Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nicablogua Dos

(you should be able to click the above picture for a larger view. It's a panorama I took down by the lake)

So, I just had a lengthy phone conversation with my parents during which I remembered that there are a couple of other things I wanted to discuss. I'll do this notes-style so I can pretend to be Peter Gammons.

  • If you've looked through my pictures, maybe you've noticed that Parque Central is full of hot dog And coffee stands. I don't mean hot dog stands and coffee stands. I mean hot dog and coffee stands. Because Disney is incredibly popular here, many of them have random Disney characters painted on. There are some photos in my Granada album, so definitely check 'em out.
  • My new favorite slang term that I learned here is "fresa," which literally means "strawberry." But they use it to mean "snob," because "strawberries think they're better than all the other fruits." Here in Nicaragua, they generally think the Ticos (Costa Ricans) are "muy fresa." I was also asked whether New Yorquiños are fresa, to which my answer was "a veces," or "sometimes."
  • I mentioned that the language study is going well, but there are two important quirks to note. The first is that Nicaragua is one of only very few places--though Argentina is another--where they use "vos" instead of "tu." This would be easy if it were just the one word that got switched, but it's an entire new grammatical structure, e.g. "Vos sos" instead of "Tu es." The other thing is that the accent involves dropping s's like crazy. So, instead of "gracias," you get "gracia," and instead of "uno mas," you get "uno ma." It's tough to understand when you're not used to it, but, as they say, knowing is half the battle.
  • The next point is directed at the local roosters. Seriously guys, you need to cool it. You start your cock-a-doodle-doo ing no later than 4am (when the sun isn't remotely close to being up) and you continue until 9 or so. I have to sleep with earplugs because of you. Seriously guys, can't you take it down a notch? No wonder people feel compelled to taxiderm you and turn you into baskets.
  • Two additional interesting things from the perspective of Marlon, my Spanish teacher. This is less an insight into Nica culture and more an insight into the perspective they have on the rest of the world. First off, Marlon attended Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Jinotepe, Nicaragua. He never knew who Roosevelt was until fairly recently, and always thought he was a famous Nicaraguan. Additionally, when it came up that my grandparents had survived the holocaust, he expressed surprise, because he knew I was "part Jewish," but didn't realize that it was enough to have warranted oppression. When I explained that it was a little more than "part," he was very surprised, because he never knew Jews could be white. I think the idea of discrimination being a racial thing is so ingrained, that he just assumed that anti-Semitism and racism were one and the same. They're similar of course, but the idea of whiteness is quite different here.
  • The locals love bright colors. The origin of this apparently has to do with when the conquistadors came and made the natives put on full-body clothing. They didn't really know what to do, so they just chose the brightest colors they had. All kinds of neons. Now this manifests as very brightly painted houses and buildings, as well as all kinds of neon lights that are added to cars (including taxis).
  • The way Granadiños deal with direction is quite interesting. They almost never say "left" or "right" unless you specifically ask. The directions Marlon was given when he took me to my house were "go past the park a little bit, bear sort of North West, and then it's a block after the bridge, sort of up that way." East, West, North, and South are used much more frequently here. In a lot of ways, it makes sense, so long as you understand the layout of the city (which is admittedly quite straightforward).
The other thing I wanted to say, which is way off-topic and sort of a somber way of ending this otherwise light post, is that it's remarkable to see the outpouring of sympathy and concern for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the hemisphere (after Haiti), but at the game last night there was an announcement that the government was sending C$500,000 (about $25,000) to Haiti. There was also a minute of silence before the game. So, in the spirit of doing what I can, I'd like to direct your attention to Partners In Health, which has had people on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. This recommendation comes courtesy of my former colleague Pierre Cremieux, who some of you know, who is heavily involved with an international aid organization called Medical Aid Committee. According to Pierre, Partners In Health is very well positioned to help out based on their longstanding presence, so I urge you all to join me in doing what you can to support them.

I hope you all have splendid weekends. I'm off to Mombacho Volcano in the morning, and hopefully Ometepe on Monday, so I should be able to check back in at some point with some pretty awesome pictures of crazy things we don't have in New York.



  1. These are wonderful pictures. I love them--except for the one of your armpit. Even though I'm your mommy. Sorry.

    Can wait to see, read, hear more!

  2. Effing Strawberries. Just who the hell do they think they are?

    So, I'm obviously a little late to the party because I thought I had things set up to get an email whenever there is a blog update, but I obviously screwed it up, so I didn't know the blog was happening until mom told me. Commence!

    This looks awesome. The pictures of the volcanos and the town are amazing, and it sounds like you lucked out in a big way with the host family. The beisbol game sounds like a lot of fun too. Did they play "Guiellermo Mota-Mota" when the Tiburones pitcher was on the mound? Because that would be the tip-off? Also, was there any sort of bizzaro "Spanish with Professor Reyes?" I envision a white guy trying to get a bunch of people to say "can I have fries with that?" while a bunch of native Spanish speakers imitate him with mixed success.

    It sounds like you're doing very well, which Shirley and I are glad to hear. It's 38 degrees and raining here, and reading about this "warm, sunny weather" which you describe makes me want to crack open a big ol' can of Haterade.

  3. Sadly, no Professor Reyes. For that matter, nothing electronic on the scoreboard other than the count and number of outs. Very very low-tech. They did however have a guy who was dressed as something resembling the grim reaper for some reason running around and waving a flag.


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