I wasn’t at my best when I arrived to stay with the Ruiz family. There had been drama in the air for my last few weeks in Leon, Nicaragua. I was pulled to stay and pushed to leave and rum had been the solution of choice to help me deal with it. I eventually left Leon solo with my dwindled belongings after they had been stolen from a poorly organised full moon party in Playa Gigante. I was sleep deprived and needed some love. This is another Blogging 101 assignment where I will write with one person in mind as the reader.
I was told by another traveller about this family in Miraflor, a small town in the mountains of Nicaragua. I arranged to stay with them through a little organisation called Tree Huggers in Esteli who were a pleasure to deal with. Very informative and friendly.
Kurt, a traveller I had met and a wise counsellor for my recent dramas accompanied me on the tricky journey from Esteli to Miraflor. Well, tricky for me as my Spanish was almost non-existent. I wanted to have this experience solo but was happy to have Kurt on board to check out the sights on the first day.
We were greeted off the bus by the eldest son Jeymi on horseback and trekked up a big mountain to the family home. The smiling mother Deyanira made us feel immediately welcome and got to work preparing a delicious breakfast of Gallo pinto, tortillas and some home made white cheese with a drizzling of fresh cream and picante.
After breakfast we set off to see some of the surrounding forrest on horseback. At first I was dubious as we were not given helmets. I have ridden a handful of times before but without a helmet I decided to take it very slow on the horse. We climbed steep rugged terrain and dropped down into rivers with valleys and visited waterfalls. I felt a connection with my horse instantly and he responded well to even my slightest directions on the reigns. So I was feeling confident and after not too long I broke a branch from a near by tree to use as a whip and started to gallop like I’d done it a million times before across the countryside. It was a such a rush that each time I came to a halt again I would throw my arms around the horses neck to thank him for getting me through the last stretch alive. We crossed rivers alongside farmers moving large cattle and found a clearer part of the river along the trail to dive off rocks into the river and rest in the sun. I liked Miraflor instantly. Calm and beautiful. A wonderful break from the intense heat and chaos of Leon.
Back at the house Kurt departed and I was introduced to the rest of the family. The dignified father Orlando, a carpenter and war veteran. Two very girly 18 year old daughters Maria and Celeste who are beauty students and the baby of the family Juan, a cheeky 5 year old. The parents and I sat down to a dinner and through the language barrier I managed to learn a little about the Orlandos involvement in the Nicarguan civil wars and how he had built the family home.
The house was basic but had a wonderful charm. Dirt floors and concrete walls with solid wooden shutters and a corrugated iron roof. Family photo’s were displayed all over the living area and little decorations to brighten the place up. Power is expensive in Nicaragua so natural light would be used as much as possible and typically we would use a torch after dark. The house had another couple of bedrooms and a little convenience store out the front where locals and travellers on horseback would often come to purchase things and sit for a while with a cold drink.
My favourite spot was the kitchen. It had no modern appliances and my Deyanira my “nica mum” cooked on a little fire stove. Always a lovely smokey smell mixed with whatever was currently on the stove. I spent a lot of time there learning how to make cheese from cows milk, dulce de leche, tacos and some new vegetarian dishes for the repertoire. Everything we ate was grown on a large vegetable garden on the property. The family had some pigs, chickens, cats and dogs who surprisingly lived in harmony and would sometimes venture into the kitchen looking for food scraps. Nothing was wasted.
I woke up each day when the roosters crowed which I later discovered was about 4:30am (I had no devices or watch to know the time) and I would go with the parents with a large wooden bucket to milk the cows. Deyanira brought along a black coffee and turned it into a latte with milk straight from the cow. It was pretty good! We would then head back to the kitchen to prepare breakfast and a packed lunch for Orlando to take to work. Grinding mais to make tortillas and preparing gallo pinto sprinkled with white crumbled cheese. The rest of the day was spent cooking, gardening and relaxing. I asked my nica mum to teach me how to do laundry the traditional way which is a skill that has come in handy time and time again. I actually find it quite therapeutic, working the soap into the clothes and forcing the water out again against the ribbed stone basin. Deyanira watched on in shock at the amount of clothes I had with me.
The girls and I would go for walks with a few dogs in tow and as typical 18 year olds they would take selfies and show me pictures of boys they had crushes on. I happily let the girls practice their beauty skills on me and they painted my nails in the local fashion with intricate little flowers and de-tangled my hair which had become a dreadlock in the heat and surf of Nicaragua.
In the evenings after dinner the family would sit around a very old and small TV and watch a nica soap-opera. Other nights the guitar would be out and Celeste and her father would play and sing some local folk music.
I loved my time with this family. I kept having to ask for less food but it was deliciously prepared my nica mum. My only regret for this experience was not knowing more Spanish as we really couldn’t chat without great difficulty. I wanted to give the family some gifts, the girls were over the moon at inheriting some of my designer dresses. I didn’t know if my nica mum would like the handbag I gave her as the closest city was far away and I wasn’t sure if she even left Miraflor much. I needn’t have worried, the day I left Deyanira and Juan came to Esteli also to do some shopping and my nica mum marched proudly out of the house sporting her new hand bag.
So I have my nica mum, Deyanira in mind for this assignment. Any tourist who stumbles across the opportunity to stay with this family are indeed very lucky. It was a pleasure being welcomed with such warmth and to get a real taste for the traditional lifestyle in the more rural areas of Nicaragua. The Ruiz Family know how fortunate they are and I could feel their sense of pride in their family and in their little slice of paradise in the mountains.