not come close. I push harder through the vinyasa focusing on the breath forcing the voices to quiet down. The crosswind breeze swirls around my body, pushing the heat up and out into the atmosphere. Nicole challenges us with a tripod headstand; it will be a week of firsts. Then corpse and prayer position, everyone and everything is still as the wind picks up, the sky darkens and the rain comes.

Early morning haiku


Eaten alive: awake;
asleep by nine-thirty sharp;
bathroom run at three.

Mosquito attack
happened when I was asleep:
now covered in welts.

Why they love my blood,
I wish I knew. Damn insects,

Rooster crows at dawn,
eyes flutter and stay open.
Five-thirty? No choice,

I quietly dress
as to not disturb Jenn. 
Make my way uphill.

I am second start.
Jamie’s awake, stirring, smiling.
Pudding. Gatorade.

With paper and pen,
settled into a rocker
the writing begins.

Ease into silence,
scribbling random thoughts seaside
until camp awakes.


El Coco Loco Shadow Dancing


I just want to control the ocean and the weather, it’s not that hard. – Holly Beck

Thunder first, then light
shadow dancing black to grey

Dark knight into white
crashing waves blend into sound:
rain, ocean? Unknown.

Sky meets horizon
one begins as another ends
a jagged sword: there!

Huddling beneath
a canopy of palm leaves,
watching the light show:

Friendships cultivate.
Life experiences shared
woman to woman.

El Coco Loco, this is day one...

Waiting: Sunday, early morning breakfast, a swim at the pool, a phone call then another. I am leaving messages in the ether, speaking unspoken languages to their ears, fragmented speech. It is a game, a language game where several unlucky attempts to reach a bi-lingual speaker at El Coco Loco results in telephone commedia. It takes a few tries before I realize that the concierge can help and yet even that proves difficult. And so I begin the art of letting go, releasing control and allowing life to unfurl itself. 
The sky is a crystalline blue, the clouds still cloaking the nearby volcanoes. The sun is strong and as I lather on the SPF 50 can feel the heat passing through to my heart. I love the feel of the sun on my skin, and sometimes I crave it, even though I know the dangers all too well. A woman further down in the chaise line-up, compliments my swimsuit and smiles she too is wearing Title9 in a very similar pattern. Synchronicity, Nica is filled with the magic of it.

A lap, a nap, my eyes flutter to catch elephants charging horses, laying their heads on downy pillows. 

Cloud watching is one of my favorite pastimes and reminds me of afternoons spent as a child at Owl’s HeadPark in Bay Ridge, stretched out on plaid blankets feeding our imaginations with the sky. As adults so much of our time is spent inside staring at screens, is it any wonder that we’ve forgotten how to see the world around us as multi-dimensional? A few years back friends and I went apple picking, it was a gorgeous day in early fall where the heat of summer lingered. We spent the day in an orchard, marveling at the changing colors of the trees and after a full day we made it back to The Swiss Miss’ apartment in midtown, drunk on sunshine and fresh air. Glass of wine in hand, we lazed about the couch and the floor cloud-watching from the east-ward window: such a blissful memory .


The van is gunmetal gray with a fire breathing decal across the windshield, a burka-sized peephole for drivers Omar & Luiz to view the road. The rain starts almost immediately, a thunderous downpour as we make our way to the airport. I ask Luiz if it the rain is this heavy at el coco loco. Lluvia is the word for rain, he says, my words lost in translation.

Omar and I are at a gas station, while Luiz is at Managua airport rounding up the other women participating in the Surfing Retreat. Omar, a native of Chinandega, has an insatiable curiosity and as we lie in wait he is bubbling over with 20 questions. I feel like Elizabeth Gilbert surrounded by Wayans in Bali: Are you married? How old are you? Do you have a boyfriend? What year was it the last time you had one? Where did he live? We share stories in Spanglish, learning each other’s lives.

There are 6 of us in varying stages of exhaustion in the back seat of the van as Luiz and Omar drive us west toward the Pacific Coast, Bob Marley videos playing for our entertainment. The conversation flows in and out like the tide. Almost every time zone is represented with travelers from California, Nevada, Indiana and New York. 

Our passage to El Coco Loco is mostly highway until we get closer to Chinandega and then it is anyone’s guess where we are and where we are going. I feel like Alex Rover relying on GPS coordinates to find her way. The storms have hit the surrounding areas making for a bumpy way inland to the sea. A tree is down on the main road, so Omar & Luiz take us through the backroads to the estuary where we meet Holly and her fleet of muddy 4WDs. We exchange vehicles and drive across the estuary, a herd of cows leading the way. By the time we make it to the ecolodge, the sky is streaked with dark blue clouds and a golden sunset. 

Volunteers sit on the verandah of the lodge typing away on their macs. We are paired into cabana mates, given a tour of the compound and walked through the basics of using a compost bathroom. Each cabana with its cathedral like ceilings made of pine, palm and guava leaves has 2-3 beds shrouded in a mosquito net, a night table and a mirror.

This is day one.


Retrospective Nicaragua: Granada

Approximately 32 miles due east of Managua, lies Granada's scenic landscape, an amalgamation of dry and humid forests that line the base of Mombacho, the local volcano.  The city is located on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, and similar to its sister city of Leon, Granada is rich in colonial history, and has been cited as one of the first European cities established in mainland Americas.

I have hired Luiz for a half-day tour, a courtesy of the hotel (and sadly the only option for touring). We're in a compact sedan, a Nissan Versa or something similar and my driver, Luiz, is fit into the front seat like a giant in a clown car.  As you can imagine from the picture at right, he would be better suited for playing offense with Michael Oher than folded into a bucket seat. But as I would learn later over coffee, the job market in Managua and neighboring cities is centered around limited industries, and mostly hospitality. If you  were lucky enough to find a job, as Luiz had, you learned to make do with what the universe handed you.

We arrive in Granada, the sky overcast, making our way toward the national park for a scenic drive around Lake Nicaragua. The largest lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua is freshwater and home to the Caribbean bull shark, as well as two volcanic islands, Ometepe and Zapatera. We were headed for the dock/marina to take a 25-minute boat tour and as Luiz takes the curves of dirt road, I am mesmerized by the sky. Deep thick clouds, swirled with shades of gray, are descending onto the glassy surface of the lake, cotton balls hovering above the stillness of the lake's waters.

I turn to Luiz, "You want me to go on a boat tour in that?" 
He laughs, parking the car, encouraging me to look around.

I step outside and almost immediately feel the caress of a breeze, hauntingly so that it brings to mind a magical time when sirens called ancient pirates to their deaths at sea. I have no aspirations to follow in Elizabeth Swann's shoes, and beg off the fishermen's assurances that the storm will pass. This New Yorker, knows when to follow her gut and I thank my lucky stars I did, for just moments after leaving the marina, the sky erupts and unleashes one of the lake's reputable and unmanageable storms, with rain coming down in sheets, and the wind conjuring a sandstorm of mass proportions.

The storm lasts our whole journey back to the Plaza de la Independencia where the Cathedral is the main attraction. I wait patiently in the car, thankful for the A/C as we wait for the storm to blow over, for the rain to ease up so that I can make a dash inside.

The cathedral is minimalistic in design, there are no frescoes on the ceiling, no elaborate stained glass or rose windows for the sun to form a kaleidoscope of color on the hardwood floors. Instead the interior is a paler shade of its brightly colored yellow exterior, trimmed in a sun-bleached robin's egg blue.

Upon exiting the cathedral I look around the square, every one and every thing is recovering from the downpour. Even the volcano in the distance is obscured by the floating rainclouds and mist. Back in the car, Luiz drives around the square and a little deeper into town, stopping occasionally for me to feed my photography obsession:

Rainy streets of Granada
Entrance to walled garden

Colorful houses on the square

Green houses

Doorways - Granada

We stop for espresso at a local hotel. Chairs and tables are spread out across the courtyard, a small marching band performs on the street. At the cafe, Luiz tells me stories about his life in Managua, about his family and his daughter, about holidays and hardships. My mind strays for a moment to The Tiger's Wife, a book I have brought with me on this trip. There is a character that figures prominently in the story who reads coffee grinds, and it occurs to me that one can learn much about someone over a cup of coffee.

Our final destination is San Juan de Dios, an abandoned hospital that dates back to 1626. The structure is absolutely beautiful as you can see from the pictures below:

Luiz drives back the way we came with a side trip to Masaya City and a quick view of the infamous Mombacho skyline. It is almost 7 o'clock in the evening and as we drive along the highway, I notice a colorful strings of lights that remind me of Christmas trees decorating each of the roundabouts. I ask Luiz about them, and he tells me that this light display is a beautification project requested by President Ortega, for his love of rainbows:

Granada, and what I've discovered thus far about Managua, and its surrounding towns is the minimalistic throwback to a non-commercial, non-materialistic way of living, a simpler existence worth remembering.