Hello, readers! Alice here writing to you that although we´ve had some annoyances, we´re all fine and dandy and ready to get out of big, stressful Managua.
Our first challenge was finding each other and finding our hostel the night we got in. We had written out very detailed directions to give to the taxi drivers, but because the hostel is just a woman´s house with no signage outside and because Managua (and all Nicaraguan cities) has no street names or numbers, Nora, Michelle and Marlee all got taken to another, nearby place with an almost identical name. So, instead of our nice, cozy, quiet house they were dropped at a slightly sketchy, pay-by-the-hour motel. When I got in several hours later to the correct place and found they weren´t there, I immediately realized what had happened, and the very nice hostel owner Maria Cecilia took me in her car to rescue the others.
Things took a turn for the way better once we were all together in the correct place and could relax and enjoy the comforts we soon will miss (a toilet seat, a shower with good pressure, a nice big bed...) Though Maria Cecelia thought that, as Americans, we´d prefer to eat at the local mall food court, we opted to walk around the corner to a restaurant called Bongo Tropical, where we had an alright, if bizarre dinner. Two of us enjoyed the gustatory delights of spaghetti with jalapeño sauce and two ordered the ¨spring salad,¨ which came covered in strips of ham and American cheese with a ring of crackers around the rim of the plate. I guess nothing says spring like ham and crackers...
We had a very full and rewarding first day, which the others will post about momentarily. The only other rough patches were Marlee´s bag being lost by the airline and sent all the way to the Caribbean and back. But after many calls the bag should be arriving at our hostel any minute now. We´ve been sharing clothes and toiletries in the meantime.
Like our guidebook said, Managua has a reputation for being dangerous, but it really isn´t any different than any other big city. We´ve been wearing our moneybelts UNDER our clothes, sticking together, not walking far at night, negotiating taxi prices BEFORE climbing in and staying in the safer areas, like the Bolonia neighborhood where our hostel is. Last night we had dinner and drinks with Cyndi, an Oberlin student who spent the whole semester studying here on an SIT program, and she gave us a really interesting perspective on everything from the tastes of middle class Managuans (pizza and Lady Gaga) to her independent investigation of pulperias, or general stores, and crazy anecdotes about political marches here in the capital. We also would have never found such a chill, funky restaurant with good vegetarian food without her recommendation.
We´ll be boarding a bus to Granada in a couple hours and will post again from there!