Into the Lions Den

Every once in a while things go better than you expect.  My trip to Leon was just such an occurance.

There aren’t many buses from Esteli to Leon and the few that run are at very unfortunate times.  I don’t want to get up to catch a 5:30 or 6:30 bus ans a bus at 3:30 is too late.  While I was willing to get to Esteli in the evening I didn’t want to get to a major city at night.  That just seemed stupid.

Fortunately there were microbuses (vans with bench seats) that ran at 8:30 and 9:30, leaving when they were full.  But would I make it?  Turns out I got there in plenty of time to catch one and I’m glad I did.  I expect I will try to catch only these from this point forward as they are much quicker than the regular buses.

The funny part about this particular trip was the music.  Unlike any trip before in this country this one came complete with classic American rock.  By classic I mean Chicago and of course Trans-X which is of course a staple on any classic rock station in the states.  The crazy synths in the song added a bit of humor to my trip out of the mountains and into the plains and put me in a good mood.

Getting to Leon early meant that I could find my place to stay and then explore a bit.  Right off the bat something about Leon seemed different from other places… safer.  Enough so that I would walk a few blocks at dusk or after dark without being concerned.  And I’m glad I did.

The first afternoon I took a bit of a nap but kept waking up to what sounded like gunfire.  Crap, that’s not awesome.  Maybe it’s just backfires from tailpipes.  Reasonable considering the state of about 3/4 of the vehicles on the road.  But no, later I figured out what I had been hearing.  While probably obvious to all of you it was fireworks.  Unlike fireworks in the state these don’t have any multiple explosion sounds so it was a bit less obvious they were fireworks.  Just one loud bang.  But what was going on?

On the way back from scoping out a business location I finally found out.  Rounding a corner I walked into a parade of sorts.  Not really sure what was going on it consisted of three marching bands, all playing something different and all relatively close to each other, meaning it was, I guess, a sort of battle of the bands.  But that wasn’t the intention (I think) as along with the bands were huge… floats? of the Virgin Mary being carried by pall-bearers of sorts.  It was enough to make me wonder if some beloved towns person had passed and was having the most awesome funeral procession ever known to man.

Clip of the band

The floats were large enough that they had a guy up front with a pole holding up the power lines so Mary could get under them.  I followed the parade to a church where the bands stopped and played side by side with each other.  Again, totally different songs and now competing more closely with the guy lighting off fireworks at the church.  The entire scene was surreal and made me think that I don’t recall multiple marching bands and fireworks at my church growing up.

What it’s all about.

Not long after all this most of the festivities died down and I moved on only to round the corner to yet another parade of the same variety heading into the church.  While I got a picture of the sign above that explains a little I suspect someone who is Catholic might better explain what that day might have been.

What a fantastic hello to a new city.  The beautiful thing about not speaking the language is that for a brief second I could pretend the parade was for me.  After all, no one was going to tell me different, at least not in any language I could understand!

The next day I did things, or I assume I did.  The trouble with my time here in Leon is that it has been overshadowed by itchiness.  In Esteli I was apparently attacked more than I knew and I have spent the last few days attempting to remove my own skin with my fingernails.  Yes, I know, don’t itch but it’s impossible to actually do that.  Indeed I only remember a few things from yesterday… walking made me more itchy so I stopped that, and the pharmacy.

There’s a nice, clean, big pharmacy across the street from my hostel and as I felt insanity coming on I walked across determined to get something, anything to stop the itching.  You know that you’re about to lose it when you’re attempting to buy drugs in a country where you don’t speak the language.

Fortunately I wound up at a counter where I could show the woman my legs.  Somehow I was able to determine that she was asking if I wanted pills or lotion. YES!  Give me ALL THE THINGS!  Seriously lady, anything you got to make me stop itching.  I walked away with one pill and a small bottle of lotion.  Sitting down to breakfast I took that pill, completely uncertain of what it contained and not caring.  You aren’t itchy when you’re dead and I suspected it wasn’t going to kill me anyway.  I just wouldn’t take anything else until I figured out what I had consumed.  Turns out it was just Claritin.  No crazy, unapproved in the US drug for me.  I was kind of hoping for that since I wasn’t sure anything we have in the US would really cut it.  Turns out the Claritin only slightly worked, enough that I could get some sleep which was better than nothing.

Today I woke up still itchy but my legs weren’t quite as puffy and read as before.  I would have taken a picture but it was just too disturbing to document.  Seriously, I’ve never seen my skin look so disgusting before in my life.

I decided that today would be Jessica’s great day of culture and proceeded to both the art gallery and the cathedral.  Sadly the gallery has a policy of no pictures and unlike a US gallery it has virtually no gift shop either.  A true bummer as I’d have liked to purchase a few pictures of the pieces I had seen.  Nope, sorry.

The only picture

The cathedral was another story.  The largest in all of Central America this thing is HUGE and absolutely impressive.  While the outside leaves a bit to be desired the art on the inside was phenomenal and the views from the top were outstanding.  Day of culture for the win!

One of these days I’ll write about how I actual spend my days.  Turns out reading Malcom Gladwell will spin you off into thinking about things like pollution, gender roles and all sorts of other issues brought to head by the differences between this country and my own.  And so mostly I spend my days reading and thinking, pondering the concept of a better world and what will make that happen and considering the differences in culture, some good, some bad between my home country and this one.  More so that anything this is why I travel.  But it’s too late now to write about things that require such insight so I’ll leave you with these pictures instead.

Isn’t this on candles in the US?

Stairway to the top

Written on the cathedral roof…

But will it be true love always?

Look hard and you can see the smoke…

Carrying the weight


About Jessica Dally

A random blog about travel, personal transformation, riding motorcycles solo, social media and whatever else seems interesting at the moment. View all posts by Jessica Dally

One response to “Into the Lions Den

  • Cullen

    LOL Happy you got your own parade! I think the catholic countries tend to have more colourful parades and celebrations, but without the violence. I am seeing that here as we get close to Chrismas. I can only imagine how awsome it must be over there!

    Bummer about the art gallery not letting you take photos, did you tell them that you are an important American art crictic researching venues that need US funding? or that you work for an affluent philanthropist who wants to give grants to Central American artists?

    I hope you are well and the itchies have gone away

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