Granada is a lively colonial town on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.  My first impressions upon arriving were fantastic, the architecture is beautiful and colourful, and it is a bustling place full of street vendors trying to make a buck off any gringos that come their way.

The first thing I did upon arriving was visit the local chocolate shop which sold a variety of chocolate truffles, most of them alcoholic (banana whiskey! delicious!), and then locate another establishment optimistically named Vinos y mas.  (wines and more).  I say optimistically because I certainly couldnt see anything in there apart from wine.  The bottles were extremely expensive, a bottle of Jacobs Creek costing US$30! They did however sell a glass of some kind of sauv for US$4 so I settled into an outside table with my fancy chocolates and did some quality people-watching.

As mentioned above, there are an amazing number of street vendors walking around trying to hawk their goods, and as a gringa who is sitting at an outside table, drinking a nice glass of wine, I was an obvious target.  I could have bought my pick of mainly hammocks, small wooden whistles in the shape of birds or animals, or cashew nuts.  On day 1 I didnt mind, it was a good opportunity to practice my fledgling spanish speaking.  Now Ive been here for a week they just get a simple No gracias as Ive now been approached 100 times and no longer have any interest in their goods.  I remember my friend Liz saying when she first got to London she talked to all of the street vendors, just to have a conversation.. now I can sympathise with what it is like to just want to have a chance to chat with someone!  More troublesome are the children who approach you with their best sad face on and their hand out for money.  Ive been told under no circumstance start handing out money to these kids, they are up to no good.  Another way of them making some cash is to dress up in the big doll-like costumes pictured on the last entry.  If you take a photo or show any interest in what they are doing, the demands for money start up again.

It is not surprising that there are so many vendors however, my spanish teacher tells me that around 25% of the population are unemployed, and another 25% do not have stable employment.  The minimum wage is also supposed to be 2000 cordobas per month (around US$100) but there are plenty of jobs, and people willing to take those jobs, which only pay around $800 cordobas (US$40).  No wonder they see me as an easy target, as at any one time I am probably carrying around at least a months wages in cash in my bag.  I have never felt unsafe howver, they will give it a try but if you are firm then they just move on.

More problematic are the Hombres who due to unemployment or other reasons, just sit in the streets all day and harrass women.  Ive spoken to a few people about it and this is a problem all the time.  I get a lot of it as Im clearly foreign, but according to one guy I spoke to (Mum: he was originally from Bootle) they start in on the really young local girls too and kind of wear them down into a submissive attitude as soon as they can.  They again are not particularly frightening in any way, but I am VERY bored of it as I have never been fond of builders whistles and the like so to now have it repeated 200 times a day (no joke, depending on how much walking I do) is really starting to get on my nerves.  There is nothing to do but just completely ignore it and keep walking, until you pass the next guy……

Im staying with a host family here, who are nice enough, but dont speak a word of english and take in students as a business.  They make an effort to have a wee bit of conversation with me every day, but generally I am just doing my own thing and they are doing theirs.  They also have another sibling who was badly injured in a car crash a few weeks ago, and so they spend a lot of time over at his house looking after him.   Part of the deal is 3 meals per day and I have to say the food is not the most enjoyable part of my experience.  Meals consist of plain rice, plain beans, a lot of cheese (but not a particularly nice type) and fried bananas/plantains.  This is typical nicaraguan food, and in theory I dont mind any of these things, but I have had to ask them not to make it so salty! Being given a plate full of the saltiest beans Ive ever encountered and a piece of super salty deep fried cheese was not my favourite meal ever.  (and yes, the beans and cheese were the only things on offer).  This was accompanied by some oats soaked in water to make a strange kind of juice. Mmmm.

This morning I was given a traditional nicaraguan sunday breakfast.  delicious you think? Think again.  Traditional nicaraguan sunday breakfast is in fact corn meal mush and a piece of white bread.  Mmmmmm.  Ive been trying to sneak some meals out in town, it costs me money but at least I am getting a few meals of some different types of food.

Im the only student in my spanish school and the only one staying with my host family so Ive been feeling a bit isolated while here.  Ive been therefore doing my best to go out & see if I can strike up any conversations about town.  Ive managed to have chats with a few people, and then a couple of days ago ran into cassidy one of the volunteers who taught the community school in Costa Rica.  It was really nice to see her, and we went for a drink on Wednesday night, then out properly on Friday night.  I booked a hostel room in town for the night, as I have to be home by 10 with the host family (I have no key so they need to let me in).  It was great, we met a bunch of people, and I went to a nightclub with salsa dancing, and even had a go! Im terrible and have no rhythm whatsoever, but it was great to try and Id love to learn to do it better.

Next week I only have spanish class for 4 hours in the mornings, so I am going to go and do a Mosiac making class in the afternoons.  Im really looking forward to it! I am really feeling like trying to learn some arty stuff at the moment and it is great that Ive managed to find this class, and that the time fits around my spanish class so nicely as well.  It also has the advantage that I cant possibly get home to the family for lunch so that is 5 meals less at the house 😉

OK signing off now, hope all are well wherever you may be!



2 Responses to “Granada”

  1. Iris Says:

    Hi Jess. Your updates are always so interesting! Great to find that mosaic class, and glad you met that friend. Good job you’re eating out or you’d starve by the sounds of that food!!! (Them scousers get everywhere….) XXXXX

  2. MutantMaster Says:

    Sounds like my kind of diet. If you weren’t a vege you could throw a couple of the local spiders in for protein. Just been watching your favourite sport on TV, (premier league darts). Say after me (at the top of your voice), Dadadadadadaaaah dadada daah dadada daah Oi Oi Oi!
    You know who gets very annoyed when I bellow One Hundred and Eightyyyyyy also.
    Love D

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