By Vicki Barnes
1. If the sidewalk in front of your residence is broken, you are responsible for fixing it – or hiring someone else to do it. And, you had better supervise their work to be sure it gets done. This 3 by 5 foot project has been going on for the four days we have been here. It was still unfinished as of this evening. You don’t have to fix the walk, but you can’t make a call to the city to have the work done.
2. If you are riding a motorcycle with a pair of propane tanks strapped to the back, you need only honk your horn and everyone else in the intersection will come to a grinding halt and you can pass though without even slowing down.
3. Valentines Day cards cost an average of $8 at the grocery store, but can be found for half that at one of the street vendors in the market behind the Cathedral.
4. There is one traffic light in the city. The intersection it controls is not any busier than others in the area. It is about a block away from La Union, the supermarket that is owned by the Walmart corporation. At certain times of day, the traffic backs up right in front of the store’s parking lot. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.
5. Every item in the store that promotes itself as being the purveyor of native Nicaraguan artisan crafts, 15 tshirts that were made in Nicaragua, Everything else in the store was made in Thailand.
6. You can ride in a carreta, a pick up truck with a tarp for shade for 2 cordobas…about 8 cents…anywhere in town.
7. Graffiti art is a beautiful backdrop for whatever you are doing. Some of the art is just scribblings signifying something we might not understand, Some of it is dedicated to remembering the revolution in the late 1970s that led to the formation of modern Nicaragua. Also, as you can see here, it is apparently acceptable to skateboard through a basketball game in progress.
8. An air raid siren blasts loudly at 6:30 a.m., noon and 5:30 p.m. to mark the start of the work day, lunch time and the end of the work day. Everyone ignores it.
9. Bells at the 13 cathedrals in the city ring randomly. They sometimes ring all at once. Sometimes they ring at several minutes past the hour, sometimes on the half hour, sometimes not at all. If you ask people why the bells are ringing, they have either not heard them ringing because they’ve learned to tune them out or they hypothesize it must have something to do with a saint…or the pope…or scaring the birds away. No one is sure.
10. No violent crime has been reported in the city for years.This is true throughout the country and elsewhere in Central America. In Costa Rica they have no military but the police are well armed enough that they could go to war in a heartbeat and the security guards in Nicaragua could likely defeat some small armies if they banded together.) Having been through so much war, they truly love peace. That and there are armed guards at all banks and some of the businesses. They are there – outside the door – 24/7 and they are armed to the teeth. Anyone who commits a crime is not likely to escape swift and certain justice. I have walked alone before sunrise, throughout the day and even after the sun has set and I have never felt the least bit afraid.