Pura Vida Travels - A Guide To Travel In Latin America

I arrived in Managua on January 11, 2008 and it was a beautiful day. This marked the one year anniversary of my first arrival in Managua and it's amazing how things have changed in that year. I remember flying into Managua for the first time and thinking I had made the biggest mistake of my life. A year later I have a wife, a family, a home, and even a dog in Managua.

January is an absolutely gorgeous month in Nicaragua. The rainy season is just ending so everything is still green and the temperatures range from the mid 70's at night to the low 90's during the day. People here complain that it's "cold" at night but that's understandable in a country where the temperature rarely goes below 70 degrees. If you're from a northern climate like I am I find this weather to be about as perfect as it gets.

As I was flying in over Managua I snapped a few photos of my neighborhood. Our house is only a couple of miles from the airport and we are right on the flight path. In other cities this would be unbearable but given the fact there are maybe 10 flights a day at most into Augusto Sandino Airport it's barely noticeable here. One of the highlights of the week was Hugo Chavez flew over and I was able to give him a yankee imperialist salute. Not that he saw me, I doubt he notices any of us mere peasants, but it made me feel good anyway. Chavez blew into town to promise the world and deliver nothing as usual. Hugo is big on promises but sorely lacking when it comes to delivering the goods. Last year Chavez arrived into town and promised to solve the countries power problems by "donating" a dozen diesel generators to Nicaragua. When the "donation" finally arrived it also came with a $100 million bill payable to Hugo attached to it. It's kind of like giving your wife a Ferrari for Christmas but instead of handing her the keys you give her the payment book. In real life this sort of behavior would probably result in a swift kick to the groin but in the world of politics it's seen as a magnanimous gesture.

As of this writing Nicaragua still does not have a budget that has been approved by their legislature. If a budget isn't approved by February Nicaragua stands to lose $600 million in funding from the IMF. Chavez, of course, promised Nicaragua that this isn't a problem because he is a friend of Nicaragua. I, for one, would like to know what exactly that means. Is Chavez going to pony up $600 million if the IMF doesn't? Somehow I doubt that. It's more likely that he and Ortega will blame George Bush (it's always Bush's fault no matter what the crisis is) and come to the logical conclusion that this wouldn't be a problem if Daniel Ortega was made dictator because dictator's don't have to deal with pesky legislatures.

Landing In Managua...

Flying Over Cuber

Managua Here I Come

My Hood From The Air

Rotunda Near My House

Almost There

Airport Parking Is Expensive
On the way from the airport to our house we drove by the Venus nightclub. I've never been in this place but we've driven by it at night before and this place hops on the weekends. Somebody also seems to get stabbed here at least once a month which greatly contributes to the fact that I've never gone there.

I also took a picture of the cement wash tub store. Every home in Nicaragua has one of these. I've only seen one actual washing machine in all of Nicaragua and in the house I saw it in they were using it as an extra table. For the most part, clothes are washed by hand here the old fashioned way. Actually, now that I think about it, the wash tubs are the "modern" way of washing clothes here. In the rural communities the women still take the clothes down to the stream and beat them on rocks.

The Trash Is Still Here

Get Your Mercedes Fixed Here

Venus Nightclub

Getting Ready For Lunch

The Cement Washtub Store





Managua Intersection

Niece Chelsea

Big House

Really Big House
When we finally arrived at our house I noticed the taxi driver was having a problem getting the trunk open. It turns out the "key" was actually a bent up coat hanger and it was being tempermental. The taxista was something of a coat hanger affecianado as he had also replaced the cars antenna with one. Nicaraguans are tremendously resourceful when it comes to keeping things running with whatever they can find. A lot of the time it seems like the whole country is held together with string and old coat hangers.

Opening The Trunk Of The "Super Saloon"

With A Coat Hanger

Coat Hanger Antenna Too
The first order of business when we got home was to open Christmas gifts. My wife loves music so I bought her an iPod for Christmas. Electronics are astronomically expensive in Nicaragua. I have to assume it's because there aren't a lot of people that can afford them so the stores charge whatever they want for them. iPod Nano's, for example, like the one I bought my wife sell for between $350 and $400 in Managua. That's twice what they sell for in the USA.

While I'm on the subject I should add that I've never been able to figure out why prices are so bizarre in Nicaragua. Levi's, for example, sell for $50-$70 a pair everywhere in Managua when the same pair costs $30 or less in the US. On the other hand Ralph Lauren Polo shirts sell for $10 when they cost $45 or more in the US. I've been wearing Polo shirts for years so I'm pretty sure I could spot a fake and I believe these are the real deal. Fruit is another good example. Bananas are so cheap I don't know why they even bother selling them. Apples, however, cost around $1 per apple which seems awefully expensive to me. I've never seen an apple tree in Nicaragua so that might explain it but it still seems like an awful lot of money for an apple.

Another gift that I brought was from my aunt for my wife's nieces and nephews. She had an old video game system from her kids that was gathering dust in the attic. The truly amazing thing to me was that the Nicaraguan kids had absolutely no idea what it was. I actually had to explain video games to them.

By the way, unlike Hugo's "gifts", my gifts didn't have price tags on them.

Opening a gift...

Opening Christmas Gifts

It's Perfume

And An iPod

Nice Haul

And Video Games For The Kids

Checking Out The Games

Let's Play

Our New Dog, Princessa
I talk about this a lot but I find grocery stores fascinating in Latin America. I've learned to be discreet about taking pictures in them though. I got kicked out of a grocery store in San Jose, Costa Rica once for taking pictures by their heavily armed security gaurds. I'm not sure exactly what they thought I was doing but I can tell you that they don't like cameras.

One of the things they sell in the grocery stores in Managua that I've never seen anywhere else are what I call mini-bananas. They are about the size of your finger and they are really sweet and delicious. My wife says that they are for babies and her mom used to feed them to her when she was little. Another thing I've never seen before are "huevos rojos" or red eggs. I admit that I don't like eggs that much so maybe we have them at home and I never noticed them. The fruit aisles are filled with stuff like ayote and yuca that all looks and tastes the same to me but saying that is heresay in Nicaragua.

Another item that every grocery store in Nicaragua stocks is Jesus candles. I call them "cup o' Jesus" but my wife doesn't think that's funny. I'll chalk it up to the lost in the translation category.

While grocery stores in the USA have become one-stop shops for everything you could possibly need the stores in Managua stick to selling unprepared food for the most part. If you want hot, prepared food, however, you can usually get it in the parking lot. As long as buying your lunch out of someone's laundry basket isn't an issue for you you'll have plenty of choices in the parking lot.


Red Eggs Are The Best

Mmmmm, Pineapple

Basket Of Hot Empanadas

Now You Know What Ayote Is

And Yuca Too

Cup Of Jesus Candles

Every trip I hear gringos talking on the plane about how "dangerous" Managua is at night. I would be willing to bet not one of these people has actually been out at night in Managua. Granted, like any city, there are dangerous areas but overall I would rank Managua pretty low on the dangerous city scale. The tourist mecca of Costa Rica, for example, is far more dangerous in my humble opinion. I've spent a lot of time in both countries and I never did feel comfortable being out at night in San Jose. I think the reason is, oddly enough, that Costa Rica is a far wealthier country. Wealth brought a better standard of living to Costa Rica but it also gave the people the ability to afford drugs which in turn created addicts. The streets of San Jose are littered with crackheads at night and the authorities seem to have little interest in dealing with the problem of the crimes committed by them to fuel their addictions. A crackhead will do anything for the next rock including killing you if need be. Nicaragua doesn't have anywhere near the drug problem that Costa Rica has hence they have far less violent crime. Well, that's my theory anyway. I'm far from an expert on crime but it's just something I've noticed in my travels.

Bello Horizonte at night...

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