While my brother was visiting me we got in the habit of writing haikus about the little quirks of Nicaraguan life, basically taking verbal snapshots. Here is a sampling:
Bomb blast? Guns shooting?
No, just kids with fire-crackers
Loud noise equals joy (1)
If he doesn’t know
He’ll still tell you where to go
“Siga más recto” (2)
Asleep in the street
You have been drinking guaro
Where is your left shoe? (3)
Don’t get on that bus!
Everyone has a chicken
You don’t want bird flu (4)
Chicken on a plane
Hope you’re not afraid to fly
Buckle up, chicken (5)
What is this music?
Reminds me of the eighties
That’s the clásicos (6)
Once these socks were white
But washed on a cement slab
All my socks turn grey (7)
1. People here associate loud noise with joy. It doesn’t matter if the noise is pleasant – as in the case of nice music – or annoying – as with the cheap fire-crackers that every kid seems to have a stash of. It’s all considered joyful. It’s surprising to me that in a country that has known civil war the sound of a bomb connotes joy. But that’s how it is.
2. As a general rule, Nicaraguans are very friendly and helpful. Which is great, except when they don’t know the answer to the question you’re asking. This haiku was inspired by the experience my family had trying to find the Laguna de Apoyo, a crater lake near the city of Granada. We took a wrong turn and ended up on the worst road any of us had ever seen. You know how it is when you’ve gone the wrong way, though. After a certain point it seems like a better idea to keep going than to turn around. At any rate, every time we saw anyone walking or driving a donkey cart or riding a horse we would ask them if they knew how to get to the lake. Without fail, every person said, “Oh, you’re not too far. Siga más recto.” [Keep going straight.] Which we did, and eventually we got there. But it was definitely the long way.
3. Some people (including the author of the Moon guidebook) consider Nicaragua to be the Wild West of Central America. An unfortunate similarity to the Old West is that many Nicaraguans, especially men, are a bit too fond of the sauce. In some communities (not mine, thankfully) Sunday is the day to get drunk on guaro, aka moonshine. By Sunday evening, guys are passed out all over the place.
4. Riding the local buses is a colorful experience, in more ways than one. First of all, the buses are literally colorful. The collectives that run them – usually a groups of brothers or cousins – manage to turn old Blue Bird school buses from the States into traveling works of art, most often featuring religious iconography and/or celebrities. While he was here my brother Joe took a picture of a bus with huge, side-by-side pictures of Jesus and John Claude Van Damme in the front windows. Also, people transport all kinds of things on the buses – furniture, fruits and vegetables, and small animals. The latter has led some people to call these buses “chicken buses”.
5. Related to (4) and inspired by Joe’s trip to the Atlantic Coast. While he was waiting for his plane, we saw a passenger whose carry-on was a tied up sack. He put the sack down, and it started to move. Then it started to cluck.
6. Many Nicaraguans unabashedly love American 80s music. Even my too-cool-for-school host brother regularly watches Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson music videos. Based on my travel experience, I think people almost everywhere in the world (including France) love 80s music, except in the US (where people secretly love it but are embarrassed to admit it). The English music radio stations here play exclusively 80s music, which they call “los clásicos”.
7. This one is self-explanatory.