Nicaragua notes (avoid walls!)

The keys to eating well here are: avoid walls, seek corn, and bow down to the finest white creams and cheeses you are likely to find.  They use cabbage frequently and well and they are not afraid of sour tastes.  Fried chicken is a treat and they sprinkle white cheese on top of that and on your french fries.  It is an under-mined cuisine.

Horse and donkey carts have not disappeared.  Few people speak English.  Many women carry baskets on their heads to transport goods.  I stayed in what is arguably the country's nicest hotel and my room was $100 a night.  The place was empty.

Nicaragua is wealthier than Honduras but much poorer than El Salvador or Panama.  Here is a garbage dump in Managua, La Chureca.  The economy is likely to shrink two percent this year.  On the bright side, the drug trade doesn't (yet?) have so much of a hold.  The lower income classes seem to do better in terms of social services than in many other countries of comparable wealth.

Leon has one of the best Latin American town squares for cute children, street musicians, balloons and ringing bells, and flirtatious teenage social life.  The Sandinista murals are maintained.  There are few international chain stores of any kind outside of Managua and even most of Managua is under-chained.  People will insist of getting you back the change you are due, even when you tell them to keep it because you don't want to wait for them to get it from their uncle across the street.

Appreciating the country boils down to how much you can enjoy a very direct feeling of genuineness all around; Nicaragua is a hidden jewel, at least for tourist visitors.  

I did not see anyone smoke, not once. 


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