Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

My Trip to Nicaragua: Final Thoughts February 24, 2008

Overall, I would have to say that my trip to Nicaragua was pretty darn amazing. I met cool people, looked into volcanoes, ate tasty meals, and spent time with my really good friends.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you ever go to Nicaragua (or go on any other trip, for that matter!):

You might find yourself spending lots of money because it’s so little money by comparison. I know that was a bit of a problem for me. The exchange rate was so much in our favor that we definitely splurged a bit. Besides, we figured we might as well spend a lot, since we don’t know if/when we might go back. Also the country is rather poor, so I think we looked at spending as something beneficial to the society. Maybe that’s a little pompous sounding, or something, but I don’t mean it to sound that way at all!

Get a guidebook. My friends and I had two books. One from Lonely Planet and one from Moon. I think it worked out pretty well to have multiple guidebooks so we could find out more information (some information was only in one of the books, and we could get multiple angles about a certain place). I recommend reading through your guidebook to some extent, just to know what you’re in for. I especially recommend reading the intro to the country section (in the Moon book, it’s called “Know Nicaragua”). That way you know details like exchange rates, entry fees, medicines/shots you’ll need (and should plan on getting a certain amount of time ahead of time), customs, languages, safety, etc.

Know some Spanish. While you do run into a few English speakers, you’re going to want to know enough to know at least some middle school/high school Spanish that will help you find what you need (food, lodging, restrooms, etc.) and you’ll want to know numbers so you know what prices you’re agreeing to! Or if you don’t know Spanish, at least travel with someone who does.

Don’t be afraid to haggle. At markets, in cabs, etc. you can haggle for a price that seems more reasonable to you.

Taxis are different from what you experience in the states…you agree on a price before you head out. The good part is that you know they wont drive your around randomly just to run up a tab. I can’t think of what’s bad about it, except if you are unable to haggle for a good price.

Just as a recap, here are the links to each day of my trip:

Day 1: Fort Lauderdale (to Managua)

Day 2: Masaya (from Managua)

Day 3: Ometepe (From Masaya to San Juan Del Sur)

Day 4: San Juan Del Sur (to Managua)

I’d love to hear of your travels, as well!

[Edit:  If you’re wondering what shots, immunization, or medicine you’ll need on your trip, check out the CDC’s Traveler’s Health site.]

 

My Trip to Nicaragua: Day 4: San Juan Del Sur February 20, 2008

We woke up the next morning, to see the aftermath of the storm: everyone was sweeping up, cleaning up, washing the mud off of their steps.

We headed downstairs for breakfast…got the “traditional Nicaraguan breakfast” (again! I just love it!)

It kept raining on and off, shifting into downpours every once in a while. I guess you could say the weather was pretty bad. L and M stopped at an internet cafe to check some email and a few other things (L even sent me an email, telling me to remember how awesome Nicaragua was!)

Then we went to El Gato Negro. It’s an awesome, English-speaking cafe and bookstore. We figured with all the rain, we wouldn’t be able to go to the cloud forests or the volcanoes, so we decided to take our last day in Nicaragua as a day for relaxation. We spent a good part of our day there, reading the magazines, ordering tasty drinks (smoothies, fancy coffees, teas) and food (hummus plate, fruit plate, sandwiches, brownies). We met and chatted with the owner and some of the other visitors there. There was a black cat that roamed around the bookstore (the shop’s namesake) that we played with. The funny part (maybe only to me) was that I kept wanting to call the cat, and the cafe, “Le Chat Noir”, since I learned French in high school I suppose that confusion happened a lot to me…I would want to say “Merci” instead of “Gracias”.

I think because it’s an English-speaking cafe, locals know they can find tourists, and tourists tend to buy souvenirs! I have to admit, they were right! Two guys came to us (twice, I think!) and tried to sell us pottery they had made. I decided that this was going to be a good a time as any to buy something. They were all very beautiful pieces, mostly vases, jewelry boxes, and candle hurricanes. I went ahead and spent a good chunk of the cordoba I had left ( I didn’t have that much left at that point, anyway!) on a vase with turtles etched into it. It had the blues, greens, and browns that are found in my bed linens, so I figured it would be a good match. My friends bought a few things as well.

We stayed pretty much until closing (3pm) and headed out to find a cab that would take us back to Managua, to the airport. Before we got the cab, I stopped in to a shop to see if I could buy one more thing: an ornament (or something I could convert into an ornament). I had decided that I wasn’t going to spend a lot on souvenirs, but I also decided that my new souvenir policy would be to get an ornament from every place I visited. That way, every Christmas, I could recall all the great places I’d been! I bought a small magnet that I knew I could attach a hook to. Perfect!

On our journey back, we drove through Masaya, past volcanoes, and along long winding streets. Halfway through the journey, our cab driver actually switched out with another cab driver. I think it was because he usually doesn’t go that far north, so the two men set a deal so that they’d split the money from our fare and drive half way.

It was sad to go back up to Managua: We knew our journey was coming to a close. It was also upsetting to see just how much devastation the storm had caused. We drove by many people who were trying to fix things after their homes were flooded. We saw pools of water most likely 2 feet deep in places!

We finally made it to Managua, and stopped at a restaurant for dinner…our last meal in Nicaragua! I don’t remember the name of the place we at at (sorry!) but it was pretty good. Towards the end of our meal, a musician began to set up and play. It was very nice guitar music.

We then caught a cab to the airport. While we were waiting, M and L napped, and A and I got involved talking to a business man from NYC. He told us how he does business both in the US and Nicaragua, as well as many other places in Central America. He gave us his business card, and told us if we were ever back in Nicaragua, that we should let him know, and he’d have us over for dinner (the best Indian food in Nicaragua!)

Boarded our plane, and headed home!

 

My Trip to Nicaragua: Day 3: Ometepe February 12, 2008

Filed under: Travel — Stephanie @ 6:42 pm
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We left our hotel and headed over to the nearest supermarket in Masaya. We each picked up some breakfast and snacks. I got some yogurt and cookies (the cookies were a recommendation from L, who had tried that brand before on a trip to Costa Rica). We then headed to the bus stop to catch a bus down through Rivas to San Jorge to catch a ferry to Las Isla de Ometepe.

We had a beautiful view on a nice ferry. There were nice balconies to stand out on to look at the bright blue skies and the volcanoes in the distance as we floated across Lago Cocibolca. Apparently, some people were on the boat filming a tourism video for Nicaragua. They asked us if it would be all right if we were in it (they could tell that we were tourists!) There were people from all over the world on the ferry that day. Some people were from Nicaragua, others were from the United States (like us) and there were even people from as far away as Israel!

As is the case at many transportation terminals, there were many taxi drivers awaiting the ferry passengers. Some were offering complicated tourism packages. We were just looking to do something in the time we were there. We had read on the schedule that a ferry would be leaving the island at 2:00pm, so we didn’t have too much time to explore. We wanted to see the petroglyphs, but we wouldn’t have enough time. The taxi driver we hired luckily spoke English, so we were able to chat with him more. He drove us to Charco Verde (Green Lagoon) Nature Preserve. The lake there is said to be enchanted. They say if you swim in the lake, you will never want to leave. The interesting part about the lake was that it was very silty, most likely from the volcanic rock.

We ate a hearty lunch, and then got back on our way to the Ferry. Unfortunately, the departure time for the ferry was an hour later than what we and the taxi driver thought it was. So we waited on the island for another hour. We interacted somewhat with the local people there, including a little boy that liked to throw leaves at us, but we were all pretty warm and tired, so we mostly sat in the shade drinking copious amounts of water.

The ferry back was not nearly as nice as the one we took to get to the island, but it ran, and that’s all that mattered to us. We got a cab right off the boat (there were plenty of cabbies there waiting for us), and headed off to San Juan Del Sur. We stayed at hotel Estrella (i believe), which according to a guidebook had a bunch of bats. This hotel made me the least happy of the hotels we stayed at. I think there actually were bats…and the beds maybe had some guano on them from them. Also, the cost of the place seemed to change from one statement to the other. And they said that they would hold on to our key while we went out to the beach. They warned us that if you left stuff out, it would get stolen (at the beach). Leaving our key with them, combined with one other thing, is where I think there was a big problem…I announced to my friends that I would pay for dinner that night because I had 500 cordoba on me that I needed to spend. I’m almost certain I had that money….and when I went to pay for dinner that night, it and perhaps a US $20 was missing from my wallet. So, note to everyone…don’t talk about how much money you have on you. It’s a dumb thing, I know, and I guess I really wasn’t thinking. You live and you learn!

I think in total I perhaps lost$50US from that theft. In the long run, that’s not too much, but it would have been nicer to not have lost it, and deal with the upsetting idea of someone stealing things from me.

At any rate, we did go out to the pacific ocean, and played in the big waves. The coast there is known for its beautiful sunsets; we managed to show up during a cloudy sunset, but it was still beautiful!

We had dinner at a nearby restaurant, again taking advantage of the relatively cheap cost of everything. One of the fun facts (for my friends and me, at least) was that the guys working at the restaurant were watching a Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees game!  We were disappointed to find out that they were most likely Yankees fans!

Towards the end of our dinner, a huge lightning storm moved in. We saw amazing lightning over the waves, which seemed to light up the entire sky! Along with the lightning, of course, was a bit of a downpour! The roof of the restaurant started to leak, so we paid our bill and got ready to leave. Our hotel was literally right across the street. We booked it across the street, and managed to get completely soaked running through the already flooding 10 feet of street!

We all changed into dry clothes and just headed to bed. We went to bed a little bit sad…it was our last night in Nicaragua!