Some Things I've Noticed So Far (after 1 and 1/2 months in Nicaragua)
by Jim Veinot
On the roof of the Cathedral in León
I arrived in Nicaragua New Year's Eve after a tiring 12 hours of travel. I spoke a bit of bar Spanish, had a few bucks and some plastic and was on an adventure; a warmer one than I might find at home in Canada.
Fortunately I had read Maggie's book on Retiring to Nicaragua, as well as her Newsletters, so I had some idea of what to expect. For a start I had created a 3 month space for myself, as suggested, to properly investigate Nicaragua as a retirement destination. See, I can follow directions!
I had only booked a one-way flight (not suggested) but had reasons for doing that including wanting to leave it open ended. I had discovered that Maggie was absolutely right, it would cost more to get home when I wanted to (flights from Nicaragua to Canada are more expensive than the other way round).
I had also discovered that I could take a bus to Liberia, Costa Rica, and fly from there (flights from Costa Rica are normally cheaper than from Nicaragua).
I arrived late in the evening and had booked an inexpensive hotel with a shuttle service. I highly recommend the Don Carmelo Hotel in Managua not only because the room was spotless or because the wifi was excellent, but because the shuttle was free!
These people were at the airport with a printed sign, got my luggage on board and got me to the hotel in quick order. You can find them at DonCarmeloHotel.com.
My next stop was León, where I had booked a room for a month while I got to know the lay of the land. This was at Harvest House and you can find them on line as well.
This was one of the best decisions I made, for a whole bunch of reasons. For a start both the owner and the longer term residents gave me tips on getting around, what was where, and like that. They also provided a map, allowing me to prove that I could get lost whether I had a map or not, which is the real reason men don't ask for directions.
Eventually, I discovered that the guys at the street corner by the market weren't thugs, they were money changers and they gave you a much better rate than the banks.
My stops at the local grocery store weren't too conversational but I quickly learned about line-up etiquette (there's very little). My trips to the market were far more pleasant! I've ended up with a favorite vendor who supplies me with all I need in the way of fruits and vegetables at great prices.
Every doorway, in my part of town near San Juan market, leads to a merchant of some kind. I buy eggs at one door, cheese at another, beer at another still. Some are storefronts with rooms behind but some feature shopping in a person's living room!
Another reason I like Harvest House is that there are people from many countries and all walks of life, doing different things. Two girls from Germany are medical students doing volunteer/learning here. They're very charming and intelligent.
There's people doing ESL teaching, from USA and Canada, another Canadian fellow that leads hikes on the volcanoes and some young people from Germany again, who are volunteering with children.
There's a human rights lawyer here from Italy, a computer programmer from Toronto and a young man doing the buy/sell thing online who's been here and self-supporting for a couple of years. There was recently a couple (my age!), he from Portland, OR and she from Finland, who were here to check out the country with retirement as a goal.
I've been here long enough now that people are starting to recognize me on the street, and they smile and greet me. I feel welcome here.
I don't feel threatened, I don't feel like a gringo. That's why I'm here in the long run; to see if I can be comfortable. The rest is about adjusting to a different way of life.
My only problem is that I'm just far too comfortable here! I live in a garden, with jazz playing in the background while I write or process photographs. It's a hard life; but I need to move on and investigate some more places. (I guess?)
Jim Veinot calls himself a travelling boomer. Originally from Canada, he explores different countries, and eventually wants to retire in an inexpensive place with lots of sunshine.