Before I continue this post on the city of Granada, Nicaragua, I will preface this with a link to the song that has been going through my head for the past few days. It has taken all my willpower not to break into spontaneous song and dance in the streets.
OK, now that that’s out of my system, we can continue.
Leaving the comfort of Big Corn Island was difficult, but I managed to get myself on the flight back to Managua (stopping in Bluefields to let off and pick up passengers) without a problem. One option of getting to my destination of Granada was to take a taxi, which would have cost about $40. However, I went the cheaper route: I caught a cab (about $5) with several other women from the airport and was dropped off at the front of UCA (Universidad Centroamerica, pronounced “OOH-cah”), where local shuttles leave every 20 minutes or so for Granada, Masaya, Rivas, and other towns. The cost? Twenty-four cordobas; that’s a little less than a dollar. Sold! I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb, which was evidenced by the number of taxi drivers who offered their services while I waited in the long line of locals that snaked its way around the shuttle bay. I realized that it was rush hour, so many of the people in line with me were professionally dressed and likely making the commute home from work. Several of the women near me in line were very helpful in helping me manage my cumbersome duffle bag containing my backpack while on the bus.
Managua is somewhat of an unusual city. From what I saw during the numerous car and shuttle rides I took through it, it doesn’t seem to have a distinct city center and so sprawls out for many miles. One thing that stood out were the rotaries along the highways. Most rotaries contained a huge yellow curlicue tree (look up “Managua trees”), often surrounded by Christmas lights (I’m talking reindeer, trees, and angels, not just twinkly ambient lighting) and an armed military guard in a chair beneath. Merry Christmas!
Upon my arrival in Granada, I checked into my hotel, Hotel Casa Barcelona, and decided that I would be staying in the rest of the night. The hotel was spacious and clean with a lush courtyard, and the staff was very pleasant and helpful, but I did NOT like the neighborhood it was in and did not really feel like hiring another cab just to venture out at night.
The next morning, the neighborhood didn’t feel much better. I was fine walking through the local market street to get to the center of town; I just got this really strong gut feeling that I shouldn’t be taking my camera out. So my photos of Granada are somewhat limited.
That said, the architecture in Granada is magnificient. There’s a reason why it’s often described as the “colonial gem” of Nicaragua. So I walked and walked and walked and walked that day, taking in churches, the entirety of Calle la Calzada, and the pier on Lake Nicaragua. I also got a 15 minute head and neck massage at Seeing Hands, which is an organization (similar to those in Cambodia) which offers training for the blind to work in massage therapy. My therapist found a couple of nice knots in my upper back left over from my week of oral surgery and worked those puppies right out (ouch).
All that walking in the heat (did I mention the blazing, scorching heat?) did me in: the next day, I was pooped. I nixed a trip to Mombacho, the nearby volcano, in favor of staying in the shady courtyard of the hotel, reading and writing, and then finding an afternoon yoga class, which helped to wake me up a little.
I finished the night by meeting up with Mary Ellen, who is the friend of a former patient in Boston, and her friend Heather. It was pleasant and very surreal to be grabbing a drink in Granada with two people who live (full or part-time) in Jamaica Plain, my old neighborhood! I felt like quite the social butterfly when I later joined Randy, Helena, and Gordon (recently arrived from Big Corn) for dinner and then ran into a girl that I recognized from my yoga class. This trip has already confirmed my belief that this huge world we live in is actually very small.