The Joy of Nicaragua
Having only traveled outside of the country twice before in my life. I had experienced the two extremes of living. My first time out of the country was to the impoverished Juarez, Mexico on a mission trip in 2000. That trip was an eye opening experience to what real poverty was in the world. Getting to go and see how people lived in cardboard houses held together with chicken wire was a memory to say the least.
My only other experience out of the country was just last year on my honeymoon to sunny and exotic Jamaica. On the way to our Sandals resort we got to see poverty from the view of a nice comfortable air conditioned bus where they passed out Red Stripe beer to soothe our stomach from the death defying ride. Once we got to the resort we were in paradise, and waited on hand and foot. So truly two vastly different experiences.
When I got the email inviting me to the Drew Estate Cigar Safari in Nicaragua I was incredibly excited, but I was also a little intimidated and unsure. How safe is Nicaragua? Sure they make great tobacco, but do I need to worry about getting kidnapped? It’s obviously going to take some pretty big dudes to kidnap this gringo, but after meeting Willy Herrera I have no doubt there are some big dudes down there in Nicaragua. These are all questions that ran through my head as I was pondering on my response to the invitation. On one hand this could be the trip of a lifetime. On the other, something could go incredibly wrong. Like an earthquake perhaps. Finally after talking it over with my wife I decided it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. So that’s how this journey starts excitement, intimidation, and overall joy.
Nicaragua Is Full of Joy
Sitting on the Cigar Safari bus I got to do a lot of people watching. One of my favorite things to watch was how the children interacted with each other. AS we drove through Esteli during lunchtime heading back to the Drew Estate compound to gorge ourselves. That’s when I noticed that the children were on lunch breaks as well. Sitting outside on the walls of their schools eating their lunches. More importantly, sharing their lunches with each other. Everything seemed to be communal to them they didn’t have a sense of entitlement and ownership. If one of their friends wanted to try what they had the children offered it to them. It was incredible to see this dynamic happen in first person. Something that seems to be lost in our culture in the U.S.
I wasn’t the only one noticing the kids sharing and playing together. Adults across the street picked up on it as well. They would laugh at the kids running around playing together. It was as if the adults were having just as much fun as the kids were. For a moment they were transported back in time to when they were kids themselves.
It was a great reminder to me that even in a country that appears to be desolate, to our standards in the U.S. people still find true joy in life. Even if it’s in the smallest form such as sharing a fresh mango with your best friend.
Nicaragua Is Full of Color
While driving through the capital, Managua, one of the first things that stood out to me was the diversity of color with all the buildings. Living in Nashville you don’t see a lot of color on buildings. It’s the typical red brick, gray brick or steel. There are a few murals to spice things up, but no real color. Nicaragua couldn’t be farther from Nashville in that respect. There is literally color everywhere. If it’s not green, it’s yellow, red or black. Everything has some sort of painted color to it.
Driving through Esteli the color is even more noticeable. It felt like there were murals on nearly every wall we drove past. Some would refer to this as graffiti in the States, but I would have to refer to it as artwork. There are some incredibly talented artists in Esteli that are making the city alive with color.
One of those talents is Jesse Flores, the head of Subculture Studios at Drew Estate. When you pull into the compound the first thing you notice is a giant mural that reaches to the top of the building. It has changed over the years adding new faces, new designs and new brands. It’s a constant work in progress that Jesse is happy to be a part of. This mural is the embodiment of how Drew Estate operates. Larger than life, full of color and unique. That’s exactly how Jonathan Drew wants it to be.
Nicaragua Is Full of Life
After taking everything in and digesting it for 2 months. I’m left with the memory that Nicaragua is truly full of life. One of my favorite memories of the trip was on our way back from the Joya de Nicaragua factory. We were about to cross over the small bridge that leads us over the Esteli river, which happens to run behind the Drew Estate compound. I’m sitting there looking outside my window. I notice a couple riding on a bike with a woman holding an umbrella over both of their heads. They’re both smiling ear to ear. I sat there and said, now they are full of life!
As I sat there taking it all in, my good buddy Seth from Seth’s Humidor was quick enough to snap a photo of the happy couple which he’s graciously allowed me to use.
What About the Tobacco? What About Drew Estate?
I’m sure most of you were probably expecting a nice well written article about the Cigar Safari and how awesome it was to learn about all the tobacco and Drew Estate’s process and everything. Trust me, that was incredibly eye opening and one of the best experiences of my life getting to create my own blend and rolling some cigars. Truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. However, that story has been told quite a few times. And honestly it’s been told better than I could ever tell it. If you want a detailed look at how Drew Estate operates and all the behind the scenes. Make sure to go read Seth’s take on it. It is cigar journalism at it’s best. I wanted to portray My story, and My Nicaraguan experience, and I believe that’s what I’ve done. I hope you all enjoyed it, because I know I did.
If any of you have experienced this trip I’d love to hear your experience of Nicaragua below in the comments section!