the nicaraguan chronicles – part 2

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Waking up in a hostel somewhat akin to waking up in a freshman college dorm on a weekend. You say hello to everyone but stay noncommittal, maybe talking with those you know about how awesome last night was. In college it’s because you’re hungover, in a foreign hostel it’s because you don’t know more phrases than “Hola” and “Que Pasa?”, so either way interaction is limited. You gradually re-energize, and after a little while you’re planning what you’re going to do the rest of the day. In college you’re deciding whose party you’re going to crash, in the hostel what cities you’re going to explore. Either way, it’s a very laid back, very liberating feeling.

I guess it’s a good time to introduce my sisterhood of the traveling pants. Traveling with four young women around Nicaragua made for an interesting experience – namely in regard to every warm-blooded Nicaraguan man who ogled them, many whistling and cat-calling. So in that regard, not much different from stereotypical construction workers in the states.

First, we have M, the Peace Corps volunteer we were visiting. She’s our translator who made everything about this trip possible. Next we have A. This girl was the one who convinced me to take the plunge and embark on this adventure in the first place. Only took her about a year to convince me to go. The final two I had never met until the plane ride from Houston to Managua. Here we have C and K, both good friends with A, living the big city life in Manhattan, which I interpret as meaning they live like Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Joey and and Phoebe. Foosball, sex, tumultuous relationships and coffee shops – all NYC has to offer šŸ™‚

the nicaraguan chronicles – part 2
granada

A. leaving the hostel

A. leaving the hostel

Granada – not to be confused with Grenada, an island just north of South America – was our destination for our first full day in Nicaragua. Leaving the hostel, we got our first experience of Nicaragua in the daylight.

It’s a very neat-looking place, to put it simply. Except for all the bars and gates lining the sidewalks in front of every house (who needs ADT?), and except for the trash lining all the streets (who needs garbage cans?), the city was actually quite beautiful.

We found a cab nearby and took it to a bus stop to take us to Granada. I don’t mean to start off speaking poorly about Nicaraguans, but one could say the bus stop was our first impression of the people of the country, and it was…unique.

Ever see a kettle of vultures circling in the air, waiting for an animal to die so they could feast? No? Me neither. But you can picture it, because this is comparable to exiting the cab at the bus stop that morning. Literally as soon as we exit we are set upon by no less than three Nicaraguans trying to get us to take their company’s bus to Granada. Five gringos wearing packs was too juicy a target not to pounce, apparently.

M begins to talk to them, trying to determine fares, when two of the guys from opposing companies start shoving each other. This was obviously an old rivalry. They were shouting at each other while M was doing her best to talk to one or the other, but they seemed to be more obsessed with throwing a block-out than with getting us to ride their bus. I was dumbfounded. Then one of the guys grabbed M’s arm and tried to pull her toward his bus and we both got pissed. I stepped in and started shoving the guy away, repeating “No! No!”, while M decided we would be going with the bus that didn’t molest potential customers.

better first impressions

After about an hour-and-a-half bus ride – which could have been cut in half if we hadn’t slowed down for every single group of people on the side of the road to see if they wanted a ride – we arrived at the energetic city of Granada.

First impression of the city: colorful.

Nicaraguans love their pastels, and I have to say I love the aura it placed on the city. Gave it a nice upbeat feel. Yellow and lime green splashed with pink and sky blue, all framed by bright white frames and railings, adorned with a myriad of vases and flowerpots. One of the tiny storefronts blared music loud enough to be heard from one end of a main thoroughfare to the other. But don’t worry, if we got out of range of that speaker, a truck would drive by with another equally loud speaker tied to its bed, with either music or advertisements threatening to disrupt the functionality of our eardrums.

Granada streetBeggars and hawkers hounded our every step, asking for money or crying their wares respectively. But they were easily put off with a simple “No” and waggle of the finger, a trick Mary taught us at which we all became very proficient. Only a few of them were truly persistent, for which we were thankful. All in all, the city was beautifully and strangely fascinating and served as our first true introduction to Nicaragua.

M told us it was a nice “transition city” for tourists. For a few reasons, one of them being the picture below.

Kathy's Waffle House

Yup, we went here

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Opened by an American, Kathy’s Waffle House provided a nice amalgamation of Americanized Nicaraguan dishes. The typical breakfast served, aside from waffles, was made up of eggs, gallo pinto, and a fried block of cheese doused in vinegar. Gallo pinto was a continual theme throughout the trip, as it is typically served with breakfast dishes that you can get at nearly any restaurant. Muy delicioso!

las isletas

While Granada was entertaining, lively, and visually stimulating, my favorite part of the city was the tour we took of Las Isletas de Granada – the little islands of Granada. Las isletas are made up of 365 small islands on Lake Nicaragua right off the coast of Granada.

Mombacho

Mombacho

They were formed when Mombacho, pictured here, exploded out over the lake, creating hundreds of tiny islands that would later become exotic habitats for birds, spider monkeys, dirty hostel-jumpers and the inordinately wealthy (i.e. the one percent).

One of the islands hosted a bar and pleasant hang-out spot where we did just that, grabbing drinks for ourselves and our pilot. An interesting thing to note is that the lion’s share of the crowd here was made up of gringos. We met and chatted with a couple guys from New Zealand as we pet a parrot, hoping he wouldn’t bite us. C wasn’t quite so lucky during her misadventure in petting the parrot – no drawn blood, just a mark and quick escalation in heart rate.

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tiny island

This is how tiny the tiny islands are

island with house.

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We got another taste of Nicaraguan culture during the boat ride. In the middle of the tour our pilot, a friendly gentleman who gave us very thorough information on the islands, turned the engine off to answer his cell phone. We smiled at each other in quiet disbelief while we idled in the murky shallows and M explained to us how Nicaraguans treat cell phones. They answer them all the time. All. The. Time. No matter where they are – at church, at the movies, during meals. Something that is considered beyond rude in Western culture is accepted as a simple aspect of daily life in Nicaragua. Aside from wanting to toss the pilot in the water and get the boat moving again myself, I was fascinated by yet another stark difference in culture.

Little did I know that later that night I would be subjected to another aspect of Nicaraguan culture – one I would not find quite so fascinating.

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4 Responses to “the nicaraguan chronicles – part 2”

  1. Nate Says:

    Hey there,

    Found this post surfing the “travel” tags. I looked into going to Nicaragua not too long ago but decided against it since everywhere I read tells me that it is quite a dangerous destination and I would have been traveling by myself. I’m heading to Peru in a few days instead, but this post makes this sound like a good start to a trip! Interesting to learn about the cell phone usage down there. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    Nate

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      The eastern half of the country is pretty bad from what I hear. We spent 9 days there, all in the western half of the country. It’s a beautiful landscape and I highly recommend visiting if you get the time!

  2. Jenny Trozell Says:

    I am going to Nicaragua in February, nice to read about your experiences over there šŸ™‚

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