DAY IN THE LIFE
I’m in nirvana. I’m working part-time in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. After just a few days, I feel at home.
The people here are so friendly, and pretty laid back. It doesn’t matter that I’m a foreigner or a visitor, I feel as if they talk to me like their next-door neighbor. Of course, it helps that I speak fluent Spanish.
I’m not staying in a hotel or hostel, like a tourist. I live in a mini-apartment complex where one of my neighbors is the lady that sells fried snacks from a wooden cart at the malecón. The landlady sells homemade “ice cream” in small baggies from her street-side window.
Never having liked to act like a tourist, living in this environment, away from the hostel district, I’m in my element. I fit in. I think.
Plus, as a result of two accidents, I can’t be sunbathing or playing in the ocean. My daily jaunts include the government health clinic and pharmacies. I chat with medical providers, pharmacists, and fellow patients. It’s not unusual for people I’ve never seen before to strike up a conversation. They frequently ask me why I’m bandaged, and then highlight their own treatments. One young man pulls out his phone to show me dozens of his before and after photos. He convinces me of his preferred remedy. That night, I researched his cure. It turns out, there was a five-year clinical study that compared his treatment, with the medical gold standard. Surprise. His inexpensive nature-made ointment was deemed far more effective than what I’ve been shelling out all my cash on at the pharmacy.
Since I need to nurse myself back to my optimum state, I probably pay more attention to food than normal. My apartment has a small kitchenette, but with prices as low as they are, I prefer to eat out most of the time. Plus, I can’t make anything as good as what I can find on the street.
I eat the same thing every day for breakfast. Gallo pinto (rice and beans). The kitchen staff at Casa Oro serve me the Nica plate, sans cheese, plantain, and eggs. All I want are rice and beans. They serve my black coffee in a beautiful handmade ceramic cup and saucer. I haven’t had caffeine for about eight years, but I can’t turn it down when it looks, and smells, so wonderful. The food is beautifully laid out on the same style of ceramic ware. Different colors and patterns. The kitchen ladies chat with me, too.
Mornings, I hang at the Casa Oro cafe. I teach a yoga class, after which, nothing urgent is on my agenda. Well, not much is more urgent than my gallo pinto and coffee. I’m volunteering at Casa Oro, where people can drop in for donation-based yoga. The dollars, or córdobas, collected all support the turtle rescue project at neighboring La Flor Nature Reserve.
When I leave town, I still eat gallo pinto every day for breakfast. But, none is as good as that served at Casa Oro. Maybe it’s the dishes? Or, it’s made with love? I ask, and it doesn’t sound like the kitchen magicians have any secrets.
As traditional is gallo pinto to Nicaragua, my next most favorite meal in San Juan del Sur is falafel. Hardly a Nicaraguan standard. Chabad House has the best falafel I’ve tasted, outside of Israel. Typically, I adhere to a gluten-free diet. But, Chabad’s homemade pita is worth making an exception. The falafel vendor customizes my pocket. She knows I love their cooked cabbage and eggplant. She skips the tomatoes and cukes in favor of the warm veggies for me.
When it’s time for a vitamin C fix, there are lots of smoothie joints in San Juan del Sur. I gravitate to one right away. My smoothie lady is the mother of the owner. You can tell she’s not just earning a wage. She cares about mixing your perfect dose of nutrition. She quickly picks up on my preferences. Fresh mango and maracuyá in a Vitamix, for 80 córdobas. She remembers my off-the-menu favorite every time I return. It’s a small place, but very clean. The bodybuilder types buy smoothies with muscle-mass building powders. Another popular mix has peanut butter and chocolate in it.
If I’m looking for electrolytes, there are always coconut water vendors underneath the poster of Daniel and Rosario, the country’s husband and wife President and VP. Get to this wooden stand while the sun is still high. The locals don’t drink coconut water in the evening.
Speaking of which, during the winter, nighttime is early. It’s pitch black by 6 p.m. And, the sun is up very early too.
Tourists may go and party all night, but I’m not an owl.
I get up around 3 or 4 a.m., along with the roosters — and plenty of my neighbors. I do my daily yoga practice and drink my homemade tea, all before the sun rises around 5:15. The sound of the large heavy buses starts to penetrate my off-street apartment even before the sun is out.
I leave the apartment around 6:30 a.m. and in my short walk to my first yoga class of the day, I spot a handful of buses already filling up and leaving town. After 9 a.m., transportation options have thinned out.
My time clock has slowed down enough that I’m enjoying reading a lot here. There are few lending libraries in Nicaragua, but San Juan has a great one across from the central park. Selections are available in English or Spanish, and it’s easy to get a library card. There’s wifi at the library, but there’s also a great connection at the main square/park. One of my favorite places to hang, and check Facebook, is from the park.
The library has benches outside, and chairs indoors, for those wanting to read in quiet. But I prefer to read where I can also people watch. The beach is my favorite place to hang with a book. There are plenty of spots, shaded, if you don’t want to be directly on the sand.
Periodically, I head to my apartment to do some of my virtual office work. Then, start the work routine all over again. Work? It seems more like play. My income is pretty slim. At the same time, expenses are a fraction of what they are back home — depending on your lifestyle choices of course. Living in Nicaragua can be comfortable, and economical.