Thursday, February 2, 2012


entonces: Then

There’s so much to write about these last 24 hours. But I firmly believe blog posts are better short, so I’ve written many pages already in my private journal.

Flying over Lake Managua was absolutely surreal. The water was so expansive, you couldn’t see land – and this was from a plane. It looked like an ocean with mountains in the distant background and no waves.

The ecology is the most amazing part about Managua so far. The city is huge in mileage, with no real city center (and no street names at all – that’s pretty terrifying). As the biggest city in the biggest country in Central America, it’s home to more than a million people, but I can count the number of buildings with more than three stories on two hands. There are no tall buildings, and every view is primarily trees.

I wish I could show you all – unfortunately, it seems I’ll have a very small number of photos. Managua is the safest capitol city in Central America, but it certainly does not feel that way. Part of this safety comes from the fastest growing industry in Nicaragua: private security. The extremely wealthy hire private guards to walk around their homes 24/7. But walking past men holding very, very large guns doesn’t scream “Safety.”

Because of that, we aren’t to ever carry more than 50 cordobas (the Nicaraguan currency), which equates to about $2.50 USD, and is plenty for lunch. We aren’t to ever pull out any money in public, and we are not to carry a bag if it can be avoided. If we choose to carry a bag, we are told we must be prepared to part with its entire contents.

We also have two program interns this semester who completed the SIT Nicaragua program two years prior, and while they swear their year was extremely unusual, their semester had two robberies, one at gunpoint and one at knifepoint.

Nicaragua is not touristy, Managua even less so. The architecture is uninspiring at best. Because of the safety issues, tall fences topped with barbed wire block many of the views.

This introduction is not to imply in any way that I don’t love Nicaragua so far. I’ve never seen such a green big city in my life. The weather is absolutely amazing, with highs in the 90s every day this week. The people are among the liveliest I’ve met. The food is an adventure. And of course, the culture is expansive and fascinating. But I certainly won’t have the study abroad experience that many of my peers have had. The city’s gems may be hidden, but it’s truly going to be an adventure to grow from.

1 comment:

  1. As a Central American native (living now in Chicago) I will tell you that things are usually very geography determined in our countries. You have to ask the locals about the areas where it is ok to be around and the areas that are not so secure. Sometimes is not even neighborhood related, but street or just area related.
    The other thing is make sure you learn Spanish slang as fast as you can. Judging by old pictures here in the site you are blond and white. Therefore you will be very salient. Speaking English puts a big target on top of your head that says "please take advantage of me, I'm a tourist". For whatever reason we tend to think that tourists have a lot of money, and the scruples to relieve you of it becomes lower. But as soon as a couple of Spanish words come out of your mouth, even more if they are slang (or context appropriate obscenities), then the label will change from "tourist" to "gringa" which may sound bad, but it takes away the stigma that you are clueless and rich. Also you could get a gun, and a tatoo, and color your hair brown.

    Furthermore...what I have written above is mostly exaggerated and somewhat false. As everywhere else in the world, most people are honest, hardworker, and focused on their own lives. They (mostly) will not rob you, or trick you. We are just shorter, more likely to hug and kiss you in a social situation than the regular american and we like to party probably a little bit too much(at least in my country Panama, but I am almost sure that Nicaragua is similar). Stereotypes are plentiful, and they always carry a seed of truth (the bad parts of the city is true, but that happens everywhere, and you do look too much like a gringa to pass unnoticed).But people are people everywhere, flawed but good.

    Bienvenida a nuestras tierras.
    Diviertete mucho, con cuidado, pero diviertete.
    El estar asustada todo el tiempo solo te hace ver mas "gringa" de lo que eres.
    Ah, y si quieres sacar fotos...comprate un telefono celular barato. Y toma fotos con el.
    Todo el mundo tiene un celular barato. Nadie te lo va a robar, porque nadie lo quiere.

    Ah, about the lack of names on streets.
    The way that directions are given is usually by directing you from one of the 2 or 3 largest streets, then choosing landmarks around it to direct yourself. For example:
    Para ir a la Universidad agarras por La Tumba Muerto (yeah, some of the main streets use a non official name, so ask around before you go), doblas a la derecha en la Texaco que queda al lado de la Iglesia del Carmen, pasas el edificio Del Mar. Mi casa esta al lado de la tienda "El Resplandor", donde hay un palo(a tree) de mango, etc. That is also how you give the directions to the taxi drivers, unless you go to a specific landmark, then you just mention it.

    Good luck, and go dancing/partying. You will see that we are way better than most Americans at that!