Granada, time to study...

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Sunday, February 11, 2007

We donīt expect to like Granada so much.

Granted there are more tourists wandering the streets especially around the plaza and the street down to the lake, but Granada has a certain relaxed atmosphere - wide cobbled streets in parts and grand colonial houses rendered with plaster, painted in warm muted colours. The main cathedral in rich yellow dominates the skyline, but an old church in the chaotic streets near the market with an ancient tree spreading over the entrance takes the cake for character.

Maybe itīs the vast expanse of Lago Nicaragua that stretches south, or the baking silent hours after midday when doors are closed and people rock in old wooden armchairs, or even the afternoon breeze that raises white chop on the lake. All these things contribute to the charm of Granada.

But, (as Anna wrote in a previous entry) itīs also the people you meet, like Kenneth the lanky teenage waiter at a pasta restaurant who wants to hang-out with us for an afternoon, or the dark-faced christian shoe-cleaner who insists on giving us local prices and breaks a sweat vigorously polishing our shoes.

On the second morning weīre introduced to our Spanish teachers for the week - Chilo and Irma - both pretty girls, early twenties, with a hunger for teaching that makes the lessons pass quickly.

Our host family is solidly middle class, José the father, a university professor, inquisitive about all things social and economic in the world and an avid talker. Berta the mother, more earthy, a great cook with a wide toothy smile and hair pulled back tightly in pony tail. The kids are all headed for professional careers, enjoy watching the Discovery Channel and listening to Bachata and Reggaeton (the latino answer to R&B). The young teenage daughter Rosanna is a combination of her mother and father, fresh-faced, with sparkly eyes. She places me as a solid 40, much to Annaīs amusement. It must be my grey hair.

The week of Spanish in Granada, discussions with the family, exchange of recipes with Irma in the tower of the small fortaleza, all serve to accelerate our budding language skills. Irma and Chilo take us for walks round the city, to the old cemetary where ex-presidents are interred, and the decaying old hospital (destined to be a 5-star hotel), where time has scattered old patient records amongst the fallen stone and mortar.

One night a catholic procession passes close by our house for Semana Santa (All Saintīs week). Close by another noisier celebration takes place accompanied by fireworks, a raucous brass band, and a youth running round with a coat-hanger effigy of a bullīs head held aloft, spluttering with gun-powder flame.

My description would not be complete without mentioning Brian Fitzpatrick, a 50+ charismatic Irish American, with a real love for the people of Latin America and a hatred for the machinations of his country. He is a fellow house-guest and student (though with years more experience in the Spanish language and the Latin American continent). He has been mugged in Brazil (attested for by a slight limp and permanent back pain), interviewed ex-gang members in Venezuela and lead the first US student excursion to a Cuban school. We are fortunate enough to read some of his articles which are filled with optimism and warmth. He is human though. During siesta-time we can here loud snoring spilling through the gap between the bedroom wall and old tiled roof!

On the last day I have a haircut, accompanied by Irma and Anna. The other ladies in the peluqueria nod approvingly as my unruly hair falls to the floor, and I leave with a military-style cut.

Irma has been a wonderful teacher and gives us the details of her family that live in a remote village in the south of Nicaragua, a place we will aim to visit in the next few weeks.
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