25 augustus 2013

My first week in Granada, Nicaragua

After a month in Xalapa (Mexico) - where I enjoyed a bit of quiet time after a very busy year - I finally continued my travels to Granada, Nicaragua. My first challenge: trying to understand why I had to fly to Miami to get to Managua.

Although I could not see the point in that, I got on the plane towards the very busy airport of Miami where I had to answer the same questions as usual: Who are you? What do you do for a living? Where are you going? What will you be doing there?

The flight to Managua went smooth and before I even noticed, I was standing on Nicaraguan soil. Felipe, La Esperanza's regular taxi driver, was waiting for me at the exit with a sign that had my name on it. I immediately recognized him - he's rather difficult to miss, he's one big, but extremely friendly Nicaraguan - and about an hour later he dropped me off at La Casita. It was good to be home. Granada hasn't changed that much since I walked the streets two years ago. Still a lot of horses with carriages, the Calzada remains the place to be and the Nicas are still as friendly and inviting as ever. Granada is a place of contrasts: beautiful, colonial buildings surround the 'parque central' with in the center of town the gorgeous cathedral. However, when you take your time to look around, there are still lots of homeless people, drunk, sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk or street kids with their noses stuck to a glue bottle.

My first week in Granada felt like complete chaos. It always takes me a while before I get used to a new place: the heat, the food, the language, the people - it's easy to underestimate the impact of such big changes. And I'm forgetting the most significant change: a new job. As soon as I got here, I went to talk with Pauline Jackson, Operations Director at La Esperanza Granada, and she told me that I would soon be taking on the job as Volunteer Coordinator. This means that the many volunteers that arrive every week will soon be my responsibility. A major challenge! Next week, I also start working as an English teacher at the local university UHISPAM, an extra challenge I am willing to take on.

It was the perfect moment to arrive to Granada. Each year around this time, the people of Granada celebrate the 'Hípica', a beautiful horse parade, for which all Granadinos leave their houses to celebrate together on the street. The Parque Central and the streets around it, were all packed with people, Nicaraguans and foreigners, who came to enjoy the festive atmosphere that surrounds this centuries-old tradition.