Getting connected

We’re happy to say our second week in Granada has been both relaxing and challenging. Even though we’ve walked our buns off, we’re feeling very relaxed – just being here. It’s something we’ve been blessed with over the years – in a new and unfamiliar place, we find a way to chill and to appreciate the people living in their community – while making every effort to be good visitors. We have walked to districts over almost all of this city and have met good people along the way. And, living with our homestay family, we’ve had the opportunity to learn some of their language, customs and daily routines.

Early Risers

People get up early here. If they’re anything like us, their alarms are assisted by the doves cooing outside the window. Mornings are a very busy time with cooler temperatures and lots of business to take care of. Our home street Calle Estrada connects directly with the VERY busy Calle El Commercio. Each morning as we make our way to our Spanish school, within minutes of walking out our front entrance, we’re caught up in the wonderfully organized chaos of the commercial street, absorbing each and every aroma, sight and sound – generally turned up to 11. On the street you can buy everything from cellphones to freshly squeezed orange juice, radios, bras, cheese, bread, quesadillos, pocket knives, school uniforms, avocados, flip flops, t-shirts, exchanged money, watches, jewellery… the list goes on.

And, as we’ve come to realize, these people are polite, courteous and happy to be alive. Yes, there are unfortunate souls who beg for help but the people our Grandson calls “bad guys” aren’t around… at least where we tread.

The Reality?

If you dig a little deeper, not everything is ‘bonita’. According to Forbes.com, Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with widespread underemployment and poverty. This week we took a walk to the outskirts of Granada’s poor district and the poverty was easy to see. Within blocks of the busy downtown with it’s ostensible bustling economy, we saw poor folks living in deplorable conditions. All that said, today we were informed by a hotel owner in Granada that Nicaragua has been experiencing very steady and rapid economic growth in the past few years partially due to the upswing in tourism. Sounds like Forbes needs to re-visit their stats?

Human Rights?

The Human Rights Watch (hrw.org) published a story last July about the current ban on abortion.

“(New York) – Nicaragua’s total ban on abortion is putting women and girls’ health and lives at risk. The country’s 2006 law punishing abortion – without any exceptions, even if pregnancies are life-threatening or resulted from rape – has driven abortions underground.”

Good to be informed about the country you’re visiting…

Espanol?

Ah, the Spanish lessons. Muchas gracias, they’re going well. We are fortunate to have a very gifted instructor, Arleen.

She has a LOT of patience and in the first week we’ve progressed through many practical lessons that make everyday conversation at least within our grasp. During her instruction she speaks in Spanish 99.9% of the time. We’re getting accustomed to HEARING Spanish and that’s half of the reason we’re studying the language. When we get back to our homestay, it’s immersion all the way.

Tourist Cards

We had walked to the north side of town to visit the government Immigration Office to see if we could extend our tourist cards past the 90 days, an additional 2 weeks. Fifteen years ago, we remember doing this but times and policies have changed. We walked into the quaint office and with our Spanish not nearly adequate to meet the demand of the inquiry, we resorted to Google Translate. Thank goodness for that. If you were wondering about extending your 90 day tourist card – we have learned the following…

  • Managua isn’t the only place with an office. Others exist in the country. Granada, Rivas, Leon, Bluefields, Corn Island all have offices (at least right now they do)
  • We were told (by the office in Granada) our 90 day tourist card must be waaay closer to being expired than with the 80 or so days it had left when we inquired. So, that’s it, we’ll visit the Corn Island office in a few months.

Let’s make a friend…

This week we met a very friendly man. His name was Manuel. As the main greeter in front of the cigar factory in the north end of town, he’s used to approaching people and making them feel welcome. And, he’s very good at it. We declined the offer to tour the factory but that didn’t matter to him. He wanted to know all about us and where we were from. We talked about the weather and he told us some facts about the neighbourhood. When we told him where we were from, his eyes lit up and a big smile appeared. “Ahhh… Canada! Nicaragua and Canada…. together!” At that point he flung his arms around me and gave me a big hug. He then turned to Heather with outstretched arms and gave her a hug too! What a great guy! He wished us well and smiled as we said Adios!

El Poeta

We were extremely lucky and very happy to attend a reading by the well known Nicaraguan poet Pedro Xavier Solis Cuadra.

We were invited by our school Spanish Dale to hear his inspiring and down to earth poetry. Yes, it was in Spanish but a wonderful lady named Diane Neuhauser translated his work into English with passion and love. The poetry took one’s breath away. Fabulous. On it goes…

Some more pics from the last week…