El Amanacer: Waking up in Managua

Alarm clocks aren’t needed in my barrio here in Nicaragua. While I would like to be able to sleep in late on the weekends, the neighborhood starts stirring as early as 5:15 am. Already by 5:40 the sellers are making their rounds. From what I can tell, people who sell food or household items on the street tend to keep to a regular route, much like a newspaper delivery. Imagine, though, if your newspaper came accompanied daily by a slightly distorted shout prior to 6 am.

While annoying at first, I’m already getting used to the familiar sound of the person who advertizes pan (bread) every morning at dawn. I was surprised when one day I heard the pan person coming round at midday—and I discovered it was a middle-age woman. It’s always fun to see the faces of the people that form the soundtrack of my life here; they often are different from what I expect. I’ve most regularly heard women selling bread early in the morning; a bit later come the sellers of fruit and vegetable, leche agria (some type of soured milk product I have yet to try), laundry soap, and other random items.
Managua isn’t a city that sleeps in late, and one reason I can see is that already by 8 am it gets hot inside the house. The sun is fuerte here, and Managua is one of the hottest cities in the country. I’m trying to get in the habit of going for a run in the mornings with one of the volunteers at the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte (the Batahola Norte Cultural Center ). Only thing is, we have to leave at 6 am in order to beat the heat and get to work on time. If I get enough sleep the night before, I generally feel better starting the day with a good drenching of sweat.
Breakfast, while I’ve been with my host family, started out as a big ordeal. Gallo pinto (the typical Nicaraguan food of fried together red beans and rice) is often eaten three times a day, but my host likes to mix it up by serving me pancakes, eggs, reheated pizza, fresh squeezed OJ, or fried plantains and cheese. While it is rude to refuse food from a host at first, after confianza—trust—is established, it becomes easier to politely decline certain foods or tell Nicaraguans what you truly want to eat.
I was depressed (and shocked) upon discovering that most Nicaraguans drink instant coffee most days, and enjoy it. I think I enjoyed my first cup just because of the novelty of everything new, but once I learned that some people drink real coffee (made boiled on the stove), I can’t go back to the instant stuff. While more of a black-tea drinker in at home in the States (or in England), a daily cafécito will be my incentive to start the day. After my first alarm of the vendedor of bread at the crack of dawn, I slip back into my dreams. The sun fills the sky quickly and morning already feels half-over by the time I get to the Centro Cultural. Adjusting my internal clock is also part of culture shock, part of acclimating to Nica-life.

Andrea

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