capricho: idea o propósito que uno se forma sin razón aparente.
I am now a resident of Granada, Nicaragua. I paid rent and moved into a lovely room yesterday, and then slept like a piedra. Capricho, caprice, the whims of the world, have come together in harmony to find me again wandering the colorful streets of this charming city. To quote Sr. Ruben D. (el famoso poeta Nicaraguense), “art (life) isn’t a collection of rules, but a harmony of ‘capricho’.” It sure seems that way, for good and bad.
I thoroughly enjoyed my independent travel in Leon, and left with the same high spirits I entered with, although much more sleep deprived. Saturday morning, I arrived to the Laguna de Apoyo, a freshwater lake in a volcanic valley. My backpacked-laden stumble off my bus coincided with another bus carrying Rachel, an acquaintance from high school who I was meeting up with, and we headed down the valley together. Interesting tidbit: the bottom of this shimmering blue, glassy and peaceful lake is the lowest point in Central America. It’s up and over a crater from Granada, but so isolated and breezy, it’s easy to forget you’re in Nicaragua (the sweaty, dirty Nicaragua, that is). It is so clear you can see your toes while swimming, which I did for half an hour out to the center of the lake. I was the interloper on a party of Peace Corps folks, so that was a bit awkward, but they were all quite nice and welcoming. It was an interesting perspective into the Peace Corps presence here in Nicaragua, which is actually huge: 180 of ’em. Most of this group are were nearing their completion of service, so they offered a very acute insight into Nicaragua, having been here for over two years (I felt like I was fresh off the boat compared to these rugged travelers). Also, compared to many of their housing situations and hometowns, Gigante seems a breeze. All in all, they made me feel content to continue my stay in Nicaragua, as I have much to learn. Although I’m pretty confident in my Spanish at this point, their quick accents and expressions made me feel a bit stammering.
Yesterday, I hopped on a bus up and over the pass to arrive once again in Granada. Walking with my backpack, I saw the city with fresh eyes. It really is, contrary to my first impression two months ago when I was fresh out of the States, a lovely city. It is colorful and clean and wealthy, characteristics I only see now that I’ve had some more Nicaragua to compare. I left my stuff in the magazine office/house and went to check out some housing options. I decided last weekend that in addition to my magazine and newspaper duties, a couple days a week, I would volunteer with an organization called Esperanza Granada, tutoring high school students in English. This not only plugs me in with a volunteer community here, but the volunteer coordinator, a friendly and warm British woman named Paulina, helped me find a place to live. (My original plan was to live in the free room in the house/office of the magazine and newspaper. My roommates being my bosses and incidentally, two men, so it could have been less than comfortable.)
Paulina gave me three places to stop by. One was closed, the other without vacancy. Capricho worked it’s magic hand, and I landed in the third, a red house three blocks from the center of town. I’m renting a room, but it’s much more like a homestay than anything, and I really quite enjoy it already. A Nicaraguan woman in her fifties lives with her 22-year-old daughter and 8-year-old granddaughter in this home; right next door, live her daughter and husband; various other uncles and nephews and nieces stop by frequently. It’s a bustling place, colorful and clean. My room is small but with a double bed, a fan, and a dresser to place my belongings. Unpacked, backpack stowed, I feel a sense of place. There is another room-renter, a fellow volunteer from Esperanza, who is nice and speaks good Spanish as well. Candia is la mamá, and has been renting to volunteers for over five years. She’s very motherly. “I’m going to go email my family to tell them I arrived safely,” I said on the way out the door last night. “Tell them you’ve already found a family here!” she says. Cute.
The food situation is a little awkward, as my rent doesn’t include it but she’s invited me to eat with the family twice already. Apparently Tim pays more a month to get dinners, so I think I’ll broach that awkward topic and try to get something figured out.
I went to a new grocery store in town yesterday to stock up on what I thought would only be oatmeal and bananas. Let me preface this by saying with the exception of the store in Leon, my experience with Nicaraguan grocery stores has been the hot, stuffy Palí in Rivas that is rarely stocked, and besides isn’t stocked with much I eat anyway. I arrived at the La Colonial in Granada to a red-brick facade and a spacious parking lot. Walking through the automatic doors, I entered United States of America, a little embassy inside Granada. Air conditioned, bright, spacious; this grocery store was AMAZING. Hands down, the best grocery store in Latin America. Maybe one of the best I’ve ever been into. Not only does it have every American-like amenity I could ask for, like peanut butter and wheat bread, it also carries elusive and wonderful Latin American things like dulce de leche, guava jelly, and local Nicaraguan coffee. (Actually, it doesn’t have GoLean Crunch, or any Kashi products. This is fine, as I will resume my addiction to such products when I arrive home and could probably use a break. But, I’ll have you know…this store is such that the possibility of Kashi glimmered briefly in the back of my mind.) In the midst of my exhaustion and simultaneous over-stimulation with all things American (Ragu pasta sauce! BEN AND JERRY ICE CREAM!), I gaped at the shelves for the better part of an hour. Confounded with the store’s glamour, I stumbled out of there with a very expensive, random assortment of goods. My bounty included mushroom pasta sauce, wheat noodles, top ramen, and what I realized later, was a $7 box of banana-nut Post cereal. (Although I did so enjoy it this morning.) I will have to plan and budget my groceries a little better. For example, to forgo the cereal, you can get a three pound bag of oatmeal for two dollars. Cha chiiiing.
I have yet to begin work on the magazine, as the editor has been a bit flighty or busy, so that may not happen until Wednesday or Thursday. This is fine, as I’m using the time to brainstorm, and tomorrow will begin my volunteer duties, tutoring at a high school about fifteen minutes outside the city. Today I had orientation for two hours in the morning. There are about 35 volunteers living here, most of which live in the volunteer houses. The organization seems very well run and the staff seems happy. Tomorrow evening there is a ‘volunteer social’ so I look forward to that.
Right now, I’m sipping an ice cream, coffee concoction in an internet cafe while it pours thunderously outside. Although I miss the sweeping blue beaches of Gigante, right now I’m pretty happy with life, with the capricho that landed me justo aquí.