“Anyway, it doesn’t matter how much, how often, or how closely you keep an eye on things because you can’t control it. Sometimes things and people just go. Just like that.”
― Cecelia Ahern
My good friend, Sharon, is leaving Nicaragua. I am torn with feelings of sadness for me and joy for her. We met in 2004 in Granada, when Granada only had a few expats…all characters! There was stinky Steve, the transgender airplane pilot, and pedophile perch. Bobby had a guest house and Bill had the only hostel in town, Hospedaje Central. There were only a handful of restaurants and tourists trickled through town.
Those were the days! Yet, I understand that most things are out of my control and sometimes people just go. I am going to miss her tremendously. I’ll miss her wit and humor. We laughed a lot when we were together. I’ll miss her adventurous spirit and her insightful thoughts, kindness, and helpfulness. Yet, I know that we will see each other again. I am already planning our summer trip to Canada.
If you wonder, like me, what people miss and don’t miss when they leave Nicaragua, Sharon explains it all with humor and understanding. Enjoy her read!
Noise…I will not miss the noise. Bombas, loudspeakers, loud music, car horns-Nicaragua is not a quiet country. I will however miss hearing birdsong inside my house!
Critters. I will not miss the many invasive bugs and reptiles and snakes that invade my living space. Ants, spiders, chayules, small snakes, iguanas, geckos and the detested scorpions-adios all. Not being able to leave anything out in the kitchen, as the roof cats and ants will carry it away. Knowing that a midnight jaunt to the bathroom need not require a flashlight and flip-flops will be very, very nice.
Dust….I will NOT miss the dust. Mopping floors on a daily basis and wiping surfaces until I almost wear them out. It actually wreaked havoc on my sinuses and ears as well. Clean air and dust free surfaces will make me happy.
Quaint sayings. I love some of the Nicaraguan sayings and will miss them. Neighbours asking “how did you greet the dawn?” each morning, and finding out that a mom had “given light” ( birth). The little old lady down the street who blesses me with her cross every morning and the radiant smiles of every single person you pass-those I will miss. I will miss the garbage men singing me “Feliz Navidad “ from atop their disgustingly stinky truck.
Food. Sigh…I am admittedly a foodie. I will miss 25 cent pineapples, and the wide array of strange tropical fruit. I do miss cheese and mushrooms and good bread and pastries and oh so much. Good red wine will once again grace my table. I will be able to bake without constantly being disappointed , as the humidity and lack of quality ingredients makes it a challenge in Nicaragua. I will miss the hilarious postings on expat pages where people search for “exotic” ingredients, such as molasses ( which is found in pharmacies), More on the expat community later.
Gringo Tax. I will not miss the gringo tax. Almost nothing carries a price tag-so you barter, and you KNOW you are generally paying more than the honest price. I do not dislike paying a tad more- but I dislike very much the feeling that I am being fleeced.
Timeliness. Okay- I am admittedly a tad O.C.D., I am ALWAYS early for appointments, but it is ridiculous here. Nicaraguans have zero sense of being on time-heck if you have an appointment with them you are lucky if it happens the same day! I have waited on plumbers, handymen, hairdressers, taxi drivers..heck I have probably spent 1/3 of my total time here waiting for someone. A friend had a couch being re-upholstered, they took it in early November promising completion by Christmas, it is now January 19th- no couch, but oh my the excuses are hilarious. We know he likely spent the advance for fabric at Christmas, is probably really enjoying her fancy reclining couch, and has to now do other jobs to make the money to buy her fabric…every single day he says “tomorrow” and gets offended when she threatens legal action- sigh, funny, but very wearing.
The need to please. I will mostly miss this, but it can be frustrating as well. Nicaraguans love to please people, which is wonderful, but they will never admit they do not have what you want or do not know where you are trying to go. Stop at a café and ask for a beer with you lunch-Claro que si!! Of course! Then you see them running off to the store to buy you a beer, of course they only buy one, as they have no refrigerator- so a refill requires another trip! Ask someone where something is, and they will smile and gesticulate about so many blocks this way, and so many metres that way ..but they really have zero idea where it is and you get completely lost. Add to this the fact that there are no addresses and they use the term “donde fue” , meaning “where such and such used to be” to direct you and it can be extremely confusing. Just when you think you have found someone to help, you get something like this “ Take that next street 3 blocks towards the volcano, turn right go 70 metres until the spot where the blue pharmacy used to be-take a jog west and there you are! -great, thanks. I did get many laughs about this though, and realized I had become a Granadino when I started to give directions using “donde fue”!!
Inexpensive beer. I will miss being able to afford to pop out for a few beers with friends and know it will cost under $2 a beer. I know I will miss this- dearly!
Dancing. I am not much of a dancer, in fact I am terrible at it, but I love to watch. People dance here-very well and everywhere. You dance in the checkout line, you dance while washing your car, you break into a dance when a store plays a song you like, you dance with strangers at the bar. You can be 95 or 2, fat, skinny, homely or drop dead gorgeous-it does not matter…just dance.
Chinese made things. Okay- nothing personal about China, but you know the poor quality dollar-store stuff? Well here we get what is not good enough for the dollar store..and it is usually all we get. Buy a rake, it breaks in an hour, sheets seem made of burlap and your best bet for clothing is the second-hand store. Try to find a kitchen knife that can actually cut something-good luck with that! I will be excited to uncover all the stuff I have stored in Canada, sharp knives, fluffy towels, quality kitchenware-it will be like Christmas!
Dependable utilities. Now this IS getting better as Nicaragua continues to limp into the 20th century (I know we are in the 21st- but let’s not be hasty!). No hay luz, na hay agua. There’s no power, there’s no water. No advance notice, they turn the water off in the entire city for a day- NOT nice when you are a sticky sweaty mess . Power outages are difficult and will usually happen directly after you have loaded your refrigerator. Internet can just simply disappear for long stretches and do not bother calling the company…..they may get to it next month- of course they WILL say they will be there in an hour- but we now know what that means.
Parades. Nicaraguans love a parade-in fact hardly a day goes by without one. Birthdays, Catholic celebrations, births, deaths..you name it, there’s a parade. Of course no parade would be worthwhile if it did not include bombas, LOUD music on a speaker system and a completely off tune brass band and drums. See noise above!!
International community. This I will miss very much. While living in a different culture, expats tend to become like a small old-fashioned community. Tightly knit , helpful (and yes sometimes rife with gossip). If your credit card snaps in half- ask and someone’s uncle will be coming down next week and will bring your replacement. Do you need some exotic spice, like let’s say chili powder? Someone will bring some down or trade you for a beer. The community really comes together in an emergency. People die, people get sick-there’s always a helping hand. Nicaragua also attracts a more adventurous spirit, so you get to meet wonderful , intelligent people with interesting backgrounds at every turn. I will miss this very much. Now that is not to say that all is perfect. We call Nicaragua the “land of the “wanted” and “unwanted”” . Some are here to escape realities (and sometimes the law) , some are here to rid you of excess cash , you have to remain vigilant. I have been followed and photographed by Interpol while (unknowingly) was in the company of a very nice elderly couple-on the lam from the US justice system. I have had friends fleeced out of many thousands of dollars on land deals gone bad. Someone I know lost her car. You learn to have great “spidey-sense” and to meet new people with a smile, but a sense of wariness. Some of the stories are hilarious, so many “ex-CIA agents” , “Russian mob folks” , “ vigilantes”, “millionaires”- you name it, they will tell you all about it!! Once even had a guy insist he was Robert Downey Junior’s cousin- he eventually was jailed for fraud and thrown out of the country.
I will miss Nicaragua, it has been an exciting time and I have met so many wonderful people.
I will miss the warm friendly people who love to laugh and are able to find such joy in any small thing. On the other hand I will enjoy seeing more of my boys and my family, being more involved in their daily lives is important to me. I will be back to visit, of that I am certain.
P.S. As I write this the plumber who was scheduled yesterday has just shown up, left his helper to smash-up my bathroom floor to find the leak. So now I have a smashed floor, a young lad sitting on a bucket in my bathroom and the plumber has left. I asked the helper if we should call him- he smiled and said “tranquilo, el reviene pronto”- “relax, he’ll be back soon”- hope he returns before tomorrow!
Awww Sharon! We will miss you, too! Adios mi amiga. Safe travels and give Luna a big hug for me! I wonder what she will think of cold weather?