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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Germania Solórzano

OK -- corrections. The last report was misnumbered. It should have been report number 5. John Henao was so kind as to correct me on my spelling of COLOMBIA. It seems that ever since I've gone to COLUMBIA College, I've forgotten how to spell COLOMBIA the nation. I apologize to the nation of Colombia and all its people.

Went to the beach at Pochomil. Did the usual beachy things. Played in the salty waves. Got burned. Ate. Talked. Came home covered in sand. Apparently Nicaragua is becoming a big tourist place for Canadians. They charter planes, land in Managua, and buses come and take them from the airport directly to Montelimar (the fancy beach). They are everywhere. However my cousin the pharmaceutical rep tells me that Cubans will not go into the waters of Nicaragua's oceans. Our ocean looks dirty to them. The deal is this. Nicarauga has two coasts, the Pacific and the Atlantic. Most of its people live on the Pacific side, and the Pacific side looks dirty. Its not actually dirty but the sand isn't white and pretty. It is dark and the ocean looks muddy, not crystal blue. However the Atlantic is supposed to be more Carribean, crystal-blue waters. I've only been there once and had to flee from a huricane -- on a little twelve seat plane as the plane went jumpin up and down in turbulence from the oncoming storm. I looked at the lady sitting next to me and said in español, "I know I don't know you, but I'm going to hold your hand because I can't stand this anymore. I'm dying of fear." So I didn't get to see the lovely beaches they have there.

Found out more about the famous Santo Domingo. The story is as follows. There are two churches in Managua named Santo Domigo. The older of the two is up north and the newer one is in the south. Apparently a woodcutter found the little statue of the saint in the woods and brought it to the church in the north. But the saint kept disappearing. Apparently he didn't want to be in that church, because people kept finding him in the woods in the south. So they built a second church after him and keep him there. But once a year he makes a visit to the church in the north and stays there for about a week. It's a big procession in August, which I have witnessed before. There is a mixture of pagan and Catholic rituals involved -- mostly pagan. People make certain ritualistic promises to the saint -- among them: painting themselves head to toe in black grease and dancing along with the procession, painting themselves red from head to toe and dressing like 'indians' with feathers and loin cloths, baliando la vaca (dancing the dance of the cow). I don't know where this comes from, but it involves holding your hands at the top of your head with index fingers extended like pretend horns. And other promises that I don't know how to explain -- women with elaborate hats covered in ribbons also dancing a little dance. They do this on the trip north and on the return trip south. And both days are city holidays because Santo Domingo is the patron Saint of Managua. Most people use it as an excuse to get very drunk. Many of the people of the painted promises are drunk and they go around wiping paint onto people. As usual there is an evident division amongst the classes. The lower classes hang out around the procession and participate in the promises. The upper classes are too full of themselves to participate in such behavior.

Survived New Year celebrations. There seemed to be less explosives used this year. Guess what we call firecrackers here. Triquitraques -- at least that's how I think it is spelled -- pronounced tricky-trahkas.

I think my map of veins dream had to do with the fact that I have no idea at all of where I am at any given moment. This city is such a twisted mish-mash of streets. Today my mother showed me a new map of Managua and the streets were, coincidentally, marked orange. They reminded me somewhat of my dream.

Places here were charging a minimum $100 (American dollars) for New Year's Eve parties. As a result, no one bought tickets and all these hotels and clubs wound up having to close shop for the night. Imagine!!! $100 to bring in the New Year in a third world country!!!! I wouldn't even spend that at home. Those people must have been nuts.

We visited my Aunt Ena since it was also her birthday, then went to my Aunt Marcia's and ate nacatamales at midnight. Champaign was drunk, kiss-kiss, Feliz año nuevo, explosives were fired, food was eaten and then everyone went home -- with eyes open wide to avoid drunks in the street.

And I think that will end my reports. I should be back the second.