2015 Nicaragua post 6 – Observations
So, this is Deni with some observations and general stuff. We’re spending a lot of time in Leon because we really like the city, and there are lots of things to do. We get a slow start every morning, spend a couple hours doing churches and museums, have lunch, visit a few more things, and then come back to the Lazybones Hostel, get in the pool, have have a little wine/beer, maybe play some Scrabble or Yatzee (I’ve totally creamed Coop yesterday and today), and then go to dinner. It’s a hard life.
Hostels: Generally speaking hostels are divided into party hostels and more quiet ones. We always check out the hostel situation anyplace we go in a foreign country. A good inexpensive hostel is usually better than an inexpensive hotel. Generally. The thing about hostels is, they are full of young travelers from all over the world. This is usually great – we’ve met so many young folks from all over and have enjoyed hearing about their lives and adventures. But the other day we experienced the downside of hostels. We were all sitting around the pool in the late afternoon, just chilling and chatting, when suddenly it was like an invasion. A Canadian backpacker tour group (there were 17 of them, but it seemed twice that many) descended on us. They poured into the hostel, dumped their backpacks and dirty shoes on the floor, and jumped into the pool. Quite a shock!! Eventually they calmed down a little, but those of us who had been here for awhile were very taken aback. Have to say that when they came back from dinner later, they were quiet and didn’t cause a problem for all of us already in bed. But in the morning, vomit was discovered in two of the sinks used by the dorm dwellers (we have a private room with private bath). I hunted down the tour leader who is probably all of 25 years-old and told him he had a teachable moment here. These young folks were doing the “Free-and-Easy Tour” because they are not seasoned travelers and they all wanted to travel in a group their first time out and about. I suggested that they need to know that it just isn’t cool to barf all over and leave it for some poorly paid cleaner to clean up. Not Cool! The leader agreed. He called the group together, explained the issue, and they got the mess cleaned up. (I was in total Mom/Grandma mode. But darn it, if these kids are going to travel the world, they need to have some respect for others.) One of the maids and I had a laugh over the invasion. With her Spanish and my English we agreed it had been tranquillo and then – BOOM!
The TV is on as I write this. Suddenly I hear, “Salem, Oregon,” and it’s a story about a crazy owl in Bush’s Pasture Park that’s attacking people. Guess Salem had a naming contest, and he’s now known as Owl Capone. So strange to hear this oddness from home here.
Something that is hard to get used to is the large number of young travelers, mostly European, who smoke. What’s up with that? Oh, we’ve also been surprised at the large number of folks both young and old all over Nicaragua from British Columbia. Lots of fun talking with them.
Food: It’s true that you can eat very inexpensively in Nicaragua. But sometimes the cheap food is not so wonderful. We’ve had to eat at more tourist-type restaurants in order to find something more than the inevitable rice, beans, plantain, and chicken. Here are some of the best food we’ve had so far: Matagalpa did a good job – gourmet ice cream, lobster with garlic for $12, and wonderful spaghetti carbonara (not an easy dish to get right). I already mentioned the amazing fish tacos in cabbage leaves in El Castillo. I’m going to try to find a recipe and reproduce it at home. I’ve enjoyed the two Nicatamales I’ve had – very tasty. I had a really good vegetarian spaghetti dish out at the coast when we went on our coastal hotel exploration trip the other day. And Leon has a some good restaurants where we’ve been having salads, tacos, and a sort of squash soup (our waiter had a lot of fun learning the word “squash.”) We also had a good meal at the Leon market. The chicken and pork was cooked on big grills – very tasty. Another yummy thing at the market is the cacao and milk blended with ice and seasoned with cinnamon.
The Worst: Spaghetti carbonara at a restaurant here in Leon. Excuse me, spaghetti carbonara is not spaghetti with chunks of bacon and cheese sauce poured all over it. In Ocotal, I had a quesadilla that was beyond bad and some “natural” juice that tasted like bubblegum soap. In San Carlos I had a chicken salad that wasn’t bad – just strange. The meat was hot, there was no lettuce, and the whole thing was swimming in a sort of mayonnaise dressing. In general, the cheaper meals come with tons of carbs – rice, beans, plantain, tortillas, and yucca. Many of the Nica are overweight as a result.
Animals: The poor cart horses in the cities make me very sad. Their ribs are showing and they just plod along so sadly. The cattle horses and oxen in the rural areas are in much better condition. There are lots of stray dogs in bad condition throuhout the country, but also many who are well-loved family members. And there were cats in Somoto that looked like they would have welcomed a little more food, but seemed to be in good enough shape and were part of the life of the hotel where we stayed.
One of the other reasons we’ve spent so much more time than we’d planned here in Leon is that the people are friendly. They actually make eye contact and smile! As we were walking through a residential area today, a family sitting in front of their house greated us. We took pictures of the mom and baby and shared a banana with the baby who gave us a two-toothed grin. That’s the sort of interaction we’ve been used to in Africa and Bangladesh. Were glad to find it here. When we got back to the hostel, we were further touched by Nica kindness. The cleaning staff had prepared a “surprise” for us in our room as you can see in the picture. So sweet and so unexpected.
We’ll do another posting later detailing some of the things we’ve seen in Leon. But that’s it for now. Tomorrow we say goodbye to our friends here at Lazybones and go to Las Penitas, a twenty minute drive from here. We found a nice little hotel and our room has a view of the Pacific. Looking forward to it.
Bob and Deni Cooperrider blog