Adioses Agridulces

It's coming down to the end of my stay in Granada. Today was the last morning of teaching at the hotel, and this afternoon I'll be on a ferry to an island of big volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua. Even though the days were slow and hazy, the whole of this month has really flown by. I packed my (somehow heavier) backpacks, and I'll be heading out with a grateful heart.

Casa Lucia Granada Nicaragua

I never want this page to be somewhere where I only tell you the rosy side of things and leave out the parts that don't fit with that view, so I want you to know that I'm leaving Granada with some mixed reviews, and I feel ready to move on to other parts of the country. I loved being here to work; my first time teaching yoga internationally truly blew me away. The guests were kind, interesting, and into the classes. Eloisa and Danilo were so helpful and accommodating; they made it easy to feel at home around the house and the hotel, right from the beginning. And the hotel-- wow! I can definitely recommend somewhere to stay if you're ever looking to treat yourself well in Central America.

Granada and its surroundings are gorgeous and very easy to get around. I was surprised at the amount of activities there were to do, because, before I got here, I had worried about spending a whole month in a small city where almost everything is in walking distance. Eloisa knew that we traveling yogis are the roaming type, so she usually recommends that teachers only sign on for a month at a time. That made me a little nervous, but I definitely felt that there were enough new things to maintain my adventurous spirit during the time I was here.

Yoga class at Casa Lucia Granada

The only complaint that I kept coming back to day after day, or really every time that I left the house, was that the catcalling got old pretty fast, and it was hard not to let it spoil things for me. Granada is a safe city, and I'm sure there are plenty of women who will say they felt perfectly fine traveling alone here or that it's all just another part of the culture, but I quickly grew tired of getting whistled, hissed, or blown kisses at whenever I stepped out the door, and that men ages 13-80 would make comments whenever I passed by them. One girl told me she tried to take them as compliments or was able to ignore them. Unfortunately, it made me uncomfortable being on my own, and it kept me from taking day trips to nearby markets or, I felt, from fully experiencing the local culture. After about two weeks, I started spending longer hours in cafes, the touristy ones, with the wifi and organic fruit bowls, where I wouldn't stand out so much. I got a lot of reading done and the smoothies were always delicious, but I normally love walking around as a way to get to know a city, and my discomfort kept me pretty sedentary here.


On the other hand, I wouldn't want that impression to discourage anyone from visiting Granada. The discomfort didn't really start to put me in a sour mood until the second half of my visit, and I don't think a short-term visitor would be as bothered by it since they wouldn't have to hear aggressive remarks at 7am on their walk to work or on a sweaty haul back from the grocery store. I still think Granada is a marvelous place that is not to be missed, and I hope more Americans come down to see it soon because the Canadians have been arriving in droves. I am so thankful for the job here and the graciousness of the people I met, and I'll bet plenty of foreigners visiting the US have felt uncomfortable for some reason or another. And I can tell you where to get any type of refreshing mixed fruit concoction as soon as you step out of the cab here. So, ya know, mixed feelings!

Isletas de Granada

It took me a tiny while, but I finally made it to one of the most visited items on the to-do list here... the Isletas de Granada. I didn't know much about this before I showed up, but Granada has 365 tiny islands resting right off its shores in Lake Nicaragua, and you can tour around them by boat or by kayak.

I had wanted to visit the islands since the first day, but everyone told me that the guides won't go out for just one person. Unfortunately, the friends I've made here have either been leaving the next day or long-time retired residents, so I was on my own. I decided to walk down to the office to find out if I could sign up with another group that afternoon. I got there there just in time. There was a kayaking group leaving immediately, so they packed me into the van and we set out on our way.

Kayaking the Isletas de Granada

It was a short drive down to the dock, and then we spent the next 3 hours kayaking all around the islands to see different types of birds, plant life, and howler monkeys! The rest of the day unfolded perfectly. We found ourselves paddling back with the view of sunset over Mombacho Volcano.

Sunset over Mombacho Volcano

I didn't have a preference at first, since I really do not have the hang of kayaking no matter how many times I try, but I was so glad to have been roped into a kayak tour instead of the boat. The water was peaceful and still as we made our way out in between lily pads and flowers. And although the wind made things quite choppy on the way back, the view was enough to keep us moving in our return journey.

Boats on Lake Nicaragua

Amigos de Austin

I traveled to a whole different part of the world and where do you think the first estadounidense I met was from? No place other than Austin, Texas! Yee-haw!

Sara is super nice and welcoming. She moved down here to start a bakery and a pizzeria. What a fine place to do just that. Pan de Vida is a relaxed respite off busy La Calazada street with great pizza, plenty of hammocks, and cinnamon rolls that I am not going to say whether or not could come close to my grandma's because sometimes she reads this! You'll have to try them for yourself.

Pan de Vida Granada, Nicaragua

I'm glad to have met Sara early in the trip, because she told me an easy way to remember the money exchange rate when I kept forgetting which ones were from Asia and which one was for here. The next day that knowledge saved me when the street converter tried to rip me off 200 cordoba. But all I had to do was correct him and he gave me the difference plus a little more. Sometimes it really pays to talk to strangers.

Pan de Vida in Granada, Nicaragua

City Strolls

Sometimes when you're traveling alone in another country, it's tricky to know where to go and when. You'll hear conflicting reviews from all around. You'll find a recommended attraction and some will tell you never to go anywhere by yourself; you'll surely get robbed and murdered. Others laugh at you and wonder why you would even question going there in the first place; it's perfectly fine!


I've taken baby steps in walking everywhere I can around here. And it's turned out that all the places I've wanted to see have been worthwhile and safe. I've walked to the abandoned Old Hospital and the nearby train station. Since the houses are so colorful and the city is a manageable size, it's a usually a pleasure to stroll around anywhere you can. You might even find goats and horses grazing on a regular old jaunt to the grocery store.


Of course, I am careful and I stick to the well-traveled areas when it gets dark. But it seems that it's easy to explore most of Granada's main attractions on foot (or boat), and the most dangerous part is being in direct sunlight at mid-day. Of course, there are always taxis or horse-drawn carriages that will take you anywhere you don't feel comfortable walking.


Workouts Worldwide

I don't know about this. What do y'all think? I alternate back and forth between telling myself that exercising at a gym is silly and pointless to wondering how on earth I would be alive without free weights and a treadmill. I joined the one here because they have yoga classes, there's a tortoise named Snoopi, and they sell a 10 meal pass for $35. I don't think I would have joined if this were a regular month, but I didn't work out at all in Southeast Asia, and there's been a hefty amount of noodles and rice on these menus.


I usually like to run in the streets to see things and take pictures, but this would have to happen at 5:30am here to take advantage of the cooler weather and make it in time to teach the morning class. And who knows what the catcalling population would have to say about lady parts bouncing around in (gasp) yoga pants and a tank top. Running is not a big part of the culture in Nicaragua.


I tried doing one minute sets of pushups, ab stuff, squats, and leg activities in my room, but I don't really like working out as soon as I roll out of bed in the morning or right before bed, and other times leave too loose a schedule to actually commit to it. Excuses always abound for me and the at-home workout. Plus, using weights usually equals less work for more rewards. So to the gym it is.


There's a chance, too, that it will be a good place to socialize since the other night Danilo's friend introduced me to her daughter by saying, “This is Corinne, the yoga instructor. She has no friends, doesn't know anyone, and has to eat every meal alone.” I thought I was doing okay, but with any luck, my new workout pals will help me surpass her description of me.

Houses & Homes

The colonial-style houses here hold secrets. From the outside, they are as attractive and colorful as a box of crayons, but size-wise they don't look like much. Walking past the exterior, you'd never know what was inside. In our house, for example, you enter the front door and walk into an open air living room, kitchen, and sitting area, all of which surround a green courtyard, filled with plants, blue sky, a fountain, and some cats lazing in the sun. There are four bedrooms, and an indoor/outdoor pool, but you'd never know it from the outside. Other houses on the street hold even more members of the family. You can tell because at night they ditch the shady common areas and hang out on the sidewalks outside their front doors. Family time and ties are essential here.


I'm glad to be staying with the hotel owner, Eloisa, and her boyfriend, Danilo, so I can enjoy a peek into what Nicaraguan life is like (for the financially well-off, at least). I've always found trips where I stayed with a host family to be a little more special than backpacking through hostels, even though each method can be rewarding in its own way.

When I was interviewing for the job, Eloisa kept warning how hot it is here. I can assure you that she's never been to Texas in the summer. It's really only hot hot here at midday. The morning brings a refreshing breeze that blows through the outdoor yoga shala at the hotel and everything chills back out by 4pm. In the meantime, there's plenty of shade and no shortage of places to keep cool.


The shower is cold, shocking, and handheld but it's a nice way to lower your temperature before bedtime. There's no A/C anywhere, so I may have to give up my granola crunching stance against anti-perspirant, but for now, I'll just be slathering myself in essential oils and making sure no one comes too close.


Globetrotting Goals

In case you did not already assume this, being an international yoga instructor at a boutique hotel is actually not very much work. I teach a group class every morning and some days at night, check people in at the front desk sometimes, and make myself available in case someone wants to schedule a private class in the afternoon. Since I enjoy teaching yoga, and would usually be doing it anyway, none of this feels like work at all. And in a small city like Granada where everything is a few blocks away, my schedule leaves a lot of time for relaxing and taking a break from it all.


This is wonderful. The scenery is incredible. The lack of a huge tourist population makes everything very peaceful. On the other hand, for me, there is not a very big “all” from which I am supposed to be taking a break. It would be very easy to spend days here reading entire books, taking naps in hammocks, and lounging around swimming pools. That is nice. Very nice. However, my normal life right now is one big abyss of relaxing solitude and, despite the niceness, I don't want to look back on a whole month remembering that all I did was nap and lounge. So, in true former corporate slave fashion, I have set some loose goals for myself (only three!) for the trip and here they are, en español:

  1. Crear: This has been one of the themes of this whole year for me. I've been pushing to explore creative pursuits instead of putting them off and wishing upon a star that I get around to them someday. Someday is here, and, fortunately, for such a little city, Granada has a robust art scene with a surprising number of art galleries. Apart from that, the houses and buildings are so colorful that one doesn't have to look far for inspiration. I packed some paints and brushes, and this Central American world is my canvas.

  2. Hablar: One helpful skill that I've acquired in this lifetime is the ability to speak Spanish. If we're talking about where I'm from, or my family, or ordering at a restaurant, local people are usually surprised that I can speak it so well. At this point, they should be more surprised at the hesitation I feel about speaking it candidly and the number of stumbles and roadblocks that come up in more meaningful conversations. I have seventeen years of experience and a Master's degree for goodness' sake. On this trip, I'm trying to delve a little further than my heavily chartered territory, and make a focused effort not to shy away from longer conversations.

  3. Sentar: The third goal is really a tricky anti-goal. Besides the constant drive toward self-improvement that is probably a shadow from my next decade looming on the horizon, I would like to be a part of the slower-paced life that the people here are living. They're sitting outside on their patios, spending time with family, and strolling through the streets to meet up after dark. After four days of this, I can already feel myself wanting to join a gym, schedule excursions, go for a jog, take classes, try every cafe, visit every art gallery, etc. etc. I'm trying to remember that all this doing isn't always the most rewarding thing, and that the most memorable outings usually are not on the checklist.


Tierra Soñada

Hey ladies, if you are looking for a confidence booster where you walk out of the house and all the men in a city remark upon your beauty and profess their love to you, look no further than here in Granada, Nicaragua. If you are not looking for that, you might find it off-putting, but, chances are, you will probably like this place anyway.


I'm surprised they've even noticed me; there's plenty of other beautiful stuff around here.


So far, nearly everything has wildly exceeding my expectations. I finally felt like I made it when there was a private driver holding a sign with my name on it as soon as I stepped out of the airport. He pressed himself right against the glass door, which was good because coming out of the airport is when I am looking most gringa and like I don't know where the F I'm going, and when I am feeling most afraid of being thrown in the back of a truck and sex-trafficked. I don't know the first thing about actual sex trafficking, but I can only assume it is happening all the time to blue-eyed girls in foreign nations, based purely on the number of strangers who approach me to tell me to be careful and not to be too trusting of strangers.

The hotel owner (and my boss) is most helpful and very sweet. There's a house and a hotel, two pools, good food, good yoga, and cheap living. We're only on day two, but I think I'm going to enjoy myself here.