May 18 – Granada Nicaragua
I love Granada but I am looking forward to leaving soon. James and I have been here since mid-March and the town and people have treated us well but the weather is chasing us away. A first time visitor will equate a walk down a block to a hike up a steep mountain due to the hot, humid, weather. Expats will tell you that your body will adjust. My body has adjusted and I keep a red handkerchief in my back pocket to wipe the sweat off my face every few seconds. Face sunscreen is a joke! One of the most annoying routines everyday is applying face sunscreen because it sweats off immediately and I’ve given up on make-up altogether.
I told James that if I had known that it would be this hot, I would’ve rented our place for less time.
“But then you wouldn’t have all the opportunities that you got.”
I was slated to be Local Director for a tour operation in March but when I learned that the tour was in shambles, I quit and began my own tour–same idea and everything but with a different owner. We worked hard to make the idea work but marketing it was a challenge and after a few weeks, we revisited the reason for our decision to travel Latin America for a year and realized that we were missing the point. The point was to get away as far as possible from the 9 to 5 job and do everything we wanted to do but couldn’t do in San Diego. Aside from exploring new countries, we wanted time to read and exercise more. James wanted to focus on his writing and learn Spanish. My goal was to create a habit of meditating every day; I also wanted to read in Spanish, experiment with my cooking skills and watch Seinfeld. We were doing none of that so we decided to take a break from traveling, look for jobs instead and live in Granada for a few months. So what if we got paid substantially less, if it’s enough to pay for the groceries and some alcohol, sign me up! We found a furnished room with private bath, shared outside kitchen and swimming pool for $350 a month. The rent includes cleaning service once a week, all utilities and petting access to the dog and three well behaved kids who we share this big home with. For a Nicaraguan, $350 is expensive but for us who lived in Hillcrest, it was a steal so we slapped down $700. So what if we didn’t have jobs, we’ll figure it out because we’re a team! I’ll ask around, I’ll show off my bilingual skills and the photo I took of my BA diploma from UCSD (I could find a job teaching English!), I’ll check the workaway website and work at a restaurant for tips. The latter made me laugh because I had been a waitress twice before and twice I failed. I recalled my friend Theresa from Toastmasters telling me how much she made on tips by working part-time as a waitress, she’s been doing it for more than 10 years and she loves it! She said:
You would shine at it!
That’s what I thought but the last two times I tried, once I got fired, the second time, they downgraded me to a host and then a busboy. A busboy! I asked to be called a busgirl but they said they don’t have those there.
Anyway, back in Nicaragua, my landlord offers me a part-time job as a bartender/waitress at one of her restaurants. She said that it’s real chill and that I would be working the bar and talking to people who will want to know, “What the hell is an American doing living in Nicaragua?”
My qualifications were: an upbeat personality and good bilingual skills so that I could communicate and joke with the cooks in Spanish and switch back to English for the customers. I accepted the job but my misqualifications haunted me for a week and I hated the guy I worked with because he did not smile and he was always on his phone. I’m going to call this him Facial Paralysis guy. I didn’t want to lose it so I increased my sitting time saying, “om” from 15 to 20 minutes. That helped. But then my patience wavered and I ceased the friendly chit-chat one Saturday afternoon after waiting two tables with 13 people who asked for separate checks. I told Facial Paralysis guy, “You don’t help out, you expect me to run drinks and wait tables by myself, you don’t smile, you’re always on your phone, and then you get mad AT ME when someone walks away on their bill? The only thing you’re good at is pissing people off.”
He was stunned. I wonder how often women talk to guys like that in this country? That was the last thing I said to him and it was the last time he worked there. He’s Nicaraguan and I feel that his main challenge was taking orders from women.
On a side note, the machismo here isn’t as bad as some places like Honduras but it’s there. If you’re a girl then guys will hiss at you. Also, almost every Nicaraguan women I know here is a single mother, has been divorced once or twice (a common reason is that the guy cheated on her) and has at least two kids.
A few weeks later my boss offered to pay me three weeks worth of pay if I could create a Customer Service seminar and train her waiters for a week. I accepted the challenge. And that’s the second opportunity I got for having stayed here this long.
Meanwhile, James has started doing legal work for one of his friends in New York and it has been great. We’re making it work! We plan on spending a week in the San Juan del Sur beach next. My boss knows many people there so who knows, perhaps I’ll get a gig there and if not, I know someone who could use my help at their bar. After that it’s Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Then we’ll fly home for a month, then back. The plan is to visit every country in the Latin American continents. The plan is subject to change of course depending on income. That means that if we run out of money next month, we could be coming home sooner. But since we need so little to get by it seems like we will make it work.
I will return to the states eventually, but what’s the rush? I am young! I don’t have kids, I don’t have a mortgage, I don’t even have a pet. I don’t have any stakes in the ground! I am from California so my life will not ends at a certain age if I don’t get a career or have kids. I am traveling, I am meditating every day, I am reading, I’m cooking, I’m writing, I’m working and I am waking up every morning (whenever I want) next to my best-friend, my partner in life, el amor de mi vida, James Miller. I’ve never been this happy in my life.