Granada’s golden hour

I’ve spent the past three months of my life telling people in the United States that I was spending my summer interning in Nicaragua. I’ve spent the past three months of my life listening as people tried to politely ask me why I was coming here, then retold secondhand horror stories about Central America and crafted aggressive attempts to deter me. In the same vein, I’ve spent the past three months of my life honing my argument: “Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America. I have experience living on my own in big cities. I’m going to be fine.”

Granada is no Managua, and Nicaragua is no Honduras. But since getting here, I’ve been able to see what people were worried about. Drunks gather on some street corners, holes spontaneously open up in the street and a man literally jumped out of a doorway and kissed me on the back of the neck.

Life in Granada slows even more at the end of the day (photo/ Tim Rogers)

I’ve learned to put safety before feelings, clutching my purse close to me even if that might come across as rude or guarded. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and to get in a cab after dark. I’ve suffered the embarrassment of getting lost, hailing a cab and being told by the driver that I was around the corner from my destination. I’ve also suffered the regret of not hailing a cab and walking for 25 minutes in the wrong direction.

Granada has a witching hour, when the streets become much more dangerous, and when the Gringos who came here to party become just as aggressive as any local. It’s then that the whistles, the stares and the greetings on the street become less friendly. You learn to be as wary of the crowded streets as the empty ones. Yes, to the untrained eye, smaller dangers abound in the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.

Yet whenever I begin to doubt Granada and think about becoming as cynical as many of my fellow North

An Eskimo ice cream vendor tries to make a last sale of the afternoon (photo/ Tim Rogers)

Americans, I just need to wait until dusk. Every evening around 6 p.m. or so, Granada transforms into a Pan-American Mayberry. Doors are thrown open, rocking chairs are dragged out onto the sidewalk and kids play in the street. Parque Central fills with couples holding hands, a pickup soccer game and the sounds of vendors packing up for the night, weary from a day of hawking goods. Walking down any street, you are followed by a chorus of “buenas noches” and “adios.”

Calle Libertad, where I live, becomes truly idyllic after dark. Grandmothers chastise giggling kids, fritanga stands pop up to feed the gossip mill as much as the hungry stomachs, and flirty teens shyly hold hands. I suspect if anyone tried to lay a finger on me at this hour, the unofficial neighborhood watch would eagerly shake off the cobwebs in my defense.

A gringa traveling alone adjusts to whistles and comments. But during this peaceful time of the early evening, the most I’ve garnered was a nostalgic catcall from a group of grandfathers before their apologetic wives playfully smacked them.

These precious hours are the difference between visiting a place and really living there. Most people passing through might spend this lull at dinner, cooling off at the hostel, or resting up before a big night out. I have the pleasure of being able to throw open my doors and watch Granada as it eases past at a snail’s pace. Maybe one day I’ll be invited to join the rocking chair brigade.

It can be hard as a (relatively) pampered North American to live in Central America. Every time I put toilet paper in the trashcan instead of the toilet, I get a little wistful for home. But then there are moments like tonight. As I begged the fritanga lady for more plantains, two figures turned the corner and stumbled towards me. While I prepared to shield myself behind the hulking preparer of pollo, the streetlight revealed a pair of bashful seven year olds on rollerblades, slipping, sliding and giggling their way down the street. And with that image, I wrapped my banana leaves around my street-food dinner and returned home, ready to face another day of hard living in beautiful Nicaragua.

 

Eleanor Klibanoff is a sophomore majoring in Political Communication at The George Washington University. She is the summer intern for the Nicaragua Dispatch.

 

  • Carlos M

    Eleanor in not so many words you have deciphered the simple beauty and charm of what Granada is… The same that somehow takes me back there after year after year after living almost three decades thankfully in the US.
    I’m happy to see that young and adventurous professionals like yourself take a gamble and break out of the norm and take a chance on a magical little city and its people that has so much to offer
    Thank you for presenting this view of Granada which is the one that everyone falls in love with and good luck in your carreer..
    Regards

  • Elaine Johnson

    Eleanor, welcome to Nicaragua. I have been teaching school here for approximately 12 years, and I do not want to live anywhere else. Although I do live in Managua, I know what night life is in Granada. Parts of Managua are the same.

    Again, welcome to Nicaragua and I hope you truly enjoy your stay here.

  • ARed

    Love Granada, every time i visit Nicaragua that is definitely a stop for me. Wish i could go more often but its absolutely a charming town…

  • http://www.empowermentinternational.org Kathy Adams

    What a fantastic article Eleanor! No doubt you will be an amazingly successful writer!

  • http://www.photosew.us Wes Lum

    I love this article! And it’s so true…it echoes many of my sentiments the first time I arrived in Nicaragua. As soon as I got back into the States, all I could do was think of the food, the culture, and most of all the people…and going back again!

  • Matias

    What a great article!! You pinned it down perfectly. It is a magical time of day.

  • Jorge Greco Rodriguez

    That is my favorite part of the day in Nicaragua, when The elders gather around with rocking chairs , Nicaragua is a place of magic that makes you appreciate what is truly important in this life.

  • George

    Thats why Nicaragua its stuck on time, we need to work more much more, less party, less drinking, less holidays (Less communism).

  • George

    Thats why Nicaragua its stuck on time, we need to work more much more, less party, less drinking, less holidays

  • George

    Granadas meaning (the big nothing)

    • Jorge Greco Rodriguez

      you got some serious issues there georgie porgie