Our 4 months in Granada are almost up and we’re due to hit the road again at the beginning of December. Living here has been awesome but quite mad from time to time. We have mostly gotten used to the differences (for example, we didn’t blink yesterday when a street baseball game stopped to let a horse and cart ride through). Here are some things we’ve had to adjust to during our time here…
- Ghostbuster-style fumigation guns: Fumigation is a weekly ritual in the city. If you want your house fumigated, you step outside the door when you hear the roar of the fumigation guy coming round. They fill the house with a mixture of petrol and poison gases which (apparently) is fine for humans. Ahem. We generally avoid the house for a good few hours afterwards.
2. Knives. Loads of people here carry/ wave machetes around everywhere with them. If you want fruit, you go to the street corners where ladies in a frilly apron wield huge machetes and make up bags of tropical fruit salad.
3 Mornings. For most Nicaraguans the day starts around 6am with pounding cumbia music and ‘gallo pinto’ (rice and beans). Women start the day by vigorously sweeping the path outside of their houses. We are considered quite slovenly down our little street because we don’t join in this ritual.
4. Pot holes. Streets here are filled with surprise pot-holes of varying depths and stealth. This makes walking around the city pretty challenging, especially as you have to navigate fruit sellers, tostone stalls, newspaper sellers etc who have set up along the pavement. We had to learn to watch our feet and not get too distracted looking up at the beautiful buildings!
5. Sudden rain/thunder/lightning storms. The weather switches from bright sun to flash flood very quickly here. It took us a while to be able to read the signs in time to get to a good bar to wait out the storm. The count-down to rain-o’clock goes like this…
- 15 minutes to go: Air becomes ridiculously hot and muggy
- 7 minutes to go: Clouds gather overhead. Breeze whips up
- 3 minutes to go: Street dogs run away to find shelter
- 2 minutes to go: People cover their market stalls with plastic sheeting
- 0 minutes to go: The sky becomes a waterfall, the street becomes a river. We smugly drink cocktails under cover as tourists flee for shelter.
- Power and water cuts. In the city centre we get power or water cuts every 2 weeks or so, which are a pain but usually only last for a couple of hours. My current school’s barrio get their water cut off frequently and for days at a time, so people have to fill large bottles of water in readiness for when it goes. No one walks anywhere at night in the outskirts of the city, partly in case the street lights go out.
- Shopping. Real shops are not really a ‘thing’ in Granada; most are the front room of someone’s house and you often have to disrupt the family watching TV to buy something. One of the few ‘real’ shops here take their role a little too seriously. To buy anything at the stationary store you queue for at least 10 minutes, the cashier asks you for your name, types it slowly into the ancient computer alongside a laborious description of what you’re buying, takes the money, complains you don’t have the correct change, waits for the correct change from a supervisor, prints 2 reciepts, stamps both receipt twice with 2 special stamps, signs one of them, staples one of the reciepts to the outside of your shopping bag, puts the other one inside the bag, waits for another to print and puts it elsewhere. Released from the cashier, you still cannot leave until you have queued for the door so the security guard can mark the outside-the-bag-receipt with a special orange highlighter. You have to go through this process even if you only want a single envelope, because they are the only shop in the city that sell them!
- Salt, oil, sugar. Nicaraguans are very proud of their food, some of which is really tasty and almost all of which is unhealthy. We had a cooking evening with some Nicaraguan friends recently where they taught us to make a few national dishes, and their version of ‘a little oil’ was about 3 inches deep! We generally do what the locals do and eat an ‘almuerzo’ (set lunch) every day of fried meat and veg with fried plantain chips, salad, rice and beans (with extra salt, oil and sugar added of course!)
- Unexpected visitors. Every now and again we have to do battle with the house scorpions of Nicaragua. They aren’t deadly (although we met one guy who was paralysed for a few hours after a nasty sting), but last night we realised we had gotten super casual about them when we found one on the wall outside our bedroom and calmly discussed who would be on poison spray and who on squishing duty this evening.
- Wandering minstrels. Musicians and bands wander around the city looking for people to play for, and you sometimes have to be quite firm if you don’t want them to randomly start serenading you. For a clip of the band playing outside an old lady’s house at the end of our street, click here. One of our most surreal moments was during a storm when the sides of the streets turned into rivers and marooned a group of us at our bar table in the middle of the street. There was a sudden power cut so we were all plunged into darkness, drinking our cocktails by the light of the fireflies and (less romantically) our phones, when a random old man with a guitar somehow popped up from nowhere on our little island and started serenading us all with ‘Bailar la Bamba’ with so much enthusiasm we couldn’t send him away. Only in Nicaragua.
Hasta la proxima!