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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Volcano Craziness

Nicaragua has been called the land of lakes and volcanoes. Both dominate the views throughout the Pacific region of the country. Lately, volcanic activity has dominated the national news and the minds of all who live near them. The authorities have evacuated employees from some locations and some residents from a few locations, while intense monitoring of the situation continues. Here is a video of the dramatic volcanic activity in the Santiago Crater of Volcano Masaya.

There are, currently, five volcanoes in Nicaragua that are declared "active", which means something far beyond just heat on the surface or active fumaroles. These are Masaya, Momotombo, Cerro Negro, San Cristobal, and Telica. All are worth a view. The Volcano Masaya National Park is closed until further notice. In this area, the volcanic activity far exceeds anything that has happened there in more than 200 years. Views are best during the evening, particularly during a new moon, either from the Masaya-Managua highway or along the Malecon in the city of Masaya.

Volcano Masaya
The INETER Volcano Cam from 4 March 2016, shows an intense glow on the smoke emitted from the volcano. 

The Masaya Volcano is the main attraction of the Volcano Masaya National Park, located just north of the city of Masaya. The top portion of the crater is devoid of vegetation, hot and arid, and much of its flanks are covered only in annual plants which burn during the occasional dry season forest fires. Trees can not grow in these areas because of the intense heat which reaches to very near the surface of the soil. A volcanic crater lake, one of eleven found in the country, also can be seen in the park.

Make a trip to see them, but remember to be safe and obey the laws and current prohibitions!

Masaya Volcano
The smoke emerging from the mouth of the Santiago crater at Volcano Masaya National Park. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

Volcano Masaya
Even on a good day, Volcano Masaya emits enormous quantities of smoke and noxious, corrosive gases. It is the largest source of mercury emission in the western hemisphere. On the flanks of the crater interior, a parakeets roost and reproduce in holes, some of which can be seen in the photo. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

Momotombo Volcano rises from the north edge of Lake Managua. Its sister volcano, Momotombito, can be seen in the distance, an island in the lake. Photo Brenda McCrary.

Casitas Nicaragua
Casitas Volcano has active fumaroles near the summit.

Nicaragua Volcano
The smoking crater of El Hoyo Volcano, as seen from the summit of Casitas. 
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Workshop for Spanish Language Teachers

Learning Spanish requires a lot of effort over a long period on the part of the learner and accurate guidance from well-planned classes to keep the student out of grammatical pitfalls. Gaia has been training Spanish language teachers for decades, and the best school in Nicaragua use teachers that have been trained by us. We take seriously the goal of Spanish language learning and we invest in the training of our teachers to provide the best pedagogical tools for learning. Our Spanish courses in Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo are famous, having existed for longer than at any other Spanish school in Nicaragua.

Managua Spanish School
Mayela explains Spanish class organization with workshop
participants looking on. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
January is always a busy month in Estación Biológica in Laguna de Apoyo, and this past January was no different. Among our many activities was a workshop for Spanish language teacher training, held in the shade of our marvelous trees 29 January. Mayela Blas, who herself began her career as a Spanish language teacher with us in Apoyo Spanish School, conducted the workshop with thirteen participants. Our teachers were exposed to some of the theoretical aspects of language transmission, as well as some of the practical elements of Spanish language instruction such as lesson planning techniques.

Participants in the workshop combined a power-point
presentation with the informality of our shaded patio for a
relaxing setting to learn. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Participants came from neighboring departments and Managua, and were given an excellent presentation by Mayela. More of these events will be programmed during the year 2016 at Apoyo Spanish School. We consider our job to teach our students and to make all the Spanish language teachers, throughout the country, as capable and responsive to the needs of the students as is possible. We have been the Spanish school that teaches the teachers for a long time, and as this workshop demonstrates, we continue to provide assistance to the entire community of Spanish teachers. In addition, we used the workshop as our moment to launch our newest project at Gaia: Managua Spanish School.

Now, Gaia provides two different options for learning Spanish, both in Laguna de Apoyo, and in the Managua area. Professionals who can't travel far from the capital may find Managua Spanish School just the right fit.

Spanish instruction
Some of the participants in the January workshop. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Would you like to be involved as a Spanish language teacher? Additional workshops will be conducted during the year 2016, including topics from the use of poetry and prose in teaching Spanish, how to evaluate student language progress, and teaching techniques for specific applications.

Or perhaps you would like to learn to speak Spanish. We are prepared to help you learn Spanish, from the most elementary levels to the finer points of fluency. We can provide Spanish instruction for you in Laguna de Apoyo or in Managua. Please contact us for more information.

Managua Spanish School

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Enjoying Laguna de Apoyo

Among the most powerful images that come to mind when one thinks of Nicaragua are those of Laguna de Apoyo. Both foreign travelers and Nicaraguans are stunned by the views. The lake occupies a deep, wide volcanic crater, with relatively steep interior sides, making the lake essentially occupy a hole in the ground. Its clear water is warm, inviting and clean.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Lucy Lia Real.
Although most references to Apoyo characterize it as a lake, it is a true volcano. The lake is often called a crater lake, in which its water has no open flows outward. In fact, its volcanic origins are demonstrated, as there are warm water vents in the lake at several points. Its shape is considerably different from other, more typical volcanoes, such as Masaya and Mombacho, between which Apoyo lies. There is no overground flow of water out of the lake, and its water is slightly salty.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Enrique Palacios Jeyson Hondoy.
Especially on the weekends, Nicaraguans from the neighboring towns love to visit Laguna de Apoyo, where they can picnic and relax in a natural setting, and the few who can swim my get into the water. The entire shoreline is public, making access to the lake wide, although many property owners along the shoreline may not cooperate with access to the water easily.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
There really is nothing better than being on the lake, in the water. But that is not the only way to enjoy the lake. The view from Catarina, for instance, is spectacular, and one is often serenaded by folk musicians. There, one can enjoy an ice cream or even a full dinner while marveling at the constantly changing hues in patchwork style across the water, with Volcano Mombacho to the right, Granada and Lake Nicaragua beyond, and Volcano Masaya to the left.
Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua
Photo Belen Camino.
The lake can produce whitecaps during the dry season, but when still, especially in the mornings of the rainy season (May through November), the lake can reflect the profiles on the opposite side. Mombacho, often capped by lenticular clouds, faces the viewer when observing from behind Estacion Biologica.
Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Anne Sutton.
Tourism to Laguna de Apoyo can be massive during certain periods, especially around Easter week. Other times, such as in October, can be relatively quiet. Not only the traffic varies with the season, but also the water and the surrounding forests. Winds are constant during the dry season, making the lake more choppy, whereas the surface may be smooth and reflective as a mirror during the rainy season.
Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Regina Bernheim Delgadillo.
Some of the beaches, such as in front of Estacion Biologica, are made of black, volcanic sand. Others are rocky and steep. The lake varies from place to place. The water is warm (28 degrees C) year-round.
Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Lucy Lia Real.

Laguna de Apoyo
The sirens of Ulysees may appear along the shore of Lake Apoyo. Photo Jen Moran.
Although the black sand is characterized by eroded, volcanic obsidian, but other rocks are prominent along the water's edge, particularly pumice which floats and accumulates along the water's edge. Beaches may also contain patches of clay in some locations, and large, composite boulders are found alongside obsidian.

Laguna de Apoyo
Clouds tend to set in during the rainy season, from May through November. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The water of Laguna de Apoyo is slightly salty with volcanic minerals. There are no currents and the waves are very small. The lakefront in most places has a steeply inclined shoreline, but in front of Estacion Biologica, the shoreline is gently sloped, providing a large area in which one can stand and relax, while swimming in deeper water is possible just a few meters further inward.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Heyling Aviles.

Laguna de Apoyo
Photo Lucy Lia Real.
Would you like to visit us for a swim and lunch? Or stay a few days? Please contact us to enjoy our wonderful Lake Apoyo.

Laguna de Apoyo