Monday, September 8, 2008

Discovering Granada

We are beginning to make the city of Granada our home. We have moved in with a Nicaraguan family. With almost no language skills and very little familiarity with family structure, it may be awhile before we figure out who all the people coming and going from the house are, and if there might be more family members who simply don’t live here. Raquel is our host-mom. Her son, Elgar, is about 3 or 4 years old. He loves to watch cartoons, and Simon and Danielle love to watch them too. Raquel’s neice is about 11 years old, and we’ve seen more of her over the weekend than during the week.

The first picture is the courtyard inside the house where we are living. John describes it "like living in a covered porch." All the rooms face the centre courtyard.

The second picture is a view of the street where we live. Danielle is ahead in the distance, almost at the house.

We’ll beginning language school on Monday. Not soon enough! Amazing what you can accomplish and communicate through sign language and some charades.

Spanish school at Casa Xalteva.

In addition to the human residents at the house there is a parrot named Roseta (who speaks more Spanish than us at this point), a few chickens, some pigeons, gekos and bats. Yup, bats. The home is built around an open air courtyard and we are basically living in a huge covered porch. The kitchen, living and dining rooms are open to the courtyard. The two bedrooms we use are separated by a wall with numerous windows that open to the courtyard. In most places the walls go up to the ceiling but not everywhere so the bats can fly in from outside and whip around the ceiling. As you can probably guess, one of the rooms that doesn’t have walls to the ceiling is our bedroom, so although they are fairly high ceilings/roof there are a couple of bats flying around in the evening. I (Pam) didn’t think I would be able to sleep but we have a big fan at night that drowns out any sound and I guess heat and fatigue can overcome anything. Everyone assures me that they are fruit bats so they don’t have any interest in humans. Remind me to avoid fruit-scented perfume and body wash!

The folks at the Spanish school (Casa Xalteva) are extremely friendly and helpful. The director speaks English and has been patiently helping us through the barrage of questions we bring to her each day. They also have wireless internet, so we can pop in and Skype friends and family for a dose of familiarily when the homesick bug bites.

Our clothes are somewhere in the city being laundered. We’re hoping to get them back later today. We have all our meals at Raquel’s. We’ve been eating very well and everyone’s body seems to be adjusting well. Rice and beans, tortillas, scrambled eggs, enchiladas, pancakes, hamburger patties, more rice. And yummy fruit juices. Maybe I have a connection with those fruit bats after all.

There are numerous bands around town practicing for the upcoming Independence Day celebrations. Boys and girls walking and riding bikes with every shape and size of drum or percussion instrument. There was a group practicing at the waterfront park the other day. And I can hear another group just down the street as I sit at the front of the house and type.

Granada is all we know right now, so it’s hard to compare it to other cities. However, the travel books describe it as an old colonial town. The people we’ve met have been very warm and friendly. I’d compare it to a nice, quiet small town. The streets and sidewalks are narrow, with lots of one-way streets. There are probably as many bikes on the road as cars. Horses with carts, and carriage taxis share the roads too. The houses in town open right onto the street. Big, high wooden doors open into people’s living space and courtyards. For the street it looks like a row of gates and doors, but at night when people have their doors open and are sitting along the street you can see what lies inside.

Every day we seem to discover a new part of the city. Last night we went to hear a youth choir and the Nicaragua Youth Philharmonic orchestra at the cultural centre. It was close to the main city square. There are lots of fancy hotels and restaurants in that area. John went looking for a grocery store in the afternoon, and found the local market. There are many old churches. I can’t wait to see inside sometime.

John gets an A++ for enthusiasm and effort. He always has his phrase-book in hand, and persistently works hard to ask questions and try to make himself understood. If he doesn’t have his nose in the phrase-book, he’s thumbing through the travel guide. There is so much to see and do. If you are looking for an alternative to Florida and the Caribbean this winter, consider Nicaragua!

This is Laguna de Apoyo - a crater lake in an inactive volcano. It is more than 200 metres deep. And there are 4 species of fish that exist only in this lake. It is about 20 minutes from Granada. A great way to cool off from the heat.

We hung out at Crater's Edge hostel for the day at Laguna de Apoyo.

You know it's a tourist town when you can get a carriage ride/tour of the city. Danielle is practicing to be the driver so that she can give tours when her Spanish improves!


  1. Hi Simon and Danielle! I was wondering if you were playing a bit of ping-pong in Florida? Jonathan (who said he is almost like your brother) picked up ping-pong in Florida.

    I hope the bats don't land on you! Remind your mom not to use fruit-smelling shampoo and creams!
    My mom, dad and Nathan say "hi" too!

  2. Hi Pam! It's so fun to follow your family's adventures in your blog. Just wondering what made you decide to go to Nicaragua and go to language school there? Are Simon and Danielle attending language school too? - Ellie

  3. Hi Pam and John and Simon and Danielle. Its greast to be able to follow your adventures, and now you are in Nicaragua a bit of remembering Honduras. I hope you really enjoy the country, the climate and the people. I'm sure language school will go well, and soon there will be much more than "buenas dias" spoken. You probably already know "donde esta banyo?


  4. Hi Pam & John,
    I'm getting thrown back into language school in Dakar with you guys by reading this post!
    This reminds me so much of our time there...but I am sure now the circumstances have changed a little with kids -- it's more fun now for me to see them discover things thru their eyes than do it on my own! Jill F.
    I can't wait to hear more...keep up the posts.
    I'm sending this on to my husband to give him hints for our family....:-)

  5. Hi guys,
    I would think that geckos and bats would qualify as wild animals ;)
    Not the same as a moose, but still wild...

  6. Thanks for sharing such wonderful sights and experiences from Nicaragua. Keep them coming! The flights from southern Florida are soooo inexpensive right now, I might just have to take a weekend jaunt to visit.
    You're all sure to be pretty fluent in no time. No hay problema! Take care.. and enjoy living on the beautiful porch.

  7. Dear Pam & John,
    Warm greetings from South Africa! I'm on my way home today after a short time in Mozambique and Lesotho. I found your blog just now, and am glad to see that you are all doing well. What is your travelling email address?

  8. Sounds like you are all having a great time...thanks for this blog to keep those who love you updated and on the journey with you...