Wednesday, January 29, 2014

So Incredibly Delightful Masaya

Masaya is so conveniently situated, few take advantage of staying here more than one night. I was glad we had the time we did, spending 4 nights there. It is approximately 14 km west of Granada and 31 km southeast from Managua, a bit longer from León.

What sets Masaya apart is the El Mercado Viejo, a market that looks like it was once a castle, but indeed was built for the soul purpose of being a market. It was built at the end of the 19th century and is the greatest tourist attraction of the area. Some tour guides tout that one could shop for every holiday and birthday present needs for everyone on your list for an entire year of gift giving and not purchase the same thing twice. This could possibly be true if you have not been to Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, and Panama in the past – either recent or distant. Yes, this market is flooded with handicrafts of all types that are supposedly made in the country, but many of the wood products are identical to the wood projects ubiquitous in Costa Rica. Hundreds of the woven napkins, placemats, some clothes and pottery are indistinguishable from those of Guatemala or Belize.

Once again, I think of the airline regulations that curb my appetite for shopping. As much as I loved some of the pottery pieces, the weight was significant and would require being hand carried. Sorry, but my carry-on is limited to a backpack that has a laptop, convertors, digital camera, lens, mobile phone and book for the plane. Taint no more room for other goodies and the weight is back straining as it is. Due to the restrictions on weight of checked luggage and the number or pieces, it is impossible to bring these things back. There were some enchanting hand woven baskets that I had not seen anywhere else, so would have been a real find. I wanted them for gifts, but then the weight factor and fitting them into our small suitcases ruled out those purchases. My shopping has really been restricted due to the airlines.

We had B and B guests who were charged $150 extra for being 3 pounds over the limit. I would have thrown stuff away, but they paid it. That story reverberates in my mind when I consider airport check-in.

Regardless, the market is a place to spend time looking. Each vendor will try to get you into his or her booth, but none become aggressive beyond that. Behind the market is an appealing, but small Museum of Folk Legends. At first one may balk at the cost of $2 per adult. What so expensive? This is Nicaragua after all, isn’t it. Consisting of one large room, it is cleverly spaced to make you feel like there is more that there is. Regardless, the mannequins are 1st class as are the costumes and other displays. They are art pieces as well as displays. Though everything is in Spanish, we were able to piece together enough information to make sense of various displays. Even without the language, just the colors and outfits could have entertained us.
When the sun is warming the air to 86 degrees or beyond, one doesn’t feel like sprinting around a city. Yet, we did venture out to visit El Malecón. On the way, we accidentally came across 7 Esquinas, a place where 7 corners converge; this is unique in Masaya.

El Malecón open area resembles a park. There are a number of wooden booths scattered along one side of the park, but none were operational. There seems to be a school there too, but this being summer vacation, the students will not return until mid-February. I was never able to find out if they get a winter vacation come July or August. Anyway, El Malecón offers some awesome views of the Masaya Lagoon and the Masaya Volcano. What really disturbed me was the litter. One end of the walkway was literally like a garbage dump filled high with trash rolling down into a pristine lagoon. Very sad!

On the other end of El Malecón is the baseball stadium named for the famed baseball player Roberto Clemente. According to “…the Roberto Clemente Stadium is a baseball stadium named in honor of Puerto Rican baseball hero, Roberto Clemente, who was killed in a plane crash traveling from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua with relief supplies for victims of the devastating earthquake that wrought havoc in Managua in 1972.”

Ron would have loved to attend a game here, but the season is over.

Another day, we walked to the ‘other market’. This is always a cultural experience if there ever is one. When I walk into places like this with sandals on, ten minutes in, I feel like I need to wash my feet. Heaven forbid a sandal slipped off causing my foot to touch the floor, I would have to have it amputated. Cleaning it would not be sufficient. These types of markets are all over the world; great labyrinths that seem to go on forever. There are times when a feeling of needing to call the rescue squad comes to mind, thinking you may never see daylight again. The further in your go, the dimmer the light. One can buy anything from school supplies to meat for the night’s dinner. When we leave, I need a sanitizing rinse.

One day we paid a driver to take us to Hostal Paradiso, the place where we went to the lagoon. Ron wanted another day swimming and kayaking. I had different motives. I knew they had WiFi there, so I took the laptop with me. The day was January 22nd and it was very significant. This was the day that I had intended to send out our wedding invitations with the video link. January 22nd would have been my father’s birthday had he lived. Had he lived and were well enough, he would have attended our wedding with bells on. I wanted the invitations to go out on his birthday to honor him. With the crappy connection at the hotel, I could not be assured of this, so I spent 4 hours at the lagoon sending out over 150 invitations. As it turned out, the connection at the hostel was no better than our hotel, but they went out as planned regardless.

Our hotel was close to the Museo de Heróes y Mártires. It is a museum located inside the Alcaldía de Masaya (Town Hall). This is a museum dedicated to the heroes and martyrs of Nicaraguan Revolution in 1979. Each time we passed by, there was a long line of locals waiting outside. I kept thinking how great that they are so interested in their history. It was not until Ron visited the museum that we realized the museum itself only took up a couple of small rooms in the city hall.

At the end of Masaya, our same driver for the Laguna adventure drove us the airport in Managua. What I learned about Nicaragua was that there are some places I could live happily IF. Life always comes with conditions. In order to live here I would need super-fast Internet. Then I would need some assurances that no government agency is going to sweep into our lives and take what we own. See article below about presidential terms. Neither is going to happen, so Nicaragua will continue to be a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to live here.

We flew back to Panama City where we are now and will be until this Thursday.

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