Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Granada - Home Potential Indicator Part 1

You may not read this until I am dead and dust, the Internet speed is so frustratingly slow. If I were sitting any closer to the Internet router, they would need to give me a colonoscopy to reset it. So it goes and some of the reasons that Nicaragua has fallen from grace as a potential place to live. Honestly, there is more to life than Internet speed, so here is a recap of our time in Granada.

It was spectacular! Recap concluded.

That was cheating right? Well here are some of the highlights. One way I approached each city we went to was to think in terms of what services specifically for ex-pats was lacking that the locals could also benefit from. One idea I had in Panama was to open a waffle restaurant, just a small one to fill a need for those North Americans needing a fix. Kathy’s Waffle House is a booming business in Granada. We ate there two different mornings, being thoroughly satisfied with the offerings. I did photograph the menu for future reference, perhaps for somewhere else. We also had breakfast at the Chocolate Museum where they offer an all you can eat breakfast for $6. They are smart in that they serve omelettes, pancakes and waffles. You choose the ingredients for each; however, the pancakes and waffles have the fruit or chocolate on top, not in the batter. They also only serve one at a time, reducing waste. Their omelettes were exceptional. Why Kathy’s is so busy when this place is a better bargain is a mystery. Other mornings, we ate our own cooking prepared at the guesthouse. Gerry always has fresh coffee ready each morning for guest consumption. These two places nixed my idea for any type of small eatery. 

There are relatively few museums in the city, but we went to them all: all three of them. Some had unusual mixes of modern art with artifacts from centuries ago. Nevertheless, the architecture of the interiors were worthy of the visit and the admission of $1-$2 could not be beat. Churches fit into the museum category, as this is an ultra-Catholic country, there are plenty of them to visit. The most famous is Convento y Museo San Francisco, the oldest church in Central America. Another church worthy of a visit was Iglesia de La Merced. So what is a nice atheist boy doing visiting churches? This is where the treasures of a culture are stored. People will give all they have to get God’s indulgences, so the churches prey on this mentality and adorn the church for the glory of God. Some of the best artwork you find in primitive countries is in their churches. If we were to live here, what would we do with ourselves. That question was answered later through observations. 

We continually encountered groups of men, who without too much eavesdropping were obviously ex-pats who had settled here. Some of the faces changed from day to day, while others were repeaters. They seemed aimless and from their conversations, if they did not meet with others here or there at some watering hole, they had no life whatsoever. Interestingly, we encountered only male groups. Were the women folk occupied with real activities or did they die from boredom early on in the move here?

Culturally, there is little to be engaged in. The movie theater still has posters from the first Harry Potter movie, yet we never saw the doors unchained. There are no theaters for plays, no stadiums for concerts or sports (not that I am complaining, but just saying). What the locals do is ‘hang out’. As cliché as it sounds, there are an abundance of rocking chairs in this country. Most of them are wooden framed with caned backs and seats. The workmanship of each rocking chair is impeccable and having had to do caning for a Boy Scouts merit badge, I can attest to the rigorous nature of caning. Children start rocking from early years, almost before they are off the nipple, rocking themselves in little chairs in that hypnotic embryotic contentment motion. This is how they spend their free time. You walk around the city any time of the day or night, especially in the night if the house is still warm; people are decked out in front of their abode rocking away. If they could be wired, they could be generating massive amounts of electricity, making the movements productive. This is the national pastime.

What we did for entertainment was desperate, but enjoyable in the end and fit our social work mentalities. A gentleman from Venezuela who had moved here over 30 years ago, opened the Escuela de Comedie and Mime: The school of comedy and mime. He wanted to do something for the children of the city. They generally never complete school beyond the 6th grade. Education is free, but they have to buy their own supplies, books, and pay for transportation if there is no school in their district. There are also a number of children, who are orphans for various reasons, so become street beggars. This man wanted to change their fate. 

Through his school, children come to learn drama, clowning, and mime to provide performances for the public. This in turn enhances their self-esteem. Over the years, Mr. Venezuela was able to fund a home to house these children, get them medical care and now they have a school. He has had multitudes of ‘graduates’ who now have fulfilling careers after receiving an education, and are contributors back to the organization for the next generations.  

One of the nights we were there, the school has a puppetry performance. A puppeteer from Mexico had come to the city to perform as a charity benefit for this school. There was no admission, but they passed the hat at the end. Through a variety of puppets of varying sizes, the entertainer told stories. Although they were all in Spanish and beyond our comprehension at the speed of his telling, we still enjoyed the evening.
The next night was another performance, this time by the students of the school. A North American director from Los Angeles came to Granada and volunteered to direct a play. It was a mix of the stories about the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg and Jack and the Beanstalk. There was no dialogue spoken. Intermittently, there was story line projected onto the wall, which was perfect for us to be able to read. These children from 4 to 19 years old, performed amazing feats of juggling, gymnastics, and unicycle riding. We left there feeling like we were walking on air, the feelings it left us with were so incredible. I hope that we will be able to aid the founder with finding some funding sources to continue his work. If we lived here, this is where I would direct my energy. He did share his observation that in his 30 years, he has found that Nicaraguans are not into culture, so he has difficult getting them engaged in the productions they produce.

Prior to attending this show, we went to an opening of an art exposition. One of the women staying at our bed and breakfast is an artist from Germany. There is some sister city connection between her home city and Granada. Six German artists came to Granada with their art pieces for a joint exhibition with their Granada counterparts. We had chatted a few times over morning coffee, so we felt some pressure to see what this was about. Besides, the Casa de Los Tres Mundos Building was the hosting location, a cultural center that normally charges admission. For the art opening, there were no fees. Most of it was modern art – ultra modern. This is not my cup of tea, but we went, we saw, we explored the inside of Casa de Los Tres Mundos.  

Other highlights coming are the islet tour and the day at the volcano crater lake.
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