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!