Sidewalks in Latin America generally fall into one of a few categories:
New or excellent condition with/without tactile cues for the visually impaired like above
Very good condition with decorative tiles/design
Very poor, uneven, drop offs, steps, obstacles, deteriorating
I don’t have pictures of the poor ones although I could get them in a heartbeat but I have seen many that had decorative designs. It is a pleasure to see that someone took the time/expense/creativity to install a decorative (usually tile or brick) sidewalk. Here are just a few examples:
In all of the countries that we have been in so far (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador), the pharmacies are similar. They are usually much smaller than a 7-11 store in the USA; often you just walk a step or two from the sidewalk to a counter. They tend to have medicines in a series of deep drawers behind the counter. The staff doesn’t wear any type of name tag or badge so I don’t know if they are “pharmacists” or not. They do tend to be pretty knowledgeable and able to recommend products for colds, coughs, bug bites, etc.
In Panama, Ecuador, and I think Costa Rica and Nicaragua as well, they are called farmacias but in Colombia they are usually called drogerias.
I know in Nicaragua, I could buy generic Xanax and Ambien with no problem, and no prescription. In fact, the generic Xanax was on the top shelf of the glass counter. No limits on how much I could buy either. And very cheap, under $0.30 each if I remember correctly.
When I talked to the doctor who came to see Dan when he was under the weather in Popayan, he said that the only things that require a prescription in Colombia are antibiotics. I am glad that they require a prescription but it is amazing that you can buy anything else any time you want.
The farmacias tend to have a small selection of supplements, dental items, personal care items, etc. It will be interesting to see the differences in the future countries.
You don’t generally see items in bulk. They are usually sold by a blister pack sheet, even something as common as acetaminophen is sold by a sheet of about 10 or 12 tablets. Selection is much smaller and options different from the US. For example, if you want a cream to stop itching from mosquito bites, you can’t get a benadryl type cream. And what you can get in one country you may not be able to get in another.
I take a large dose of Vitamin D3 every day so I like to get 5,000 unit gel caps but you are lucky if you can find 2,000 units caps and if you do, they are expensive where as in the US they are pretty cheap.
Earning a living in Latin America can be very tough. Work is hard and long hours and pay very low. Retirement payments are extremely low, as low as $50 per month in Ecuador.
Many people earn their living by selling things. On streets, in the plazas, boarding buses briefly, and walking between lanes of traffic. You can buy almost anything from shoe laces and plain shoe inserts (I am not talking the Dr. Scholl gel inserts, I’m talking plain inserts like you take out of your shoes if you put in the Dr. Scholl inserts), sun glasses, all kinds of fresh or cooked foods, toys, corn kernels for pigeons, bubble blowers, shoe shines, candy or cigarettes, and the list is endless.
In Ecuador I saw a man with no shoes because his feet were clubbed or deformed, walking on his knees, selling the Andean ponchos. I didn’t take a picture of him but here is the type of poncho I mean.
I saw another man who sat on a skateboard and went up and down between lanes of traffic selling something. Brave soul.
We generally don’t buy from the vendors because we don’t know how the food is handled but lots of people do buy there. I guess prices are good and they are convenient. Below are pictures from Colombia and Ecuador but you could find similar pictures in any of the countries we have been in so far and I suspect most of the ones we plan to visit in the future.
To the left of the red car is vendor sitting on a skate board.
Courtyards are a necessity in Nicaragua (and should be elsewhere as well). The air in the courtyard flows into the rooms which surround it and help to keep the temperatures tolerable.
All of the courtyards that we saw were full of lots of plants and sometimes a fountain or pool. They were very pleasant to see and to sit in.
My only question about this practice is that it means that the majority of all land is covered by impervious cover (concrete, asphalt, buildings, etc.) so I’m not sure how much of an issue rainwater runoff is.
During one of our outings while we were in Nicaragua we went to a nice market in Catarina which is near Granada. The place was clean, neat, and not crowded while we were there. You could purchase all kinds of things there, including art work. I got a kick out of the ones below. These folks know how to multi-task!
Other artwork we saw in a restaurant at Charco Verde Reserve and other places can be seen here. You can see that the style is somewhat similar. A few of the images are just to show you who the artist is.
We spent about 10 days in Nicaragua, mostly in historic Granada (more on that in another blog) but also a few days on the island in Lake Nicaragua as well.
Thoughts about the country, people, culture:
The drive from the border to Granada was mixed. The road was excellent and there wasn’t much traffic. Lots of green spaces on either side of the road and you can see Lake Nicaragua and Ometepe Island shortly after entering the country.
Poverty is also obvious very quickly. Small houses, yards are mostly trees like banana and coconut, no grass yards. Animals are loose and when I say loose, they often graze their horses, donkeys, cows, and pigs on the side of the roads. Usually tethered in some way on the busier roads but not always.
The people are generally happy despite their poverty. One thing we did was tour an after school program that is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Granada. The administrator giving the tour (school and neighborhood) said that the kids always come eager to be there (they get a meal, play, and instruction appropriate to their skill level) and they are clean, well groomed, and in clean, pressed clothes. This is despite the fact that they usually don’t have indoor plumbing at their houses! They seemed happy to be at the program and most of them were outgoing and engaging.
Poverty is very evident once you get a few blocks from the central tourist areas, especially in the neighborhood of the program where the streets and floors in most of the houses are dirt, houses are often made of pieces of tin, and I even saw one house made of boxsprings from old mattresses as the exterior walls and tar paper on the interior. I didn’t get a picture of that but I do have a picture of a gate using a boxspring.
The country is very poor, the second poorest in the western hemisphere after Haiti. We saw homes made of odd pieces of tin or wood, one even made of the box springs of mattresses with tar paper on the inside. Dirt floors are not uncommon in the poorer areas.
Despite the poverty, people are very clean, neat, well groomed, and in clean/neat clothes. They are generally happy.
Horses, cows, donkeys, and pigs are often loose to feed on the roadsides. They are sometimes tethered, sometimes totally loose and may even be in the roadway itself. Their owners bring them in nightly and there doesn’t appear to be a problem with theft.
Murder rates are very low in Nicaragua (unlike Honduras) however theft is high. We didn’t have any problems but we were told that the poorer locals feel like that if they steal from someone who has things, they need the things and the owner will just go out and replace it…so what is the problem?!
It is extremely hot and humid; just now coming into the rainy season which will cool down the afternoons.
During the war there were no schools for the children. Now they go half days, I believe it is small children in the morning and older kids in the afternoons. Teachers are not well trained either. Both things are going to work against improving the lives of the citizens for sometime to come.
Below is a picture of steps in Granada. It is our new motto!
We only saw one lone monkey scurry down a branch in the shadows of a tree in Costa Rica but in Nicaragua we saw a number of them…2 kinds.
The first group was on the Islet Tour in Lake Nicaragua near Granada. There are 365 islets (big enough for at least a house if not more) formed from the eruption of a volcano long ago. One of those islets has 4 spider monkeys.
The monkeys are quite used to tourists in the boats coming and feeding them so they are easy to see. We did an afternoon tour so they weren’t hungry (and we didn’t know to bring fruit for them anyway) but I understand that during morning tours they are even more visible.
The second group was at Charo Verde Reserve on Ometepe Island. Those were Howler monkeys and I’m not sure how many we saw, at least a half dozen. They were above us in the mango trees, taking a bite out of the fruit and throwing it down to the ground (reminded me of the squirrels and our peach trees at the house in San Antonio.
The monkey we have seen the most of is Mona the Common Marmoset at Finca Soley. She gets her own posting as soon as I get a good video of her activity.
Why did the chicken cross the road? We don’t have an answer to this age old question but we do have pictures of it. These chickens were on the main road on Ometepea…needless to say there isn’t tons of traffic on the road or they wouldn’t make it across.
When we got to the hotel on the island we asked the person who handles everything (a staff of one this time of year) to recommend a place to eat. She said to go to “sen a nae ee”. She said there was a sign and that it was quite close.
So we took off down the road and turned right (but did she say left or right???) and walked a block or two and turned back. On the way back, we saw this sign:
We got most of our meals from there. It is totally open inside and very rustic. Food was “ok” but generous and cheap. Here is the first meal we got, fortunately there were tons of leftovers. Other meals were a more reasonable size.