In Nicaragua

View from Iglesia La Merced
I kept a regular journal on this recent vacation, as I did so diligently on previous long hikes and last year’s trip to Iceland. This was a lazier trip than I’d ever done, so I wrote more than ever before. I may have have more to say about travel in general and and some Nicaraguan sites I saw in later posts, but here are some things that struck me…

  • Irish pubs seem to act as a sort of international safehouse for gringos/foreigners in general.
  • A lot of unions give away labeled promotional goods: caps, shirts, etc. One of my taxi drivers was a member of the local taxi union in León. His union gave its members long sleeves, but without the shirt part. The purpose? Well, it’s usually hot, and a/c can be either non-existent or a waste, so you drive with the window open. You put the sleeve on your left arm so you don’t get sunburn when you have it propped on the window. Brilliant.
  • I like how the environment, architecture, and community interrelate. Warm temperature year-round means that many homes feature some sort of open-air courtyard in the middle. And doors and windows often have some sort of iron fencework, so you can open your door for breezes but still keep folks from wandering in. In the afternoons, folks would throw the doors wide and pull out chairs and sit with neighbors. It reminded me of Southern front porch culture. On a similar note, lots of sunlight meant that interior lights were almost never on during the daytime. There was plenty of light coming in through the doors and reflected off tile floors, and you probably want something a bit dimmer after walking in the sun anyway.
  • Food service was slow almost everywhere. I got to be okay with this.
  • I’ve become less interested in trying to take “good” pictures of things. At home I take much more with my crappy cameraphone. A quick snap and move on. Whatever happens to be in the frame, no problem. For most travel landmarks I can usually google a better photo if I really need the aesthetic jolt. For “memories,” I’m better served by taking some time to draw it, or just grabbing what’s there in a snapshot. There’s something to be said for good framing, lighting, and so on, but I think it can over-sanitize the moment in a way that doesn’t really do justice to the experience. Amiright?

And a few other amusing events:

  • One of those quintessential juxtapositions of old and new: a woman who hawks flowers from a basket balanced on her head takes a break to chat on her cellphone. Cliché, yes. But sense of surprise and delight in seeing it probably says something about the assumptions I’d made.
  • Similar juxtaposition seen on a daily basis: carts being pulled by donkeys down 4-lane highways, narrow alleys, and everything in between.
  • Seeing lizards scaling the walls and ceiling of a restaurant. To be expected when you’re seated next to an open courtyard.
  • Over dinner, hearing a Spanish version of Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” playing on the radio, followed by Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”.
  • And a Nicaraguan cover band tearing it up on a Friday night: Pink Floyd, CCR, The Beatles, etc. One of those moments you’re really glad for mass culture.