As I was trying to decide what to write about, I realized that it might be fun to share some of the things I come in contact with/experience in daily life here.
Here's a brief description of things that you might not know about life in Nicaragua:
-Saludos/Greetings are very important. When you enter a room, it is common to go around to each person, introduce yourself and give everyone a kiss on the cheek.
--One of the many aspects of life here that I love is that everyday people sit outside their houses and visit with their neighbors or watch the kids playing soccer in front of their house. Whenever I pass someone as I'm walking we usually greet each other with an”Adios” (Goodbye) instead of “Hola” (Hello). Another common phrase to hear is “Que le vaya bien” (That you go well). Even people that I have never met before will say this to me, wishing me a safe journey to wherever I am going.
-Beadazzled jeans and high heels are worn by the majority of women here. I'm talking rhinestones on back pockets of teenagers all the way to middle aged women, and sometimes, I'll see guys wearing them, too. It continues to amaze me to see women walking around in high heels. Not only do I have trouble walking down some of the unpaved streets here in my flats or sandals, but these women walk up and down the steps of the bus in these huge heels! When people leave their houses, they dress to impress.
-Frescos naturales/Natural fruit juices are so delicious. There is everything from calala (passion fruit) to pitaya (dragon fruit) to melón (cantaloupe) to cacao (a corn based drink that tastes almost like chocolate milk). Typically, these drinks are made with a lot of sugar and are served in a plastic bag with a straw.
-Trash in the streets, burning trash – It is not uncommon to observe someone throwing their food wrappers or other trash onto the street. There is unfortunately a big problem with this. Trash accumulates along the sides of the roads and sometimes people will sweep it altogether and burn it.
-Fritanga/Street food is a staple food in our diet here. Almost every Friday evening, we go buy fritanga for dinner. Women cook, well, usually fry, food and sell it out of their houses. You can find everything from a huge shishkabob of meat, to gallo pinto (a national dish of rice and beans), to enchiladas (a tortilla filled with rice and meat, folded in half and deep fried). Mmm, fried food...
-Busses – The vast majority of Nicaraguans use public transportation to get from place to place. The most common mode of transportation is the bus system. Every day, I walk to the bus stop and wait with a myriad of people for the bus that passes through the neighborhood where I work. Each bus has a number and a specific route. Certain busses only travel within the city and others go to other cities farther away. Bus fare is very affordable, 4 cordobas (about 5 cents) to get from Ciudad Sandino, where I live, to Managua, the capital city, which is about a 45 minute to an hour trip. Riding the bus can be an adventure, finding a place to sit or stand, keeping your balance and making sure you make it to the door in time to get off at your stop. I think busses are one of the most direct ways that I feel in solidarity with people here. Sometimes when the busses are really full and people are pushing past me to get off, I make eye contact with someone and we connect in the fact that we are both uncomfortable but in it together. Often, we exchange sympathetic smiles that speak of understanding.
-Musica/Music is played all the time. Houses are close together and there is almost no sound barrier in the walls, so in the mornings, I am often greeted with our neighbor's radio belting out “Las mañanitas” (the birthday song sung here). There's also music that comes from trucks that drive by and music on the radio on the busses.
-Chinelas/Rubber house shoes are more or less just like flip flops or rubber sandals. No one walks around barefoot in their homes and when we get home we slip out of our dusty or muddy shoes and slide into chinelas.
-Relaxed sense of punctuality – I like to call this “Nica time.” One of the best examples I have of this characteristic is one day at school, we were supposed to have a meeting with all of the teachers to do an evaluation of the first semester. The principal requested that we all arrive on time so we could begin at 7 o'clock on the dot. What time did we finally start? 8:30! I find myself switching back and forth between being frustrated with tardiness to being guilty myself of arriving a little late. Oops...
-Refrigerios/Snacks are one of the best parts of having workshops or teacher training. Halfway through the meeting we get a half an hour break and a snack. It has been everything from a tortilla and cheese to an enchilada and a fresco. I love snack time.
-Wet hair – Most Nicaraguans shower right before leaving the house and therefore usually arrive to work or school with wet hair. I'm surprised more people haven't commented on the fact that I rarely come to school with my hair wet. It's because my hair dries so fast, obviously not because I don't shower – at least that's what I tell myself.
-TV - “You don't have a TV in your house?! What do you do? Don´t you get bored?” I can't tell you how many times people have asked me this. I think that every single Nicaraguan house I've been in has had a TV in it. All the way out in some of the remote parts of the campo (rural area) people have televisions. They love their soap operas and watching soccer games.
-Answering cell phone during meetings and class – Just like people in the States, people here are connected to their cell phones. It continues to amaze me that teachers will not only leave their phones on during school hours, but that they will answer a call in the middle of class. The same thing happens during meetings. Even the person who is leading the meeting will pause in the midst of their presentation for a quick phone call.
-Baile folklorico/Traditional Nicaraguan dance is a big part of the culture here. The women wear long , beautiful skirts and the men usually wear straw hats. It is a beautiful, graceful style of dance, but it is a lot harder than it looks! For el dia de los estudiantes (students' day), a few of my coworkers and I performed a dance with a mix of music, including baile folklorico. It was a lot of fun and I think my students enjoyed it. The picture is of the group of us that danced after our debut. It´s a shame you can´t really see how much eye makeup I have on, but you´ll just have to trust me that it´s a lot!
Know you are all loved and thought of often.
Until next time.