This has been a little late in posting.
In truth I wanted to put some distance between me and Granada before I updated.
I’m referring, in most part, to time passing and the ability to put my experiences in context. Then again if people don’t like what I have written then the geographic distance is no bad thing either.
Relax, I’m not going to slag anybody off. Well not much anyway.
So why didn’t it work? Why, when I was so excited about going there did I not stay longer?
Well let’s blame me, or rather us, first. I think we were a little jaded. Developing world living can take it out of you. We'd been in Vietnam for two and a half years previously.
Secondly we were both under-employed. For whatever reasons our volunteer posts just didn’t work. They didn’t take as much of our time as we had hoped – other bill-paying gigs we hoped to scare up simply didn’t materialise.
You can add to this an absolute absence of social life. We met some nice people. We hung out. But not very often. It seemed that most expats were the older retired “Florida Overspill” brigade.
People tried to tell us that actually there was a real social expat scene. But honestly I never saw more than a dozen people in an expat hangout at one time. We frequently went for days without talking to anyone but each other.
And apologies, but while we’re talking about white faces in Nicaragua, the whole missionary thing was new to me and a little unsettling. I wonder sometimes how my country would react to overseas visitors selling their religion to us. An ear-splittingly amplified US evangelist in Leon town square felt frankly sinister.
I know that most missionaries offer more than just religious support so I’ll leave it at that. Suffice to say, I have never come across so many Christians before.
Call me a bad influence but I missed people who drank too much, listened to loud music and swore more often.
But what of Nicaragua? Well, it is beautiful. Really beautiful.
As the rains came, and it became more green, it turned even more gorgeous in front of our eyes. If I can no longer personally recommend Nicaragua as somewhere to live, I have no hesitation in telling you to take a holiday there. It is stunning.
And as for the locals... well I thought the Vietnamese culture was far removed from my own but in many ways Nicaraguan culture was, to me, even more odd.
It’s easy to see the people, particularly the men, as lazy and maybe that is a criticism that can vaguely be leveled. But that is harsh. Me, I prefer to see people as content. People whose parents had grown up with nothing seemed content to get by on very little too. Kids weren’t sent to school because their parent themselves were barely literate and “they’d done okay”.
Certainly, while people worked hard to buy rice and beans. They didn’t appear likely to want to work harder still to lengthen that shopping list.
I don’t want that to be seen as a criticism. Nicarguans families spend more time together than their developed country counterparts. You can’t put a price on that.
Nicaraguans, like Nicaragua, will continue to scrape by for the time being. But with neither having much in the way of cash in the bank – heaven help them the next time a disaster hits – be it war or weather.
I guess that is what we work for in developed countries – wealth as a buffer that will help us during the bad times. Nicaragua has no such luxury which makes you fear for its future all the more.
While we’re talking of future it seems impossible to talk of Nicaragua without talking of the Sandinistas. You can hardly fail to have noticed that I have sympathies for them.
Do I think they will enjoy political success and make great strides for Nicaragua? Well no, I don’t.
Let me put that in context. I don’t think any government could. Not with what they have to work with. In addition, there are too many powerful people and individuals who will conspire against them. There will also be corruption. It seems corruption comes with all governments.
Do I think anybody else can do any better. I don’t know. I don’t think so. But the barely functioning Nicaragua I saw was, for the most part, what US-pleasing, neo-liberal governments produced.
So, I guess I should sum up Nicaragua and my experiences.
In a strange way I miss it already. I miss its simple pleasures. It’s down to earth people. It’s fresh air and space.
I feel a little embarrassed that, having moved there, I failed to make it work. In that sense I feel that one day I have a duty to return.
Most of all I hope that will not be because Nicaragua is struck by disaster. I hope its future is less bleak than its past. If I do go back, I hope it is to enjoy the country and play a part in its future development – not to help clean up after a tragedy – be it an act of God or man.
So, if you’ve never been, go. Go to Nicaragua. Enjoy it all. If you’re holidaying then you’ll have more than enough to see and do in your couple of weeks. If you plan to stay there then make sure, before you take the plunge, that you’ll have enough to occupy your time.
We didn’t. We left.
But I will never forget Nicaragua. It is a place that gets its hooks into you.
I’m glad, even if it was only for a while, that I was Our Man in Granada.
* Don’t give up on this site just yet. I’ve been putting together a short film of our time in Granada which should be appear soon. In the meantime I have already made the switch home. Our Man in Newcastle is up and running.