Some Reflections (and SJDS travel tips)
I’m starting this post with travel tips about San Juan del Sur. Even though we’ll be here for a few more days (until Tuesday morning, to be exact), I feel confident telling you the following should you ever find yourself here. There are a plethora of places to stay including the very high end (Pelican Eyes) and the super cheap hostels (like Casa Ora). I would highly recommend where we’re staying- Secret Cove Inn. It’s a B&B with delicious breakfast, clean and comfortable accommodations (even if you have to share a bathroom), and the nicest hosts in Ray and his grandson Jeremy. Moreover, it has great location (though not on the beach if that’s your thing, though there really aren’t many “on beach” options), free wifi, and free vonage calls to the US/Canada. That is of course assuming that both the power and cable are working, which isn’t a safe assumption in this town. I’d say of the days we’ve been here, there have been 3 or less days when nothing was out for at least a little while (power, cable, internet, or water). It’s not really that big of a deal, though if the power doesn’t come back on tonight and we have to sleep without a fan, I may rewrite that sentence. Food here is delicious, pretty cheap, and provides a decent variety for a Central American small town. The best place is La Bamba – cheap fast food, Mexican style, and the homemade salsas are to die for (but beware, they will make you sweat even more). El Timon has a great happy hour everyday from 4-6 with dollar drinks and appetizers. The Italian restaurant next to El Timon has the best pizza I’ve ever had in another country. Oh, and make sure you eat a chocobanana or chocopineapple! It’s a frozen piece of fruit dunked in milk chocolate and then frozen again. Why that hasn’t caught on in more places, I can’t fathom, but trust that I will be making them and keeping them in my freezer from now on. As aforementioned, we have tried to avoid the gallo-pinto (rice & beans) type dishes because we’re tired of them, but we have tried our share of Nica street food and can say it is all delicious, though a bit predictable (really, gallo-pinto with EVERY meal? seems like overkill). Also, make sure you go to Remanso Beach (great for surfing and hanging out), watch sunset from the Christ statue, and spend some time in the infinity pool at Pelican Eyes. For nightlife, check out the Black Whale – live band a few nights a week, pretty cheap drinks, and a great chill atmosphere (though filled with gringos).
Observations of SJDS and Nicaragua in general, though I won’t pretend to say these are all encompassing, especially since this town has a unique flavor given the large gringo influence. 1. It is way safer than people make it out to be. 2. Nica Women in their 20’s are obsessed with their eyebrows (but not necessarily their waistline. They don’t want to be flaca or gorda; at least the eating disorder issues facing American teenage/college girls don’t seem to be an issue here). In terms of the eyebrows, I’m talking constantly plucking in the most random and public of locations and even commenting on the eyebrows of others (including my own. I HATE plucking my eyebrows and have been spoiled for the last decade by getting them threaded by whatever local Indian woman I can find. Now that I have to maintain them myself under the scrutiny of the Eyebrow Police, of which our Spanish teacher is the Chief, I wish I had learned how to thread). 3. The tourism industry is growing quickly and the infrastructure can’t keep up, a familiar observation from my travels around the world. It’s cheaper than Costa Rica and offers the same types of adventures, so it’s only a matter of time (assuming the government doesn’t interfere). 4. People are helpful and patient with poor Spanish skills; you can tell they appreciate the effort. All the more reason to cram as much into my brain as I can, even if figuring out when to use the past preterite or past imperfect makes me want to punch a wall.
An important thought maybe unsurprising realization – in the last 4 weeks, I have yet to say “there’s not enough time” – I’m free and relieved. To go to bed when you want, to wake up naturally when you feel the sun on your face, to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish in a day… there IS enough time in the day, and we’re both just learning that now. Our lives were so busy, whether with work or social activities, we always felt like we were running out of time to do the things we wanted and needed to do. Maybe we didn’t prioritize correctly or maybe we were just trying to do too much – whatever it was, I know I was overwhelmed often. But 24 hours in a day is plenty of time to do the things you should need to do and even some of what you want to do, and if it’s not, maybe it’s not time that’s the problem…. Not to sound like I have it all figured out – obviously it’s easier said than done, especially when you don’t have a job (or kids). But it is that sentiment that I hope to hold on to when we do return to “normal” life. And I hope it at least makes a few of you reflect on your day and try to rearrange your tomorrow to make it a little more enjoyable and a little less stressful.
Another note because I can’t believe I haven’t addressed it yet on this blog (though I do hope my fam & friends would already know this), but I am SO grateful for this time in my life. I am blessed and/or lucky (whatever your perspective – mine we will get into later). We fully recognize that not everyone has this type of opportunity to do the thing they most want to do at the time they most want to do it (though we would argue that more people could do it should they choose to). To our parents, sibling, grandma, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends, even the ones who hate the idea or don’t understand it – thank you for being so supportive, for keeping us in your prayers, for sending us email after email of suggestions of places to go and things to do (here’s looking at you Peter N.), for offering up your basement to store our stuff (love ya, Chris), for receiving and reading our mail to make sure we don’t miss anything (parents are the best), and for picking up the phone when a random number calls because it just might be us and we just might need to hear a friendly and familiar voice. Naturally, you gain some perspective on your place in the world when sitting on the beach a world away from home watching the sun set and the sky fill with colors that only exist on a higher being’s palate. But I don’t feel alone or insignificant – my heart is full with the love of so many, and it is for that feeling that I am the most grateful.