A Travellerspoint blog

Granada y mi (nuevo) familia

all seasons in one day 85 °F

I'm getting a bit settled in Granada, my new home for the next two weeks. After getting a bit of rest in my hotel last night I headed out to dinner. Just off the center there are a few blocks which are closed to traffic and filled with restaurants and bars. This area clearly caters to tourists, many whom I'd guess are from neighboring countries or other parts of Central America.
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Upon the suggestion of a (somewhat creepy) Nicaraguan-American, I ate at restaurant specializing in Nicaraguan food and had something absolutely delicious that I can't remember the name of (see photo). The plate was much larger than I expected, and I ended up sharing it with a local 13 year old named Alejandro (who was disappointed when I didn't buy his cigarettes but elated when I gave him the rest of my meal).
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It seems that the poverty, specifically outside the town center, is severe here. The owner of the hotel I stayed in said that the average Nicaraguan makes $2 a day and has never seen the ocean (which is only an hour and a half away and would cost less than $2 to get to). Needless to say, I'm feeling very lucky. I saw Alejandro in the street again today, shoeless. He pointed to his feet and asked me to buy him shoes. It breaks my heart more than a little.

I met my host family this morning. They live in a gorgeous home about 4 blocks from the center of town. My host mom's name is Rosita. Her son, daughter, grandson and a woman to help cook and clean also live in the house. I had the most amazing lunch, a nacatamal (with a toasted hotdog bun on the side), which is a bit like a tamale but even more amazing. Rosita told me that it was a typical Sunday food (since it takes a long time to prepare). There is one other person staying with the family right now, a man from Berkeley, oddly enough.

The family only hosts up to four people a time and they seemed interested in talking to me a bit (all in Spanish!). I'm pretty excited about this – both because it'll help my Spanish and because it means that I get to know the Nicaraguan culture a bit.

In order to make room for me, the daughter and grandson have been displaced. They don't really seem to mind, but I feel pretty terrible about it. However, it does mean that I have unlimited access to a pretty sweet Lego collection.

Also worthy of noting, they seem to be quite big on seating. Just in the front area of the house alone (not including the dining room) there were 23 options – no joke.

Heidi and Jimmy are expected to arrive back in Granada in just a few hours – and I am very excited to see them. Starting tomorrow, we'll be spending our mornings volunteering at the preschool and our afternoons learning Spanish (yet again). Should be fun!

Posted by AnzelcL 16:14 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

Panama to Nicaragua

Not my finest moment...

sunny 85 °F

Well that didn't go exactly as planned.

In case you were wondering, there are a few factors that will increase the duration of a bus trip from Panama City to Granada, Nicaragua (both in reality and in experience):

  • Nearly missing your bus because of the internet at the terminal being down
  • The temperature on the “luxury” bus (sure, it's a sign of status – but it's FREEZING)
  • Realizing that you will be arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica at 2:00am (alone)
  • 15 hours on a bus considering all the places where you should hide your money
  • Actually arriving in San Jose at 2:00am (still alone)
  • Wondering if your new “friends” are actually planning to rob you
  • Taking a taxi from one bus terminal to the next only to wait for several more hours
  • Handing over your passport to a some Dutch guy named Yohst who says he'll bribe immigration so you don't have to wait for hours
  • Locals trying to swindle you on a series of local buses from the Nicaraguan border

28 hours, 4 buses, 3 taxis and 2 long walks through no man's land.

I'm not sure I've ever been more relieved to arrive at my hotel (yes, hotel).

Posted by AnzelcL 07:52 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling

all seasons in one day 95 °F

I've just returned to Panama City (and La Jungla hostal in all it's glory) after three marvelous days at San Blas.

San Blas (or Kuna Yala) is a group of approximately 380 islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. About 50 of the islands are inhabited by the Kuna Indians and the rest are deserted.

I woke up at 5am, traveled by jeep and by boat before reaching my island, Isla Robinson. Not quite as deserted as some, my island comprised of two hostels (home to between 5 and 20 backpackers at any given time), a small store and about 40 locals. None of the Kuna there spoke English, most of the men spoke Spanish and the women, dressed in traditional garb, only spoke Kuma.
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The accommodations on Isla Robinson are truly basic. I stayed in a hut with a mattress and a sheet (yes, just one) – but that's really all you need. My first night I was quite confused when I repeatedly woke up with the door of my hut open. Eventually, I woke up to a local dog scratching at the door, trying to get out. Guess that's where he slept, too. The cute little cockroach chillin' on the bed next to me made it a little difficult to get back to sleep after all that.
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I didn't do much during my time at San Blas, and I think that's the way it's supposed to be. My time sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling was only interrupted when I heard the conch and wandered over for communal meals (rice, salad and fish straight from the ocean). I met some interesting people, but no one particularly worth noting (all names and faces that will likely be forgotten shortly after I return home).
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Back in Panama City I'm itching to get out. Tomorrow I'll take a bus to Nicaragua, by way of Costa Rica. I'll leave at 11am and arrive the following day at 12p – yes, that's a 25 hour bus ride. Wish me luck.

Posted by AnzelcL 19:15 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

I've Arrived!

all seasons in one day 90 °F

It's finally raining. And not just rain, a true storm – the kind that you're a little worried during because that lightening seems REAL close. I've been waiting for this for several days, there's not much better than a tropical storm. But let me back up...

I'm in Panama! I arrived on Friday afternoon, politely thanked and declined that taxi driver who offered me a reduced rate while leading me to an unmarked car (he attempted to reassure me with a yellow, unattached license plate... “no gracias senior.”). You're welcome Mom and Jimmy.

Almost nothing about my hostel is really worth noting. I'm in a 6 bed dorm, which I've had mostly to myself (probably because the air conditioned dorm is only slightly more expensive). The women working here are friendly and helpful, so I guess that makes up for the fact that they charge for absolutely everything and the place doesn't really look like the posted pictures.
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When I first arrived, I spent a couple hours wandering around my neighborhood only to discover that Hostel World had it a bit wrong when they said “central, young and hip.” I wasn't particularly impressed, but did find my way to a restaurant with a cute patio and delicious ceviche. I wandered around a bit more, found another restaurant to have a full meal in before coming back to my hostel and heading to bed by 8pm (or maybe just a bit before – don't judge).

I spent my first full day in Panama wandering around Casco Viejo, which is the new old city (does that make sense? Casco Viejo is where the capital was moved following the destruction of Panama Viejo by Captain Morgan – who happens to be portrayed as a much nicer man than he actually was). I found Casco Viejo to be a much more enjoyable place to be than El Congrejo. Although a bit touristy, I thought that the contrast of crumbling buildings and new remolds to be quite beautiful. It was also pretty cool to see all the boats awaiting their turn through the canal.
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This morning I took a taxi to the Miraflores Locks to see the Panama Canal, about 20 minutes from my hostel. I found the whole process to be fascinating and learned a lot about both the development and the daily functioning – information that I guess I wasn't able to gather from my visit to the official museum yesterday where all the information was in Spanish. I must say, that I was less than impressed with how ridiculously crowded it was and seriously considered droppin' some elbows.
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After the canal I headed to Panama Viejo to check out the ruins. The ruins were beautiful (typical ruins) and made more interesting by the fact that they were partially intermingled with a nearby poor neighborhood. Again, it made for quite the interesting contrast.
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After a few days in Panama City, I'm certainly feeling ready to move on. While it has it's highlights, it is by no means my favorite. I'll probably spend a bit of time tonight deciding on where to go next. Reader's Poll: playa o jungla?

As I'm sure most of my (hundreds of) readers know, this is my first time traveling solo. Leading up to this trip, I was feeling incredibly nervous about traveling alone – in fact, I think I tried to convince most of you to come with me at various points to no avail. It turns out that traveling alone isn't nearly as scary as I had imagined. I think it helps that I've been to the region before and that I seem to be able to get by with the limited Spanish I can string together. I like being the one to make ALL the decisions: where and when to eat, when to move on the next destination and where that might be. That being said, it's always nice to have someone to share the journey with (read: Luke, it's not too late to join me)...

Posted by AnzelcL 14:04 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

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