First full day in Granada, and I like what I see a lot.
I'm once again reminded why I don't really like staying in hostels. Its cheap, social and everything, but I took a long time to fall asleep last night even though I was dead beat from the plane ride and staying up till 5am the night before. There was a huge bunch of Americans checked into the hostel, doing what I've seen other college students do when I was traveling in Europe - smoking weed, drinking and talking late into the night. Oh well, I guess I can't complain because I'm just paying $5 a night - but today I've moved somewhere else already (more on that later).
After talking to lots of people and not being able to understand a single word they said, I realized Spanish was important for me to get as much out of this trip as possible. I signed up for an online course on Babbel.com one week prior to my departure, but it wasn't very useful at all, and at this point my knowledge of Spanish isn't even enough to order food. Fortunately, I happened to chance upon a Spanish school offering one-on-one lessons for just US$3.50 an hour for a 20-hour package, so I signed up for that and did 4 hours of Spanish today. The "profesora" had a command of English roughly equivalent to zero, but she was patient and I can say that I've gotten something out of the day's lesson. Its kind of fruitful to be actual learning something while traveling! Oh, and for some reason, Spanish reminds me a lot of Arabic - I kept blurting out Arabic phrases initially.
Granada is incredibly beautiful. It feels a lot like Spain, sans the touristy part, with bright-colored homes, wild flowers growing by the roadside and the most incredibly lively street life. In the evening, I climbed the bell tower of one of the several churches in the city, and was treated to the most sumptuous sunset view over the low-rises of Granada and magnificent Mount Mombacho in the background.
Nicaraguans as a whole have been extremely friendly so far. Everyone seems to be interested in me, probably because I'm one of the few Asian tourists who've ventured this far. (By the way, Jake, you owe me $10 - I found a Chinese restaurant owned by Chinese people in this small city!). Tourism is still very much in its infancy in this country, and even though its peak season right now, its still very easy to escape the tourists and lose myself in a crowd of Nicaraguans thronging a busy local market.
I'm staying in a local home tonight, through a homestay I arranged. It costs $85 for a week including 3 meals and laundry. Its nice to live amongst Nicaraguans, and the host, Lucila, is welcoming and all smiles. The house isn't the most luxurious, but its well-maintained and you can tell that she's happy with her life. Which seems to pretty much describe everyone I've met so far in this amazing country. I'm glad I decided to come.
Interesting thing of the day: I've acquired a few mosquito bites in these past 24 hours, and it feels surreal to finally be bitten by insects again after 4 months at Brown where I've nary seen an ant.