After 2 months of being immersed in the culture of Costa Rica, we finally had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of another Central American country this weekend.  On Friday morning, we boarded the 6 am TicaBus for a nine hour trip across the border into Nicaragua.  A native of Pennsylvania, the travelling time was about equal with the length of my drive to Elon.  While there may be some existing differences between northerners and southerners in the United States, crossing the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border separates far more cultural differences than any Yankee could claim about the Mason-Dixon Line. 

We noticed the distinctions between Nicaragua and Costa Rica soon after making our way through the long process of crossing the border- even the gallo pinto tasted different.  Most prominently, we noticed more people begging for money in the streets, and trying to sell us anything they could for a few extra Cordobas (the currency of Nicaragua).  We all felt extra generous, handed out a few extra coins, or often shared any leftover food from dinner.  On a lighter note, we enjoyed the fun, relaxed atmosphere of the colonial city of Granada.  People gather around the concrete soccer field in the main square of town, sit along the street for hours in rocking chairs, and seek the shade to escape the scorching sun.  Horse drawn carriages offer colonial taxi rides around the city.    

On Saturday, we had a busy tour through some of the highlights of Nicaragua surrounding Granada.  We started the day at Volcano Masaya- on the drive up to the main viewpoint, our guide gave us cautionary instructions that we would need to run as fast as possible back into the van in the case of an eruption (the last eruption reported occurred in 2003).  After enjoying the several lookout points of the craters, we travelled to the Masaya market, and purchased paintings, handmade crafts, jewelry, and other items for low prices.  Later we ate lunch together, and visited a local pottery business, where some of us had an opportunity to try out the pottery wheel- and found out it was a lot harder than it looks.  Next, we headed to Lake Nicaragua for a short boat ride.  Our entertaining guide showed us the islands with prized real estate, Monkey Island, and even sang us the Nicaraguan National Anthem. 

Sunday we were free to explore Nicaragua on our own.  The extremely hot weather kept some of us by the pool, while others visited Lake Nicaragua, the Granada market, or a local baseball game- unlike most Latin American countries, soccer is not the most popular sport in Nicaragua.  Finally, a group of us climbed the bell tower for a beautiful view of the city to see the sun set.

We enjoyed an extended weekend, and departed from Nicaragua on Monday.  Once again, we were shuffled around, filled out paperwork, got our passports stamped, and waited in long customs lines at the border to reenter Costa Rica.  The process of crossing the border was tiresome, but thankfully uneventful as well.  The long tedious travel was well worth the trip to visit another country, but we all welcomed the cooler temperatures when we stepped off the bus in San Jose.

Posted by Amanda Stamplis




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