It’s by now a familiar feeling–that combination of exhilaration and anticipation and fear, the near future mostly unknown, that natural high, the feeling like I’m so happy I could burst, that moment I know that this is why I travel. It hits me within the first few minutes of arrival in a new place–which is usually before I’ve even made it out of the airport.
I don’t think I’ll ever replace the fear that hides among all of those other good things. At least not when I travel alone. As I see it, I have a healthy dose of fear–just enough to keep me on my toes but not enough to keep my heels firmly planted in my home country.
Up until two days ago my major travels only took me to Europe and Canada with a few stops around the Caribbean. So Nicaragua is the shock to my system that I expected–but only a small tremor, certainly not an earthquake. I’m not so naive as to be too surprised at what I see.
Granada is thirty miles from the Managua airport (into which I flew). Between the two, we drove by more than a few people using horses with carts as their mode of transit. I saw kids playing in front of houses made of corrugated metal, and understood how easily natural disasters could devastate countries like this. Watching over those children were parents or grandparents, and that got me to thinking of how simple life really is. Or can appear to be. A roof over one’s head. Food to eat. A companion along the journey. Time to play, time to work, time to help others.
But as we arrived in the city, the frenetic pace of life returned. Cars darting around the people on foot or on bicycle. Motorcycles weaving in and out. A one way street of traffic at a stop, for reasons we can’t see beyond the truck in front of us. Tourists in the central square. Horse and carriages for them to see the city. Sidewalks lined with semi-permanent stands– their vendors selling produce, music, shoes, watches, eyeglasses. People walking in the street if the sidewalk is blocked by a vendor.
I’m not a city girl but my solo self is not fearless enough to venture out into the countryside (give me time–this is, after all, only my first time in Central America). But behind the gates and doors along the street lie homes–like the one in which I’m staying–that have courtyards in the middle of them, common rooms open to the outdoors. I wouldn’t know I’m in a city when I’m in my room.
That serenity is briefly interrupted by my walk to Spanish class–down the aforementioned street, which at 7:45 this Saturday morning already had many vendors with their wares on display. Three blocks later, I step through the open doorway into the Hotel Spa Granada, past the bubbling fountain in the middle of the first courtyard, past the Central American art decorating the walls of the second courtyard, into the third courtyard which is occupied by a pool–the far end of which is covered by a sloped Spanish tile roof, under which me and my teacher sit.
Four hours later I head back home for lunch. (Today: spaghetti with a red sweet cream sauce, spiced rice, a fried banana and a salad.) My afternoons are mine to explore or relax.
Yesterday afternoon I joined a tour which began by giving us all bicycles with which to bike to the lake and along its coast, to a boat to take me around the Isletas–tiny islands with large private homes on them, or with a bar catering to tourists surrounded by those same tin homes, laundry hanging outside. (My Spanish teacher today told me no one here has washers or dryers.)
There’s certainly much more to see and do here. But ideally one strikes a balance between touring and resting. This afternoon I rest by writing. Reading. And if the temperature remains at 90, I’ll head into the pool. If clouds set in, maybe a walk. A future pleasantly unknown.