Stuck, as I still am in Hanoi, and with the great voyage to Granada set to start tomorrow, I'm still combing through blogs trying to get a feel for what will be my new home.
Needless to say 99.9% of what I read is good. Granada is charming, the people are friendly, the food is good, the weather warm.
The downsides? Well stray dogs and litter for starters - but that could just as easily by where I am now or any other developing nation. Glue sniffing is an issue too. Strange, I recall it was a huge issue in the UK back when I was still in Primary School - some 25 years ago. It became illegal to sell solvents to minors and the problem seemed to disappear or maybe it just became old news.
I guess the biggest attraction, as an expat, to Granada is also my biggest fear. In short, while it appears to be used to foreigners and well set up to meet their needs, a place can lose its identity altogether. To put it bluntly, there is a fear that Nicaragua and Granada are becoming Florida retirement overspill.
"One thing I will say is that Granada is rapidly becoming gringolandia. Americans and Europeans are coming in droves to buy homes and retire or just live as expats. The low cost of living makes even a US social security check an upper-middle class income. Any kind of reasonable pension allows one to live very well. They tell me that it’s very common for 70 year old men to come down here and marry 20 year old Nicas."
More recently he posts:
I should point out that MKS appears to be American so to some extent, as an expat himself, his comments seem a little tongue in cheek..
Elsewhere on the new and well written Que La Vaya Bien, Nicholas writes:
"...if Disneyland were to ever open up a 3rd world country-themed theme park, it’d be Granada. Our SpaceMountain is a kinda-dormant 9k ft volcano to the south of the city. Our seated boat ride is a sweaty tour of Granada’s famed mini-islands. And yes, with the recent opening of Tip-Top Fried Chicken, we even have costumed clowns parading through our streets performing for kids who, thanks to their upbringing in a Latino culture, aren’t completely terrified of them."
Now this is going to be quite a change. Living in Hanoi, there are plenty of us foreigners around, although to my experience it's the Australians who are the dominant expat force. For obvious reasons a great number of Americans are still a little apprehensive about 'Nam.
But as I get used to living overseas I realise, perhaps a little selfishly, that a slight loss of local culture isn't such a bad deal if you can occasionally go to the movies or grab pizza.
By the way, being an "expat" never did sit well with me. Surely expats have big houses, pools, cooks, drivers, white suits and start drinking at noon? Don't they?
Being an expat volunteer seems something of a contradiction in terms.