Sunday, September 26, 2010


I'm trying to flex my writing muscle - admittedly in part due to a somewhat disappointing performance on the AW section of the GRE - and since I never properly blogged my Central America trip, I'd like to start posting bits and pieces.

I'll begin with this piece on Granada, Nicaragua - our fourth stop, about two weeks into our six month journey. I'll go back to Costa Rica and my first impressions soon, especially since I kept the most rigorous notes, as usual, at the beginning. However, aside from the incomparable Guatemala, Granada is where I spent the most time and became most comfortable. I haven't finished this entry, but wanted to post the first part to motivate myself.

We pull into the bus station, still greener than we’d like to admit to the whole backpacking thing, not knowing exactly what to expect, and wary considering our less-than-favorable impression of our previous Nicaraguan stop.

Granada is, for those familiar with Guatemala, a less sterile Antigua. It retains all the colonial charm but hasn’t been quite as sanitized by the tourist dollar (or euro). A grandly dilapidated building between the bus stop and the main square houses the market, rife with the usual tomatoes, corn, chayote squash, bananas, soap, dog food, what have you. In my two weeks of “living” in Granada (I am loath to claim living somewhere for such a short period), the market became an almost daily fixture for the shamefully cheap produce, beans, and spices that made up most of our home-cooked meals. Not to mention fruit with impossibly fresh flavor, flip flops when mine inevitably broke or got lost, and DVDs about the Nicaraguan Revolution. 

The town follows typical Spanish construction, with a central park surrounded by a church and government buildings. Practically every colonial city in Latin America is set up this way; why mess with a good thing, I suppose? The churches face the right way for religious reasons, tourists can see all the major sights in one quick tour that won’t wear out their new Tevas, and everyone’s happy.

A tour group in the central plaza

Once you resign yourself to the languid heat and learn to appreciate the cool breeze coming off of Lake Nicaragua (a breeze which you’ll beg for once you hit the mercilessly hot pavement of Leon), the city comes into focus. The central cathedral, doubtlessly plastered on ninety percent of Nicaragua postcards, towers above the plaza with its striking yellow and orange dome. 

We arrived just in time for an international poetry festival that filled the plaza with booths selling crafts and books, and stages for poetry readings dotted the town. It’s incredibly surreal to see people in the middle of a crowded market, full of puddles and furtive dogs, stop their bargaining over second-hand shoes to listen to freeform poetry. 

[to be continued..]

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