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hills, not far from Managua; the sky, light turquoise with a golden sun and shimmering warm lake waters; hundreds of citizens splashing in the shallows. Youthful members of the popular militia, meanwhile, periodically saunter along the sidewalks, their automatic weapons strapped to their shoulders, while in another section other young people dance to disco and salsa. Juan Noe Fernandez, a Mexican reporter from Torreon, and I had gone the night before to a discoteque close to the inordinately expensive Hotel Inter-continental \($60 double occupancy for a small room with neither TV nor radio a number of pensions can be rented for anywhere from $2 to $10 per There at the discoteque we sat at a table near two women Leia and Josefina. The two seemed amenable to conversation, and after the dancing ended, Josefina invited us over to her house. On the way home via taxi, Leia, a journalist for Radio Sandino, and the driver argued over a proposed taxi fare increase sought by Managua’s taxi cooperatives. The driver’s standpoint was that a raise was needed to cover increasing costs of gasoline and car upkeep. Leia argued that Managua citizens were already paying more than they could afford for taxi service. She told the driver she wanted to interview taxi cooperative members on political problems within taxi cooperatives, a situation she found intriguing. The driver, on the other hand, discounted the political aspect in his concern for more money for upkeep and transportation expenses. Josefina, a 25-year-old supervisory engineer for school-building projects in the Managua area, lives with her family in a middle-class neighborhood. It was already after 3 a.m. on Christmas, but she invited us to a late-night dinner of baked chicken, salad, and baked bananas. Donna Summers played on the stereo. After dinner, Douglas, a licensed mechanic, and Marlon, a friend, dropped by. In the front patio the four discussed politics until after sunrise. The four decided they wanted to go out to the lake for the day so, without sleep, all six of us drove out. Two Faces TWO FACES of Nicaragua present themselves to the traveler. Life appears to go on normally as crowds stand outside movie theatres to see U.S. and Latin American films, such as “Victor, Victoria” and “Una Gran Aventura en China” . . . And on the other side, the ever-present reminders of a war situation to the north which might, one day, slip southward to the capitol. If you travel Managua’s streets at night, you are bound to encounter members of neighborhood block defense committees standing guard over their areas. One late moonlit night I inadvertently met one such group. “So you’re from the United States?” a block defense member asked me. “Esta bier. I have two brothers living in Los Angeles.” In all but the wealthiest neighborhoods you encounter visual reminders of those who died during the revolution and those dying now in areas hit by opposition forces. It may be an una domed memorial stone at a street corner, announcing the date when someone fell in combat in 1983 in Nuevo Segovia province close to the border with Honduras. For those who died during the revolution, the reminders are more pronounced: the portrait of a male or female youth placed inside a plastic protector on a pedestal, with the name and date of death. Meanwhile, life continues as pre-teens pass by the memorial, laughing with one another. One cannot ignore the ambulances, too, in Nicaragua’s northern sector, away from the safe cities. One military ambulance was racing southward down the highway from the Ocotal area Ocotal is not too far from the Honduras border red light flashing, siren wailing, as the red and black Sandinista flag fluttered. Another ambulance the next morning was speeding up a dirt road between San Fernando and Jalapa, in the area of conflict, to some unknown destination in the hills. THE ROAD to Jalapa from Ocotal is fraught with danger. U.S.supported contras periodically swoop down on the road or towns adjacent to it. Ocotal, about two hours southwest of Jalapa, is the last northern outpost that is relatively safe for civilians to enter. You can take a truck from Ocotal to Jalapa at about 7:30 a.m. daily. A truck or minibus leaves Jalapa around dawn. Soldiers periodically jump on the public transport toward points farther north. One woman, her long hair swept back, wearing a frilly blouse, expertly held her automatic rifle as she kneeled between sacks of food and supplies carried on the overcrowded truck. The Pho to by Sco tt Lin d Managua dry cleaners. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17