Update on Love and Death

Trip Start May 12, 2009
Trip End Sep 29, 2009

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Where I stayed
Mono Barba

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Sunday, June 21, 2009

    I am in love.
    It was love at first sight when I rolled into Granada and gazed over the stately white-washed cemetery, stretching for acres. When I saw the great old churches, fabulously maintained with fresh paint, I was entranced. Tradition lives on here. When I saw the horse-drawn coaches lined up around the park, it piqued my interest. When I went out last night to a "cumbia" dance club, it was love.
     It is reminiscent of Cuba. There are green parrots atop a cage in the corner, and lots of rum and vodka with local flavor. Flor de Cana is a rum popular throughout Latin America, and Nicaragua is proud to be the creator. Soca, reggae, cumbia, calypso, and a little salsa thrown in... the music is authentic. The streets are white brick, lined with smart black streetlamps. Cigar parlors sit next to internet parlors. And the food... fried plantains for breakfast. For lunch, gallo pinto (rice and beans). For the afternoon, a divine cup of tres leches. It was... a religious experience. It was topped with some kind of marshmallow-like creme and chopped macademias. The cake was drenched in creme and the vanilla was sharp.
   After being in the jungle, this city girl is glad to be in Granada. When I stepped into the market today, it felt like the souks (street markets) of the Middle East. Chaos. Raw meat hanging in one direction, women picking it up with their bare hands. The next man is selling marbles, staples, string, erasers, and safety pins. The petite pineapples were selling for twenty-five cents, shirts for five dollars, goat milk lollipops for ten cents. The ground is dirty, littered with mango seeds, newspaper, dog poop, corn husks, and gasoline. People are pushing past with bicycles, taxis, wheelbarrows.
   It reminds me a little of the market in Old City Jerusalem. Then again, so does this hostel. In the morning I hear "b'oker tov!", and in the evening, "l'ila tov!". There are about ten Israelis staying here! Rather comforting, in a way. It makes me miss Israel like crazy.
Death does not wait.
   I had the opportunity to join a funeral procession. While winding down a deserted street near the cemetery, I suddenly saw a huge throng of people. They followed an ornate black coach drawn by a pair of haggard grey horses draped in black netting. The people held each other, and marched solemnly in black, white, and grey clothing. The man driving the coach looked like the Grim Reaper himself, with a long, thin face and tall black hat. He wore thick black leather gloves.
    There is no good time to die.
    There is also no "good" time to join a funeral procession. I was just returning from the market and carrying my daypack and the pineapple. I joined anyway. Opportunities usually knock just once.
    As I walked slowly down the streets past pulperias, famarcias, and carnicerias, I pondered how we each walk slowly towards our own death. No need to walk quickly, there is no race. Everyone will finish the course.
    The hearse coach arrived at the cemetery, and I snapped quick pictures as it passed under the wrought-iron archway. Pallbearers carried it into the chapel. There was a Catholic mass, and the family of the deceased took communion. Then they carried the casket out to the family plot in the massive and sprawling cemetery. The body was interred above ground, amid bricks and mortar in a white-washed burial structure. The family laid wreaths of lillies at the grave, then began a slow walk back to the city, the world of the living.
    Along the way, we passed another mourning family. Their loss doesn't seem to be fresh. They were all gathered around the family burial structure, with the radio blaring reggae. They were enjoying Victoria beers and Rojita soft drinks. The only thing louder than that radio was their laughter and voices. As I walked past, a ten year old girl with a gap-tooth smiled popped out at me from between some tombstones and chirped, "hola".
    What a great family. Isn't that just the kind of family you would want to belong to in life, and to have drinking and dancing and remembering you in death?

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