Photo: Michal Hertlik Slovakia/Shutterstock

11 Side Effects I Had as a Traveler in Nicaragua

by Lindsay MacNevin Jun 7, 2016

1. Baseball will never be the same for me.

Sitting on the red dirt, munching on freshly-fried plantains that I bought for less than a peso, drinking a beer out of the cooler I brought and watching a game of baseball get delayed by the cows that are crossing the outfield… none of that ever got old. What does get old now that I’m back home is paying $10 for a beer, $8 for a hotdog, and never seeing any cattle on the baseball field.

2. Privacy has become negotiable.

It wasn’t uncommon to walk down the beach in Nicaragua and spot a full on make-out session happening somewhere in the dark. It’s very common in Nicaraguan culture for people to live with their families until they get married, so couples always have to find somewhere to escape to. Now that I’ve seen my fair share of PDA, I really don’t care about my own privacy back home in Canada. It makes my boyfriend and those around us pretty uncomfortable, but hey, we all need a little public love in our lives.

3. I will never look at a piñata the same way again.

I attended five children’s birthday parties in Nicaragua, where the birthday child proceeded to smash a piñata. You would think this was pretty typical, except the piñatas in Nicaragua are dolls, with faces and lace underwear. And they look scary real. I will never be able to unsee the look on that first child’s face as he smashed the piñata girl’s face in, all while the party guests were screaming “hit her in the head!”

4. I live by Nica Time and Nica Time only.

Nica time is a pace of life where nothing is rushed and everything just happens when it happens. When I was living in Nicaragua, I quickly adopted to this lifestyle and I was pretty much never on time for anything and never rushed to get something done quickly. But in Nicaragua, it never came back to bite me in the ass. Now that I’m back home, I still take my time getting out the door, even if I’m going to be late to a meeting. And when I do show up, I still try to use that same excuse: ‘Sorry, I’m living on Nica Time.’ It doesn’t always work.

5. I couldn’t care less about your personal space.

It’s typical in Nicaragua for people to stand extremely close to one another while in conversation. I’m talking close enough to smell what each of us ate for lunch that day. The common greetings include shaking hands, embracing and giving a kiss on each cheek. Back in Canada, I felt obligated to keep this tradition going, which has lead to a lot of confusion and a lot of strangers becoming uncomfortable with me standing inches away from them in the grocery store.

6. I’m totally fine with drinking warm water.

At first I was obsessed with finding cold water, which it turns out is pretty much impossible to get in Nicaragua’s small towns. Water comes in those 4L screw-top jugs and can be found on the shelves in the stores, not in the fridges. And once I got over the fact that it was never going to be cold, I realized it was delicious. You can now find me at home toting a 4L bottle of warm H2O wherever I go.

7. I bargain… a lot.

Bargaining is a way of life in Nicaragua, especially when it comes to things like accommodations, food and marketplaces. It isn’t normal to accept the asking price and shop owners expect locals and visitors alike to bargain down to a fair price. When I headed back to Canada, I tried to bargain down my hotel room to no avail. Even though that didn’t work, I’m still trying to bargain all the time back home.

8. I’m okay with my food being contaminated.

From whacking a fish over the head with a dirty rock to buying a chicken from the back of a truck that has been sitting in the heat all day, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t always eating “clean” in Nicaragua. Considering I didn’t get sick once in the three months I was there, I feel pretty good about eating all things raw. It’s not uncommon to see me slicing up raw chicken and using that same cutting board for the salad back at home. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if I invite you for dinner.

9. I have lost all sense of a proper bedtime.

A typical night in Nicaragua consisted of me going to bed anytime between 11pm and 7am, whether it be I was at the local watering hole jamming to live music or catching the sunrise surf. Now that I’m back home, I’ve adopted this strategy of not having a bedtime at all. It’s pretty typical of me to hammer out some travel stories at 4am, drinking a mug of coffee and not thinking about my bed at all.

10. I’ve stopped wearing shoes.

Heading to the restaurants in bare feet was perfectly normal back in Nicaragua and I can still be found carrying my shoes while I walk in Canada.

11. I really do appreciate my toilet now.

Squat toilets, bushes, porcelain bowls without seats, these were all normal forms of toilets in Nicaragua. It really wasn’t that bad, and now that I’m home I’ll pretty much pop squat in the woods whenever there’s no toilet around. But I’ll admit it, it really does feel like a treat every time I get to use a clean, working flush-toilet, complete with toilet paper.

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