For someone with a bit of a picky eater reputation, I know I shocked some with my positivity going into Nicaragua. Well, I can say I am not starving but I certainly have had an adventure with food so far!! Most of our meals are eaten at little cafes or restaurants in Leon, but we have made PB&Js for lunches a few times (yay) and just recently we made spaghetti at our hostel. Oh, the comforts of American food -- even frozen vegetables taste good because they are familiar! Our hostel makes us breakfast, which can be the "American breakfast" of dense pancakes, watermelon, and a banana, or the "Nica breakfast" of gallo pinto, scrambled eggs, toast, and marmalade. We finally tried the Nica breakfast today and it was delicious! Dinner has been fun to try new things ... to an extent. On one of our first nights our partner Hal took us to a comedor, a very cheap, common restaurant that is pretty much a buffet. I don't have pictures from that night, and it's probably a good thing, because it was VERY sketch. It was a dimly lit room, with plastic lawn furniture and clearly stained tablecloths that were all a little grimy. Containers of food were lined up and you just pointed to what you wanted and they dished up your plate. They were out of tortillas so I pointed to what looked like an empanada, and then saw them take it out and microwave it behind the counter (clearly this food wasn't all that fresh!). However, you can get this kind of dinner for about $2 so it is popular with the locals. It was definitely an experience, but I'm glad we don't eat at comedors all of the time. Our advisor's (thankful) theory is that it is better to spend a few more dollars on food than to have us get sick and need doctor visits!
We've had some pretty good dining out experiences since then. One night we went to Al Carbon, a high end restaurant for Nicaragua, and ordered a big platter for the table. We got rice, beans, plantains, four pounds of filet mignon, and many different kinds of sauces..... it was delicious! The meat was wonderful and still crazily reasonable because it was in this country. The atmosphere was fun too-- outside, with nice dark wood furniture and white tile patio, surrounding a fountain. An open kitchen with a big grill was in the back and we could see chefs with white hats and aprons cooking away. Another night we went to "the rooftop place", which is a fun little dinner place that looks out over Leon. It is a tiny restaurant and has only a cook and two waitresses. This means that it takes about an hour and a half to be served because only one or two plates are finished at a time. I had the best chicken fajitas in my life though, even though the kitchen was the size of my closet at home (which is not that big)! I decided to be adventurous and try "te de Jamaica y limon", which is a really sweet dark purple tea. It came with ice in a glass, and of course I was really careful not to touch my lips to the glass but only drink through the straw. At 3:30 AM the next morning, I realized that there had been ice in the tea, and the ice was made with local water, and that was why I was sick. How fun. It's so hard to remember these things!
Last night I went to brush my teeth in the hostel and as I walked into the bathroom area, some guy was turned around going to the bathroom but with the door open .... I was so flustered that I quick put my toothbrush under the common area faucet and got out of there.. only to realize again that it was Nica water and I shouldn't touch it. I burst back into our room and spit into the trash, then laughed with Annalee over the incident. She gave me some listerine to hopefully get any germs out of my mouth from the water, and I went back with a water bottle to finish brushing in peace.
Unfortunately I have just resigned myself to always having my stomach hurt because it seems to, no matter what I eat. It's not too bad but still not fun to have a stomach that always hurts. Today, Annalee and I realized that when we made frozen peas and carrots last night (craving vegetables, of any kind, and we thought frozen from the grocery would be safe), we had cooked them in tap water... so that explained the stomachaches last night. But even without these mistakes, there is always food that doesn't settle quite right.
I don't have much to say about the culture yet, except that there is definitely a different outlook on time (always running 15 minutes late, usually more) and the greetings have taken some getting used to. It is ok for another woman to greet me with a handshake, but when a man is greeting me, the proper thing is to give me a half hug and an air kiss on the cheek. I keep forgetting and try to give handshakes when they lean in... I'm getting over the awkwardness though ;)
Language-wise, I have HUGE appreciation for people who speak two languages. Hearing and learning another language is hard. I have very very basic Spanish, and can usually get by but I can't remember many tenses. Trying to translate or even recognize words all day long is tiring and it quickly becomes easier to tune out the unfamiliar language . I find that I can ask a lot of questions in Spanish but understanding the answer I receive is the hard part. So I try, but I'm sure I speak like a three-year-old and unfortunately, a blank look is taking up permanent residence on my face.
La Calle Real, village in Nicaragua
I'm a twenty-something from the Pacific NW making home in new places as I follow where God leads.
My intent is to show Christ's love to the world and use business to solve some of the social problems we face: hunger, illiteracy, healthcare, economic hardship. For now, I'm in a stage of learning. A little adventuring, a few books, some good friends, and a whole lot of prayer and life runs on.