11 days in....
we are still very much here, experiencing the ups and downs of life in Managua and adjusting to a bit more of a learning curve than we expected. It's always that way, though, isn't it?
It's interesting to mesh one's ideas of a place with the reality. My mind was resting on the eco-friendly beach shores of the Pacific Ocean, not necessarily within the city itself. I figured it was better just to see it, than to try to imagine what life would be like here. Even with the internet, it's nearly impossible to grasp the full picture until you arrive. And the verdict?
I have no idea. There are many aspects thus far that we love: the house, the yard, and, yes, to an extent, the isolated area in which we live. We are not next door to much, but this gives us a bit more outdoor open space and definitely a lot of peace and quiet. While we were lucky that our neighborhood in Annandale was well-established, we forgot just how quiet an area can be, minus the chirping of the birds and the occasional daytime fireworks (yes, this is a bit confusing to me).
Conversely, I am trying to adjust to the new shopping scene, if you will. By shopping, I do not mean mall hanging about, which we do not intend to do often. We really don't *need* much from the mall and there is a new Lego store being built. So, uh, won't be spending much time there!
No, the shopping scene would be the food. I must say, my first grocery experience was a bit startling. One day I am at my organic market in the Virginia suburbs thinking about how in the next few days I will be engaged in a whole new food market type of experience. I had no idea what to expect, though I suppose I could have done a bit more research. I knew there was at least one independent market & restaurant that catered to the more natural scene. However, I was not prepared for the grocery store experience at all.
At first I was surprised by the overall modern feel of the market. Managua, by all appearances, is a very diverse city. One might pass a small home constructed from corrugated metal sheeting with chickens running loose in the front yard (I would love a chicken in my backyard, if I could be assured the dog would allow it.), then pass a restaurant that serves comida tipica smack next door to it, with a fruit stand next to that. Right next to that might be a rather fancy condominium complex, with cafes that would have you thinking you are in a downtown American city. All within a few meters of one another.
So I was a bit surprised by the lights, the overflowing shelves, and the grandiose feeling of the store. I think, in my mind, I expected more of a farmers paradise. Instead I found a grocery store that took me back to our years in Caracas. The immediate scent of laundry detergent was overwhelming, the day-glo colors of the cleaning products (we are vinegar & baking soda types), and the aisles of processed foods and *health* products overwhelmed me. I eventually made my way through, needing really only fresh fruits, vegetables, and a bit of meat. While by all appearances, it was very clean, I still struggle with figuring out how everything is processed.
Lest anyone decide this is a food snobbery thing, I assure you, it's not. Remember what happened a few years ago? There's a good reason I avoid meats with antibiotics and hormones and am careful about the dairy I choose. Obviously, fruits and vegetables are a wee bit eaiser, but I am still learning all of the new local foods, so I'm not extraordinarily well-versed. I worry if I'm just missing the explanation (yes, I've Googled extensively) or if nothing is labeled for a reason.
So, my first trip to the store was a bit jarring. Given that I've become accustomed to much more from scratch cooking, perhaps my biggest culture shock was just how much processed food exists here. There are organic producers, but one must suss those out a little bit more. In addition to the local market and restaurant, Ola Verde, there are also independent producers of organic products. Of course, there are also the roadside stands that have a plethora of fresh fruit that I assume to be organic. I still wash it carefully, but somehow having the farmer/fruit picker sell it directly to me allows me to trust the origins a wee bit more, as I do with the farmers markets in the U.S.
If anyone is curious, my stressing about the processing of the food has not stopped me from trying it. Origins aside, I have yet to find something that I have not liked. Granted, we have stuck to the more traditional fare. I have no interest in fast food (we will avoid the McDonald's for three years...) and from ground refried beans to the grilled meats we've tasted, we've not found one thing to not like. Even the local Italian restaurant serves wood-fired pizzas that are fresh and full of flavor. And with the exception of my half and half ( I do miss that...) there is not much we cannot get here, from sushi to organic arugula (which will soon hopefully be growing in my backyard).
Here's to three years of a food exploration, to include sussing out all of the local organic farmers and really having a complete list of the delights that can be found here. Oh, and remembering to copy down all of the recipes of the amazing comida tipica that our empleada has been dishing out for us...