Travel with mamawolfe: The Simple Life in Nicaragua

Cameron at the fruit store.

There is something to be said about the simple life in Nicaragua. Every morning here starts out the same: I wake up, roll out of bed, and pad outside with my journal to listen to the morning sounds of doves cooing, roosters crowing and coffee percolating. If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine I was home – except for climbing out of a sweaty bunk bed tangled in mosquito netting, swinging in a hammock, and the scent of burnt debris, it is eerily similar to Davis.

And that’s when reality sets in.

Traveling in Nicaragua is hard for foreigners. We’re constantly on guard to keep from eating or drinking the wrong things. We’re vigilant about drinking water to keep hydrated, spraying DEET to ward off malaria and dengue, and we sanitize like it’s going out of style.

But some of my favorite parts about traveling in Nicaragua are really the simple parts that are so very different from living in the US.

Riding in back leaves room for meeting folks as the climb on for a ride

Riding in back leaves room for meeting folks as they climb on for a ride

The truck rides

I absolutely love riding up the dirt road in the back of the pickup truck. The only rules? Stay seated on the pavement, hold on, and only 10 gringos in the back at once. Easy enough. I remember my terror the first time here at the thought of my children riding in back without seatbelts; I soon realized that the back of the truck was the most comfortable.

Braiding hair is a popular way to spend an afternoon in Nicaragua

Braiding hair is a popular way to spend an afternoon in Nicaragua

The sense of time

It does take some getting used to, this idea of Nicaraguan time. ‘Hurry up and wait’ is how we Americans seem to operate. As long as we make it safely, and everyone in the group is accounted for, time isn’t really something paid a whole lot of attention to. The only rule I’ve heard our host say is to not be driving after dark-it’s not as safe.

The food

A typical breakfast.

A typical breakfast.

Most of our meals are prepared by a restaurant owner named Enrique. He has his own restaurant right around the corner, and we eat breakfast there every morning. Lunch and dinner are either brought to the work site (lunch) or to the Seeds of Learning compound (dinner). Simple and delicious, Nicaraguan food is a combination of savory and sweet, little salt or spice, not much dairy or chceese. The fruits are fresh, squash and corn plentiful, and nearly every meal comes with freshly made corn tortillas. The kids love the soda here – nothing artificial about it. Pure cane sugar!

Fresca and Fanta!

Fresca and Fanta!

Sifting sand from rock to make one of two types of mortar - harder than it looks!

Sifting sand from rock to make one of two types of mortar – harder than it looks!

The activities

Each day here is some sort of combination of hard manual labor when building the school, connecting with the community, and working with children.

Rojelio makes rebar ties by hand - then he taught the kids to make them.

Rojelio makes rebar ties by hand – then he taught the kids to make them.

In Nicaragua we don’t use power tools or pre-made anything – we make our own mortar, cement, and rebar, and it is not unusual to see men working entire days with a pickax to remove one large boulder in the way of a new wall or foundation.

Cameron makes friends easily in Nicaragua

Cameron makes friends easily in Nicaragua

The people of Casas Viejas and Ciudad Dario couldn’t be more friendly and hospitable. We get a fair share of strange looks (19 white people walking down the street surely must look odd in these small, remote communities), and cat-calls (chellita! chellita! are the favorites), but considering the US’s checkered past with Nicaragua during the Reagan years, they really do welcome us warmly.

Nicaragua kids love playing Monopoly, too!

Nicaragua kids love playing Monopoly, too!

The children here really do seem happy with the simple life in Nicaragua. Although we bring crafts, they really enjoy coloring books, puzzles, Monopoly and chess games, Legos and playing catch. Not many kids here are plugged in or tuned out. Their favorite use of technology seems to be having their picture taken- “un photo” echoes through my ears every afternoon.

All the mothers want a photo with their children.

All the mothers want a photo with their children.

The focus on the family

Nicaraguan houses are simple and conducive to socializing with the family and their neighbors. An open door is an invitation in Nicaragua, and each evening we see families gathered on the sidewalk in front of their house, or inside their front room, having conversation and simply spending time together. Often they will draw us in, asking us questions or making friendly comments. In the rural areas, the same sense of connectedness happens with parents and kids sitting outside in the shade, in the crotch of a tree, or on a rock in their garden.

So while I admit I do look forward to a bit of air conditioning, purified tap water and a hot shower, I will certainly miss much about the simple life in Nicaragua. I guess that’s a good reason to come back.

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About Jennifer Wolfe:
I'm mamawolfe - mom to two busy teens, writer, middle school teacher, traveler, baker, and general over-achiever.

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Comments

  1. I have been waiting for these posts to start. There is something about Latin America that draws me in. Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Peru are the places I have been and dream of returning. Nicaragua is high on my list of places to go. You are right, there is comfort in the simplicity. The pace creates community. I truly hope I can join you on one of your future trips when my littles are a bit older. Thank you for sharing your story with your beautiful words.
    Val recently posted…Ten Household Items that Can Improve Your Food Photography by Pinch of YumMy Profile

    • Val, I would love to travel with you! It’s likely we’ll be back in a year or two. Nicaragua is an amazing country- beautiful, safe, and full of the most generous people I’ve ever met. It’s been life changing for me and my kids on both trips. I look forward to more travel in Central and South America – and kids of all ages do just fine!

  2. It looks like you had an amazing time in Nicaragua. Thank you for sharing about their culture and lifestyle.
    Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Families recently posted…Five Favorite Family Swimming Pool Games {Guest Post}My Profile

    • You’re welcome, Christy. I’m glad I got to share a glimpse of this amazing country with you. Not many people travel to Nicaragua, but they should. It’s really an amazing country full of beautiful, kind people. Thanks so much for commenting today! ~Jennifer

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