Only in Nicaragua

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So many times I am asked the question: “So what are the differences you see between here and where you’re from?” Such a loaded question, one I’m sure I don’t have an adequate or well-researched answer for. Nonetheless, I never want to disappoint my interrogator so I come up with something to avoid creating an awkward silence: “Well, the weather for one thing.” “The people here seem to be more open, more hospitable.” “Spanish, duh.” “Time—everything takes longer here.” And once I start thinking of things the easier it gets to come up with more and more examples. Surprisingly, I notice more about the culture and life here than I think I do!

Please don’t quote me and please don’t consider my list extensive, but I thought I’d share with you some things that I’ve witnessed that you could say are “Only in Nicaragua.”

3-5 people on a motorcycle, or two people and a bicycle on a motorcycle, or two people and propane tanks or mattresses or piping or whatever—this is completely normal. If you need to get somewhere with something, those two wheels are sufficient enough. Every time I see this I am more and more impressed by the universal talent Nicaraguans seem to have in balancing things.

Eating potatoes and rice in the same meal, sometimes even mixed together. Here, they seem to be complimentary foods, not two starches of the same bland color and taste.

It’s 90+ degrees outside and everyone’s wearing jeans. It’s just what they do.

Saying adios in greeting, even though technically it means goodbye. Think of it as aloha.

Showing up to an event 15-30 minutes late is definitely arriving on time. Any earlier and you’d be rushing things. Any later and you’re rude to the host.

Fireworks at 4 in the morning—it’s Saint What’s-His-Name’s Day after all (sorry, I don’t want to sound rude to the Catholics out there and their traditions—there are just a TON of them here and I never remember who we’re celebrating). And while we’re on the subject, random parades of school children and marching bands and religious icons that randomly block off streets at random times during the day.

Wearing a hot pink patterned shirt, blue skinny jeans, and red high heels OR a teal blue hair tie with teal blue eye make-up with a teal tank top with teal shoes—clashing or being matchy-matchy don’t seem to be very strong concepts here. You wear what you like.

Running to catch the bus, which is often a really colorful school bus decorated with streamers and filled to the brim with way too many passengers. Somehow, they will find a way to fit that one last person.

Adding a healthy spoonful of sugar to your cup of milk (and by healthy I do not in fact mean healthy. I mean huge.). In fact, adding a whopping amount of sugar to any beverage: juice, coffee, tea, milk, etc.

Have community guards who bike around all throughout the night and whistle at your door every hour to let you know they are doing the job you are paying them for. It’s really loud.

Greeting people with nicknames such as “fatty” (gordita) or “black skin” (negra) or “white skin” (chela) or “asian looking” (chino), etc. These names are descriptive, not offensive.

Street dogs by the dozens, most with ribs showing and many with some injury or other. Apparently they never received Bob Barker’s spay and neuter advice.

Listening to two or more types of music at the same time—one from your phone, another from your TV, another from the radio… you get the idea. Basically, loud music means you’re happy.

Drinking juice, pop, or water out of a bag—a treat you can buy from street vendors. Just pop in a straw or bite a hole in the corner and you’re good to go.

Cars driving by loudly advertising things, from upcoming events to goods for sale to announcements of deaths. Think of it as moving audible billboards.

Cold showers because it’s too hot for anything else.

Eating a ginormous bowl of HOT chicken soup for lunch, also known as the hottest part of the day. No further comment.

Uneven cobblestone streets, even more uneven sidewalks, and colorfully painted adobe houses that may or may not be in a constant state of crumbling. If you have nothing else to say, the architecture here is beautiful.
Etc., etc., etc.

Now of course it would be crazy of me to claim that you could only find these things in Nicaragua. My point here is that they are so foreign to my culture back home and take me by surprise every time.

When I travel this is one of the joys I look forward to encountering: new (and sometimes crazy) ways of living.

What are some of the crazy and cool things you’ve seen on your travels?

kelsey daviesWritten by Kelsey Davies
Serving as a Partner Missionary with the Nehemiah Center in León, Nicaragua.

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